Innovative Communities in a Sharing Society? Collaborative Collective Practices and Discourses in Community-Based Housing Projects (Switzerland)

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Dietmar WETZEL, University of Basel, Switzerland
In the course of a re-politicization throughout Europe and North America, more and more community-based housing projects (co-housing etc.) have emerged since the 1990s that seek to formulate a response to the "multiple crises" (e.g. Brand 2016) in our western-postindustrial societies. In Switzerland, these projects have been conceived and known as 'alternative' cooperatives (“Genossenschaften”), who are experimenting with a collaborative orientation and shared practices in the organizational structure, in the planning and the creation of the projects, and finally in everyday life. My empirical data comes from the project “Transformative communities as innovative life forms? A study using the example of German-speaking Swiss cohousing and cooperative farming projects”, funded by the Swiss National Fond. In my contribution, I will examine the extent to which the recent discussions on "social innovations" (Moulaert et al. 2015) are suitable for analyzing and interpreting the spread of new cooperatives in a sharing society. In particular, I am concerned with innovation theories who relate to the French sociologist Gabriel Tarde and his “laws of imitation” (1921). At the same time, I believe that the consideration of social innovations must be expanded by a praxeological approach to innovation, which results from an explicit interlocking of theory and empiricism. With regard to collaborative practices and discourses, co-housing projects could be analyzed as “innovative communities”.


Brand, Ulrich (2016): How to Get Out of the Multiple Crisis? Contours of a Critical Theory of Social-Ecological Transformation. Environmental Values 25:5, 503-525.

Moulaert, Frank et al. (2015): The International Handbook of Social Innovation. Collective Action, social learning and Transdisciplinary Research. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Tarde, Gabriel (1921): Les lois de l’imitation. Étude sociologique. Paris: Félix Alcan.