In this rich and documented publication, the principle of "the common" -understood as a category that makes its way to what has been traditionally understand by "public"- is presented as a vindication of radical democracy.
The authors analyze various contemporary social movements such as the fights against the spread of intellectual property, the "occupy", the "indignant" movement, redistricting water in Naples, the occupation of Taksim Square in Istanbul... Dardot and Laval, the authors reduce these struggles to the same democratic project of resistance to privatisation and marketisation in different forms, including privatisation of public services.
This interpretation has the disadvantage of getting away from the discourse of the players, who are far from present themselves as integral parts of a common movement to get over capitalism. Another stumbling block is the idea of amalgamating not only social movements, but also the issues concerned, that deserve to be individualized. The authors begin by associating the commercialisation of new spheres of existence (commodification), the growing power of multinationals (corporatisation) and the growth of exclusive private property (propertisation). And it is true that with the triumph of neoliberalism, these three phenomena often happen in parallel. To cite an example, it should be noted that the "corporatization" will now be tied to the renunciation of propertisation. Which shows the massive participation of multinational computer technology and Internet (IBM, Oracle, Google, Facebook, and so on) in the field of free software, this "common" in which, it is assumed, the creator renounces the exclusive property rights on the computer code involved.
Dardot and Laval do not ignore these developments of contemporary capitalism, which tend to refute the thesis of a frontal opposition between the more open property regimes and neoliberalism. The paragraphs devoted to criticism of Hardt and Negri's thesis of testify to a willingness to take into account this growing interpenetration between the capitalist economy and the "common". Thus, they accuse the authors of "Empire" for their interpretation of the logic of contemporary capitalism, in terms of depredation of a common wealth ex-ante, independently and autonomously produced. They see in this thesis the recovery of Prohudhon's arguments on the exploitation of capitalism as a possible theft by "a number of legal and political devices, mainly private property and state. Mostly seen that this "prohudoniano" way of analysis a hidden framework in which capitalism always organizes the production of wealth, and does not consider how value would be produced independently of it. Far from finding a "empowerment" of production, Dardot and Laval insist on new forms of capitalist organization of work, stopping at "perfectly ambiguous nature of 'autonomy' granted to employees" at the same time as toughening wage levels.
A political principle of self-government
One of the main thesis of the work is trying to distinguish between what is generally understood by common property, -that is, the means that legal and "common" regimes allow for the interchangability and collective management to apply, as we begin to understand it. For this purpose, the authors write: "The 'common' is not a right, and the plural does not change anything in this respect, since it is not an object. We are dealing with a political principle, from which we must build the "common" and refer to it to preserve, extend and implement them." This is a crucial proposal, which carries several implications:
The statement "common" has as its primary function a break with a purely economic perspective. After recalling the typology of the four types of (private, public, club, common) property, from the work of Samuelson, the authors criticize their identifying "common" with "certain properties that things possess for themselves". In mainstream economics analysis, certain objects are held as common property, because they have intrinsically not been exclusive and rivals (the consumption of an asset by one individual prevents, reduces or degrades the consumption of the good by other individuals). This is the case, for example, of a very popular beach, a fishing ground, common grazing, and so on. This analysis involves a form of naturalisation or "objectification" of what is common, in the extent that the nature of these assets (that Roman jurisconsults had already termed res comunes omnium) calls for a type of management and particular legal status.