CCEP lecture: Commons, community, and common sense (Lecture)

Monday 15 May 2023Add to my calendar
15:30 to
EOS N 01-120
Arjen Kleinherenbrink
Thijs Lijster (Groningen University)

Since the beginning of the century, the concept of the ‘commons’ is again much debated, both in activist and academic circles, and in fields ranging from political philosophy and economics to jurisprudence and cultural theory. The ‘enclosure of the commons’ was, according to theorist like Hardt & Negri and Silvia Federici, not a one-time transition happening at the dawn of modernity, but an ongoing movement. Talking about the commons allows us to see how many social movements – from environmentalism to the ‘right to the city’, and from creative commons to land reform – can be considered as forms of resistance against such enclosures, against the appropriation or destructions of the commons, and as attempts to ‘reclaim’ the commons.

This, however, also raises the question of who should own or govern the commons. If there are ‘no commons without community’, as Federici wrote, the question is what kind of community that entails, especially in light of the dark side the concept of community has had in the course of the 20th century. How to avoid that this community is understood in an identitarian, exclusionary way? To address this issue, I will bring into dialogue the political discussions on the commons with the philosophical literature on community and ‘common sense’, with reference to a.o. Roberto Esposito’s notion of communitas and Jacques Rancière’s understanding of a ‘dissensual community’.

Thijs Lijster teaches philosophy of art and culture at the Faculty of Arts of the University of Groningen. He studied philosophy in Groningen and New York, and previously worked at the Universities of Amsterdam and Antwerp. He published Walter Benjamin and Theodor W. Adorno on Art and Art Criticism (2017) and co-edited Spaces for Criticism (2015), The Future of the New (2018) and The Rise of the Common City (2022). He also published a number of Dutch books, among which De grote vlucht inwaarts (2016), Kijken, proeven, denken (2019), Verenigt U! (2019) and Wat we gemeen hebben (2022).