In response to the theme section on commoning in the December 2017 issue of Focaal, this article raises further questions for discussion and proposes an analytics of the commons that grasps it through the lens of property regimes. The key question concerns how we might best envision the relation of the commons/ commoning to the state, capitalism, and commonality in a way that does justice to both a broadly Leftist politics of the commons and an analysis of really existing commons that might deviate from this ideal. The conceptual lens of property regimes proposed here focuses empirical attention on relations of production and the organization of membership and ownership in the commons without including a particular politics into the definition as such.
Suggestions for further discussion
On "unity in diversity" and the politics of Turkey's EU accession
Cosmopolitan visions hold EU-Europe capable of recognizing diversity within limits set by universal principles. This view has gained currency in EU self-representations and among the liberal left as a counter to founding EU-Europe on civilizational unity. Proponents of a cosmopolitan Europe nevertheless partake in a culturalization of politics that enables and obscures processes of state transformation visible in Turkey's EU accession process. Debates on Turkey's EU membership construct a normative representation of EU-Europe that justifies EU accession measures as "normalization." Supporters of a cosmopolitan EU contribute to this political effect by adhering to a liberal distinction between "mere difference" to be tolerated and "disruptive difference" to be contained, which legitimizes an interventionist stance vis-à-vis Turkey. However, changes in state interventions and institutions supported by this normalizing project go beyond installing "unity in diversity" in cultural-political terms. They involve economic de- and reregulation that might entrench social and territorial inequalities.
Revisiting Abrams in times of crisis in Turkey and EU-Europe
Philip Abrams’s notion of the “state-idea” has been of immense influence in the anthropology of the state. This article suggests a contrary reading of Abrams’s “Notes on the difficulty of studying the state” (1988) that focuses instead on his notion of “politically organized subjection,” which allows us to examine contemporary statehood in crisis where political practice increasingly seems “unmasked.” The article examines such strategies of politically organizing subjection in the contexts of current EU-Europe and Turkey. It highlights the role of hegemony-building strategies that do not so much mask political practice as openly promote polarization in society, directing ideological and material efforts at strengthening leadership over the own class alliance and using both overt and structural coercion to suppress political projects opposed to neoliberal authoritarianism.