This article argues for the necessity of articulating and struggling for an energy common. An energy common is not intended to substitute for articulations of the common in general. Rather, the specific discussion of energy in relation to the common accomplishes two things. First, it underscores the problematic lack of attention to energy in existing discussions of the common, as in autonomist political philosophy. Second, adding energy to our thinking about the common produces new insights into the political and environmental commitments of existing articulations of the common. The possibilities of a common that is alert to the limits of natural resources and operates in relation to them are described in Ivan Illich’s 1973 essay “Energy and Equity.” This article takes Illich’s essay as a beginning point for creating an energy commons today.
Imre Szeman is University Research Chair of Communication Arts at the University of Waterloo. His most recent books include On Petrocultures: Globalization, Culture, and Energy (2019); Fueling Culture: 101 Words on Energy and Environment (2017, edited with Jennifer Wenzel and Patricia Yaeger); and Energy Humanities: An Anthology (2017, edited with Dominic Boyer).
Imre Szeman; Energy Commons. the minnesota review 1 November 2019; 2019 (93): 94–101. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00265667-7737311
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