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Twinned with Narnia? The postcapitalist possibilities of a countercultural place


Noel Longhurst


Abstract


In recent years there has been increasing academic interest in theorising and exploring
the postcapitalist, interstitial economic spaces that exist within or beyond capitalism,
typified by the work of J. K. Gibson-Graham. Such spaces, it is argued, represent not
only sites of resistance but are spaces from which ‘alternative’ economic development
strategies can proliferate. This thesis seeks to explore the conditions under which such
‘grassroots’ postcapitalist institutions might flourish. Some of the existing literature
on postcapitalist institutions indicates that places with a reputation for countercultural
activity might be productive sites for the emergence of grassroots postcapitalism.
However, this thesis argues that such countercultural places are themselves an under-
researched and under-theorised phenomenon.

To address these deficits this thesis develops a broader conception of the
countercultural and explores the tendencies that have led to the case study area
(Totnes, Devon) ‘becoming’ a ‘New Age’ or ‘Alternative’ centre. It describes the
processes that led to the formation of a self-sustaining localised countercultural milieu
within the area. In particular, it identifies homophily, the desire to be amongst similar
people, to be significant, previously unrecognised factor. It then explores the
significance of postcapitalist institutions within the locality. Whilst the density of
activity supports the hypothesis that such places are sites of postcapitalist activity,
little evidence is found that the locality increases their economic viability. This
argument is made through an exploration of the local organic marketscape.

The thesis also explores a paradox that emerged through the research: That those
places which are productive for the emergence of new ideas and the shifting of
ontological frames might not be the best places in which to also build collective
community based entities. Thus it argues that there is a generally unrecognised
relationship between some countercultural places and processes of social innovation,
and it explores the spaces that support such innovation as well as the factors that
undermine collective projects. Ultimately, the research did not find substantive
evidence to support interstitial postcapitalist strategies or theories. However, it
concludes with some reflections on how approaches to interstitial postcapitalism
might be theoretically and practically strengthened.




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Table of Contents
!
Table of Contents "
List of figures #
List of tables $
Acknowledgements %
Preface &
Chapter 1: Introduction
""
1.1 Theorising postcapitalism "'
1.2 Clarifying concepts: the problem of the ‘alternative’ "%

