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WGSS 244
Actually Existing Alternative Economies Fall 2020
Division II Difference, Power, and Equity

Class Details

Capitalism has a way of constricting our imaginations so that we come to believe the only possible form of economic institution is one based on profit seeking, competition and individualism. However movements in countries including Brazil, France, Canada and Spain–and now parts of the U.S.–are demonstrating otherwise. Theorists, practitioners and social activists are adopting labels including ‘Solidarity Economy’ and ‘New Economy’ to group together economic activities based on ideals of human provisioning, social justice and environmental sustainability. They point out that many of these activities are already taking place and are often crucial to our lives, but are rendered invisible by economic theory. In the words of Brazilian popular educator and economist Marcos Arruda, ‘a solidarity economy does not arise from thinkers or ideas; it is the outcome of the concrete historical struggle of the human being to live and to develop him/herself as an individual and a collective.’ Feminist geographers Julie Graham and Katherine Gibson developed practices of ‘mapping’ local economies with communities in Australia and Western Massachusetts in ways that bring to light the invisible resources and practices of provisioning and solidarity, and challenge what they describe, drawing on the work of feminist theorist Sharon Marcus, as a ‘script’ of local helplessness to resist the ‘rape’ of their economies by the forces of global capitalism. Do these proposed discursive practices actually present realistic possibilities for producing sustained economic change? In this tutorial we will learn and debate about some of the activities being named and built under the label of solidarity economy, such as the networks of worker-owned cooperatives in Mondragon, Spain, the growth of local currencies and time exchanges, fair trade organizations and different ways of organizing care work. We will look at some of the history and debates around worker-owned cooperatives, ranging from Victorian England through African-American experiences throughout the 20th century and examples in post-Independence Africa, to the recent establishment of Cooperation Jackson in Jackson, Mississippi. The ILO has argued that co-ops are a particularly appropriate form to African development. Is this plausible, and what role might they play in AIDS-affected communities? Why has the recent U.S. growth of the solidarity economy been so concentrated in communities of color, and how is it gendered? We will visit some examples in New York or Boston.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 2785
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: open to sophomores and above
Distributions: Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
DPE Notes: The course fulfills the DPE requirement because of its central focus on the diversity of economic institutions within and across countries and the power imbalances that call them into being and challenge some of their survival. The course considers ways the hegemonic discourse of economics tends to render that diversity invisible, and tools, both analytical and activist, for bringing it out into view. It teaches tools to evaluate economic institutions in terms of equity and solidarity.

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