The virtuous circle of transformative economies
Already well into the 21st century, we are still suffering the consequences of the political and ideological maneuvers begun in the 1980s by the neoliberal vanguard, which has trapped us for decades within the iron cage of "There Is No Alternative", coined by Thatcher, the embodiment of the wretched combination of moral conservatism and economic neoliberalism that still haunts and affects us to this day.
The global financial crisis which erupted in 2007 - fruit, precisely, of the connivance among established political powers and financial elites in pursuit of capital accumulation - shows the need to rethink the current economic order. A multitude of anonymous voices from around the world, from the indignados to the Arab spring, through to the Occupy movement, have come together in a cry that calls for the ousting of the established regime.
The lack of outside interference in these movements is accompanied by an unspoken undercurrent, built upon the remnants of the “Another world is possible” of the antiglobalization movement, and long-standing historical traditions such as cooperativism and communitarian economies. A whole host of hands and minds, put to establishing new ways of living in the here and now, developing new economies - of working, housing, consuming, and living together - from bases, materials and cultures diametrically opposed to the regime of late capitalism, show that there are other ways to live, despite having to do so outside of the narrows confines of the free market.
These other economies, which have grown markedly in recent years under the radar of the elites (and also, unfortunately, of the masses), are in the process of gaining strength. One of the main challenges that we face on this journey is the absence of a common narrative - of a holistic vision that allows us to identify and combine different positions, and to gather them together within a narrative that is both broader in scope, and shared throughout transformative socioeconomics.
This common narrative is key not only for allowing us to demonstrate our unity, but also to unmask those projects that do little more than reinvent neoliberal thinking under a new banner, and moreover to face down the monstrosities emerging on the far-right.
This is why we talk about transformative economies as a catch-all concept for ideas for socio-economic transformation that take this same direction. . There are four ‘movements of movements’, interconnected with each other and with other schools of thought, which are the heart of virtuous circle of the transformative economies:
- The social and solidarity economy, alongside fair trade and ethical finance, built on the bases of cooperativism and the construction of social markets, bringing together the traditional social economy with new practices of self-organization and democratization of the economy, in all aspects of the economic cycle, thus providing goods and services for the fulfillment of people's needs rather than for the pursuit of profit.
- The economy based on the commons or pro-commons, with three major subgenera: urban, natural, and digital commons. The commons, as a third way of managing resources and producing value, is based on community management, breaking the duality of the state-market as the only clear and legitimate space for the production, management, and allocation of the resources of the economic system.
- The feminist economies, which aim to remove the market and capital from the center of socio-economic organization, and in their stead place life itself and all the sustainable processes that make it possible, with a particular emphasis on the care economy, and the crucial role of women and feminized values within these processes.
- The agroecology and food sovereignty movements, with their essential role in the reassessment of the agro-food framework as a key piece of the puzzle in the sustainment of life, which in turn entails the reconsideration of our relationship with the Earth and the natural cycles, and therefore connects all struggles in defense of the earth with its own, most prominently those of social ecology and the likes of the degrowth movement.
From these different perspectives on the economy and on life itself, we can extract a common perspective, a shared goal based on two broad affirmations:
- The determination to make the hidden faces of the economy visible: these movements place the role of the community in sustaining living conditions and natural systems, care tasks, and community ties at the forefront. The spaces which shape a plural economy have been neglected and often intentionally attacked by the market economy through its eagerness to commercialize all areas of life, and to conceal the strengthen of this diversity.
- The need to place them at the center of economic activity: consequently, it is no longer merely a matter of giving visibility to that which has been invisibilized, but also of defending and placing the long-term sustainability of natural systems, care tasks, and community networks at the center of our economic life; of doing so in such way that the forms that the organization of the economy might take are based on the equal distribution of power and resources; that they are therefore focused on the fulfillment of needs (as opposed to the pursuit of profit), and are undertaken on a democratic and transparent basis.
Accordingly, we can say that two broad axes form the cornerstone of this shared narrative: the sustainability of life (in terms of nature, our bodies and our communities) and the equal distribution of power (the democratic and non-profit-seeking organization of the different ways in which systems of production are organized), breaking with the structures and the culture of power established under the current economic order.
Transformative economies want our life in common to be the axis on which the economy turns, and to end, once and for all, the hegemony of a failing capitalism that lingers around us.