Alternative Forms of Life in Switzerland – Transformative Communities As Social Innovations (Cohousing)?

Friday, 20 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Dietmar WETZEL, University of Basel, Switzerland
The normative underlying of a “transformative community” is, that it has to offer a political-ethical space for social transformation through innovation to preferably all of its members. Based on the project “Transformative communities as a form of social innovation? Cohousing and contract farming projects in the German-speaking part of Switzerland”, a project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, I will present empirical and conceptual results in the context of alternative forms of Life in Switzerland (Co-Housing). First, the talk will tackle the question of alternative forms of life in a more sustainable society. The term “form of life” by Rahel Jaeggi (2015), which is defined as an “instance of problem-solving” (Jaeggi 2015), will be critically evaluated (1). In a second step, my talk will consider the possibility of a conceptualization of social innovations. In order to precisely connect alternative and new communities with their social, political and cultural practices I refer to two concepts: “Communities of Practice” (Haluza-DeLay 2008) and “Intentional Communities” (Shenker 1986) (2). Ultimately, the introduced topics of (1) and (2) will be empirically illustrated using the example of cohousing in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. I try to mobilize arguments for the following: Community based housing projects (Cohousing etc.) can be labelled as transformative communities, as they are challenging “normal” forms of dwelling through social innovations.


Jaeggi, Rahel (2015): Towards an immanent critique of forms of life, in: Raisons politiques 57: 13-29.

Haluza-DeLay, Randolph (2008): A Theory of Practice for Social Movements. Environmentalism and Ecological Habitus, in: Mobilization. The International Quarterly.13, 2: 205-218.

Shenker, Barry (1986): Intentional Communities. Ideology and Alienation in communal societies. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.