Starting from the origins of the notion of management, this paper explores how commons governance is constituted by the earlier influential research of Elinor Ostrom, and pursues this with reference to scholars such as Saki Bailey, who emphasises that the choice of regulatory frame is ultimately a political one. We then argue that commons have to be ‘instituted’ in an open manner in order to remain accessible. This demands a set of scripts, rules or agreements that keep the process of commoning in place, and, simultaneously, keep commoning in a constant process of reproduction. We examine this tension and look at the shift in understanding about what ‘institutions of the commons’ have entailed in practice over the course of the last century and a half. Finally, we return to the political dimension to touch upon the question of whether, with the disappearance of the welfare state, a coherent concept of society can emerge from the current upsurge of commons initiatives.
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