The home under the power of the commons
We, Allt åt alla Malmö, demand common power and control over our homes and cities. The housing movement often finds itself taking a defensive position fighting to survive with the few things we have left. When we put forth our own political proposals we often become trapped in nostalgia: we want to go back in time, to an era that has passed; rather than find new solutions to the problems of the present.
We are no longer interested in defending ourselves. We want to work for a proactive form of politics that opens up new ways to understand and live in our homes and our cities. We want a politics beyond market rents and mortgage payments. We want a politics of housing that empowers us and changes our lives – a politics of the home!
The housing and the home
Housing is a fundamental part of our everyday lives and determines how we live. Today housing is defined by a logic of commodities, a logic where housing is treated as any other product. This is clear on the rental market where municipalities and landowners set their prices in order to make profits. High rent forces us to live in overcrowded flats far from our workplaces and friends. On the housing market we are forced to put ourselves into debt and think of our housing as a financial asset. Housing is primarily a motor in the machinery of the capitalist city where a minority profits from our dwellings. This logic affects our social relationships: we cant live as we like or with the ones we like; we cant move out when we grow up or move apart when we separate.
The logic of commodities also affects housing policy. Capitalism depends on the constant flow of capital, commodities in circulation where every transaction attaches new value. Our present housing market builds on the same principles – we are supposed to be in circulation. We live in one type of housing when we are young, another when we form a family, and another when we grow old. Our anchoring to our home has been replaced with a housing career that the majority cant even afford to participate in. Our housing – the place where we live and create relationships – becomes an individualized issue connected to value, rather than a common matter that concerns us all.
We observe a contradiction in how housing is treated practically and politically in society. Instead of regarding housing as an individualized matter that is determined by the logic of commodities, we want to talk about our homes as a common necessity. Where housing is raised rents and indebtedness, the home is a feeling of safety. Where housing is a calculated investment with an expected return, the home is a space for and the enabler of our lives. A politics that puts the home at the forefront emanates from our needs and social relations. A politics that puts the home at the forefront is a politics rooted in the commons.
A politics of the home should not just aim to fulfill our basic needs but instead enable the exploration of a new everyday life, beyond housing. Within the home we find a possibility to redefine our forms of life and who we choose to live with. When we leave the idea of the commodified housing we find new possibilities of life.
The politics of the home is a politics for new ways of life with the commons as a basis.
The home and the city
Housing is enclosed: it is the walls, floors and roof surrounding the space were we live. Its politics is defined by this and aims to provide the individual with an enclosed commodity. This creates social consequences which affect the city at large. The logic of commodities leads to privatisation and increased rents which displaces, excludes and segregates people. In the city there are also clearly defined borders between the private and the public, visible in the urban landscape in the shape of barriers and walls. All of this conditions how we are able to move, meet and live. The home is something bigger than housing. The home is the place you feel an affinity to and where you feel safe: your building, your neighborhood, your city. Where a politics of housing emanates from a logic of commodities and consumers, a politics of the home is therefore always a question of the right to the city.
When we talk about the city we dont just mean it as a collection of resources – such as libraries, parks and streets – but instead the city as a social factory with the capacity to change, transform, and in turn transform those who live in it. Because of this we need to understand the right to the city primarily as the power over what types of dreams, desires and social relations the city should enable. The right to the city is a question of controlling our future, what types of people we want to be and what forms of lives we wish to live.
The city is produced and reproduced by us who live in it because we continually add to the social product that is our city. It is not landowners of council members who produce a city – it is all of us who live our lives within in. The city is not just a physical landscape of buildings and streets, it is primarily a network of social relations and encounters.
If the city is something we create collectively, therefore the right to it and the power over it, has to be held in common. Only then the city can exist on its own terms and get the possibility of actually meet its full potential.
The commons: Demand and practice
The politics of the home and the right to the city both stem from an idea of the commons, a practice and form of ownership beyond the private and public. The commons on one hand already exists: it is the social relations and commonly managed resources that constitute our cities. The commons are for example the library, the open pre-school, and the nice atmosphere in your neighborhood. It is therefore both concrete assets and immaterial resources and social relations. The commons is also a practice – enclosed spaces can be opened and be made available; resources can be redistributed.
The commons is something that is created, shaped, and managed by those who use it, and it is always bigger than the interests of the individual. Despite this there are forces – private and public – who continually aim to enclose the commons in order to control it.
We mean that the commons can be a useful tool to shift the balance of power. We therefore must engage in social movements that amplify the commons; by opening spaces built on the principle of “from each according to their ability to each according to their need”. Every opened yard, occupied building, and social centre is a utopian glimpse that paves the way for the commons, beyond the commodified city and housing.
Social movements should act to reshape the institutional and economic frameworks that govern the politics of housing and the planning of our cities. These new frameworks must be rooted in the needs and practices of the commons. Through this we believe that we can make use of the potential of the home, and create the possibilities for new ways to live and to be.
Therefore we demand: The home under the power of the commons!