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Adam Arvidsson

This chapter uses historical sociology to articulate an empirically grounded model of the relation between markets, commons, sharing and exchange in the history of capitalism in the West. The author revisits historical debates on the role of the commons in the transition to capitalism in the European Middle Ages to suggest that the market and the commons have a history of long and complicated relations in the development of Western modernity. His intention is to build on the renewed attention to the longue durée of capitalism and modernity-greatly inspired by recent debates on the Anthropocene—to explore what new insights can be gained from shifting the focus away from the great transformation of the 19th century that often figures as a model for how social change might come about. The author concludes that, far from being a historical novelty, the present emergence of a commons based sharing economy is a recurrent feature that in the past has implied a potential for systemic transformation.