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Like Global Public Goods, the notion of Common goods deals with the thinking about the production of value and scarcity. If there is no unique and definitive definition of the concept of common goods, however, they can be seen as « […] gifts of nature or produced and maintained goods, shared between users grouped within a “community” [1] of which size and nature can vary. They suppose the commitment of citizens and the definition of right to use, especially regarding traditional knowledge. Natural common goods, such as water, land, forest, sea and oceans or the living, are today object of an appropriation without precedent that, instead of preserving them, jeopardize the ecological equilibrium and the life of the populations that depends on it [2] ». Indeed, as Alain Lipietz recalls « […] a common good is a social relation. We can have public goods that are privately managed [3] ».
Thus, « the global commons’preservation […] can not be conceivable without intergovernmental agreements that also apply to communities. That’s why, the United Nations still remains the irreplaceable place for the definition of the commons [4] ».

[1« these communities, being at the same time autonomous, are not independent from global society. There is no need to say that Commons also depends from States », Quote: free translation of: Vaia Tuuhia (General delegate of the association 4D), Rio+20, ou comment défendre les biens communs ?, 20/07/2011 :

[2Collectif Rio +20, Déclaration du Collectif Rio +20 en vue du sommet de Rio 2012, Août 2011, p.9; see the weblog:

[3free translation of his declaration : Les ressources naturelles, un bien commun ? , Table ronde du 9 Mai 2009 dans le cadre du Forum "Réinventer la démocratie" (Grenoble 8-10 mai 2009), avec Eloi Laurent, Alain Lipietz, Dominique Bourg, modérée par Jade Lindgaard, disponible sur :; cité par le Manifeste pour la récupération des Biens Communs :

[4Quote: free translation of : Geneviève Azam in note du Collectif RIO+20 Pour une reconnaissance des biens communs ; citée in Vaia Tuuhia (Déléguée générale de l’association 4D), Rio+20, ou comment défendre les biens communs ?, 20/07/2011 :

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« The spectrum of the commons is enormous », according to Alain Lipietz [1]. Taking up of Bertrand Badie’ s works [2], we might consider that human rights are among the first of our common goods.
As a way of example, we can mention the « creative commons » licenses, the collective projects’editors that share documents on a common property regime, which guarantee the non-private appropriation, just like Wikipédia or Music Brainz.
Other people, like the website onthecommons, count among the commons « the gifts from nature such as the air, the oceans and wildlife, just as social and shared creations like bookstores, public spaces, creative works and scientific research ».
But also: the gene pool, the lakes, the forests, the electromagnetic spectrum, traditional knowledge, the atmosphere, the Internet, informatics techniques… or even the ecological crisis, the rise of digital networks, the economy of knowledge, the profound modification of production regimes, the redefinition of immaterial property rights…

[1Les ressources naturelles, un bien commun ?, Op. cit.

[2Political scientist, University professor - IEP de Paris, and University Research Lecture at the Centre for International Studies and Research (CERI)

Définition développée

Elinor Ostrom [1] is the author who made one of the major contributions on the commons when she shattered the Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons model, which considers the commons only as available resources, meanwhile, in reality, they are pre-eminently places for negotiation (there are no commons without community), managed by individuals who communicate, and among them a part is not guided by immediate interest, but by a collective sense. She insists on the fact that there is no « reference list » or a unique definition of the commons: each one is the product of unique historical circumstances, of a local culture, of economic and ecological conditions [2], and they can be idiosyncratic, adds David Bollier [3].
- All the commons have the same function: « the natural commons are necessary to our survival, the social commons allow social cohesion and cultural commons are essential to manage in an autonomous way our personal life and passions [4] ».
- All the commons have architecture, that is to say they can be considered as complex systems within which many components are interacting with each other.
The notion of Commons is associated to a specific form of property and governance which is placing collective decisions of « communities » in the centre of the socio-economic game. The Commons are then places of expression for the society, and as a consequence, a place for the resolution of conflicts; or as Alain Lipietz adds: « common goods are not things, but social relations, or more exactly, the things to which they are related (…) and they are the reign of diversity [5] ». In other terms, the commons are « modes of creation, of management and of collective and democratic sharing based on reciprocity [6] ».
Face to the principal danger that are facing the commons today, that is to say their privatization and/or their commodification, Pierre Calame has drawn up a typology of four kinds of goods [7] and proposes a reflection on their governance.

[1Economist and political scientist from the United States, first woman who was awarded in 2009 by the Sveriges Riksbank prize – the " Nobel Prize " – in economic sciences

[2Les biens communs, Passerelle-dph n°2, mai 2010, p.10 :

[3Passerelle-dph n°2, op. cit. p. 12

[4Extract of the Manifesto Gemeingüter stärken. Jetzt!

[5Passerelle-dph n°2, op. cit. pp 22-23.

[6Passerelle-dph n°2, op. cit. Présentation, page 2

[7Essai sur l’œconomie, Éditions Charles Léopold Mayer, 2009, chapitre 2: « les différentes catégories de biens et de services et les régimes de gouvernance de chacun d’eux »

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