1.3 The case study area: Totnes, Devon '(
1.4 The structure of the thesis
'#
Chapter 2: Theorising postcapitalist possibility
')
2.1 Theorising interstitial postcapitalism '&
2.1.1 A poststructural approach to ‘Capitalism’ **
(i) Performing anti-capitalocentric discourse *)
(ii) Processes of economic resubjectification +*
(iii) Building ‘community economies’ +$
2.1.2 Summary of Part One +&
2.2. Challenges to proliferative postcapitalism #(
2.2.1 Economic significance #'
2.2.2 Transcending the institutional context ##
2.2.3 Resisting systemic tendencies #$
2.2.4 Postcapitalist coherence #)
2.3 Concluding remarks $(
Chapter 3: Exploring Countercultural Places
$'
3.1 Opening up the Counterculture $'
3.1.1 ‘The Counterculture’ and countercultures $'
3.1.2 Unpacking the Counterculture $$
(i) Radical politics $&
(ii) New Social Movements %(
(iii) Alternative Pathways %"
(iv) Alternative Spiritualities %#
(v) Alternative Lifestyles %$
3.1.3 Summary of Part One %$
3.2 Placing the Counterculture %)
3.2.1 Geographies of Countercultural place %&
(i) Communes %&
(ii) Back to the land migration %&
(iii) Urban enclaves and scenes )(
(iv) ‘New Age’ Networks )*
(v) Other research focusing on the UK )+
(vi) Summary )#
3.2.2 Processes of constructing Countercultural places )$
1
!"#$%&'()*)"+, !"
(ii) Institutions !!
(iii) Rural landscape #$
(iv) Economic margins #$
(v) Networks #%
3.3 Summary of Chapter #%
Chapter 4: Countercultural place and postcapitalism
#&
4.1 Exploring Postcapitalist Institutions #&
4.1.1 Introduction #&
4.1.2 Postcapitalist businesses #'
(i) Workers’ co-operatives #'
(ii) Independent businesses #(
(iii) Ethical businesses #)
4.1.3 Community Enterprises #"
4.1.4 Alternative Food Initiatives ##
4.1.5 Community Currencies %$$
4.1.6 Social markets %$%
4.1.7 Summary of Part One %$*
4.2 Countercultural place and postcapitalism %$'
4.2.1 Embeddedness %$(
4.2.2 Heterotopia %$)
Part 3: Conclusions and Research Questions %%$
Chapter 5: Research Methodology
%%*
5.1 Methodological Framework %%*
5.1.1 A Critical Realist research philosophy %%*
5.1.2 Case studies %%(
5.1.3 An ethnographic approach %%"
5.1.4 Research positionality %%#
5.1.5 Multi-method research %*%
5.2 Developing the Research Focus %**
5.2.1 Selection of the case study location %**
5.2.2 Developing the research focus %*&
5.3 Research Methods %*"
5.3.1 Participatory research through community activism %*"
(i) Combining activism and academic research %*!
(ii) Community activism as a form of ‘giving back’ %&%
(iii) Community activism with Transition Town Totnes %&&
5.3.2 Qualitative interviewing %&)
(i) Strengths and weaknesses of qualitative interviewing %&"
(ii) Sampling and development of topic guides %&#
(iii) Interview access, practice and confidentiality %''
5.3.3 Research Diary and ethnographic notes %'(
5.3.4 Archival Research %'(
5.3.5 Other secondary data %')
5.4 Data analysis and verification %'"
5.4.1 Establishing Rigour %'"
5.4.2 Data analysis and verification %'#
2
5.5 Concluding Reflections !"#
Chapter 6: The emergence of a Countercultural place
!""
6.1 The emergence of a Countercultural place !"$
6.1.1 A countercultural milieu !"$
6.1.2 The emergence of a countercultural milieu !"%
(a) The ‘Dartington experiment’ !$&
(i) Background to the Dartington experiment !$#
(ii) Dartington as a driver of in-migration !$"
(iii) Dartington as a countercultural node !'(
(iv) Summary of this section !'"
(b) Landscape aesthetics and imaginaries !'"
(i) Dartmoor !'$
(ii) The Totnes townscape !''
(c) Other local influences !')
(d) Homophily !)(
(i) Value homophily !'%
(ii) Familial homophily !)#
(iii) Summary of this section !)"
(e) Proliferation of practices and institutions !)"
(f) Discursive impact !))
(i) Institutional reputations !)%
(ii) Place images !%!
(iii) Mystical reputations !%&
(iv) Circulation of discourses !%*
(v) Summary of this section !%"
(g) Material impact !%"
6.2 Summary of Chapter !%)
Chapter 7: The Postcapitalist institutional landscape of South
Devon
&(!
7.1 An overview of postcapitalism institutions in the Totnes area &(&
7.2 The organic food ‘marketscape’ &('
7.2.1 Independent organic retailers &(%
(i) Origins of organic retail in Totnes &(%
(ii) A (Counter)cultural ‘enclave’ economy &!!
(iii) The preservation of independent retail &!"
(iv) The gentrification of the retail centre &!'
(v) Competition within the organic marketscape &!%
(vi) Summary &&!
7.2.2 Riverford Organic Vegetables &&&
(i) Emergence of Riverford Organic Vegetables &&&
(ii) Transcending the locality &&*
(iii) Organic conventionalism &&'
(iv) Summary &#(
7.2.3 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) &#(
(i) Origins of CSA in the Totnes area &#(
(ii) The economics of CSA in the Totnes area &#*
7.2.4 Summary: A fragmented marketscape &*!
7.3 Conclusions – the limits of proliferative postcapitalism &*&
Chapter 8: Spaces of Social Innovation
&*)
8.1 Social innovation and the role of ‘Insurgent architects’ &*%
3
8.2 Spaces of experimentation !"#
8.2.1 Firstspaces !"#
8.2.2 Secondspaces !$%
8.2.3 Space for ideas !$$
8.2.4 Liminal space !&%
8.2.5 Summary of this section !&'
8.3 A conflictive community !&"
8.3.1 Socio-cultural conflict !&"
8.3.2 Ethical conflict !()
8.4 Heterotopia and ‘community’ !(&
Chapter 9: Conclusions
!#%
9.1 Summary of research questions and findings !#%
9.2 Limitations and reflections !#%
9.3 Future areas of research !**
9.3.1 Countercultural places !**
9.3.2 Interstitial postcapitalism )*!
(i) Theorising financial capital and social surplus )*"
(ii) Theorising the state and maximising academic leverage )*$
(iii) Understanding the diffusion of social and ecological innovation )%*
Appendices
A. Interview Topic Guides )%%
B. Extract from Master Matrix )%(
C. Extract from Interview Matrix )%#
Bibliography
)!*
4
! "!
List of Figures

1.1 Criticisms of capitalism 13
1.2 Research questions 16
1.3 Conceptual diagrams of the research process 17
1.4 Location of Totnes in the UK 21
1.5 The East gate in Totnes 22
1.6 Totnes ‘twinned with Narnia’ sign Summer 2005 24
1.7 Structure of thesis 25

2.1: The diverse economy 39
2.2: Hazel Henderson’s cake showing economic ‘diversity’ 41
2.3: Three system approach to conceptualising the economy 42

3.1: Characteristics of the ‘Alternative Society’ 74
3.2: Strands of the Counterculture 77

4.1: Recap of Research Questions 111

5.1: Two phases of research 127
5.2: Sampling strategy 140
5.3: Screenshot from Alternative Totnes blog 151

6.1: The construction of a countercultural milieu around Totnes 161
6.2: Map of Dartington and Totnes 164
6.3: View towards Totnes 176
6.4: Proliferation of practices and institutions in the late 1970s around
Totnes
187
6.5: The Leechwell in Totnes 193
6.6: Posters in a Totnes cornershop window 197

