Throughout this conference practitioners and internationally-renowned scholars have converged at the intersection of the notion of a new economy. The discussion has not been, ‘should there be or could there be a new economy?’ But rather, ‘it’s inevitable’, ‘there is a hunger for it’ and ‘here are the reasons why and the methods of how to undertake such a transformation’. As someone who grew up in what feels like the ubiquitous conversation of neo-classical economics, it feels terrifying to think of a global economic transformation. Yet at the same time, it’s terrifying to think where we are headed on this path to destruction we are headed on now. How many times must we bang our heads against a proverbial wall and wish for a different outcome from the same approach?
Now this may sound doom and gloom, but I assure you that the thoughts and inspired speeches today not only acquainted us with some harsh realities we must wake up to, but they simultaneously provided the solutions ….a conscientious economy, a humanized economy, a sustainable economy…..wait for it .…the co-operative economy!
The video compilation of Manfred Max-Neef, Chilean Economist, revealed his definition of a new economy: the economy is to serve the people and not that people must serve the economy; development is about people and not about objects; growth is not the same as development and development does not necessarily need growth; permanent growth is impossible and the fundamental value is that nothing can be more important than life. He gave us a lot to chew on. Indeed, how can anything, ever be more important than life? How can we rationalize an economy where harming children or facilitating starvation is an externality?
In response to Manfred Max-Neef, Miles Phillips of Cowichan Energy Alternative Society, introduced the notion of a ‘permaconomy’ as a model of the economy that can persist forever. This is truly taking into account the seven generations to come. It no longer would focus up on the unending pursuit of growth, but I believe it would be innately sustainable, treating humans and their wellbeing, of course intimately tied to a healthy ecology, as chief to anything else.
Neva Goodwin, of Tufts University, explained that “in the post-growth economy, the economy is a subsystem of the social system and that is a subsystem of the ecological system.” In response to her presentation, Charles Gould of the ICA said that the magic of the market doesn’t amuse us as co-operators. He said we’ve never had a pathological focus on profit and we’ve always been an optimization model while allows members to balance their longstanding commitment to their communities while meeting their needs.
Transformation begins with a conversation. As we transform the words we use to describe our world, the world shows us differently to us. Let it be our mission to invite others into the conversation.