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- Author or Editor: Luke Martell x
In a time of great gloom and doom internationally and of major global problems, this book offers an invaluable contribution to our understanding of alternative societies that could be better for humans and the environment.
Bringing together a wide range of approaches and new strands of economic and social thinking from across the US, Mexico, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa, Luke Martell critically assesses contemporary alternatives and shows the ways forward with a convincing argument of pluralist socialism.
Presenting a much-needed introduction to the debate on alternatives to capitalism, this ambitious book is not about how things are, but how they can be!
The introduction sets out the aim of the book to go beyond critique of present society and look for alternatives. It outlines: the breadth of alternatives covered, in theory and practice, current and future; the thrust of the book in going beyond polarizations and dichotomies and its argument for pluralism and complexity in pursuing alternatives; the emphasis on socialism as coming out of the many alternatives but also how socialism is pursued in the book, seeing the need for a pluralist and liberal approach. The introduction explains why the following themes were chosen for more in-depth analysis: utopianism, socialism, the democratic economy, and local/global levels. The chapter outlines how the book is international, discussing alternatives at a global level and located and relevant internationally, including in the Global South. The introduction also outlines how the book is designed for students and lay readers as well as experts.
Chapter 1 examines the alternative of communism, in theory and attempts in practice. Lessons from attempts at communism are drawn out for alternative economies and social experiments in capitalism. The chapter moves from society-wide collective ownership to co-operative ownership on a small scale within capitalism. It discusses the principles and benefits of co-ops and the challenges they encounter. There is a discussion of Cooperation Jackson in the US. The chapter discusses participatory economy proposals for self-management, remuneration, mixed job combinations, and collective self-planning of the economy. It covers alternatives to this, for abolishing work, an economy without money, and decisions about the economy according to pull rather than plan. The chapter discusses examples of participatory budgeting internationally, and communal democracy in Barcelona (Spain), Fatsa (Turkey), Marinaleda (Spain), and Chiapas (Mexico). The chapter also looks at proposals for a society with less paid work and slow society, including their benefits, practicalities, and challenges. It moves on to eco-localist and confederalist alternatives, including in the Global South, post-development, degrowth, bioregionalism, permaculture, transition towns, and social ecology in Rojava (Syria). The chapter discusses digital alternatives to surveillance capitalism and proposals for a democratic public media.
Chapter 5 discusses democratizing the economy, including alternatives from the ‘populist’ Left and the COVID and post-COVID periods that involve collective ownership and control. The chapter supports democratic socialism over social democracy, and a focus on pre-distribution and asset ownership as well as redistribution of income. It outlines community wealth building, which favours social ownership, social goals, and local wealth retention, and provides examples in places like Preston and Cleveland. Community wealth building is outlined as an approach that involves a circulatory rather than extractive economy. The challenge of ensuring participatory consciousness is addressed. The chapter discusses methods for responding to resistance that democratizing the economy would encounter. It looks at the scaling up of local initiatives and the allying of civil society and local politics with national politics, in multilevel socialism. The chapter also outlines the role of society-wide public ownership, arguing that it needs to be inclusive of multiple groups and democratic, making the case for central planning, raised as a possibility out of the COVID-19 period, under popular democratic control.
This chapter discusses alternative societies at a global level. It looks at the emergence of the anti-globalization movement and attempts at alter-globalization. It is argued that global government is unlikely to be successful because of the difficulties of finding common agreement across divisions of ideology and material interest between actors internationally. The chapter makes the case that pursuing change at an international level is more effectively done through sub-global internationalism between actors with shared ideological goals or geopolitical interests. It is argued one way change can globally lead to alternative globalization is through open borders for the free movement of people. Arguments for open borders based on freedom, obligations, and equality are outlined. Myths about the scale of international migration and its negative economic and social effects are countered with evidence. The chapter argues that open borders would not lead to huge unmanageable population movements. It contends that evidence on attitudes to migration shows more potential for support for open borders than it seems at first. What an alternative global society with open borders would look like is outlined.