7.1: Dimensions of the organic food marketscape 207
7.2: Independent organic retail specialists in Totnes town centre 211
7.3: Small retail units in The Narrows, Totnes 216
7.4: ‘Little chicken area’ at Beenleigh Meadows CSF site 235
7.5: Landmatters permaculture community 240
7.6: The fragmentations of the local organic food marketscape 241

8.1: The translation and diffusion of the Totnes Pound currency 253
8.2: Influences of Andy Langford 255
8.3: View from Natures Round small holding 263
8.4: Trialectics of social experimentation 274
8.5: Amnesty march through Totnes 278



All photographs by the author unless otherwise stated.
! "!
List of Tables



2.1: Varieties of Postcapitalism 29

4.1: Examples of Community Enterprise 98
4.2: Summary of postcapitalist institutions 103
4.3: Different views of embeddedness based on Hess (2005) 106

5.1: Interviewees 142
5.2: Criteria for evaluating qualitative research 148

6.1: Significant dimensions of Countercultural activity around Totnes
1970s onwards
158
6.2: Dartington’s direct engagement with the Counterculture during the
1970s
173
6.3: Media coverage of the Totnes Pound involving project team members
Feb 2008 – Sept 2008
190
6.4: Propositions relating to the formation of countercultural places 199

7.1: Postcapitalist institutions in the Totnes area 204
7.2: Examples of Community Supported Farming initiatives around
Totnes area
232

8.1: Social innovation and experimentation around the Totnes area 251



! "!
Acknowledgements

It is an irony of sorts that a PhD that is in some ways concerned with seeing ‘hidden’
aspects of the economy is itself founded on the unseen support of so many others.

Thanks must first go to my wife Heidi who has endured the prolonged gestation of
this thesis with unbelievable patience, grace and fortitude. Without her unstinting
support there is no doubt that it would never have been completed. I owe her a great
debt of gratitude that I hope I can repay. I also owe thanks to my daughters Ayla and
Esme for tolerating many absences, both physical and mental. I thank my wider
family for their regular interest and encouragement.

My supervisors Pete North and Jennifer Johns have done their best to support a
sometimes confused and stubborn student. I thank them for their perseverance,
support and critical advice. Previous supervisors Dave Featherstone and Benedict
Korf also helped to shape the thesis. My postgraduate contemporaries at Liverpool
University have provided moral support and a friendly welcome whenever I blew in
to town. Thanks in particular to Becky Ryland, Sarah Hall, Mike Brandon and Ashley
McCormick. Sandra Mather helped produce the wonderful maps. Thanks to Steph
Petrie for the board, tea, sympathy and gossip. Colleagues at the University of East
Anglia have also provided invaluable advice during the latter stages. Gill Seyfang,
Tom Hargreaves and Alex Haxeltine in particular have gone beyond the call of duty
and I thank them deeply for that.

A great deal of thanks must also go to the people of Totnes and surrounds who were
generous with their time and support for the research, both formally and informally.
There are too many to mention by name but many appear within the thesis. I enjoyed
my work with both the local food directory group and the Totnes Pound teams and I
hope that I made a useful contribution. I endeavoured to make the research as a whole
a reciprocal project but discovered that this itself is an uneven process. Colleagues at
Community Enterprise Unit in Exeter, where I worked whilst doing the research, were
also supportive in many different ways. Staff at the Exeter Local Studies Centre, the
! "!
Dartington Archive, the British Library and the Women’s Library were helpful in
finding research material.

Finally, thanks must go to my loyal dog Paddy. Throughout the development of this
thesis he has had to endure many bouts of distracted ball throwing and walks where
he acted as a patient but mute sounding board for my half-formed ideas. Any
inaccuracies or errors are therefore clearly his fault.



9
Preface



You’ve got to love Totnes. There are few places in the country so adept at
mixing the traditional with the alternative. In Totnes a classic Devon
community exists side by side with people who practise some of the most off-
the-wall lifestyle trends imaginable. But fascinating and complex though
Totnes is, who would have thought that it could have become a legitimate
subject for university degree study? One student has spent two years living in
Totnes, grant funded, to examine the town and its quirky ways in detail. He
leaves now with a substantial body of work, the basis for a book about his
experiences, and a new daughter, born in the town while he and his wife were
here. Perhaps in these days when you can study surfing or The Beatles for a
university degree, it is old fashioned to go on about what some might perceive
as the ‘dumbing down’ of our education services. But do you really need to
live in Totnes for two years at our expense to get a handle on the place? Some
might say that a fortnight is long enough. On the other hand, others might say
a lifetime still wouldn’t scratch the surface.

‘Alternative studies’ editorial in the Herald Express, March 11 2009, p. 8

The above editorial arose after I contacted the newspaper to publicise the website
through which I have been publishing emerging research findings. The editorial
complemented an article (‘Noel takes alternative route towards a degree’) alongside a
photograph of my family (‘Wacky Research’). As will become clear, the issue of
‘credibility’ is a thread that is woven throughout this thesis. Hopefully it does make a
strong case as to why places such as Totnes are important as objects of serious
scholarship, and that there is much more to be learnt about them. This preface
therefore provides the background story on how I came to study Totnes.

