Getting to the future
Introduction Is there a way forward other than only in principle? Are there real life examples of socio-economic models that have been adopted by communities or nations in building more equitable or sustainable societies? Can we learn from these not only how to proceed with transformative economic and societal changes but also how to acknowledge their limitations vis-à-vis these changes? There are many sites around the globe which deserve examination for what they have achieved in establishing more democratic, equitable and sustainable lifestyles: the Amish of the United States, the Via Campesina movement in Latin America, the Navdanya movement in India – seed savers, protectors of cultural and genetic diversity and small-scale farmers; and the list goes on. The question then arises about the practicability of such future societies. At present no economy exists which embraces the sorts of principles that might be sought for the future, with the possible exception of Cuba. There are however currently some macro and micro examples of social units that have adopted some of the characteristics essential for building future societies. They are worth exploring. The examples presented in this chapter are at different levels. Abalimi Bezekhaya in South Africa is very much a micro example among the poor living in a township on the outskirts of Cape Town that illustrates how the availability of a small pocket of communally controlled land and small-scale inexpensive support can bring not only food security to people, but a sense of mutuality, community, personal empowerment and connectedness to others. Scaling up from this, Transition Towns is a social movement originating in the UK that is seeking to build from the micro to the macro. The example of Cuba is that of a state that has undergone a radical transformation process. Each of these examples provides some insights into how aspects of future economies might operate. The case of Russia’s transition is presented in essence to show perhaps how not to do it! This chapter thus encompasses the issue of how to make the transition to a new world, particularly given the time constraints science is saying we face to prevent runaway global warming. Certainly there is a vast literature on political
economy transformation (see for example Ellman 1997). Much of this focuses on the transition from socialist economies to market economies; some on structural adjustment programmes; as well as some from the broad school of modernisation theory which examines the transition of peasant societies to modern societies (Mol and Spaargaren 2000). A much smaller literature is more immediately relevant to the sorts of transformation needed to address global warming (see Andreasson 2010). Where there is a gap in this literature however is on the transition from global industrial capitalist society to no growth, communitybased, localised economies. This is a formidable challenge. Looking at it from the converse perspective, Harvey (D. 2011) warns of the problems of ‘jumping scale’, looking at solutions for managing problems such as global warming at the local level does not necessarily translate into solutions at the global level. He writes, ‘lessons gained from the collective organisation of small-scale solidarity economies along common-property lines cannot translate into global solutions without resort to nested hierarchical forms of decision-making’ (ibid.: 102). Yet, we must urgently begin ways of exiting the capitalist system and the imperative for growth. Without a clear way forward, I believe that we must validate and support all attempts to break from the capitalist social relations of production and the imperatives of capitalism and work towards solidarity amongst alternatives. By doing so, by embracing and supporting the Transition Towns, the Abalimi Bezekhayas, the Campesino movements, we are building a solidarity across alternatives to capitalism, showing examples of how it is possible for people to become empowered and positively involved in making their own history, that it is possible to form new values in which we are comfortable and at home. As previously noted from äiåek’s observation ‘it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism’. Yet it is clear that we must. We must at every opportunity show that capitalism is not the only viable political and economic system, that there are coherent and current alternatives to it.