DIGNITY AND PROSPERITY FOR THE CITY IN THE ANTHROPOCENE: TOWARDS SOCIAL, SOLIDARITY, AND ANTAGONISTIC URBAN ECONOMIES – Peter North (University of Liverpool)

Abstract

For some, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was ‘the end of history’ in that humanity had decisively rejected the 20th century challenges to markets and democracy in the form of Fascism and Soviet Communism. For a time, lightlyregulated markets supported by the institutions to make them work well was the sine qua non for prosperity. We might as well dispute that the world was round that challenge that common sense: until 2008 that is. The Eurozone Crisis, Brexit, Trump and the continued crisis of European Social Democracy suggest that all is (still) not well. Yet it is still the case that we do not know how to build solidaristic, sustainable, democratically-controlled market economies that meet the needs of the many to live the life they wish to with dignity, in ways that are within the limits of the ecosystem to provide resources and absorb its wastes. Conceptions of Social and Solidarity Economies, and Diverse Economies perspectives have recently suggested the need for a ‘economic ethics for the Anthropocene’ which focusses on how we want to live, in common in the city, in ways that respect the ecosystem, other species, and other people both now and in the future. Developing an ethics of ‘how we should live’ is valuable, but perhaps the issue is less to imagine other ethical perspectives than to examine practices for living in convivial cities. This lecture examines three areas in which convivial, democratically-controlled urban economies are being enacted, through community currencies as realistic utopias, worker-managed firms antagonistically confronting neoliberalisation; and SME owners engaged in non–capitalocentric practices, to examine the extent that an alternative urban economy for the Anthropocene is being enacted – if we open our eyes and see it.

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