The Case for a New Social Commons

The Case for a New Social Commons
The Case for a New Social Commons

There are many signs that shows off how our old economic world is getting towards deep changes, at least a change of its very principles. This sentence might be a bit exaggerate but the fact is that the pillars of the capitalism system, the capital and work labour, the natural resources and transport hubs, are starting to be questioned.

More and more voices are putting on the board new debates about how the distribution of capital and resources should be and how these ones would be, at least, reconsidered. ‘Common’ resources don’t belong to the people where they can be found any more as governments and companies trade with them to highest bidder, no matter where they are in the world or at what price.

This is pushed by the great wheel of capitalism as it goes ahead non-stop, though just a very little revenue go back to those poor who really need them. This has provoked an inequality in terms of resources and profits distribution among the inhabitants, the so-called ‘social commons’

The commons concept, then, is about taking back control and claiming of all those resources needed for the well-being of the society. This refers to resources that are life’s necessities, including:

  • Natural resources: land, water, air, and sources of energy

  • Cultural resources: knowledge

  • Economic resources: funds for investment in the public interest

  • Social resources: relationships and activities through which we help each other participate and flourish

This idea began with a roundtable the ‘New Economics Foundation’ held on the 18th July. In there, they set the basics of the ‘commons’ and how a new economy, more equal and fair, should be possible if all these resources would be shared or controlled by those who has the right to have them.

But, nonetheless, none of these resources are simply nice-to-haves. They are the means by which we meet basic human needs. That’s why they should never be appropriated by those who have wealth and power, but held in common so that they are accessible to everyone, by right, now and in future.


According to the New Economics Foundation, the most important resource is the social one. They said that: “We must build the case for a new social commons, and urgently, because we’re in danger of losing what we’ve taken for granted for half a century. The old order of politics, including the post-war welfare settlement, is crumbling.”

Because even if the social access to things like education or health care, housing or income support has been apparently achieved, that sense of security is seeping away with the new born fears and populism rising all over the Western Civilizations. In the US and across Europe, the rise of populism signals new depths of anger among people who feel betrayed by the powerful and out of control of their lives.

So this is a good time to claim, value and build the social commons. “Our Foundation is committed to enabling people to gain control over life’s necessities.The process of ‘commoning’ reimagines social resources, not as top-down services delivered by the state to the people, but as activities and relationships co-designed and co-produced by lay people and professionals, with control anchored at local level,” according to a principle paper by the New Economic Foundation.

However, is it not only about putting the social commons together but the need of linking that vision with other movements to claim common rights to natural resources including land, water and energy, which are also life’s necessities. The challenge in both cases is to develop appropriate forms of shared ownership and control, forging new relationships between people, the commons and the public realm.

This would go towards the process of claiming the social commons as an inclusive and egalitarian action, taken by the people. It should then promote wellbeing for all and aim to meet everyone’s basic needs, now and in future. It should include, at least, the means by which we collectively provide education, health and social care, affordable housing, a decent job and a living income for everyone.

We must claim, control and build the commons as a matter of right, shared by all, and secure them for future generations”.