The commons is a new way to express a very old idea—that some forms of wealth belong to all of us, and that these community resources must be actively protected and managed for the good and all.
International interest in the commons has been growing for years, spurred in no small part by new books like this latest one from Germany: Who Owns the World? The Rediscovery of the Commons, was published earlier this year by oekom Verlag in Berlin–and will soon be published in English.
The anthology, whose German title is Wem gehört die Welt – Zur Wiederentdeckung der Gemeingüter, collects essays by a wide range of international authors, including Elinor Ostrom (who won this year's Nobel Prize for her work on designing the commons), Richard Stallman, Sunita Narain, Ulrich Steinvorth, Peter Barnes, Oliver Moldenhauer, Pat Mooney and David Bollier.
Silke Helfrich, the editor of the book, who formerly headed up the Heinrich Boll Foundation’s office in Mexico, is a leading thinker and writer about the commons. She also blogs about the commons (in German) at Commonsblog. In November 2006, Helfrich hosted a major international conference in Mexico City, “Citizenship and Commons,” which focused on the commons in Latin America and inspired the creation of this book.
Who Owns the World? has been well-received since its launch in March. For those who can read German, a website about the book – with ordering information — can be found here. A free download of the book – under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives license – can be found here.
A slightly different version of this piece originally appeared in On the Commons.