Hemning Sternberg (moonshadow) wrote,
Hemning Sternberg


Last night rampala joined me for a workshop on alternatives to material capitalism. It was called Another Economy is Possible. It was publicized through the Time Trade Circle, which I have mentioned here before. The presenter, Julie Matthaei, is a radical and feminist economics professor at Wellesley.

There Is No Alternative (TINA) is a political slogan popularized by Margaret Thatcher, which basically says that a free market status quo economy is the only choice we have. Apparently this philosophy is still generally accepted as economic theory. The alt-globalization slogans that compete with it are TATA - There Are Thousands of Alternatives - and "another world is possible," from which I assume the title of the workshop was taken.

The workshop was on the solidarity economy. Essentially, what this seems to mean is that although mainstream economics say that everyone is self-interested and only cares about money, many people around the world right now are acting with different economic motivations. For instance, the free trade movement apparently began with some white middle-class folks wondering about what the coffee plantation workers were getting paid to pick the coffee beans that made their coffee.

Presented differences of the two models included:

Materialistic capitalism - forced obsolescence (things made to wear out so we buy more), externalized costs, hierarchical, the goal is to consume as much as you can for as little money as possible, working a demanding, high-paying job is a sign of status, profit is the only goal (nonmonetary costs like to worker's health and the environment are irrelevant), problematic work/family balance, disconnection from the local community, sense of distance from the finished product you work on, et cetera.

Solidarity economy - egalitarian, sustainable, community-based, local, mutual, non-traditional forms of payment, re-using and fixing things, investment in the finished product, democratic, caring where things come from and where they are going, aware of many dimensions and ramifications of our choices, three "p"'s of people, profit, and plant.

The presenter talked about these two basically being on a continuum. In other words, most companies are somewhere in between being purely materialistic and being solidarity-focused. And, on the other hand, solidarity inclined businesses still need to turn a profit to recoup their costs and pay their employees. Also, people and places that are impoverished use a lot more solidarity networks, because you need to find ways to survive without having any money. But, she posits that more and more individuals and companies are starting to use a more solidarity-based model.

Here are some examples of things that fit into the model we discussed - Freecycle, nonprofits, potlucks, clothing swaps, childcare co-ops, skillshares, DIY, co-ops, CSAs, barter (like the Time Trade Circle), local currency (Berkshares were the example given, apparently a form of currency that you can only use in the Berkshires), websites where you swap things (paperbackswap.com or lala.com, f'rinstance), libraries, "free" boxes, trashpicking (she called it freeganism), and locavorism.

For anyone interested in finding out more, here is a link to the Solidarity Economy Network and one for the Time Trade Circle which sponsored the event.
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