Mapping the Commons in Istanbul: Finance of Public Infrastructural Investments in Northern Forests

Mapping the Commons in Istanbul: Finance of Public Infrastructural Investments in Northern Forests

Başak Ergüder (Istanbul University, Turkey)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0948-7.ch030
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Abstract

In the study, bids for Üçüncü Köprü (The Third Bridge), Üçüncü Havalimanı (The Third Airport), and link roads in Northern Forests will be examined to map urban commons in Istanbul. Two coordinates will be followed for mapping urban commons. First coordinate is the conceptual one which regulates the differences of fundamental conceptions relating to urban commons. At this level, use value will be analyzed in terms of public benefit which is in regard to basic features of urban commons. In second coordinate, urban spaces including exchange value and privately owned such as bridges, roads, airports and highways will be analyzed in terms of infrastructure finance. The aim of the study is discussing the “tragedy of commons” within the context of investments to be made for the urban commons and bringing into question the future of urban commons upon the basis of Istanbul example.
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Introduction

We need a story that measures wealth not by the amount of property or money in private hands but by the condition of the commons. (Hess, 2008, p.11)

The distribution of welfare and income is one of the main fields of interest for many disciplines including economy and sociology. Excluded from the definition of wealth due to remaining outside of money and property relations, commons1 are the warrants of wealth and welfare, being sources and themes that concern the future of humanity. Also known as “the commons dilemma”, this situation is investigated by many social scientists as a topic of interest. The existence of commons, when taken as a natural constituent of the capital accumulation process as well as the departure point of the dispossession process, exhibits characteristics that are similar to those of the first enclosure movement, during which the primitive capital accumulation took place – i.e. the destruction and absorption into the capital accumulation process.

When we view Marx’s Capital (2000) as a scientific work that has not been completed yet, we see that the process involving the enclosure of the commons, which the capital tends toward in the century which we live in, is similar in certain ways to the primitive capital accumulation process which had been widespread until the 19th century. It is fundamental to detect on spatial and historical scales the differences between the first enclosure process and the current one in order to understand the tendencies of Marx’s Capital (2000) today. As the enclosure process shifted its direction from rural areas in the 19th century to urban landscapes in the 21st century, it will be significant to include the process which involves the production of the constructed environment on an urban scale into the analysis conducted in this article.

The decision to consult the mapping method in this article is not a coincidental one. Junction points between roads and paths are revealed with the guidance of maps, which reduce the scales that are larger and harder to perceive as well as provide us with bird’s eye view (Ercan, 2009, p.24). Mapping also constitutes an abstraction process that helps us with explaining concepts in the social structure through phenomena and likewise explaining phenomena through events. Maps are concrete, scaled manifestations of the existing reality. Used in order to analyze a series of abstract concepts in a set of spatiotemporal coordinates, mapping is a fundamental method that enables us to understand the processes experienced in our times.

Istanbul, as the other global cities, is faced with a new enclosure process which causes the destruction of the nature, as it is running out the water sources, green areas. The production of the built environment is made possible through the urban investments. The public goods provided by the state or private properties have had an important role in the capitalist development throughout its urbanization history. Urban commons have become an important part of the capitalist accumulation and enclosure process.

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Enclosure And The Commons

In the new enclosure movement in the 21st century, the lands and assets of the public, the international debt system and the public debts are privatized (Harvey, 2010, p.307). The strong financialization waves starting with 1973 crisis turn towards the natural sources in a speculative and predatory manner. This turn has features similar to the alliance and plunder between the finance capitalists and the state as Marx mentioned in the enclosure of the land. The re-enclosure of the natural commons such as land, water, and forest in today’s world possesses a similar logic to that of the land enclosure movement that constituted the underlying dynamic of the primitive accumulation regime in continental Europe during the adoption of capitalism: accumulation via confiscation and dispossession. While enclosure laws were converting land into a part of capital accumulation in continental Europe throughout the 19th century, “free workers” who would sell their labour power that was needed for the then-developing urban industry were being snatched from their land. Primitive capital accumulation was formed as a necessity of the transition to capitalism, during which commons were “stolen”, property was “purged”, land was capitalized and peasants were transformed into “free workers” via dispossession.

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