Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer


Vol. 3 No. 1 (2021)

Imagining the Commoning Library: Alter-Neoliberal Pedagogy in Informational Capitalism

September 14, 2020


The ascent of neoliberalism and informational capitalism has been largely successful in privatizing and re-regulating state-subject-market relations in ways that treat them “as if” they are a market situation. Here, we observe both the increasing commodification of digital forms of knowledge, as well as the commodification of the access to this knowledge. As predominantly non-commercial spaces, libraries serve the vital function of deflecting these developments. In this article, I argue for going one step further and imagining libraries as institutionalized and pedagogical spaces that can negotiate and transgress their institutional limits vis-à-vis public and private resources, discourses, policies, and technologies for the purpose of furthering the commons. In so doing, libraries serve as alter-neoliberal pedagogies, which democratize the construction and deconstruction of knowledge, as well as the access to them. Here, alternative literacies, ways of learning, and ways of being can be prefigured in practice. In imagining these conceptual potentialities of academic and public libraries, this article sets forth an initial agenda toward the commoning library.


  1. Aabø, S., & Audunson, R. (2012). Use of library space and the library as place. Library & Information Science Research, 34(2), 138-149. doi: 10.1016/j.lisr.2011.06.002
  2. Anderson, B. (2009). Affective atmospheres. Emotion, Space and Society, 2(2), 77-81. doi: 10.1016/j.emospa.2009.08.005
  3. Antidrastirio (2018). Autoparousiasi tis omadas vivliothikis 'Antidrastiriou' [Self-Presentation of the ‘Antidrastirio’ Library Group]. Antidrastirio. Available at: (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  4. Aspragathos, N. A. (2013). Commons-Based Science and Research and the Privatization of Its Fruits: The Robotics Paradigm. Journal of Innovation Economics & Management, 12(2), 175-197. doi: 10.3917/jie.012.0175
  5. Bernauer, J. W., & Mahon, M. (2005). Michel Foucault’s Ethical Imagination. In G. Gutting (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Foucault (2nd ed., pp. 149-175). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  6. Birkinbine, B. J. (2020). Incorporating the Digital Commons: Corporate Involvement in Free and Open Source Software. London: University of Westminster Press. doi: 10.16997/book39
  7. Bollier, D., & Helfrich, S. (2019). Free, Fair and Alive. The Insurgent Power of the Commons. Gabriola: New Society Publishers.
  8. Boltanski, L., & Chiapello, E. (2017). The New Spirit of Capitalism (2nd ed.). London: Verso.
  9. Bourdieu, P. (2013). Outline of a Theory of Practice. (28th ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  10. Brettell, C., (Ed.). (1993). When They Read What We Write: The Politics of Ethnography. Westport: Praeger.
  11. Brown, W. (2015). Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution. New York: Zone Books.
  12. Budd, J. M. (2018). Public Libraries, Political Speech, and the Possibility of a Commons. Public Library Quarterly, 38(2), 147-159. doi: 10.1080/01616846.2018.1556232
  13. Caffentzis, G., & Federici, S. (2014). Commons against and beyond capitalism. Community Development Journal, 49(1), 92-105. doi: 10.1093/cdj/bsu006
  14. Corsín Jiménez, A., Boyer, D., Hartigan Jr, J., & de la Cadena, M. (2015). Open Access: A Collective Ecology for AAA Publishing in the Digital Age. Fieldsights. Available at: (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  15. Costanza-Chock, S. (2018). Design Justice, A.I., and Escape from the Matrix of Domination. Journal of Design and Science. doi: 10.21428/96c8d426
  16. Coté, M., Day, R., & de Peuter, G. (2007). Utopian Pedagogy: Creating Radical Alternatives in the Neoliberal Age. The Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 29(4), 317-336. doi: 10.1080/10714410701291129
  17. Cumbers, A. (2015). Constructing a global commons in, against and beyond the state. Space and Polity, 19 (1), 62-75.
  18. Davies, W. (2014). The Limits of Neoliberalism. Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition. London & Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  19. De Filippi, P., & Said Vieira, M. (2014). The Commodification of Information Commons: The Case of Cloud Computing. Columbia Science & Technology Law Review, 16, 102-143.
