Imagining Other:

Alternatives... (*)

Links: Imagining Other contents page

What is 'imagining other' (a bit of theory!)

New ways of seeing (a bit more theory - and the arts are here)

(*) Explanatory Note:

- arising from my belief in libertarian socialism, I have always been interested in ‘alternatives’ (to capitalism and its exploitation of people and the environment). For me this includes:

(i) ‘alternative’ organisations that people have set up, and thus “building the new society in the shell of the old”, and

(ii) alternative ideas (e.g. alternative technology, but also radical political ideas such as anarchism – see anarchism and radical/libertarian socialism – see socialism before(and aside from) Marx and my notes on libertarian socialism and Castoriadis – go to home page and click on the link to (v) libertarian socialism).

- I do not believe that because a real alternative to capitalism seems a long way off, there is nothing we can do. On the contrary, there are practical alternatives, and even though some may seem to be like small drops in a vast ocean, nevertheless they are beginnings. To extend the simile: water dripping on rock will eventually wear it away.


It was when I taught at UEL, and had to engage with future engineers, scientists and business people, that I realised the importance of not only holding on to ideals such as socialism, but at the same time trying to give people hope that change can begin now. This was especially true when I taught a course on ‘social responsibilities of business’ – see the links below to some of my notes on this, also Corporate Social Responsibility - definitions (and many other sets of notes follow this page!).


The most recent ‘alternative’ that has fired people’s imagination is the ‘Occupy’ movement. There is little visible activity now - 2013 - (in part because the media are no longer interested), but the movement’s supporters are still chipping away... Chomsky has argued that if the Occupy movement is to be extended rather than collapse in on itself, these may be some of the paths that could be explored: 


For further comments on this point, see Inequalities - updates


These notes are obviously ‘work in progress...’ – and although they are incomplete and patchy I thought it better to upload them now, otherwise there would be a serious gap in the notes on ‘imagining other.’


Alternatives... (i) Links to other notes on ‘alternatives’:


Alternative technology: go to Corporate Social Responsibility Chapter 6  and Chapter 4

Co-operatives (including Suma): go to Corporate Social Responsibility Chapter 1 and Chapter 6 and Chapter 8 and Chapter 8 Updates

LETS (Local Exchange Trading Systems) and Time Banks: go to Corporate Social Responsibility Chapter 8

Lucas Aerospace Alternative Corporate Plan: go to Corporate Social Responsibility Chapter 4

            - on this there was also an article by Anne Karp in the Guardian, Weds Feb 1st 2012: - and follow-up comments at:


Alternatives.... (ii) recent ideas and articles (alphabetical order):

#Basque country(co-ops)

#cooperative living

#ecological football

education: #independent working class education

#ethical investment

#flatpack democracy


#Porto Alegre

#postcapitalism (Paul Mason book – links to reviews) see also notes at: postcapitalism 

#small is beautiful

#social credit

#Summerhill school

#via campesina

#welfare state (origins!).


Basque country co-operatives – Mondragon:


Community buyouts – in the light of the difficulties faced by the Co-op:

- an article by Tracy McVeigh, referencing Martin Large, of the Biodynamic land Trust.


‘Co-operative living’ at Hebden Bridge, from an article by Tracy McVeigh, Observer, 6th May 2012:


Tobias Jones on communal living (New Statesman 23-29 Oct 2015):


Ecological Football team (!): from Freedom, February 2012: Forest Green Rovers, a team based in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, players’ diet is meat-free featuring locally-sourced, predominantly vegetarian food in accordance with the Soil Association’s gold standard catering mark. Then they extended it to staff and fans. It is installing solar panels to provide 10% of the electricity used in the ground. Plans for low-energy floodlights etc. They want the pitch to be certified organic. Inspiration from chairman Dale Vince, who also set up Sustainability in Sport, and who founded Ecotricity, which now supplies 40,000 homes. 


Education: the Independent Working Class Education Network (originating with Colin Waugh) – see:


Ethical investment: it is now possible to invest in the country’s first ‘wood fuel co-operative’ – join with an investment of minimum 250, and you could earn an average of 6.1% provided you stay for the long term – :


Other schemes: Brighton Energy Co-operative:, Bristol Energy Co-operative: www.bristolenergycoop/, Unity Hall in Wakefield (restoration of):, Golden Ball pub in York: 


‘Flatpack Democracy’ in Frome, Somerset:


Mindfulness: Madeleine Bunting has a thoughtful piece - - and especially relevant is her warning that the approach/technique might be used as mere ‘performance enhancement’ e.g. by the military!! It is also of concern to me that she notes that the technique originated with Buddhism (see Buddhism and the peace movement and New Ways of Seeing), but has become ‘uncoupled’ from the ethics (compassion) of Buddhism. Her list of gains is interesting: ‘greater creativity, more empathy, more patience, less judgment’ but to be honest I don’t quite see how these follow inevitably from mindful meditation alone: it seems to me essential to link mindfulness with some wider ethical beliefs.