Its origins can probably be traced back to 2000 when I finished my Masters Degree in
European Political Economy at the University of Sheffield. At this point I discovered
the ‘regeneration’ industry that was burgeoning under the New Labour government.
With a growing interest in local and community economic development I became
employed as a Regeneration Consultant at a small consultancy firm in Sheffield. For
the next couple of years I worked on projects predominately around South Yorkshire
and the East Midlands trying to ‘fix’ various social and economic problems.
However, I began to become somewhat disillusioned with the transient nature of
consultancy work and the fundamentally economic imperatives that drive it (which is
why professionals working in regeneration are sometimes referred to as ‘poverty
10
pimps.’) So in 2002, for a mixture of family and professional reasons, I moved back
to Norfolk (where I grew up) and entered employment in the ‘social economy’.

Over the next four years my colleagues and I worked hard to establish an organisation
(Keystone Development Trust) that could outlive the generous tranches of public
funding that it had received, whilst also trying to deliver a range of programmes to
address the immediate social and economic problems of Thetford (a ‘London
overspill’ town) and its rural hinterland. We succeeded, but over this period a new
cloud of disillusionment began to appear. One aspect of this was related to the fact
that as Worpole (1999) has noted, as professionals we were constantly required to
articulate discourses of disadvantage and oppression to win funding, whilst
simultaneously attempting to build community confidence and esteem. A frustrating
contradiction. Secondly, a growing awareness of the potential ecological and energy
problems facing the UK left me concluding that the conventional approaches to
economic development were increasingly inadequate. Yet as a busy and overstretched
professional with a young family I had neither the time nor the energy to consider
what the alternative approaches might be. It was this frustration that led me to
consider returning to academia, in order to explore such alternatives in more detail.
Thus I applied to undertake a PhD in ‘Alternative Economic Spaces’ advertised at the
University of Liverpool.

Rather than answering my questions, the process of researching this PhD has instead
opened up a lot more. I understand that this is often the case. It has certainly led me in
directions that I never even knew existed and improved the sophistication with which
I think about these issues. In the immediate future I am lucky to be employed as a
Senior Research Associate at the University of East Anglia on a project that is
allowing me to develop some of the themes that emerged from the research,
particularly the intersection between postcapitalism and innovation. Where this
journey is taking me in the longer term is anybody’s guess.


N.L.
Norwich
August 2010
11
Chapter 1: Introduction



The research process that culminated in this thesis began in the autumn of 2006.
Since that time much has changed. The film An Inconvenient Truth and the Stern
Review on the Economics of Climate Change (Stern 2006) pushed global
warming up the political agenda in the UK. The price of crude oil reached an
unprecedented $147 per barrel in July 2008 raising questions about ‘peak oil’ and
the vulnerability of industrialised societies to volatility in supply and price
(Bridge 2010). The global financial crisis of 2008 spread panic amongst those at
the nexus of financial capitalism and economic hardship amongst a much wider
constituency upon whom the waves of the crisis crashed. Yet, at the same time,
little has changed. The United Nations led COP15 conference of December 2009
ended with little tangible progress on agreeing concrete measures to reduce
global carbon emissions. There remains little public discourse about the potential
necessity of reducing societal dependence on products derived from oil. To date,
despite the rhetoric of policymakers and the anger of the public, ‘capitalism’
appears to have emerged from another periodic crisis relatively unscathed and
unchanged. And whilst the tenets of economic neoliberalism and neo-classical
economics have been somewhat shattered by the financial crisis there is little
consensus on what might take their place, or indeed what ‘systemic’ changes are
necessary to guarantee the future of human civilisation.

The question of how capitalism might be changed therefore remains a key
question and is one of the overarching themes of this thesis. It is a question that
continues to vex scholars and theorists of the ‘left’ (Harvey 2010). This thesis
critically engages with the argument that how we think, describe and perform
capitalism can itself be a barrier to alternative possibilities emerging. This is the
contention has been made by the feminist, post-Marxist writers J.K. Gibson-
Graham (2006a)
1
. They argue that the discursive portrayal of capitalism as
systemic and oppressive prevents ‘alternative’ economic forms from emerging.
From their post-structural perspective the economy is actually ‘diverse’,

1
J.K. Gibson-Graham is the collaborative pen name of Katherine Gibson and Julie Graham. Jule
Graham sadly passed away in April 2010.
12
consisting of a hybrid of non-capitalist and capitalist processes, relationships and
institutions (Gibson-Graham 2006b). They argue that by recognising and
nurturing such possibilities new forms of ‘postcapitalist’ economic possibility
can emerge from the grassroots. This thesis takes such arguments seriously, and
sets out to explore them empirically.

