How do we build an alternative economy from the ruins of the financial crisis?

Another Economy is Possible, edited by Manuel Castells (Polity Books, 2017) As the dust began to settle after the 2008 financial crisis, governments in the western world responded by trying...

Another Economy is Possible, edited by Manuel Castells (Polity Books, 2017)

As the dust began to settle after the 2008 financial crisis, governments in the western world responded by trying to restore business as usual. But, writes author and academic Professor Manuel Castells, “the economic, social and human damage inflicted by the crisis has given rise to a reconsideration of the inevitability of unfettered capitalism as a fact of life”.

He explains how a number of economic practices and organisations emerged in Europe and the United States that embodied “alternative values: the value of life over the value of money; the effectiveness of co-operation over cut-throat competition; the social responsibility of corporations and responsible regulation by governments over the short-term speculative strategies that brought the economy to the brink of catastrophe”.

This book brings together international researchers, designers, scientists and economists to examine this blossoming of new ways of organising work and life, from co-operatives, barter networks, and ethical banking to community currencies, shared time banks and solidarity network.

Related: Could your ethics be the key to finding the perfect job?

These experiments “paved the way for the emergence of a sharing economy in all domains of activity oriented toward the satisfaction of human needs,” says Prof Castells.

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As organisations with a strongly defined set of values, co-operatives such as The Cooperativa Integral Catalana (CIC) in Barcelona are used as examples of how this can work.

With over 600 members and 2,000 participants, CIC acts as an umbrella structure for independent producers and consumers of  organic food and artisanal products, residents of eco communes and occupied houses, co-operative enterprises  and regional networks of exchange that issue their own currency. “CIC has its own conceptual mode of the economy, consisting of five co-centric cycles, with reciprocity and gift exchange at the core,” writes environmental scientist Giorgios Kallis. “This conceptual model is materialised into an alternative economy.”

Prof Castells adds: “[Our] analysis develops an important theoretical argument: that the economy, as a human practice, is shaped by culture, and that the diversity of cultures, as revealed in a time of crisis, implies the possibility of different economies depending on the values and power relations that define economic institutions.”

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