 ‘What mindfulness slowly brings to our understanding is how much our experience is shaped by our minds. To have that insight as a personal experience rather than something one reads in the growing body of scientific literature on the subject is transformational. It loosens that reactivity which can trap us in a limiting loop, and allows for very different responses which can manifest in all kinds of ways – greater creativity, more empathy, more patience, less judgment.

Mindfulness is derived from Buddhist meditation, which at its heart is revolutionary in its emphasis on compassion and non-harm. It is profoundly counter-cultural in its asceticism. But this derivative has been meticulously framed as secular by a generation of scientists.

They identified that the Buddha's insights into the behaviour of the human mind was resonating with breakthroughs in psychology and neuroscience. Delinked from Buddhist ethics, mindfulness could become a form of performance enhancement – some of the enthusiasm coming from the corporate sectors and military leads it dangerously in this direction.’

Optimistic scientists (Observer magazine 15.11.15): Ruth DeFries, Columbia University NY, wrote The Great Ratchet: how humanity thrives in the face of natural crisis (2014). History progresses by ratchets (when progress occurs), hatchets (as now: environmental problems, climate change, nitrogen run-off, inequitable distribution), and pivots (where new solutions are found).

Max Roser, Oxford Uni: the ‘news’ is always negative – but when you get to statistics it’s hard to keep being negative. Runs ‘Our world in data’ which gives statistics – facts – showing how global poverty is falling and standards of living, health and education are rising. Matt Ridley (see notes on climate change...) and Steven Pinker (The better angels of our nature). Hans Rosling: TED talk: the best stats you’ve ever seen How to end poverty in 15 years – also Gapminder, source of data on trends, by country. ‘It appears [to be] good news because the default world view has so much negativity.’ Promoting ‘factfulness’ (However, Population Matters disagree with him...). Rosling also says: ‘good governance, and quite large governments, are really good for economic growth and freedom (vs. libertarians – e.g. Ridley!).

Porto Alegre: from piece by Patrick Kingsley, G2 11.09.12: Porto Alegre has population of 1.5 million – since 1990 it has, under guidance of Workers’ party, changed the way the city is governed: the citizens allocate a significant proportion of the city’s budget. Each neighbourhood gets together every week to discuss the last year’s budget and what they would like to see in the next. Each meeting elects delegates to a citywide assembly which decides on funding allocations.

The number of locals (?) with sewers has doubled within 7 years; rate of road-building has increased five-fold; tax evasion has fallen (people can see where their money is going). 15,000 locals take part in the ‘orcamento participativo’ each year, and one in ten citizens has taken part at some time or other.

See also: 


PostCapitalism: Paul Mason’s book: PostCapitalism: a Guide to Our Future (Allen Lane 2015) has received much interest... Here is a link to a Guardian review: (by David Runciman) and one by Diane Coyle: (from New Stateman).

And some notes of my own are here: PostCapitalism.... 


Small is Beautiful: - John Burnside on a 1980 classic: Human Scale, by Kirkpatrick Sale. The human scale should be the basis of sustainability, appropriate technologies, and participatory dwelling ‘in which creaturely being is prized, nothing is merely a resource and the environment is deemed beyond further compromise. Warns against the appropriation by business and industry of the term ‘sustainable development’ – it is a ‘convenient industrial myth’ unless kept to a human scale.


‘Social Credit’ – from letter, Brian Leslie, Freedom Nov 2011: demanded distribution of ‘the wages of the machine’ as ‘national dividends’ – i.e. introducing ‘economic democracy.’  It was widely debated between the two world wars, and its supporters predicted a second world war if its ideas were not taken up.  Since the war it has not been discussed and ‘mention of it was banned from the mainstream media’ (!).  Leslie ends: ‘The basic source of most of the current world problems is the debt-generating ‘fractional reserve’ system of money-creation. Virtually all the money present society uses enters circulation when banks create it by making interest-bearing loans – which therefore require an ever-growing money supply to ‘service’ these loans, leading to continuous inflation; failing this, recession...’   [Don’t know if any of this makes sense, though!!!].


Summerhill school: Letter in Guardian, 31st May 2013 from David Gribble, points out that there is an International Democratic Education Network, with a conference each year attended by up to a thousand people from 30 or more countries. Examples of ‘Summerhill-type’ schools: Moo Ban Dek in Thailand, for 300 abused, abandoned or orphaned children; ABL (activity based learning) in Tamil Nadu, in 37,500 schools (ideas based on Montessori methods).


Via Campesina: the movement of peasants – i.e. small land-owners – now has more than 200 million members in more than 80 countries, and an English group, the Land Workers Alliance, with some 70 members, has joined. Observer 16th June 2013 has article featuring Jyoti Fernandes. ‘Growing food is a very positive reaction to the problems of globalisation.’ The Scottish Crofting Federation is already a member. The movement held a global meeting in Jakarta last week. And see:


Welfare State: David Brindle claims that the origins of the welfare state concept lie in Archbishop of York William Temple’s book Citizen and Churchman, 1941, where he contrasts the welfare state with the fascist ‘power-state’... See article by David Brindle: