With this first issue of Sustainable Economics we would like to begin reporting regularly on current economic developments which are beyond the realms of profit-orientated market-economics and state bureaucracy. The socio-political concept of ‘sustainable economy’ is based on the ‘Bruntland Report’ which came out of the UNO-initiated commission chaired by the Norwegian president, Gro Harlem Brundtland. Sustainable development, as defined in this report, is: ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’
This concept was to be further developed at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, with the adoption of Agenda 21, and at later conferences. The last summit on climate change, in The Hague in November 2000, failed due to the refusal of the USA, Australia, Canada and Japan to keep to commitments to reduce CO2 emissions agreed three years previously in the Kyoto Protocol. Disreputable attempts were made to avoid taking real action by using so-called ‘trading’ of CO2 emissions. The term ‘long-term viability’ (Zukunfstfähigkeit ) is now commonly used as a synonym for ‘sustainability’ although the former doesn’t have any specific meaning.
The study ‘Zukunftfähiges Deutschland’ (‘A Germany viable for the future’) published in 1996 by the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy applies the term ‘sustainability’ in many social contexts, with the motto ‘live well instead of having a lot.’
It is not possible, in this book, to give a complete overview of the latest developments in the sustainability debate. We are not so much concerned with defining terms as with highlighting particular aspects of this subject which we find interesting. We do this on the basis of a broad understanding of the term ‘sustainability,’ with equal emphasis on its economic, ecological, social and political dimensions.
We’d like to make a significant contribution to the sustainability debate with our own ideal of a practically-orientated economy which is focused on environmental protection and social participation. We are aware that, in the conventional economy, a lot happens in the name of ‘sustainability’, and that we are addressing a particular dimension in which the term is used. We don’t want to leave the term ‘sustainability’ to those who use it mainly for high-tech solutions (for example nuclear energy; genetic technology); we would like, rather, to promote our own definition.
The idea for this yearbook came out of a working group on ‘Theories of Alternative Economy’ (TAK AÖ)*. The main focus is, how we can have an economy today which is self-organised and not orientated towards the profits of shareholders. Since the seventies a politically-motivated and very diverse economy has been developing as an alternative to the traditional, industrial production-based economy. Collectives came into being in the skilled trades sector and in shared housing projects (including squats), and then, in the most developed form, in urban and rural communes where people lived, worked and were politically active together. Often these alternative projects could only survive economically through the ideological contributions of their members and friends. The best-known and most high-profile examples of this are ‘taz’ (Die Tagezeitung, one of Berlin’s daily newspapers) and Ökobank, which faced a crisis in 2000 threatening its existence. In the former GDR there was hardly any opportunity for alternative economic experimentation, and alternative economic forms developed only after the take-over by West Germany, mainly in response to the imminent collapse of what had formerly been state enterprises.
In this book we would like to document the development of the many different strands of ‘alternative economy’. We report on new models of living and working together, women’s projects, trades unions developments, the latest discussions in the agricultural context, news from the world of money, experiments in economies which function without money, and world resistance to neo-liberal globalisation. We are mainly interested in those aspects of alternative economy which have proven to be stable over a long period. We are also interested in experiences over recent decades which can be applied to current challenges in this time of globalisation, neoliberalism, a ‘new economics,’ and developments towards a service-based society, to name only some of the current trends. Self-determination or ‘taking control of one’s own life’ provides an alternative to the increasing isolation and impoverishment of a growing proportion of the population. Such forms of self-determination, which could reach far beyond the ‘left’ or ‘alternative’ scene, need a supportive economic and political framework to provide ongoing stability. This is not to suggest that ‘self-determination’ should be used to mask the increasing shortfalls in the social system. On the contrary, the State should not be released from its responsibilities. Instead of more red tape, appropriate forms of support for initiative and self-determination should be demanded. Hence we also look at recent social movements.
It is also important to look at neighbouring European States. Social, political and economic alternatives are increasingly organised on a pan-European level. This is necessary for their ongoing stability. Moreover, the differences in interpretation and practice of ‘alternative economy’ in different countries are extremely interesting. We can discover and learn a lot from each other. Each edition of the ‘Yearbook of Sustainable Economy’ will concentrate on one European country. We begin with the Netherlands because this is the country with which we have the closest contact. In order to be recognised on a European level, and to find further partners, we have produced this English edition of the current issue, in which most of the German texts appear, except for contributions which are very specific to Germany, and an extensive review of mainly German publications. The English-language texts will also be published on the internet.
We are looking forward to making contact with people in other countries who are working in the same context, and we are interested in co-operation.
Table of contents
Waldemar Schindowski/Elisabeth Voß: Preface / Eva Bulling-Schröter: Discussion paper: sustainability and left-wing politics / Burghard Flieger/Elmar Sing: Social sustainability / Rolf Schwendter: The ‘alternative economy’. An antidote to creeping globalisation / Heinz Bierbaum: Social economy, past and present, and its future prospects / Heidi Knake-Werner: A publicly-supported employment sector (ÖBS) / Erwin Meyer-Wölfing: Employment programmes and networking for development / Jean-Loup Motchane: Community economies are still shrinking violets / Stefan Ofteringer: Agricultural reform as an instrument for securing food supply / Rita Schäfer/Parto Teherani-Krönner: An overview of women’s work in rural areas / Elisabeth Meyer-Renschhausen/Christophe Kotanyi: Smallholdings in town and country: a women’s economy / Combating inner-city decline through grass-roots economies. Discussed by Heide Mertens, Carola Möller, Ulla Peters and Irena Vellay / Athos M. Staub: A green stock market in an age of ‘shareholder value’? / Alexander Schwedeler: An outline of the operations of Triodos Bank / Stefan Merten: Taking instead of buying. Towards an economics of free software / Peoples’ Global Action Network: A global network for local action / Attac: Declaration for the democratic control of international financial markets / Raisons d’agir: Charta 2000: Roposals for a charter for movement in Europe / The european marches for european basic social rights / Barbara Dribbusch: We are all entrepreneurs! / Harald Glöde: The continuation of a deceptive immigration policy: opening the debate / Hinrich Garms: An alternative economy with ‘subsistence payments / Bodo Zeuner: Social Darwinism, or a revival of solidarity? / Nils Buis / Jaap van Leeuwen: Activism based on economics / Nils Buis / Jaap van Leeuwen: Ideas for an alternative economy / Nils Buis / Jaap van Leeuwen: A different attitude to money / Nils Buis / Jaap van Leeuwen: Sustainable consumption: the power of consumers / Nils Buis / Jaap van Leeuwen: Alternative living / Jaap van Leeuwen: A Profile of Paul Dijkstra of Utrecht / Waldemar Schindowski: A profile of Dieter Koschek of Wasserburg
Elisabeth Voss is co-editor of this yearbook. She has been active for many years in the TAK AÖ (Theories of Alternative Economy) and other groups within the alternative economy. She has written forCONTRASTE, a monthly journal about collective organisation, and in the Kommunebuch (Die Werkstatt, 1996).
Waldemar Schindowski is co-editor of this yearbook. His other professional activities include the publishing house AG SPAK books, digital publishing and digital print. Among other things, he is active in the TAK AÖ.
Das Jahrbuch steht auch online zur Verfügung.
Siehe auch im Internet: www.www.leibi.de/yearbook