Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good

Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good

A Memoir & Manifesto

Book - 2014
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Commoning was a way of life for most of our ancestors. In Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good, author Heather Menzies journeys to her roots in the Scottish Highlands, where her family lived in direct relation with the land since before recorded time.

Beginning with an intimate account of unearthing the heritage of the commons and the real tragedy of its loss, Menzies offers a detailed description of the self-organizing, self-governing and self-informing principles of this nearly forgotten way of life, including its spiritual practices and traditions. She then identifies pivotal commons practices that could be usefully revived today. A final 'manifesto' section pulls these facets together into a unified vision for reclaiming the commons, drawing a number of current popular initiatives into the commons and commoning frame-such as local food security, permaculture and the Occupy Movement.

An engaging memoir of personal and political discovery, Reclaiming the Commons for the Common Good combines moving reflections on our common heritage with a contemporary call to action, individually and collectively, locally and globally. Readers will be inspired by the book's vision of reviving the commons ethos of empathy and mutual respect, and energized by her practical suggestions for connecting people and place for the common good.

Publisher: Gabriola, BC :, New Society Publishers,, [2014]
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9780865717589
Branch Call Number: ANF 333.209411 MEN
Characteristics: ix, 229 pages ; 23 cm


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Jul 02, 2016

The term “the Commons” is rapidly gaining currency in today’s conversation about the sorry state of the world and how to repair it. The Commons is the intersection of ecology, economy and human culture. It is a way of organizing society in which people care for the land and belong to the land and in which the land nurtures human communities. It creates a society in which relationships between land and people and among people are reciprocal and in which each person is a fully engaged participant. It is a philosophy where humans are part of the “environment”, not separate from it. We lived this way for countless generations but the concept gradually faded, being replaced by “modernity” – individualization, privatization of common property, the free-market economy, technology, human control over Nature.

This book is an excellent introduction to the concepts involved – truly grasping some of them requires some effort. The author traces her roots back to the Scottish Highlands where her ancestors lived in a self-governing commons society until her great great grandfather was displaced by the Highland Clearances. She describes how that society functioned. Menzies describes what has been lost and what must be regained if we are to again live in a state of sustainable, reciprocal harmony between Nature, economy and people. There are many examples of existing commons and many suggestions for new areas of “commoning”.

The author cites research and writings by other authors but the approach is very personal. She describes her voyage of discovery in Scotland, her participation in the Commons community on Gabriola Island, her eventual recognition that she had to change the way she herself was living in order to reconnect with herself and her society.

The book is quite well written but is not a quick read. Unless the reader is already familiar with the subject, some of the terminology, phrasing and concepts need to be contemplated to be fully understood.

My major criticism is that, although it was written by a Canadian author and published by a Canadian company, the book uses American spelling (e.g. labor, neighbor, theater, center). I am perhaps an old-fashioned reactionary but that saddened me.

Oct 30, 2015

Very badly written. The book won the non fiction Ottawa book award in 2015. And the author thanks the City of Ottawa for giving her a grant to write the book. But no evidence that she's even a resident!

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