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David Bollier and Burns H. Weston

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Reinventing law for the commons

Sustainable, Just, and Democratic

David Bollier

There is a long history, stretching back to the Magna Carta in 1215, of commoners seeking to use law to decriminalize their sharing and secure legal recognition for their self-organized management of shared wealth – “commoning”. However, because state law is philosophically committed to a social order based on individual property rights, private capital accumulation and extractive relationships with nature, it often does not have the motivation, vocabulary, or legal instruments to adequately protect collective, long-term and ecological interests. This chapter describes a variety of creative initiatives attempting to reinvent law for the commons in disparate settings – indigenous, subsistence, digital, urban, local and organizational, among others – which are part of an emerging effort to legitimate the commons as a generative social form.