Commons represent a wide, heterogeneous class of resources but its composition is the subject of growing tensions. The question “What is a commons?” has become even more complex while the answer still remains elusive. Current research focuses on two main attributes of commons—nonexclusivity and rivalry—centered on regulatory and operational aspects, conveying the notion of usability. Instead, this study argues that the definition of commons should be derived from their function. It is proposed that identity, in its individual and collective integrated dimensions, is the ultimate goal of commons. Despite the pivotal function that commons can perform, availability of resources is indeed just one of the conditions for human development. Moreover, commons can deploy their identity-oriented functions only if a sustainability transition is pursued. Based on these considerations, the study analyzes the concept of sustainability, and addresses the question “What is to be sustained?” While the capability approach offers a coherent conceptualization of the diversity of individuals—a crucial issue for sustainability—some limitations arise when it is adopted as evaluative space of well-being. This study argues that the assumed notion of identity delivers a broader concept of sustainability and delineates the ultimate goal of sustainability (sustainable identity).
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