Free, Fair, and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons

Regular price $ 25.00

by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich

New Society Publishers

9/23/2019, paperback

SKU: 9780865719217


From cohousing and agroecology to fisheries and open-source everything, people around the world are increasingly turning to "commoning" to emancipate themselves from a predatory market-state system.

Free, Fair, and Alive presents a foundational rethinking of the commons -- the self-organized social system that humans have used for millennia to meet their needs. It offers a compelling vision of a future beyond the dead-end binary of capitalism versus socialism that has almost brought the world to its knees.

Authored by two leading commons activists, this guide is a penetrating cultural critique, table-pounding political treatise, and practical playbook. Highly readable and full of colorful stories, coverage includes:

  • Internal dynamics of commoning
  • How the commons worldview opens up new possibilities for change
  • The role of language in reorienting our perceptions and political strategies
  • Seeing the potential of commoning everywhere.

Written for a popular, activist-minded audience, Free, Fair, and Alive presents a compelling narrative: that we can be free and creative people, govern ourselves through fair and accountable institutions, and experience the aliveness of authentic human presence.


"David Bollier and Silke Helfrich don't just establish that commoning can work, and work well. They've analysed the contours of successful experiments in how humans have come together to make their worlds freer, fairer and more alive. This book is an expansive, thorough, and deeply thoughtful guide to a possible future politics. All that remains is for us to take up their call: not to do it ourselves, but to do it together."
-- Raj Patel, author, The Value of Nothing and Stuffed and Starved

"Wiki has confused educators and economists, but not our authors. They explain how and why its social system allows people to make things that couldn't have been made any other way. You will find here a handbook for tackling seemingly intractable problems by sidestepping the mistakes that make them hard."
-- Ward Cunningham, inventor of the wiki

" Free, Fair and Alive is an inspiring treatise for our troubled times. It presents a passionate argument for commoning and lays out thoughtful rules to follow to enact a commoned world. Its insurgent worldview is bold, caring, exciting, and challenging all at once. This book offers hope as well as down to earth strategies to all who care for the future of this planet."
-- J.K. Gibson-Graham, Jenny Cameron and Stephen Healy, authors, Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming Our Communities

" Free, Fair and Alive shows the path to respond to the ecological emergency and the polarisation of society, economically, socially, culturally. The recovery and co-creation of the commons offers hope for the planet and people. Through commoning we sow the seeds of Earth Democracy and our future."
-- Vandana Shiva, activist and author, Earth Democracy


David Bollier is an activist, scholar, and blogger who is focused on the commons as a new/old paradigm for re-imagining economics, politics, and culture. He pursues his commons scholarship and activism as Director of the Reinventing the Commons Program at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics and as cofounder of the Commons Strategies Group, an international advocacy project. Author of Think Like a Commoner and other books and lives in Amherst, MA.

Silke Helfrich is an independent activist, author, scholar, and speaker. She cofounded the Commons Strategies Group and Commons-Institute, was former head of the regional office of Heinrich Böll Foundation for Central America, Cuba, and Mexico, and holds degrees in Romance languages/pedagogy and in social sciences. Helfrich is the editor and co-author of several books on the Commons. She lives in Neudenau, Germany.