Dr Mairi McFadyen



See Also

Language Social
The commons is the wealth that we inherit or create together and must pass on, undiminished or enhanced, to future generations. It expresses a very old idea that is deeply rooted in human history: that some forms of wealth belong to us all. This collective wealth includes land, resources and the gifts of nature, civic infrastructure, traditions and knowledge.


The commons is both material and symbolic, describing a set of relations that is existential, economic and ecological. It encompasses both natural resources – land, water, air, forests, food, minerals, energy – but is also a metaphor for our cultural inheritance, in the form of traditions, practices and shared knowledge.


There is an active dimension here too: the commons embodies the dynamic interaction between a resource, the community that gathers around it, and its stewardship. Commoning, the verb, requires the kinds of relationships between people, resources, and power that foster cooperation and collaboration, democratic decision-making, community resilience and ecological balance.


The language of the commons begins with the enclosure of land from the 15th century onwards. Land and resources that had historically been stewarded by communities were expropriated and disguised as ‘private property.’ In many cases, this dispossession severed a deep connection to the land and diminished local cultures, dismantling commons-based culture and replacing it with the market order of producer/consumer relationships. Markets tend to have thin commitments to localities, cultures and ways of life; for any commons, however, these are indispensable.


Reclaiming the commons is about seeking out cultural practices, and ways of living, working and being outwith the capitalist mindset, for mutual benefit and with respect for the Earth.



Our common banners to gather under, Abriachan Forest Trust, Image: Alyesha Choudhury

Questions & Provocations

Compare the commons with the Gaelic 'dualchas', or the French 'patrimoine'. Do we mainly think about heritage on an individual, communal, national, or wordly level?
Carl C.Z. Jonsson