  20. Duarte, M. E., & Belarde-Lewis, M. (2015). Imagining: Creating Spaces for Indigenous Ontologies. Cataloging & Classification Quarterly, 53(5-6), 677-702. doi: 10.1080/01639374.2015.1018396.
  21. Edson, M. P. (2017). Patterns of Commoning: The Virtues of Treating Museums, Libraries and Archives as Commons.” P2P Foundation, Available at: (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  22. Elmborg, J. K. (2010). Libraries as the Spaces Between us. Recognizing and Valuing the Third Space. Reference and User Services Quarterly, 50(4), 338-350.
  23. Fuchs, C. (2020). The Ethics of the Digital Commons. Journal of Media Ethics. doi: 10.1080/23736992.2020.1736077.
  24. Fuchs, C. (2013). Capitalism or information society? The fundamental question of the present structure of society. European Journal of Social Theory, 16 (4), 413-434. doi: 10.1177/1368431012461432.
  25. Gibson-Graham, J. K., Cameron, J., & Healy, S. (2013). Take Back the Economy. An Ethical Guide for Transforming Our Communities. Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press.
  26. Giroux, H. A. (2004). Public Pedagogy and the Politics of Neo-liberalism: making the political more pedagogical. Policy Futures in Education, 2(3&4), 494-503. doi: 10.2304/pfie.2004.2.3.5
  27. Gounari, P. (2018). Discourses of Opposition and Resistance in Education. Alternative Spaces for a Militant Pedagogy." In P. P. Trifonas & S. Jagger (Eds.), Handbook of Cultural Studies and Education, (pp. 29-41). New York: Routledge.
  28. Graeber, D. (2009). Direct Action. An Ethnography. Edinburgh & Oakland, CA: AK Press.
  29. Gray, J., Bounegru, L., & Venturini, T. (2020). ‘Fake news’ as infrastructural uncanny. New Media & Society, 22(2), 317-341. doi: 10.1177/1461444819856912
  30. Haiven, M. (2014). Crises of imagination, crises of power. Capitalism, creativity and the commons. London & New York: Zed Books.
  31. Hardt, M., & Negri, A. (2009). Commonwealth. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.
  32. Hayek, F. A. (2005). The Road to Serfdom. London: The Institute of Economic Affairs.
  33. Hirst, M. (2017). Towards a political economy of fake news. The Political Economy of Communication, 5(2), 82-94.
  34. Honey-Rosés, J., Anguelovski, I., Bohigas, J., Chireh, V., Daher, C., Konijnendijk, C., Litt, J., Mawani, V., McCall, M., Orellana, A., Oscilowicz, E., Sánchez, U., Senbel, M., Tan, X., Villagomez, E., Zapata, O., & Nieuwenhuijsen, M. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 on public space: an early review of the emerging questions – design, perceptions and inequities. Cities & Health, doi: 10.1080/23748834.2020.1780074
  35. Hood, C. (1991). A Public Management For All Seasons? Public Administration, 69(1), 3-19. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9299.1991.tb00779.x
  36. Hopkins, P. (2019). Social geography I: Intersectionality. Progress in Human Geography, 43(5), 937-947. 10.1177/0309132517743677
  37. Huysmans, F., & Oomes, M. (2013). Measuring the public library’s societal value: A methodological research program. IFLA Journal, 39(2), 168-177. doi: 10.1177/0340035213486412.
