Civic and Collective Use - a tool for the “Ecodomy” of the Common
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Civic and Collective Use declines propriety as a non-exclusive right. The “ecodomy” of the common aims at building the common space of relationships and assets functional to the full development of the person in its ecological context, opposing the dominant neoliberalism tendency to isolate individuals in competition with each other.

Description of the tool

Civic and Collective Use declines propriety as a non-exclusive right by stressing  the dimension of use and the concept of non-exclusive ownership. By it, recent neoliberal policies and capitalist paradigm are questioned. While property - intended as  exclusive ownership - highlights the “exchange value”, Civic and Collective Use highlight the “value of use” of goods and under this perspective it is a “device of care” capable of enhancing the dimension of “living” in the perspective of political ecology in its deep relationship with the surrounding space. 

Breaking down the concept we can say:

  • Use refers to the capacity of care > Care relationship with goods and spaces functional to the satisfaction of users' needs and rights, in an ecological dimension;
  • Civic refers to the autonomic capacity > the Communities that enter into a relationship of care with the good or the space they use develop a capacity for self-regulation;
  • Collective refers to the cooperative capacity > the use made of the goods and spaces being cared for is never exclusive and therefore requires the cooperation and collaboration of all. 

In synthesis the conceptual chain is the following: 

- Civic and Collective Use > Value of Use > Civic Income/Social Profitability


- Exclusive property > Exchange value > Real estate income

Steps of application

Civic and Collective Use as a political-theoretical tool

To clarify the germinative power if Civic anc Collective Use here  the concept of “ecodomy of the common”. Different to the word “economy” in greek òikos-nomìa - composed by oikos (home as the physical material term) and nomìa (management) - the term “ecodonomy” (oikodomìa) is made up òikos (home) and “domein”. The root domèin is not equivalent to domus, which notoriously means "dominated" that dominates the house, domèin has another meaning that has been lost over time that is worth recovering. Domèin does not mean dominating but knowing how to build well (Illic) and here we find  the germinative element of collective uses that makes it in Western systems, almost everywhere, the source of law (Capone 2016). Thus ecodomìa becomes a very useful category, because it allows us to grasp something original in the Civic and Collective Use that characterizes it as “the space of care”. The practice of building the house well is not intended as an appropriative space, but rather the house is thought of as the place of living, where above all the “connecting practice” is operating, as the action of conviviality. Since the end of the last century, collective uses have resumed in many countries. 

A reflection on autonomy: the space of the house, the space of the domeìn and òikos, is the space of autonomy, but this cannot be thought of as an institution of closure; autonomy, which allows us to work in the interstice, is the institution of openness. Autonomy establishes openness.(Castoriadis). This “remaining open” as an act of constant “care  for vulnerability” represents the greatest challenge when we build “the common”, as a way of production and reproduction and as a space of the things-in-common. The concept of ecodomìa offers itself as a way to practice, here and now, another possible world. (Capone, 2018)

Civic and Collective Use as administrative tool

In Naples at L’Asilo a public building claimed as urban common the initiators and occupants did not want to be the tenants or the owners, but citizens who had the right to use the good in a common way. In this experience citizens are not only guaranteed powers of access, but also the much more important ability to define independently the basic rules of use of the structure. The Declaration of Urban Civic and Collective Use of L’Asilo express the self-regulatory capacity of a community and a possible model for the governance of the commons where the Civic nad Collective Use introduces and represents the fundamental link between the common goods and the community and was capable to overturn the logic of neoliberalism.

The Italian Civil Code recognizes “Use” as a source of law however minor (residual) since they come after the Laws and Regulations. For this reason to be effective Uses must be “referred to” by the Laws and Regulations: i.e.  to give effect to uses in a municipality, they can be referred to

  • in the municipal statute 
  • in local laws such as the land use plans 
  • municipality regulations that deal with property management regulations
  • municipality regulations that deal with the management of the commons.

