Introduction: Advancing the Commonsverse: The Political Economy of The Commons

Hendrik Wagenaar, Koen Bartels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This introductory article sets out the twin goals of this special issue: “Advancing the Commonsverse: The Political Economy of the Commons”. The first is to introduce the innovative work of David Bollier and Silke Helfrich in theorizing and researching the commons. The second is to explore the possibilities and constraints of the commons and the process of commoning as they unfold in real-world political-economic settings. Bollier and Helfrich have formulated a remarkable, ‘in-the-round’, moral-empirical theory of the commons. In their social ontology, peer governance and moral economy commons form a subversive alternative to the capitalist order. Bollier and Helfrich’s theory restores an older tradition of a moral critique of capitalism in the tradition of “moral economists” such as Karl Polanyi and H.P. Tawney. It raises important questions about the socio-ethical foundations of our society and economy, the relationship between civil associations and the state, and the nature of the state. In the final part of this introduction, we discuss the complex relationship between the commons and the state. We frame this relationship as one of mutual dependency and argue for the careful redesign of our institutions of public administration and democratic governance to make them more receptive and accessible to the creative powers of the commons. Finally, we introduce the contributions to this special issue, including a reflective concluding essay by David Bolllier.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-350
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of the Commons
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2024
Externally publishedYes


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