  38. Johnson, G. T., & Lubin, A. (Eds.). (2017). Futures of Black Radicalism. London & New York: Verso.
  39. Klinenberg, E. (2018). Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life. New York: Crown.
  40. Koopman, C. (2019). How We Became Our Data. A Genealogy of the Informational Person. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  41. Lees, L. (1997). Ageographia, heterotopia, and Vancouver's new public library. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 15(3), 321-347. doi: 10.1068/d150321
  42. Lefebvre, H. (2007). The Production of Space (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell.
  43. Lucchi, N. (2006). The Supremacy of Techno-Governance: Privatization of Digital Content and Consumer Protection in the Globalized Information Society. International Journal of Law and Information Technology, 15(2), 192-225. doi: 10.1093/ijlit/eal010
  44. Luke, A., & Kapitzke, C. (1999). Literacies and libraries: archives and cybraries. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 7(3), 467-491. doi: 10.1080/14681369900200066.
  45. Lytvynenko, J. (2020). Zoom Deleted Events Discussing Zoom “Censorship”. Buzzfeed News. Available at: (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  46. Mattern, S. (2019). Fugitive Libraries Places Journal. Available at: (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  47. Mattern, S. (2014). Library as Infrastructure. Reading room, social service center, innovation lab. How far can we stretch the public library? Places Journal. Available at: (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  48. Messina, R. (2019). A Dutch city gets a new public living room — and so much more. Frame. Available at: (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  49. Milewicz, E. J. (2009). Origin and Development of the Information Commons in Academic Libraries." In C. Forrest & M. Halbert (Eds.), A Field Guide to the Information Commons (pp. 3-17). Lanham: Scarecrow Press.
  50. Mirowski, P. (2014). Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste. How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown. London: Verso.
  51. Moore, T. M. (2017). Trade Secrets and Algorithms as Barriers to Social Justice. Center for Democracy and Technology. Available at: (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  52. Montgomery, S. E., & Miller, J. (2011). The Third Place: The Library as Collaborative and Community Space in a Time of Fiscal Restraint. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 18(2-3), 228-238. doi: 10.1080/10691316.2011.577683
  53. Oldenburg, R. (1999). The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons and other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.
  54. Pantazis, A. (2020). Teaching the Commons through the Game of Musical Chairs. triple C: Communication, Capitalism & Critique, 18(2), 595-612. doi: 10.31269/triplec.v18i2.1175.
  55. Papadimitropoulos, V. (2020). The Commons: Economic Alternatives in the Digital Age. London: University of Westminster Press. doi: 10.16997/book46
  56. Pautz, H., & Poulter, A. (2014). Public libraries in the ‘age of austerity’: income generation and public library ethos. Library and Information Research, 38(117), 20-36. doi: 10.29173/lirg609
  57. Peterson, J. (2020). Thinking Outside: Libraries and Placemaking in Pandemic Times. WebJunction. Available at: (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  58. Plehwe, D., Slobodian, Q., & Mirowski, P. (Eds.), (2020). Nine Lives of Neoliberalism. London: Verso.
  59. Potet, F. (2015). France’s libraries discovering a new lease of life beyond just books. Guardian. Available at: (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  60. Preece, J., & Griffin, C. (2005). Radical and feminist pedagogies. In P. Jarvis (Ed.), The Theory & Practice of Education (pp. 39-54). Milton Park: Routledge.
  61. Quan, H. L. T. (2017). “It’s Hard to Stop Rebels that Time Travel”: Democratic Living and the Radical Reimagining of Old Worlds. In G. T. Johnson & A. Lubin (Eds.), Futures of Black Radicalism (pp. 173-193). London & New York: Verso.
