This chapter explores how alternative consumer cooperatives (ACCs) emerged and how they function within a political and economic milieu characterized by the dominance of a strong state tradition and commitment to the premises of neo-liberal policies, which affects various aspects of social and economic life, as well as the daily practices of citizens. What were the major factors that mobilized the urban middle class to build networks of solidarity with other excluded groups such as the petty commodity producers? The focus is on how the discontents of capitalism – the consumers engaged in alternative food networks and small farmers dedicated to the principles of food sovereignty – collectively set the ground for prefigurative politics in food in Turkey, with the actions taken and strategies developed by the leading figures giving rise to the initiation of the alternative consumer cooperatives.
The chapter focuses on and elaborates the work of alternative consumer cooperatives (ACCs) in reclaiming the public sphere with a transformative potential that is shaped through the politicization of urban consumers and rural petty commodity producers. The ACCs’ response to the legitimacy crisis of the neo-liberal hegemonic project and decreasing public participation in politics is crystallized in the ‘making’ of an alternative public sphere. This public sphere, where the validity claims of the hegemonic system are questioned, prevailing social norms are interrogated, and alternative governance modes and alternative norms are experienced, utilizes a diverse set of institutions (shop, social media, an alternative football league), activities (workshops, talks, film screenings, celebrations, direct meetings, site visits) and a discourse that is critical, oppositional of the prevailing system and inspiring a new one.
The chapter provides a deeper understanding of the alternative food provisioning model developed by the alternative consumer cooperatives (ACCs) as a response to the populist neo-liberal policies that have marginalized, both economically and socially, the middle class and the petty commodity producers. By focusing on how the ACCs appropriate and distribute surpluses, develop means to bypass the intermediaries in production and distribution, and demystify commodity fetishism, the chapter focuses on the transformation of the urban middle class and rural petty commodity producers as economic and political subjects; a process that aims to reconstitute peasantry by trying an alternative surplus generation model, by refusing scaling-up and constituting politicized urban consumers.
Following the global financial crisis of 2008, there has been a significant interest amongst scholars and activists in alternative forms of organization which operate according to a non-capitalist logic, including the Alternative Consumer Cooperatives (ACCs).
Using the example of Turkey, where neoliberal economics combined with authoritarian politics formed conditions that have profound social and economic consequences, this book investigates ACCs as spaces for prefigurative food politics.
Offering a novel perspective on alternative forms of organizing, this book challenges the easy assumptions of what it means to be a scholar working on activism in the Global North and shows how, through the foundational values of solidarity, reciprocity and responsibility, it is possible to create new and imaginative forms of politics and activism.
It is difficult to pursue the values of participation, solidarity and equality in investor-owned companies and the managerialism underlying them. This chapter explains how participants of the alternative consumer cooperatives (ACCs), by being against neo-liberal policies and the politically exclusionist attitude of the ruling groups, aimed to develop and experiment with an alternative governance model based on democratic and dialogic decision-making practices such as horizantalism and consensus-based decision-making. The chapter also discusses the various means experimented with for prefigurative organizing and volunteer work in the alternative cooperatives with a focus on the viability and sustainability of these practices, especially those related to informal inequalities.
Operating within the capitalist system and experimenting with an alternative form of governance and food provisioning system that is against the capitalist logic renders alternative consumer cooperatives (ACCs) precarious. They are spaces of possibility and resistance. Challenging the prevailing capitalist forms of organizing and doing business by introducing fundamental changes such as bypassing the middlemen, de-fetishising foodstuff and experimenting with zero-hierarchy, consensus-based decision-making is a process of transformation that needs an ethical stance in the economic realm and a political dedication. There is no guarantee about the advancement of the transformative efforts being undertaken by the alternative consumer cooperatives: it all depends on how the activists involved and the practices developed contribute to a shift in the pessimism or maybe ‘hopelessness’ underlying the trialing of something ‘different’ and ‘new’.
Alternative consumer cooperatives (ACCs) are characterized by some practices that challenge the capitalist forms of organizing; they are based on values of solidarity, reciprocity, decommodification, non-profit-making (that is, they reject efficiency and profit motives) and the inclusion of marginalized groups (mainly women, small farmers and refugees). These cooperatives are initiated by a group of consumers, the precariat, middle-class professionals and petty commodity producers, who share concerns about the neo-liberal policies, the hegemonic capitalist logic, the commodification of nature, and the impoverishment of their social life. The ACCs claim to develop an alternative food provisioning system, which aims to bypass the intermediaries in supply and distribution, empower rural women, support small farmers, promote the de-fetishization of agricultural products, support eco-friendly traditional agricultural production, and experiment with a different type of surplus distribution that does not target capital accumulation by the founders. They also challenge the power relations that shape management and labour practices within organizations. In so doing they provide an example of an alternative form of organizing, developed around the idea of workplace democracy, and implement practices such as consensus-based decision-making, a minimum hierarchy and volunteer work. Finally, the ACCs provide a space for the creation of a public sphere which nurtures vigorous political debate and prefigurative politics where a discourse on and practices for food sovereignty is drafted.
This chapter outlines the history of consumer cooperatives in Turkey. In so doing, it aims to develop a background for contrasting conventional and alternative consumer cooperatives so that a comparison can be made and the latter can be positioned in a political and economic context. The chapter is composed of three parts: the first part describes how, drawing on the Rochdale principles, the consumer cooperatives were initiated by intellectuals during the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The second part discusses the state-led cooperative movement and conventional consumer cooperatives in Turkey and the third part explains the emergence of alternative consumer cooperatives, the actors involved and the political and economic concerns shared.
This chapter aims to develop a conceptual and theoretical framework for studying alternative consumer cooperatives (ACCs) by focusing on diverse economies, alternative food networks (AFNs), the food sovereignty movement and prefigurative politics. ACCs are embedded in AFNs, which are a sub-category of diverse economies, and their practices are shaped by the values of the food sovereignty movement. These dominant values have shaped the practices of the ACCs, allowing them to experiment with a new type of governance, and surplus generation and distribution, as well as creating a space for the making of a public sphere.
The concluding chapter weaves together the key themes of the book, to reflect on the interconnection of community, politics and justice in communal growing projects, in the way they claim spaces in the city and their articulation of alternative and autonomous ways of living. It highlights the productive ambivalence of the spaces, particularly knitting together inclusionary and radical reimaginations of the city with boundary work and strategic neutrality that effectively positions the sites beyond politics. It argues that attending to the afterlives of growing, how it moves and changes, is critical both for assessing the politics of growing projects and for attending to their purported place in sustainable cities. The chapter offers reflections on what might be taken forward in such sustainable work and the enduring attraction of communal growing as a research space, as well as the shifting opportunity structure within Scotland’s policy landscape that might facilitate a greater value being placed on communal growing projects as a critical part of the city’s social infrastructure.