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  1. Introduction

This paper attempts to synthetize briefly key theoretical topics unfolding important issues about social and political debates in 21th century. Points out how abstracts discourses could be building after concrete practices from below to organizing communal-based territories in real life.

Among the collateral-side effects from the armed social conflict in Colombia, one of them has been the postponement of the territorial consolidation of various sociopolitical processes related autonomies in communities in general and campesinos in particular. Communal Governabilityintroduced as a notion aims to focusing on abilities to govern from below. It could leads to notice several forms of political government, territorial administration and social management as well, grasping community-based alternative realitiesfor building peace in post-conflict scenarios in Colombia’s regions contributes to visualize genuine communitarian relationships actually existing.

Analyzing government, administration and community’s management dynamics in Colombia through systematic (later, comparative) study of the Communal Govern-abilitiesI draws attention to political factors and organizational mechanisms of communal forms of government, administration and management on territories.


  1. Abilities to govern from below and communal territorialities. Rejecting the so-called ‘governance’, introducing ‘govern-abilities’

At least, there is two major trends to keep thinking about currently forms of today’s sociopolitical organization and contemporary modes of government – in words of M. Foucault, mentalities to govern, that is: governmentalities (see Foucault). For didactical purposes here, I will describe them briefly through a kind of ideal-types (see Weber). Table 1 summarized both trends contrasting their core issues.

  • Governance

The first type of this trends is already identified with new neoliberal foundations of thought andpractices (see Puello-Socarrás 2015) underwritten by pro hegemonic social, economic and political forces and hosted by global institutions as World Bank. This neoliberalgovernmentality could be sited around the notion of (polycentric) governance[1]. Recently the work of Elinor Ostrom has been playing a crucial role to translate into a “new-fashion theory” selected real scenarios about how is possible governing the Commons (see Ostrom) beyond both market (and its private interests) and State (and its public powers).

In this ideal-type of neoliberal governmentality there is no possibility to building a government outside of markets dynamics and inter-individualistic relationships (meanwhile, the contradictions and real power relations of market logics are barely noticed). In this sense, the perspective of polycentric governance (based on F.A. von Hayek, Vincent Ostrom and Ronald Coase’s theories, among others neoliberal intellectuals) has been rightly called by Silvia Federici and George Caffentzis (2013) as commons without community.

The main subject, actor and agent in this (new) neoliberal perspective isn’t the community but entrepreneurs, to say: individuals. Then ability to govern is linked with entrepreneurial and individual capacities not collective ones, in a communal sense. As Coase puts (pioneer theorists on governance), this forms of collective action aims to maximize production for interchange purposes (see also Sachs 2008).

Doing so, governance ignores the very dimension of collective needs and interests and operates on the basis of cuasi-markets logics. This is the reason why Commons are “governing” by a set of individual actors (private side of the Ostrom’s formula) and State is just a background because governmental action (public side of this story) must be limited to “rule of law’, nothing less nothing more (Non market neither State is the Ostrom’s motto; in the same way, the so-called: public-private synthesis epistemologically talking, or public-private partnerships in the real institutional life present days). After all, governance it’s a kind of privatized government impossible to be exercised beyond the individual sovereignty (“autonomy”) and its “parts”. The key idea of governance is to group-up-together some individuals but not to unite them in a common-unity, a community. In this watered version of sociopolitical practices “commoning” (Federici 2013) is lacked setting up a kind of commons without community, as well.

Last but not least, (neoliberal) governance perspective can’t build genuine social ties grounded in solidarity. It only could ensure mutual coordination between individual actors to achieve (limited) shared goals (v.gr. Ostrom’s “common-pool recourses”) meanwhile communal ties are categorically scarified.

  • Govern-ability

In contrast, a second form to grasp modalities of government away from pro hegemonic ones is recognized. I call them: Communal Abilities to Govern; or to put it simply: Communal Governabilities (CG).In general, CG is based in alter and native communal worldviews (indigenous, local, etc.). Such alter-nativegovernmentality approach can lead us to visualize emerging forms of abilities in government from below highlighting political potentials for fixing different counter-hegemonic courses of action to govern societal realities.

