Glossary Terms

Peak Hierarchy

Peak Hierarchy is a phrase (and a nod to “Peak Oil”) referencing a tipping point in the balance between hierarchical relations, decentralized relations (including representative democracy), and distributed ‘peer to peer’ relations. Michel Bauwens: “This is the meaning of Peak Hierarchy: horizontality is starting to trump verticality, it is becoming more competitive to be distributed, than to be (de)centralized. The two combined forces of Peak Oil and Peak Hierarchy are going to dramatically change the world we will live in. It’s time to prepare ourselves (for) the new logic of our coming political economy and civilization.”

Policies and Law for the Commons

Historically, commons have had a problematic relationship with conventional law, which generally reflects the mindset and priorities of the sovereign (monarch, nation-state, corporation) and not the lived experiences and practices of commoners. Still, in grappling with political, economic and legal realities, commoners often find ways to secure control over their common wealth, livelihoods and modes of commoning. It is also what is spurring many commoners today to invent creative new types of policy and law – formal, social, technological – to protect their shared interests, assets and social relationships.


A term coined by Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker, pre-distribution focuses on market reforms to stimulate a more democratic distribution of economic power before government enforces redistributional strategies through taxes or benefits. While capitalism takes inequality as the cost of doing business and leaves its mitigation to an inefficient state, a commons approach builds in fairness from the start. The aim is to incorporate distributive actions in the generative enterprises and through their direct relation to the commons.

Prefigurative Politics

Prefigurative politics describe modes of social organization and actions coherent with the political goals of a group. This means “building the new world in the shell of the old”, as famously expressed by the constitution of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). It rejects vanguard, hierarchical politics in favour of self-organization, direct action, counter-institutions and participatory democracy. Many P2P and Commons project can be considered prefigurative of a better, post-capitalist future society.


Transvestment, describes the transfer of value from one mode of production to another. In the case of P2P systems, this means from capitalism to the commons. Transvestment strategies such as capped returns, contributory accounting and co-budgeting can help commoners become financially sustainable and independent by creating economic “membranes” for value sovereignty. These are being developed and implemented by commons-oriented entrepreneurial networks such as Enspiral, Sensorica or L’Atelier Paysan.

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