Economic Practices and Role Models of the Transition Movement: From Market Societies Towards New Modes of Provisioning?

Monday, 11 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Hörsaal 48 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Silke OETSCH, Department of Sociology, Austria
The contribution discusses Karl Polanyis theories of marketization and alternative modes of provisioning in regard to today’s interrelations of markets, man and nature. It focuses on the potential of the Transition Movement. Studies on the state of the environment usually suggest technical solutions or, recently, the need for a social transformation. Despite of criticism regarding the rebound effect, propositions for a transformation of the economic system are largely left aside.

This paper first puts Polanyis analysis in the context of actual discussions on marketization and disembeddedness. It then takes out the Transition Movement to discuss economic practices and ideas that are found within the movement. As data basis I use a) reports on modes of provisioning (REconomy) from the networks publications and homepages and b) qualitative interviews I conducted with persons involved in the movement. The interviews deal with conceptions of society and economy and role models. I reconstruct the functioning and logic of the economic models in question. I later compare practices and ideas with those types of provisioning, which Polanyi derived from anthropological studies. I also contrast them with forms and theories of alternative way of economizing from the 60s onwards.

It turns out that concepts of provisioning in the Transition movement are diverse and little theorized. Radical concepts and forms of self sufficient life or collective swarm behavior coincide with neo-liberal ideas of entrepreneurial action, leadership, “alternative” finance and the market power of the consumer. Most of the models had no clear concepts about how to keep achievements of the welfare state (such as retirement provisions or medical devices) and how to manage the transformation from capitalism to a degrowth society. I finally try to identify convincing concepts and indicate crucial problems to be solved by the movement and researchers engaged with transformation.