Federici outlines two different forms of commons: the emerging digital / technological commons (i.e., the Internet as the potential “commoning” of communication, presumably amplifying rather than depleting common resources), and the reproductive commons, insisting that commons are not just assets but primarily social relations.
Through engineering works an oasis has formed in a desert area. This oasis consists of a collection of plants, animals, tools, machines and humans, organised together as a corporation with one clear strategic mission: to produce ecological capital - living soil - as opposed to financial profit.
A certain precariousness immediately emerges because, as a desirable place for human living, there will be a constant influx of human refugees for whom solutions need to be found. The choice was made to not militarise the border of this oasis, but to look for other solutions. A viable approach for the oasis to manage this influx and balance it with its strategic goal was proposed: it should spawn offspring-oasis. But how? To send off unskilled newcomers with a bunch of machines and plants would be risky and could be wasteful. Spawning offspring would be best realised by older members of the community, who have internalised the corporation’s logic. They could reliably go and create new oasis, based on the same principles elsewhere. Growth, with soil as soil as capital becomes its coping mechanism.
The initial idea was, again, that as an organisation this oasis would run on set tasks and obligations. But how to oblige non-human species? The notion of rights and obligations of the 4th question appeared to be too human-centric to work with. Therefore, the group re-imagined the obligations into a list of functions that need fulfilling, including tasks like: digging, decomposing, transport, tending, detoxifying, etc. An important realisation was made that this was actually a set of behaviours in a network of relations, that as a whole required the active presence of humans, machines, plants, bacteria, and animals. The chemical and the cultural and physical and other exchanges all had to seen as tasks, roles and behaviours, and part of a corporate culture. This formed an answer to the 4th question.
It was acknowledged that this was not necessarily a very utopian scenario. All activities of the corporation relate to the purpose of creating soil in order to “re-green” the desert. This implies violence, as it demands that the desert loses its original state. It would thus be a form of colonialism, albeit with a different logic. The model articulates a potential for an economic process based on ecological creation as opposed to a logic of extraction, and would lead to liveable spaces with a dense organo-technic ecosystem in former desert areas.
“Co-creation is about people that are a part of tribes connecting across tribes and creating something they couldn’t on their own, Olsson explains. “It’s about having a process where one plus one becomes four.”
It is a truism of systems theory that the larger an organism, the greater the division of labour and the level of specialization of its constitutive, mutually co-dependent parts. What Marxists pejoratively call ‘alienation’ represents a separation constitutive of modern existence. It is not simply a political consequence of an unjust system but a more or less unavoidable feature of complex organization.
Following from this, Gorz’s unorthodox conclusion was that the standard Marxist utopia of work, whereby functional work and personal activity – other-determined and self-determined work – could be made to coincide if only the means of production were collectivized, “is ontologically unrealizable on the scale of large systems.” Intimacy and immediacy are not to be found in large-scale structures, which many functions of production, distribution and coordination in globalized modernity inevitably are.