About the Process
The Deep Commons collective visioning project brings together activists and scholars from across the world to co-imagine and cultivate ecologies of solidarity and care beyond capitalism, patriarchy, racism and the state.
We are living in the midst of an unprecedented planetary emergency. By far the greatest challenge that humanity has faced in its brief history. And one of our own making. The ferocity with which human beings are consuming and fighting over resources is literally destroying our web of life, constructed over billions of years, upon which all of us, human and non-human, depend for survival. And to make matters worse, our collective ability to co-produce rational and timely responses to such threats is being undermined as contemporary market-states shape and limit the spheres of thought, activity, and (perhaps most importantly) imagination – realigned to facilitate yet further production and consumption, and propagating the belief that the imperative of the market and the imperative of life are one in the same thing.
In the face of our current overlapping social, political and ecological crises, our initial (and entirely understandable) response might well be to withdraw, or to escape. But this collective visioning process invites us to attempt the very opposite – to pause and take time to re-orient ourselves in relation to the multitude of other beings with whom we find ourselves entangled, and to start our political project from this basis.
The central problem this enquiry therefore takes as its starting point is the nature of our current dominant political utopias – that they are transcendent rather than grounded, or put another way – rather than here-and-now they are nowhere – in an ever-receding future/past, or otherwise in an alternate reality altogether. They are impossible. And so, if we are to move beyond our current states of bewilderment, disorientation and denial, we will need to establish new (and learn from existing) grounded utopias which rather than being not-now and nowhere, are co-imagined and lived right here and right now.
Building on the growing body of work that repositions love, care and solidarity relations as central to social reproduction and fundamentally constitutive of society, this process aims to explore and cultivate political communities of solidarity and care, which might then affect our wider commons and ecosystems. Critically, the project works to extend the concept of ‘commons’ far beyond the mere management of resources with which humans have a relationship of stewardship, and to radically reimagine human-nature relations within our more-than-human conditions.
As a result, the process takes an expansive view of the interdependent and entangled nature of contemporary struggles, linking ecological, anti-capitalist, feminist and indigenous politics intersectionally, and extending our understanding of what constitutes revolutionary transformation towards a far more comprehensive redefinition of our social ecologies across all spheres of life. And we have no end of examples to inspire us – the Zapatista caracoles in Chiapas, Mexico; the directly-democratic village assemblies across India and Sri Lanka; the Abahlali baseMjondolo shack-dweller communities in South Africa; the Wet'suwet'en rejection of the Canadian State; autonomous collectives in Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia; anarchist, degrowth, animal liberation, and eco-feminist organising across Europe, and of course the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, to name a few.
Throughout history we can see that times of global crisis have led to fundamental shifts in the dominant political, economic and social paradigms of the day. And in our current era, the global COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible to ignore the previously devalued work of love, care and solidarity relations as being fundamentally constitutive of society and central to the regeneration of life itself. Workers previously considered as ‘low-skilled’ – the carers, the cleaners, the food producers – were suddenly understood to be ‘essential’. And as a manifestation of this deep commons, we witnessed mutual aid groups forming spontaneously in countless communities across the planet.
Moreover, the urgency, scale, and radicality with which governments across the globe responded to the emergency illuminated the fact that the TINA narrative – that There Is No Alternative – was always a falsehood. While the pandemic brought into sharp focus the vast structural inequalities that exist on this planet (and we must therefore resist any urge to generalise one global experience) there are at least two universals that might be legitimately drawn from the crisis: For years to come, and as obscured as it might become by the challenges we are yet to face, there will remain a collective lived experience that we are, all of us – both human and more-than-human – profoundly interconnected, and that there are (many) other worlds possible after all.
As previously suppressed social solidarities have been reconstituted, spaces have therefore been opened for new collective visions to occur. And so, in whatever time remains before these affective currents are co-opted by state powers and repackaged as patriotisms and nationalisms, our task will be to strengthen and expand them into pockets of free ecological society, and then to link them.
This process therefore focuses through one key question: How do we do it? How do we cultivate ecologies of solidarity and care beyond capitalism, patriarchy, racism and the state?
If you wish to participate in this collective visioning, contribute an article or news item, or have ideas for where to take the process next, then please make contact.