The growing interest in support for local economies in the U.S. and beyond has been the subject of praise and critique. Certainly there are issues to attend to in efforts to localize, such as differences in natural environments, as well as unequal access to real wages and resources. In environments where production of food and goods can be produced locally, however, a spirit of resistance is often found not only to corporate domination over our consumptive behavior, but also to government’s seemingly inexorable support for a system that undermines any potential for a just and participatory economy. While enthusiasm for “supporting local” has received much attention – which is evident by corporate efforts to overpower and co-opt such efforts, the spirit of resistance – of civil disobedience – that often accompanies localizing efforts merits attention as well. It is, perhaps, a necessary fuel for empowering those seeking to sever their ties to the government supported corporate tyrannies that have normalized control over daily lives and decision-making processes. The corporate-government machine as it has manifested over the past four decades of neoliberal dominance disempowers the individual from making responsible everyday life decisions. It largely determines the quality and price of goods, as well as the conditions in which those products are made. It is a system that shifts manufacturing around the world to produce cheap goods by exploiting and polluting. It is vicious, unhealthy, and its dominance more or less forces our participation in it.
People are growing more and more frustrated with being complicit without consent in the undemocratic forces that shape the global economy. There is a growing unease associated with not knowing where, how, and under what conditions our goods are made. While on the surface efforts to support local and alternative economies may just seem like another passing trend, these efforts offer opportunities for individuals and communities to take greater control over decision-making processes that shape their lives and the community around them. There’s no blanket formula for nurturing this spirit of resistance as it will be shaped by diverse local nuances. In Argentina, responses to the collapse of neoliberal austerity measures emerged in the form of barter economies, new currencies, and collective overtake of productive industries.1 In Barcelona, neighborhood bartering systems undermine the corporate-government machine with a lively embrace.2 In the U.S., increasing support and enthusiasm for collectively run businesses and co-operatives, clothes swaps, farmer’s markets, CSA’s, community gardens and support for small local businesses in general empowers individuals to make responsible choices in their daily lives. As this spirit grows, so too should efforts to make local and alternative economies more accessible. As pointed out in discussions on food costs and the current food movement,3 lack of participation in alternative consumptive efforts is not always just a matter of choice or ignorance.4 In a global economic system based on maintaining cheap labor, low wages, and the externalization of the true costs of production, real humane alternatives must address issues of inequality. Certainly there have been creative and inspiring efforts to address poverty, economic downturn, and unemployment, 5 but alternative and localizing efforts must continue to seek ways to be more inclusive of those who suffer the most in the current economic order. Our government makes it increasingly clear whose interests it is content on serving and more often than not, it isn’t ours. As we embrace the spirit to be “a counter friction” , as Thoreau encouraged,” against the machine, let’s also find new creative ways to extend it.
- 1 http://www.zcommunications.org/fasinpat-factory-without-a-boss-an-argentine-experience-in-self-management-by-marie-trigona | http://www.thetake.org/index.cfm?page_name=background_articles_and_links
- 2 http://www.grist.org/cities/2011-06-13-getting-their-fair-share-the-rise-of-the-barter-market?fb_ref=.TfZ3GA-C1vI&fb_source=profile_oneline
- 3 http://www.truth-out.org/plenty-plenty-new-food-plutocracy/1306428688
- 4 http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-being-a-foodie-isnt-elitist/2011/04/27/AFeWsnFF_story_2.html
- 5 Detroit has great examples: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/12/17-0 http://rawearthliving.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/vision-urban-gardening-and-green-economy-flourish-in-detroit