It explores these questions through an ethnographic and participatory case study
of a site which has a reputation for being a vibrant site of such grassroots
experimentation: the town of Totnes in the south-west of the UK. In particular
the thesis attempts to explore the uneven geography of postcapitalism, whether
sites that are reputed to be centres of ‘alternative’ culture are sites at which
postcapitalist institutions can emerge and prosper. Certainly, as detailed in
Chapter Four, there is some evidence of a relationship between forms of
postcapitalism and certain strands of countercultural activity. However as the
research process unfolded it became clear that there was no existing historical
account (academic or otherwise) of how Totnes ‘became’ a ‘countercultural’
place. Indeed, the academic literature does not widely acknowledge the existence
of ‘alternative’ places. As such, the theory on the nature and formation of such
places was sparse, partial and fragmented. This thesis therefore also makes a
contribution to the theorising of countercultural places, offering a richer and
more complex understanding of them than has hitherto often been the case. It
argues that only by understanding the evolution of such places can the emergence
and potential of grassroots postcapitalism be fully comprehended.

1.1 Theorising postcapitalism

Erik Olin Wright (2010) sets out eleven principles that neatly summarise the
critique of capitalism, reproduced as Figure 1.1 below. This list highlights the
various analytical justifications on which different strands of ‘anti-capitalism’ are
grounded. Wall (2005) and Callinicos (2003) provide useful descriptions of the
various strands of contemporary anti-capitalism, many of which have deep
intellectual roots and histories.

13

1. Capitalist class relations perpetuate eliminable forms of human
suffering
2. Capitalism blocks the universalisation of conditions for expansive
human flourishing
3. Capitalism perpetuates eliminable deficits in individual freedom and
autonomy
4. Capitalism violates liberal egalitarian principles of social justice
5. Capitalism is inefficient in certain crucial respects
6. Capitalism has a systemic bias towards consumerism
7. Capitalism is environmentally destructive
8. Capitalist commodification threatens important broadly held values
9. Capitalism in a world of nation states, fuels militarism and
imperialism
10. Capitalism corrodes community
11. Capitalism limits democracy

Fig 1.1: Criticisms of capitalism (Wright 2010).

Whilst Wright corroborates all the above criticisms, there is no doubt that for
many sections of the population, particularly in ‘Western’ countries, capitalism
has also delivered rising standards of living and material wellbeing over the last
century (Smil 2006). However, even if one acknowledges that capitalism has
provided some material benefits (albeit distributed unevenly) there are serious
questions about its ability to keep doing so without undermining the biophysical
conditions which underpin complex industrial society (Jackson 2009).

The perceived ability of capitalism to overcome its internal crises combined with
the collapse of state communism as an alternative form of economic
organisation, led to an intellectual and strategic crisis for the left (Derber 1996).
Indeed, despite the recent global economic crisis some argue that there is still a
lack of clearly articulated alternatives to capitalism (Lerman 2010). This is
perhaps a harsh analysis, but one that reflects the fact that those alternatives that
have emerged have yet to permeate into wider public or political discourse.
Certainly some ‘systemic’ alternatives have been articulated such as Michael
Albert’s (2006) ‘participatory economics’. There has also been an increasing
interest in the potential for capitalism to evolve into a different form of economic
arrangement. It is in this sense that the term postcapitalism is used within this
14
thesis: to reflect a process of ‘emergence’ as opposed to systemic rupture and
disjunction. There are several examples of such postcapitalist literature that
departs from an ecological critique of capitalism such as Hawken et al.’s (1999)
Natural Capitalism and Porritt’s (2007) Capitalism as if the World Mattered.
Indeed, it has been argued that ‘economic localisation’ is an emerging form of
alternative political economy (Starr 2000; see also Hess 2009; Schuman 2000
and Hines 2000). This could also be regarded as postcapitalist in the sense being
used here. Thus whilst the terms ‘postcapitalism’ and ‘postcapitalist’ are still
fairly rare they are being used with increasing regularity (e.g. Scott Cato 2006;
Williams 2007; Chatterton and Pickerill 2010). Theories of postcapitalism
therefore have some affinity with the argument that there are different
configurations or ‘varieties’ of capitalism (e.g. Hall and Soskice 2001). However,
postcapitalism goes beyond this by arguing that it is possible to change or reform
key aspects of capitalism in ways that will address some of the critiques set out
in Figure 1.1. Therefore it contains both a fundamental critique but also the
possibility of change.

In recent years a number of different strands of postcapitalist literature has
emerged which is interested in indentifying spaces and institutions that are
‘outside’ or ‘beyond’ capitalism (MacDonald and Ness 2010; Leyshon et al.
2003). Thus, since the 1990s there has been increasing interest in the potential of
the ‘social economy’ as a transformative site (e.g. Bauhaus Dessau Foundation
1996). Ideas that there was an economic space outside the state and the market
first began to become popular in the 1980s and were also connected to practices
of Community Economic Development (CED) and ‘local’ economic self-reliance
(see Bruyn and Meehan 1987). Subsequent strands of ‘radical’ eco-localism also
advocate the potential of the ‘community’ and informal economies (Douthwaite
1996; Trainer 1995). The anti-capitalism of the World Social Forum and the
wider ‘anti-globalisation’ movement – that Another World is Possible – also
reflect a similar form of ‘prefigurative’ grassroots economic activism (Frezzo
and Karides 2006). Such ideas have also fed into the strategies and practices of
the ‘solidarity economy’ in North and South America that have developed in the
last decade (Primavera 2010).