Many popular experiences that could be characterized as CG claims organizational developments grounded in values and real practices such as de-commodification of social relationships, communal well-living, that is to say: deepening “the reproduction of human beings within the social and natural household” (Mies&Bennholt-Thomsen cited by Federici&Caffentzis2013). The question here is not merely toshare goals and doing business! but to organize real social life as a whole: living together into collective autonomies horizons preserving individualization (not only individualism) at the same time. Precisely is what “con-vivir” means in quite a few communal experiences like neo-zapatistas in México; campesinos(peasants organizations) in Colombia or indígenas Ecuador and Bolivia, among others. This alter-and-native proposal, in contrast with neoliberal one, embodies communal with community dimension, as puts Federici&Caffentzis (2013):

Commons require a community. This community should not be selected on the basis of any privileged identity, but rather on the basis of the care-work done to reproduce the commons and regenerate what is taken from them. Commons in fact entail obligations as much as entitlements. Thus the principle must be that those who belong to the common contribute to its maintenance, its reproduction; which is why (as we have seen) we cannot speak of “global commons,” as these presume the existence of a global collectivity which today does not exists and perhaps will never exist as we do not think it is it is possible or desirable. Thus, when we say “No Commons without Community” we think of how a specific community is created in the production of the relations by which a specific commons are brought into existence and sustained.

To do so, it’s necessary take into account communal abilities to preserve the way of life and where the notion of abigarramiento remains crucial (see Zabaleta Mercado). In contrast with the logics of new neoliberal’s synthesis (public-and-private), alternatives modes of govern and authority involves spaces and spheres of common “superimposed” interaction where individual and collective dynamics of social life already exists abigarradas ensuring “unity but diversity” without any “superior” level. Individualization can’t evolve without communal and conversely. This implies as well different and creative forms of sociopolitical autonomy and self-ruling practices inside and from below of communities.


new Neoliberalism and hegemonic ideology
Alter-and-native (indigenous ways of living)
Spaces / Spheres / Logics
PUBLIC-PRIVATE SYNTHESIS (featuring: partnerships, alliances, etc.)
Idea of Government
(policentric) GOVERNANCE
(v. gr. common-pool recourses)
(v.gr. Buen-vivir-Bien paradigms)
Individualistic-and-(inter)individual autonomies (soliptic)
Communal-and-individual autonomies (common-unity)
Commons WITHOUT community
‘Non market neither State’
Communal WITH community
‘Other State, other Market (is possible)’
Neoliberal frameworks from Global North (v.gr. economic and political neoinstitucionalism)
(Hayek / V. Ostrom / Coase)
Discursive coalitions (indigenous knowledges in convergence with currents of critical thinkingfrom Global South (like de-colonialism, Indianism, Latin-American marxism)

Source: Author based in Puello-Socarrás (2015) and Federici & Caffentzis (2013).

The presence of today’s alternative perspective and CG experiences are linked with recent reemergence of discursive coalitions from indigenous knowledges in convergence with currents of critical thinking like: de-colonialism, Indianism, Latin-American Marxism, etc., mainly as a process in the reconstruction of popular resistances in the middle of the so-called global anti-neoliberalism waves. Progressive counter-hegemonic forces has been succeed to foster transformations in many places of Global South but in Nuestra (Our) America in particular these sociopolitical arrangements of government are paradigmatic mainly around the ideas of Buenvivir (‘sumakawsay’ in quechua language),  Vivir bien (‘summa qamaña’ in aymara language) and Convivencialidad (see Illich), to mention just a few.



Federici, Silvia&Caffentzis G. 2013. “Commons Against and Beyond Capitalism… Upping the Anti”. Journal of theory and action. No. 15 (Sept. 2013), pp. 83-97.

Foucault, Michel. 1978 (1999). Estética, Ética y Hermenéutica. Barcelona, Paidós.

Puello-Socarrás, José Francisco. 2015. “Neoliberalismo, Antineoliberalismo y Nuevo neoliberalismo. Episodios y trayectorias económico-políticas Suramericanas (1973-2015)” en: Puello-Socarrás et alt. (coord. Luis Rojas Villagra) Neoliberalismo en América Latina. Crisis, tendencias y alternativas. Buenos Aires: CLACSO. ISBN 978-99967-788-3-5, pp. 19-42.

Puello-Socarrás, José Francisco. 2015. “No diga: bienes ‘comunes’. Diga: Bienes Comunales! ‘Lo común sin comunidad en el nuevo neoliberalismo de Elinor Ostrom”. Revista Izquierda (Bogotá: Espacio Crítico – Centro de Estudios) No. 54, Junio, pp. 30-36.

Zabaleta Mercado, René [Luis Tapia, comp.]. 2009. La autodeterminación de las masas. Colombia: Siglo XXI – CLACSO.

José Francisco Puello-Socarras (josepuel@esap.edu.co) Escuela Superior de Administración Pública (COL)

[1] Apparently this proposal seems to criticize conventional wisdom linked with neoliberal way of thinking about government in the last decades of 20th century. But it might be characterized as merely individualistic and market-ledgovernmentality. Then it could be labeled like neoliberal as well (see Harvey).