Power to the people? The role of citizen collectives in fighting climate change: A #DTdialogue with Johan Schot and Tine de Moor

In pre-modern times commons or citizen collectives were an important mode of governance, in which groups of people collectively managed and used a collective resource, such as land, watercourses or fisheries. Commons functioned according to three underlying principles namely, solidarity, reciprocity and sufficiency. This implied that members of the commons could take as much as they actually needed but no more than that and adjusted to what the collective resource actually had to offer. During the period of the industrial revolution, commons were overhauled and new governing mechanisms assumed control, led by the state and the market, and focused on economic growth.

The implications of climate change require radical and unseen measures and, according to Johan Schot, a Second Deep Transition – a sustainability revolution that overhauls the rules and values of the industrial revolution and moves our economy and society into a new green direction. Moreover, the Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the fragility of contemporary systems of provision and our global economy.

So what about this alternative form of governance that citizen collectives unveil: could their coordinating mechanisms offer a feasible alternative to our current modus operandi and contribute to a Second Deep Transition? And what would our world today look like if we were to reintroduce governance structures that function according to collectively set rules and an economic model that is based on sufficiency rather than growth?

In the following #DTdialogue, Johan Schot and Tine de Moor explore these questions further. They dive into the challenges that citizen collectives or institutions for collective action are faced with due to the values and rules of our current society and address the importance of such cooperatives and us, citizens, in tackling the climate crisis.

Interview guide

This interview guide provides an overview of the topics addressed at which part of the interview (time indication in minutes). 

01:00-15:00: Definition of the term commons, its origin and current examples. Can institutions for collective action have a profit motive? Can we reform universities to make them institutions for collective action?

15:00-22:00: The values of commons and sufficiency as a radical new principle (needs vs. what’s available)

22:00 -27:00: Commons in relation to the state and the market and as a new governing mechanism for modern society?

27:00-37:00:  The opportunities and challenges of institutions for collective action and their role in addressing the climate crisis

37:00-43:00: The role of rules and citizens in responding to global challenges

List of references

Hardin, G. (1968). The Tragedy of the Commons. Science 162 (3859), 1243-1248. Retrieved from: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/162/3859/1243/tab-pdf

T. De Moor, “Revealing Historical Resilience,” in Tragedy Revisited, Science, pp. 1236-1241, 2018. Retrieved from: http://www.collective-action.info/_RES_Publications

T. De Moor, The Dilemma of the Commoners: Understanding the Use of Common Pool Resources in Long-Term Perspective, Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.collective-action.info/_RES_Publications

Schot, J. (2003). The Contested Rise of a Modernist Technology Politics, in: Thomas J. Misa, Philip Brey and Arie Rip (eds.), Modernity and Technology (Cambridge: MIT Press, 257-278. Retrieved from: http://www.johanschot.com/publications/contested-rise-modernist-technology-politics/