15
These different postcapitalist theories all adopt economic ontologies that attempt
to reveal economy activity that is outside the ‘mainstream’ discourses and
models. Such ontologies challenge conventional theories and representations of
‘capitalism’ as all powerful and inevitably oppressive (e.g. Gibson-Graham
2006a). It is argued that recognising the significance of these non-capitalist
institutions and spaces is a precursor for their further expansion. Therefore, in
keeping with their rejection of an overly ‘oppressive’ capitalism such approaches
to postcapitalism also tend to have confidence in the potential of community
organising and ‘grassroots’ institutions. Following Wright (2010) this thesis
adopts the term interstitial to describe such theories of postcapitalism, the belief
that capitalism can be changed from the spaces that exist within or beyond it.
This thesis critically engages with the work of Gibson-Graham who have offered
one of the most complete theorisations of an interstitial postcapitalist approach,
one that combines language politics and community activism. In doing so it
seeks to explore whether the postcapitalist experiments within the case study area
support both their theoretical approach and the underlying economic ontology of
a hybridised and ‘fragile’ capitalism. The thesis therefore explores whether the
case study area provides empirical support for interstitial postcapitalist theories.

The thesis also seeks to explore the uneven geography of postcapitalism, seeking
to understand the way in which different places might produce different kinds of
‘alternative economic spaces’. This is generally absent from the work of Gibson-
Graham (North 2007) and the geography of the ‘social economy’ (a potential
postcapitalist space) is also under-researched (Muñoz 2010). In particular, this
thesis explores an overarching hypothesis that countercultural places might be
productive sites for grassroots forms postcapitalism to emerge and be sustained.
However, the academic literature barely recognises the existence of
countercultural places and provides only limited guidance for how they should be
understood. The thesis therefore also makes a contribution to the theorising of
countercultural places. Indeed, it is a strong argument of the thesis that only by
taking such places seriously as an object of study, and seeking to understand the
processes which shape them, can the relationship with postcapitalist practices be
fully understood.

16
In summary then the thesis is an attempt to study the postcapitalist economic
institutions that have emerged within in a particular locality that has a reputation
for ‘alternative’ cultural practices and economic experimentation. It uses the
work of Gibson-Graham as a theoretical starting point to identify such
institutions and explore the extent to which they are tangibly ‘outside’ capitalism.
Furthermore it seeks to test whether the case study supports their particular
approach to interstitial postcapitalism, termed in this thesis, for reasons that will
become clear in Chapter Two, proliferative postcapitalism. However, it is also
sensitive to the specificities of place, and as such seeks to understand the
contextual factors that gave rise to the emergence of ‘alternative’ cultures within
the area and the way in which such processes support or constrain the emergence
of postcapitalism. The specific research questions that it seeks to address are as
detailed in Figure 1.2 below.


Figure 1.2: Research questions

As is evident, each of these links an empirical question with a wider theoretical
debate. In the terminology of Gibson-Graham, this thesis attempts to ‘read for
difference’ by highlighting aspects of the culture and economy that are obscured
by conventional discourses and understand how these inter-relate. Bringing
together these two different sides (an ‘alternative’ place and ‘alternative’
economic spaces) has created its own set of problems, particularly around the
concept of the ‘alternative’ as discussed in the next section.


17

1.2 Clarifying concepts: the problem of ‘alternative’

Whilst it could be argued that this research is not ‘fully’ interdisciplinary, it does
not fit easily into a recognised and well-established field of research. Certainly it
does attempt to bring together two different sub-fields of research: the theorising
of contemporary interstitial postcapitalism and countercultural places. Neither of
these have recognised or ‘bounded’ literatures, conceptual languages or
methodological tools. What made this a more difficult endeavour was that these
two sub-fields barely exist in their own rights. Indeed, one of the central
arguments of the thesis is that the existence and complexity of countercultural
places has generally been overlooked. Therefore much of the conceptual
language and literature is not well established or recognised. Understanding this
research as ‘interdisciplinary’ therefore also helps to explain some of the tensions
and difficulties that have been experienced in its development, illustrated in
Figure 1.3 below.


Figure 1.3: Conceptual diagrams of the research process in (A) disciplinary and
(B) interdisciplinary research from Oughton and Bracken (2009).


18
The theoretical chapters of the thesis therefore focus on setting out the
conceptual boundaries of the research. This section briefly explores a particular
problem that arose in developing the overall framing of the research – the usage
of the term alternative. The initial title of this PhD was Investigating Alternative
Economic Spaces, inspired as it was by recent geographic interest in this area
(Leyshon et al. 2003). However as the research got underway I was soon
wrestling with the conceptual problems of the ‘alternative’. As I progressed I
came to understand that this was in part due to the fact that the thesis was dealing
with multiple and competing usages of the term. This section therefore explores
some of the meanings of ‘alternative’ and outlines how this particular issue has
been addressed within the thesis.