The conclusion summarizes the chapters and their main coverage. It outlines how the book has covered both alternatives in theory and alternatives being tried now or in the past in practical, realizable forms. It reiterates and reasserts the main core of the book, which is for utopianism in many forms, materialist and free, and pluralist socialism that includes liberalism, ecology, feminism, decolonial alternatives, and collective ownership, local and national, in an inclusively democratized form. It reiterates the argument of the book against dichotomous approaches and false oppositions, and for a pluralist, multilevel socialism both in the means of alternative society – political and extra-political; local, national, and international; in combination and not opposed – and the form it should take – socialist but with liberalism and diversity – not a pluralism that includes socialism but a socialism that includes pluralism.
Chapter 2 overviews social alternatives. A discussion of alternative education looks at free universities, A.S. Neill’s writings and his school, Summerhill, Paolo Freire’s argument for dialogical education, and Illich’s advocacy of deschooling. Then the focus is on communal alternatives to the family, coupling, and conventional child-rearing. The chapter looks at food counterculture, such as freeganism and skip diving, that create green, decommodified, collective, and egalitarian alternatives. The chapter looks at alternative urban social centres and how they contrast with other forms of alternative society politics. It discusses the abolition of prison, defunding the police, and alternatives of restorative and transformative justice. The chapter looks at political alternatives arguing that the welfare state sets up non-capitalist institutions, signalling the possibility of an alternative society. The chapter discusses concrete utopias, bottom-up social reproduction practices in the Global South that provide post-development and decolonial alternatives to abstract utopias and Global North or Eurocentric models. The chapter outlines John Holloway’s search for prefigurative alternatives in cracks in capitalism, but argues that approaches to alternative societies should not be opposed to party or state politics.
Many of the alternative societies looked at are utopias of one sort or another and Chapter 3 outlines utopianism and criticisms of it. The chapter covers classical and contemporary meanings of utopia, and current, future, macro, and micro utopianism. It discusses the functions of utopia, especially in facilitating change. It outlines how utopia overcomes the problem of aspiring to change without a detailed and tested idea of the objective. The chapter discusses Left-wing utopianism, indicating how some socialist utopianism now is of the current micro sort outlined in chapters 1 and 2. Feminist and anti-racist utopias are set out. The chapter responds to materialist and Marxist criticisms not by rejecting their perspective but by outlining how utopianism can meet their criteria for materialist and conflictual change. It responds to liberal and pluralist criticisms of utopianism as totalitarianism and endist – and so stopping change – not by rejecting liberal and pluralist concerns but by saying utopianism can encompass them and allow for continuing change. The chapter argues that many of the conflations or dichotomies that utopianism is put into by critics are false. This is in tune with the pluralist and multilevel approach of the book that rejects bipolarities and exclusivities.
This chapter discusses criticisms of socialism and how it can respond. The ways socialism can respond to criticisms are categorized into several types. The chapter outlines communism and other types of socialism. The case is made for socialism as collective ownership and economic equality. The chapter outlines communism in theory. It says that problems in attempts at communism can be responded to by the development of socialist forms within capitalism and means of change that are non-statist and bottom-up, while with a role for the state too – that is, pluralist socialism. The chapter discusses Right-wing green and feminist criticisms of socialism. It argues that socialism can adapt to the deficiencies exposed by green and feminist criticisms and that expansion of adjusted socialism can help deal with ecological problems and non-class inequality. It is suggested that liberal and neoliberal criticisms require adaptation, expansion to help meet liberal goals, but also self-limitation of socialism. A pluralist socialism is argued for – not pluralism or liberalism with socialism, but a socialism with liberalism and pluralism.
New Labour claims to have discovered a third way between Old Left and New Right, with policy implications that break with established debates and policy alternatives. But what does the third way actually mean in terms of values and its approach to policy? We argue in this article that Labour’s third way does not transcend Old Left and New Right. Left and Right remain important markers for contemporary policy and politics but the third way does combine them in significant new ways. Between Old Left and New Right, we argue, there is not just space for one third way but for many, with varying values and policy positions.