The re-emergence of the commons & cosmo-local regeneration

Michel Bauwens & Daniel Wahl in conversation

Daniel Christian Wahl
5 min readSep 25, 2020


On September 9th, 2020 I had the pleasure of catching up with Michel Bauwens who’s work I have been following and appreciating for years. I first saw him speak at a Social Innovation Summit of the Skoll Foundation during People’s Summit of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 and finally met him at the R3.0 Conference in Amsterdam in 2018.

As usual I initially invite Michel to share a little bit about his own story. His background as a librarian explains how the P2P Foundation’s wiki ended up at its current 22k subpages and categories and 75 million views since its creation.

Michel and I both believe that it is critically important to listen to and hold lightly the insights from many different — also diverging or opposing — perspectives, in order not to disappear into the intellectual atrophy of staying within single echo-chambers.

Michel shared about his time at the United States Information Agency (in Brussels), at BP synthesising information for people in leadership roles, as the editor of Wave, all experiences that made him hone his skills of being able to view things through multiple perspectives. He also started two companies and spent time working with the largest telecommunications company in Belgium. All of this led up to a burnout and was accompanies by prolong dissatisfaction which made him explore many different therapeutic approaches and years of spiritual searching.

During a two year sabbatical Michel studied phase transitions deeply and discovered that the “seed forms” of the newly emerging systems are critically important in shaping what kind of “next system” or “new normal” emerges. Michel believes that “today, these seed forms are the re-emergence of the commons.”

Michel emphasises that there is a grave danger in simply throwing out the baby with the bathwater and in systems transformations dismiss all of the old system in its entirety. Many times careful distinction of what elements and aspects of the ‘old system’ still serve in the co-creation of the new and are indeed necessary for doing so successfully.

“Because we don’t have for many things the functional equivalents yet.” …

“The commons is not only about a new form of common property, about mutualising something, but in terms of balance of power we also need to protect individual property. It is not about collectivism, it is also about creating a distribution of power and a distribution of property.” …

“I believe that value is created by everyone. Value is created not by commodifying but by contribution. Every citizen, every inhabitant is productive and creates value. Caring is commoning. Caring is value creation.” …

“Civil society is actually productive, not just a market.” …

“We seek market forms that are generative for the community and for the web of life. It is not about abolishing the market. It is about creating a new framework for it where it does not exceed planetary boundaries — that’s the negative way of looking at it. But in a positive way, and I think that’s what you bring to the table it is about being regenerative, not just about maintaining it is about healing.” …

“We need common good institutions.”

… We speak about my recent conversation with Dennis Meadows and what limits exist to the creation of sustainable utopias, …

“We speak about the cosmo-local. So the ideal of cosmo-local is that everything that is light is shared globally and everything that is heavy is local. What we mean by that is that knowledge should not be restricted to intellectual property. … the subsidiarity of material production …” …

“Technology is bad religion. Transcendence is really a human need. So when Europe abandoned religion, that drive became unconscious. … the thesis we make in Technocalpyse is that transhumanism which is really the agenda now … is an unconscious religion. They want to use technology to achieve what they think religion can’t. Transhumanism is a bad religion, and it is bad because it is unconscious of being a religion.” (see link below) …

We speak about the danger of us becoming slaves to technology or surrender decision-making power to AI analysing big data to set limits of our behaviour and freedom. …

Life as a neg-entropic force and the second law of thermodynamics. …

We explore the link between p2p collaboration and the inner circle of the the two circles of “the doughnut” (Kate Raworth). …

How do be wisely use digital technology as we co-create the future? …

Subsidiarity is at the core of civic participation and it requires nuanced localisation of economic activity and re-regionalisation of our systems of production and consumption. …

Michel highlights the pit-falls of isolationism in history. … and also the dangers of being too idealistic … … (much more)

Here is the video:

[Thanks to Johan Brandstedt for adding a marked time line in the comments on Youtube:]

0:00 Living in a shame-based vs a guilt-based culture

4:26 Michel’s background

8:02 synthesis and the integral mindset

10:10 epistemological aikido: helping the questions

10:56 supporting both sides at BP agribusiness

12:19 Wave Magazine

12:36 Tribal marketing startup; ethical, dialogue-based marketing

14:19 Marxist disillusionment, Californian therapy

15:29 The importance of Seed Forms

16:20 Remergence of the Commons

16:55 Local value circuits; community-supported fisheries

18:06 P2P Foundation Wiki

19:09 Wave/Pulse theory: regenerative and extractive phases

20:20 Dilemma Navigation and Integral approaches

22:22 Labor movement as transition from natural to social commons

24:31 perspective on value creation

25:07 A regenerative view of markets

26:48 Where Free Software and Blockchain goes wrong

27:33 Virtual territories and digital nomads

28:11 Possible ways forward: radical redesign or transformation

29:12 A reframing approach

34:10 Cosmolocal knowledge sharing: Nepalese farmers, Incas and medieval guilds

36:21 Subsidiarity of material production Regenerative farming: Amish and Bruderhof

39:03 drivers of technology: capital and the suppressed transcendent impulse

41:39 P2P accounting and the distributed ledger

45:40 the importance of axioms

49:08 the danger of idealism when dealing with complex systems

51:28 Holochain vs Blockchain vision: bottom-up capacity building vs top-down world computer

54:00 indigenity vs technology

59:52 Multi-level selection and next-level collaboration

1:02:25 Retaking the World: chaotic phase changes towards a new contract between humanity and the web of life

1:03:47 Collapse, Polarization and Plandemic

1:07:54 Equador’s national knowledge commons

1:10:38 Partner State protocols

1:16:58 autonomous work

1:20:05 Planetary guilds

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Daniel Christian Wahl — Catalyzing transformative innovation in the face of converging crises, advising on regenerative whole systems design, regenerative leadership, and education for regenerative development and bioregional regeneration.

Author of the internationally acclaimed book Designing Regenerative Cultures

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Daniel Christian Wahl

Catalysing transformative innovation, cultural co-creation, whole systems design, and bioregional regeneration. Author of Designing Regenerative Cultures