First and foremost it is argued that the idea of the ‘alternative’ exists only as a
relational concept, in relation to some (often undefined) ‘other’. It is intrinsically
a binary concept. Quite often, this other relates to some conception of the
‘mainstream’ (Atton 2002). Thus Raymond Williams (1973), who provided
perhaps the first definition of ‘alternative’ culture, defined it as a reaction to
dominant, hegemonic cultures. He also made a further distinction between
alternative and oppositional, arguing that

There is a simple theoretical distinction between alternative and
oppositional, that is to say between someone who simply finds a different
way to live and wishes to be left alone with it and someone who finds a
different way to live and wants to change the society in its light.

Williams (1973, 11)

However, Williams himself later blurs this distinction by suggesting that
alternative culture was ‘at its best’ also oppositional culture (Williams 1983).
However, as discussed in Chapter Three, whether oppositional or not, there is a
strong tradition which associates meanings of alternative with the
countercultural.

A second overlapping meaning uses ‘alternative’ to reflect a form of bottom up,
prefigurative approach to social change. In this context ‘alternative’ social
19
movements are those that seek to change society by buildings new institutions
within it, rather than opposing or engaging with existing structure of power
(Collom 2005). This notion of alternative therefore has strong associations with
utopianism and grassroots activism (Parker et al. 2007). A third and related
meaning has close associations with radical or progressive forms of politics (e.g.
Halfacree 2007; Atton 2002). Sometimes the term is used to reflect a broader
‘radical’ theoretical approach, such as in the work of Roberto Unger (1998).
Another example is the paradigm of Alternative Development that emerged in
the 1970s as a critique of mainstream approaches to development (Pieterse
1998).

‘Progressive’ or ‘radical’ connotations of ‘alternative’ are therefore used to
describe different forms of economic theory and organisation that are in
someway perceived to be ‘outside’ the mainstream. The recent interest in
alternative economic spaces (Leyshon et al. 2003; Leyshon 2005; Hughes 2005)
also adopts this particular usage reflecting academic interest in radical spaces
either within, or beyond capitalism (e.g. North 2007; Williams 2007). Indeed,
Gibson Graham (2006b) adopt the term ‘alternative’ within their diverse
economy schematic (see Chapter Two) even though, they themselves do not
define a precise meaning of the term. It is has also been used in this way to
define specific forms of institution, for example, recent interest in Alternative
Food Networks or ‘alternative’ currencies both of which are often conceptualised
as ‘others’ to mainstream ‘systems of provision’. This ‘non-mainstream’
meaning of alternative often leads to debate over the extent to which such
practices embody or reflect other meanings of ‘alternative’ (e.g. radical or
prefigurative) and led to the problematisation of the concept (Watts et al. 2005;
Holloway et al. 2007).

A further distinction can be made between the adoption of alternative as a
theoretical concept within academic work and the way in which it is used in other
arenas and day-to-day life. In discussing the “New Age” (a term that is culturally
sometimes closely linked with “Alternative” cultures, see Chapter Three) Kemp
(2004) makes the useful distinction between emic and etic conceptions. He
distinguishes between scholarly definitions of the ‘New Age’ (etic) and how
20
those who they study might understand it (emic). Understanding this distinction
is significant for this thesis, not only because it touches on ‘New Age’
phenomena, but also because it is also relevant to the study of ‘alternative’ that is
a similarly slippery concept. Indeed, as discussed in chapter 3, there are emic
notions of ‘Alternative Culture’ and an ‘Alternative Movement’ that need to be
acknowledged but which have different meanings to academic usages. These
emic usages reflect the way that specific groups have adopted particular notions
of the ‘alternative’ at specific points in time. Indeed, the temporality of the
‘alternative’ is yet another complicating factor. Not only does its meaning change
over time, but this thesis is potted with examples of ideas and practices which
started out as ‘alternative’ but became mainstream.

It is clear therefore that there is a problem in using a term that, whilst having
great significance to this research, also has overlapping and conflictive meanings.
The usage of the term ‘alternative’ asserts some kind of qualitative difference,
but the nature of that difference can vary significantly. Indeed, the potential
conflict between cultural meanings and economic meanings could lead to
particular confusion. It was for this reason that I have attempted to avoid the term
altogether, although it inevitably creeps in. Instead, the term countercultural is
used to reflect the ‘alternative’ cultural side of research whilst postcapitalist is
used to explore the ‘alternative’ economic side of the research. Both these terms
are therefore etic categories applied to phenomena and data from the field. The
subsequent theory chapters set out more detail how both of these concepts are
framed within the context of this research. The next section briefly introduces the
case study area in which these questions were explored.

1.3 The case study area: Totnes, Devon

This thesis is a case study of a small market town in Devon, England and its
immediate hinterland. Totnes is in the southwest of the UK (see figure 1.4
below) with a population of 8,229 (2004). Devon County Council (2006) identify
a rural hinterland of 14 parishes that combined with the town give a ‘Market
Town’ population of 22,829. Administratively, the town is part of the South
21
Hams District Council, whose offices are based in the town, having lost its
Borough status (and powers) in the local government reorganisation of 1974. The
replacement Totnes Town Council therefore has limited capabilities compared to
the preceding body. The town itself has a long history as a settlement, located as
it is at the lowest crossing point of the river Dart, and was one of the first towns
to be awarded Borough status by King John in 1206. The town had its own mint
in the reign of Edgar (958 – 75) and the first bank (The Totnes Bank) was
established in 1798 (Russell 1963). The name Tot-ness is generally believed to
be Saxon in origin and mean the fort or lookout (‘Tot’) on the nose or ridge of
land (‘ness’). Much of the earliest settlement is therefore located on a steeply
inclined hill which rises above the river Dart and which contains the remains of a
Norman Castle at its apex.


