COMMON LANDSCAPES

The evolution of commons through the story of several Catalan productive landscapes

Lecture at the International Scientific Conference “Co- Habitaion Tactics” in the framework of Tirana Architecture Week 2018 . POLIS University, Tirana, Albania (September 2018)

“It seems that economists and politicians can only see the world as divided between private and public, either owned by capitalists or controlled by the state, as if the common did not exist. Economists do recognize the common, in fact, but cast it generally outside of properly economic relations, as external economies or simply externalities. In order to understand biopolitical production, however, we need to invert this perspective and internalize the productive externalities, bringing the common to the center of economic life.” (Hardt & Negri, 2009)

The right to live and to move about with dignity, the right to take part in government, the right to learn and teach freely, the right of public assembly, the right to public health, the right of self-realization and self-determination… The state claimed to use social rights to spare us from the excesses of capitalism. The dialectic relationship between social democracy and neoliberalism forged a system considered by many as “the lesser evil”. The lucky few had their fortunes fattened at the expense of each other´s time, effort and ingenuity. In exchange, however, the state guaranteed their Maslow’s pyramid – or at least its base. After the recent economic global crisis, many voices claim that the failure of this model is empirical: neither does the market regulate itself, nor does the state can control its excesses.

In this context, the old dichotomy of public and private – one of the theoretical pillars of urbanism since the end of the 19th century – becomes increasingly limited to explain cities and territories; more so, as Harvey (2013) states, when a minority consistently pockets the urban surplus value that is produced collectively. Against the neoliberal reorganisation of global capitalism and a State that is increasingly unable to defend the common, a lot of alternatives emerge bottom-up from the self-organised civil society. As urbanists, we believe they must be studied in order to explore new perspectives that place value on common.

The goal of this work is to prove the hypothesis that cultural landscapes – at least the ones that we have analysed – should be placed within the broad spectrum of common goods, demanded with increasing determination since the end of the 20th century. To do so, we analyse some Catalan case studies that are being demanded collectively by civil society. Our goal is to highlight how important it is for architects and urbanists starting paying attention to this interesting reality.