Enabling Ethical Economies
it without recourse to what is already known. Though one might want toposit a radical discontinuity between the emancipatory alternative and theoppressive and exploitative norm, since the alternative is dened in termsof the norm (albeit as its opposite or reversal), the existing malign system isfully implicated in the alternative liberatory one (Laclau 1996). This is clearin much of the discussion and evaluation of Mondragon. Representationsof Mondragon are driven by the desire to highlight the uniqueness andutopian otherness of the alternative, but they are also haunted by thefear of uncovering failures that undermine these differences, rendering thealternative no more than the ‘same.’ Much of the Mondragon story hasthus been told within a
framing (Gibson-Graham 1996:40-41);the gures of the capitalist enterprise and the capitalist economy shadowthe representations of its cooperative businesses and work practices andthey are positioned with respect to capitalism as either different from, thesame as, beholden to or dominated by its forces and relations.Not all commentators have succumbed to the comparisons implicitlyenforced by a capitalocentric discourse. Recently a number of authorshave taken up discussion of Mondragon as an inspiration for communityand regional economic development in their respective contexts (Morrison1991; MacLeod 1997; Mathews 1999). They suggest a way of reading Mondragon as a guide to local practices of economic experimentation, notas an ‘alternative’ to capitalism which cannot help but disappoint. Building upon the work of Morrison, MacLeod and Mathews, my interest is incontributing to a practical politics of strengthening the sustainability of community economies.
A crucial rst step is to revitalize the economicimaginary by freeing it from the leaden grip of capitalocentrism.
Rethinking Economy and Economic Politics
As part of an ongoing project committed to exploring the potentialitiesand possibilities of building sustainable community economies I have beenconcerned to challenge the way ‘economy’ is thought and to identify whatwe are up against when attempting to think differently (especially ethically)about the economic realm. One problem is that, in contrast to previousperiods, the economy is no longer seen as a sphere of decision (Lemke
Sustainability is referred to here in terms of the inter-generational durability of localcultures, practices of sociality and emplaced livelihood strategies that support communityeconomies. I have coined the term community economies to refer to those economicpractices that are inected with ethical principles to do with family, community, culture andenvironment (often loosely dened but strongly adhered to) that acknowledge the relationalinterdependence of all activities that constitute a society (Gibson 2002; CommunityEconomies Collective 2001).