  62. Reckwitz, A. (2016). Kreativität und Soziale Praxis [Creativity and Social Practice]. Bielefeld: Transcript.
  63. Schumann, C., & Soudias, D. (2013). Präsenz und Raum in der Arabischen Revolte. Ägypten im Jahr 2011 [Presence and Space in the Arab Revolt. Egypt in the Year 2011. In C. Ernst & H. Paul (Eds.), Präsenz und implizites Wissen. Zur Interdependenz zweier Schlüsselbegriffe der Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften [Presence and Tacit Knowledge. On the Interdependence of Two Key Terms in Cultural and Social Studies] (pp. 297-315). Bielefeld: Transcript. doi: 10.14361/transcript.9783839419397.297
  64. Seale, M., & Mirza, R. (2019). Speech and Silence: Race, Neoliberalism, and Intellectual Freedom. Journal of Radical Librarianship, 5, 41-60.
  65. Selby, M. (2019). Freedom Libraries: The Untold Story of Libraries for African Americans in the South. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
  66. Slobodian, Q. (2020). The Law of the Sea of Ignorance: F. A. Hayek, Fritz Machlup, and other Neoliberals Confront the Intellectual Property Problem. In D. Plehwe, Q. Slobodian & P. Mirowski (Eds.), Nine Lives of Neoliberalism (pp. 70-91). London & New York: Verso.
  67. Soudias, D. (2020a). Griechenlands COVID-19-Krise und die Ökonomisierung von Sicherheit [Greece’s COVID-19 Crisis and the Economization of Security]. Soziopolis. Available at: (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  68. Soudias, D. (2020b). Spatializing Radical Political Imaginaries. Neoliberalism, Crisis, and the Syntagma Square Occupation in Greece. Contention, 8(1), 4-27. doi: 10.3167/cont.2020.080103
  69. Soudias, D. (2020c). On the Reopening: Some Initial Ideas on Libraries as Spaces of Commoning. Goethe-Institut. Available at: (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  70. Soudias, D. (2019). Bauhaus Meets Commons. Goethe-Institut. Retrieved from (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  71. Soudias, D. (2018). On the Spatiality of Square Occupations. Lessons from Syntagma and Tahrir. In A. Starodub & A. Robinson (Eds.), Riots and Militant Occupations. Smashing a System, Building a World - A Critical Introduction (pp. 75-95). London & New York: Roman & Littlefield.
  72. Souza, E. (2019). Open Source Furniture: Download, Print And Build Online. Archdaily. Available at: (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  73. Spivak, G. (2012). An Aesthetic Education in the Era of Globalization. Cambridge, MA & London: Harvard University Press.
  74. Stavrides, S. (2016). Common Space. The City as Commons. London: Zed Books.
  75. Susen, S. (2014). Is There Such a Thing as a ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’? Reflections on Luc Boltanski’s On Critique. In S. Susen & B. S. Turner (Eds.), The Spirit of Luc Boltanski. Essays on the ‘Pragmatic Sociology of Critique’ (pp. 173-210). London & New York: Anthem Press.
  76. Tarnoff, B. (2016). The Internet Should Be a Public Good. Jacobin. Retrieved from (Accessed: 5 January 2021).
  77. Tuominen, K., Savolainen, R., & Talja, S. (2005). Information Literacy as a Sociotechnical Practice. The Library Quarterly, 75(3), 329-345.
  78. Turner, V. W. (2008). The Ritual Process. Structure and Anti-Structure (2nd ed). New Brunswick & London: AldineTransaction.
  79. Webster, K., & Doyle, A. (2008). Don’t Class Me in Antiquities! Giving Voice to Native American Materials. In K. R. Roberto (Ed.), Radical Cataloging. Essays at the Front (pp. 189-197). Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company
  80. Williams, R. (1965). The Long Revolution (2nd ed). Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
  81. Williamson, B., Eynon, R., & Potter, J. (2020). Pandemic politics, pedagogies and practices: digital technologies and distance education during the coronavirus emergency. Learning, Media and Technology, 45(2), 107-114. doi: 10.1080/17439884.2020.1761641
  82. Wittel, A. (2013). Counter-commodification: The economy of contribution in the digital commons. Culture and Organization, 19(4), 314-331. doi: 10.1080/14759551.2013.827422
  83. Zuboff, S. (2019). The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. London: Profile Books.