Navigating Contradictions: Institutions of Commoning and their governance impact in Naples


  • jorge mosquera IUAV University of Venice


commons, Institutionalisation, governance




The surge in social inequality across Europe, especially in urban areas, has worsened since the 2008 economic crisis. This phenomenon is particularly pronounced in Mediterranean countries and is intricately linked to the gradual weakening of the welfare state affecting the entire continent since the last decades of the previous century. The complexity of this outcome arises from the interplay between exclusionary market forces and state policies that, whether due to incapacity or reluctance, fall short in fostering inclusion (Fregolent and Nel·lo, 2021).  In some cases, in response to this condition, residents have independently sought to provide for their own services through collective action and cooperative forms of organisation, also targeting the collective management of public spaces to counter the risk of misuse and privatisation (ibidem). 

Within this context, this paper aims to explore the case of the city of Naples. Over the years, the concept of uso civico e collettivo (collective uses) has developed through interactions between activists advocating for the collective management of public spaces and the public administration, which was previously under the leadership of a neomunicipalist mayor. The core idea involves the legal acknowledgment of the right to civic and collective use. This is actualized through declarations made by communities who collectively take care of publicly-owned assets, treating them as urban commons (Harvey, 2012; Dellenbaugh et al., 2015; Stavrides, 2016). In Naples, the Municipality recognizes these declarations, acknowledging the potential for resource redistribution and the generation of significant cultural, social, political, and pedagogical value. This recognition justifies the shared responsibility of the local administration in managing costs and ensuring essential functions like utility expenses and major maintenance (Micciarelli et al., 2022). The case of Naples appears to redefine the collaborative relationship between citizens and institutions, as well as between citizens and urban spaces underscoring the collective value of certain self-organising practices within the city (Ostanel, 2017).

Practices based on the concept of urban commons exhibit a dual nature, as highlighted by Enright and Rossi (2018). On one hand, they serve as sites for post-capitalist experimentation; on the other, they are vulnerable to the commodification of social relationships. A critical perspective warns of potential risks, including co-optation by governments, turning such initiatives into mere service-providing organisations. This risk is particularly pronounced in fragile contexts like Naples, where the depletion of resources has diminished institutional presence. As institutions recede, self-managed socio-spatial practices emerge, offering services at zero cost, filling gaps that the local authority struggled to address (Pascapè 2020). The aim of this work is therefore to explore the contradiction and the possible impact of the institution of collective uses for urban governance by exploring two specific urban commons in Naples where the intense work of commoners had led to public investments and the successful request of services by the local community. The preliminary field research has revealed how commoners are navigating the inherent contradiction of being utilised as instruments in the context of welfare state reduction, while simultaneously striving to offer tangible solutions to the ongoing welfare crisis. This dual role underscores the complex dynamics and challenges faced by commoners as they grapple with the evolving landscape of social welfare. Presenting the work of an ongoing research, this work aims at sharing critical reflections on the mid-to-long-term challenges faced by neo municipalist institutions.


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