How do we get  from the uses we get to the norm

The method suggested at the local level is to recognize civic and collective uses in the municipal statutes, in the regulatory plans and in the administrative instruments connected to it - such as building regulations and management regulations for public assets from the "Provisions on the law in general", which after affirming that "uses are a source of law" (Article 1.4 CC) recalls that "in matters governed by laws and regulations" - as in the case of urban planning, management and the intended use of the ...recalls that "in matters governed by laws and regulations" - as in the case of urban planning, management and intended use of the public property - uses "have effect" only insofar as they are referred to by them (art. 8). Above all, the role of the Municipal Urban Plans, the Regional Territorial and Landscape Plans and in general all those tools - such as the urban standards (DM 1444/1968) - that define the functions and destinations of use of the spaces and assets of the city. Recognizing the Commons at that level and among the various forms of intended use also the civic and collective uses, would put administrators, officials and the community in the conditions of making the path towards Commons practicable and viable. (Capone, 2020)

The path can move in two ways:

Bottom-up: Uses (as living practice of a community) > Autonomic capacity as set of commonly shared rules spontaneously  elaborated by a community  (formalised into declarations of use) > Regulations > Laws

Top-Down: Uses (always essentially at the bottom, being expression of a community) > Municipal Statute > Regulation of the Commons  and/or Building and asset management regulations > Urban plan

How is a Common activated

When a relationship is established between an asset and a community for the satisfaction and exercise of fundamental rights, there are several ways to make such a relationship operational from a legal and administrative point of view.:Recognition of uses in specific regulations or municipal statute or urban plan, i.e. recognition of the autonomy of the community with acknowledgment of the relative declarations of use (Naples)

  • Establishing collaboration agreements according to the shared administration model (Labsus, Bologna)
  • Agreement or memorandum of understanding between the administration and the community of inhabitants for the recognition of self-management whose bodies (assembly, etc.) are defined as managing bodies of the property.
  • Act of civil disobedience  (symbolic occupation) capable of and oriented to opening negotiations with public institutions recognising agency to activists and initiators.

In Italy Uses are invoked upon the principle of subsidiarity recognised by

  • Ordinary law “TUEL Laws on Local Bodies” Legislative Decree 18 August 2000, n. 267 Article 3
  • The Italian Constitution (Constitutional reform 2001 art. 118, paragraph 4)


“Civic Uses” is  an ancient institution still in force that regulates the so-called right of legnatico, profit of the woods, fishing and grazing on common land of small and medium-sized rural hamlets, something similar exists all over Europe. In Naples L’Asilo transferred this institution into the urban area, aiming at an institutional recognition of self-ruling powers into public and private legal framework

A consideration on the users:. This figure implies the category of uses, by which in the Western legal context we mean “collective uses” almost everywhere. These uses from early modernity presented themselves as a powerful device of creative imagination. Speaking of the Turkish experience and the harsh repression that followed the occupation of Gezi Park, in which thousands of people simply stood in the public space - reading, talking, walking - thus violating the order not to assemble, what drives the tyrant mad is «not being able to bear that the citizens 'use' the city and not only consume it. It is the unpredictability of use that upsets the old and new tyrants " (La Cecla, 2015). But collective uses have something even more radical, as well as being unpredictable. They are closely linked to the act of living, as a germinative source of living. Living alone, if it is not a contraction in the daily life of private space and the residential cells, is in itself a form of political resistance. (Capone, 2018)

 But what does this living consist of? The “use” is closely linked to living because the use disposes. In the example of  the bird's nest,  done by collecting pieces of wood and twigs from the surrounding environment in which it is located, thus creating a space that becomes its place of life, becomes its productive and reproductive place. The revival of civic uses by struggling communities at the end of the 1970s goes in this direction; moves along the furrow traced by an ancient tradition in which the practice of living and taking care of the living space prevailed over the predatory idea of ​​taking exclusive possession of space and resources useful for the sustenance and development of the human person. «When in our late age of reinforced concrete people resume civic uses, it is often very difficult to find the words with which one can say what one does. This is the one great difficulty. It is therefore necessary to go back to the distant past to find the words that clearly indicate convivial action. Because the resumption of civic uses inevitably breaks the glass, steel and concrete in which the gaze, the technique and the law of the classical world have found their mausoleum; the words of the nearest past, the words of the classical period are not in harmony with what one wants to say. It is necessary to know how to listen to the low resonances that vibrate in harmony with this reconquest of civic use - and perhaps the Greek word oikodomìa is one of them "(Illich, 2013).

Context of origin

Visual representation

L’Asilo, social carnival , ph Sabrina Merolla

Cleaning and recovery of the excavations of the Ex Asilo Filangieri ph Claudia Nuzzo

Social Carnival Parade at L’Asilo ph Sabrina Merolla


Nicola Capone, Usi Lessico della crisi e del possibile, SEB27, 2019

Nicola Capone, Urbanistica e beni comuni di uso collettivo. Considerazioni preliminari, La Scuola di Pitagora, 2020

Nicola Capone, Ecodomìa del comune, Quadranti, 2018

Nicola Capone, The concrete utopia of the commons, Philosophi Kitchen, 2017

8. Suggestions

The seven “liberated spaces” recognised commons in Napoli, Italy