BETWEEN RESILIENCE AND RESISTANCE: GRASSROOTS (ECONOMIC) ACTIVISM IN TIMES OF CRISIS
Giacomo D’Alisa, Institute of Science and Environmental Technologies (ICTA), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
Francesca Forno, University of Bergamo
Simon Maurano, University of Bergamo
Looking at the history of social movements, we may identify periods during which these actors have prevalently opposed the dominant power structure directly by using protest actions (i.e. conflicting and resisting the dominant socio-economic structure), and periods in which movements have prevalently proposed and sustained forms of self-help and self-production – mutualism, economic cooperativism – i.e. developing their resilience through commoning.
Like in the past, the mobilizing capacity of social movements to this day is conditioned by the environment within which these actors operate. The degree of openness/closedness of political, economic and cultural opportunities not only affects the action strategies adopted by these collective actors, but also their organizational structure.
In the current economic crisis, social movements simultaneously face two types of challenge: firstly, they are confronting institutions which are less able (or willing) to mediate new demands for social justice and equity from various sectors of society in the wake of the successful neo-liberal attack on the social welfare system and the consequent retreat of the state; secondly, giving the highly individualized structure of contemporary society, they also experiencing difficulties in building strong and lasting bonds of solidarity and cooperation among people, bonds which constitute a fundamental resource for collective action.
It is in this context that potentially huge protest waves are in fact often short-lived, and it is here that we see the rise and consolidation of new mutualistic and cooperative experiences within which (like in the past) new ties for collective action are created. Apart from spectacular events given special attention by the media, over recent decades it has in fact been at the local level in particular that social movements have continued to expand, promoting community-led initiatives for social and economic sustainability, which in some cases have played a decisive role in the fight against poverty and in defending human and environmental rights.
Such organizations include those promoting solidarity-based exchanges and networks, barter groups, new consumer-producer cooperatives, time banks, microfinance, local savings groups, ethical banks, alternative social currency, citizens’ self-help groups, pro-sumption practices, solidarity purchasing groups, social enterprises, fair trade, and others communing practices.
Grassroots economic activism sprang up during the economic crisis in Argentina and other Latin American regions. Similar initiatives also developed in Europe before and after the 2008 crisis – e.g. the flourishing of local currencies and barter networks in Greece and Spain; the Plataforma contra los Desahaucios and the citizens’ assemblies in neighbourhoods which help residents with foreclosure/housing issues in Spain; the alternative cashless production and exchange systems such as the Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS) in the UK; the GAS (Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale) groups in Italy; the French AMAPs (Associations pour le Maintien d’une Agriculture Paysanne) and the CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) movement which started in Europe and spread to the U.S.; the so-called Transition Town Movement, as well as more radical groups promoting degrowth and nowutopias. All these networks and practices attest to a new kind of politics through the creation of bottom-up participatory initiatives promoting a ‘solidarity economy’, as seen in countries confronting crises in the past.
While indicative of citizens’ capacity to self-organize in order to tolerate, absorb, cope with and adjust to the environmental and social threats posed by neoliberal policies in order to cover basic and urgent needs regarding food, shelter, health, childcare and education, these informal networks are also attempting to change an economic system increasingly perceived as unfair by building an alternative system within it based on greater mutual solidarity between individuals and the environment. That means that unlike more ‘classic’ social movements, such informal networks are much more involved in constructive and thoroughly organized forms of dissent towards contemporary capitalism and its transnational organization by promoting and diffusing innovative economic practices throughout society.
Despite the rapid growth of grassroots economic activism, there is still currently very little information available. The purpose of this special issue is to gather empirical studies that might shed light on new forms of self-organization that address both the intensification of economic problems and the difficulties of rebuilding social bonds and solidarity within society, emphasizing solidarity as a means by which to re-embed the economic system within social relations, starting from a local level. We are particularly interested in collecting contributions that address the organizational aspects, the individual stories and biographical consequences of this form of activism, as well as the role of the political representation of these organizations and their ability to influence decision-making processes. Comparative studies will be particularly appreciated, but theoretical considerations and in-depth cases studies are also welcomed.
Submission procedureand dead-lines:
Articles, written in English, will be submitted to a peer review process according to the following schedule:
- Submission of long abstracts (about 1,000 words): 30 April 2014
- Selection of long abstracts: 31 May 2014
- Submission of articles: 31 October 2014
- Provision of peer review feedback: 31 January 2015
- Submission of revised drafts: 31 March 2015
- Publication of the issue: 15 July 2015
Articles should be no longer than 10,000 words, including notes and references. A maximum of 10 articles will be published.
Please refer to the editorial guidelines available at http://siba-ese.unisalento.it/index.php/paco/about/submissions#onlineSubmissions
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