The Ethics of Commons Organizing: A Critical Reading

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In this article, we seek to explore the different normative claims made around commons organizing and how the advent of the digital commons introduces new ethical questions. We do so by unpacking and categorizing the specific ethical dimensions that differentiate the commons from other forms of organizing and by discussing them in the light of debates around the governance of participative organizations, the cornerstone of commons organizing (Ostrom in Governing the commons: the evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990). Rather than contesting commons organizing or endorsing it blindly, our goal is to critically reflect on its deontological and instrumental assumptions, and analyze the arguments upholding that it possesses ethical qualities that render it fairer, more equitable and sustainable than other centralized or hierarchical models—as well as any forms of privatization. We conclude by assessing the definitional dislocation of the digital commons where, unlike traditional commons, extractability can be endless and generate unintended consequences such as commodification or alienation. Taking stock of recent debates around the digital commons, we open the debate for future possible research avenues on normative claims, particularly under rapidly changing technological conditions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Commons
  • Community
  • Digital commons
  • Ethics
  • Governance
  • Sustainability


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