The Cultural Commons

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The Cultural Commons

Educational Thought


The Cultural Commons


Hieronymus Bosch
The Garden of Earthly Delights
Museo del Prado, Madrid
Left Panel (Garden of Eden)

Thinking About

Cultural Commons Notes

In Construction

The Commons

The following is a stub page using material from Robbie McClintock, Enough: A Pedagogic Speculation (New York: The Reflective Commons, 2012), pp. 248-50.

The physical and cultural resources built up through the sum of human efforts at self-maintenance through historical time comprise the commons. It is prior to and inclusive of all enclosures. The commons constitutes the unbounded plane of human interaction, with respect to which there are no externalities. The commons is the net of human activity.

Disclosing the Commons

As enclosure has privatized more and more vital resources and distributed their benefits more inequitably, pressure increases to disclose the commons, to reassert the prerogatives of humanity, in common, over its accumulated achievements. As enclosing private property has been the driving endeavor in the modern era, disclosing the commons is becoming the essential concern in the postmodern era. Disclosing the commons is taking place in large part as communal activities emerge through self-organizing interactions over information networks and prove far more useful relative to their enclosed counterparts, quickly displacing them. Thus, Wikipedia has wrenched the encyclopedia out of the privatized realm and put it into the commons, disclosing anew the status of accumulated knowledge as an essential component of the human commons.


Enclosure is the operational principle defining the modern era. It results when people privilege the category of causality. Enclosure involves projecting postulated boundaries on selected portions of the material and cultural world, differentiating what is inside from what is outside, which makes it easier to simplify and normalize random complexities within the enclosed area, reducing them to a simplified, causal action of one matter on another through a temporal sequence within the enclosed space. As a mode of thinking and acting, enclosure has proved enormously productive (think internal combustion engine, etc.). It has limits, however, especially as it produces potentially disruptive side-effects by ignoring externalities left out of account in attending only through an exclusive reduction to selected elements of what has been enclosed.


Externalities are matters not taken into account as a result of the simplifications introduced in thinking and acting on what has been enclosed. Externalities are side-effects not taken into account within enclosure. As a result of leaving externalities out of account, the apparent costs and benefits arising from enclosed activities may differ greatly from those that would be evident were the externalities (e.g., air pollution, resource depletion, climate change, etc.) taken into account.


Freeloading is the proper name for profit, which arises from economic exchanges in which the calculation of costs and benefits does not accurately account for significant externalities.