The real tragedy of the commons


The tragedy of the commons could not exist without there having been a concept of the "commons" (as defined in opposition to private property).

What incentive is there, in the absence of such a notion as private property—a notion that one is allowed to appropriate things from the world around them and declare oneself owner of it and dispose of it as one sees fit—to blindly appropriate and destroy the place you inhabit and depend on for your continued existence?

The historical commons might suggest another element within the resistance to exploitation and the formation of a new politics. As Ivan Illich and Anthony McCann have argued, historically, the commons was not simply a pool of resources to be managed, but an alternative to seeing the world as made of resources. Specifically, the commons was not something to be exploited for the production of commodities, but something that people could draw on within customary limits to provide for their own subsistence.

Commoning in the City