Figure 1.4: Location of Totnes in the UK

As well as functioning as a market town for its immediate hinterland its location
as the highest navigable point of the river Dart provided it with an important
economic role as a site of trade. In the middle ages the town became prosperous
22
on the back of this function as a trading gateway, exporting minerals and cloth
from Dartmoor, whilst also importing goods from continental Europe. Indeed the
history of trade and relations with other places (including attacks from North
African pirates) hints at a place that has been shaped by extensive geographical
relations. These economic relations are also signified by some of the enduring
place names around the town (e.g. Baltic Wharf – where timber used to be
imported from Eastern Europe). The wealth generated by this function is
reflected in the architecture of the merchant’s houses which were constructed
during the 16
th
and 17
th
century and of which many examples are preserved (see
Figure 1.5 below).


Figure 1.5: The East gate in Totnes, an archetypal image of the town

23
The arrival of the railways led to the economic decline of Totnes as a trading port
but did not bring new trade to the town (Clifton-Taylor 1978). Ironically it was
this economic decline that led to the preservation of many of the earlier
buildings, as there was little local wealth for redevelopment during the Victorian
era. In the second half of the 19
th
Century the population of the town fell from
3878 to 3116 and no new houses were built between 1840 and 1914. During this
period then the economy of the town was based around its role as a ‘local’
agricultural centre with some small-scale industry. From the early 20
th
Century
tourism began to play a part in the economy, with ‘town guides’ for Totnes
dating back to at least 1920. The large employers in the 1950s and 1960s were
Harris’s Bacon Factory, Reeves Timber Yard and Daw’s Creameries all located
within the town centre, along with the cattle-market. The second half of the 20
th

century saw a decline in all of these industries. The cattle market moved out of
the town centre in 1962 and later to nearby Newton Abbott. Reeves declined in
the late 1970s whilst a supermarket replaced the Bacon Factory in the early
1990s. Most recently, the Dairy Crest milk processing plant (formerly Daw’s)
closed during my time in the field (2007).

A ‘conventional’ economic reading of Totnes and its hinterland would therefore
point to a number of trends in recent decades. Like many areas of the South
West, the South Hams has experienced ongoing ‘counter-urbanisation’ from
urban areas (Murdoch et al. 2003). Allied to this has been a significant growth in
second-home ownership, to the point whereby the South Hams is the third most
popular area for second homes in the country (Savills 2008). These trends within
the housing market have led a localised crisis in housing affordability against a
number of measures, leading to housing becoming one of the top strategic
priorities of the local authority (South Hams 2006a). Again, like the South West
in general, tourism has become a significant sector in the economy within the
South Hams, with an estimated quarter of employment linked to it (South Hams
District Council 2007). Totnes is geographically close to both the South Hams
Area of Natural Beauty and Dartmoor National Park. The town itself is also a
tourist attraction. Off the back of some of these trends, Totnes itself has evolved
into a ‘specialist’ retail centre (South Hams District Council 2006b). It also
retains a small marine industries sector, and has been recognised as a creative
24
industries ‘hotspot’ (Perfect Moment 2006). Levels of self-employment within
the area are higher than average, as are benefits claimants within the town itself.


Figure 1.6: Totnes ‘twinned with Narnia’ sign Summer 2005 (photo credit: Leo
Trimming)

Whilst Totnes’ reputation as an ‘alternative’ centre appears within various local
discourses, the extent to which its economy might be ‘alternative’ is less widely
discussed. Indeed, as will become clear the alternative cultures can be the object
of derision. The title of the thesis refers to a spoof sign that was put up for a
couple of weeks in Totnes in the summer of 2005, a year or so before this
research started. The amended sign, pictured above (Figure 1.6), is an indication
of its reputation as a centre of ‘New Age’ or ‘Alternative’ cultures, some of
which might be criticised as verging the in the realms of fantasy. As detailed in
Chapter Five, the area was identified as one where there was some history of
‘alternative’ economic experimentation. Understanding what, how, and why such
practices had emerged at this particular place is one of the central purposes of
this thesis. As is the question of the extent to which they have made a material
25
impact, hence the title of the thesis. The final section details how the thesis goes
about answering these questions.

1.4 The structure of the thesis

This final section of the introduction outlines the structure of the rest of the thesis
providing a brief overview of each chapter. Figure 1.7 illustrates overall structure
with the primary theoretical linkages between chapters illustrated by the colour
coding.



Figure 1.7: Structure of thesis

Chapter Two introduces the theoretical work of Gibson-Graham and outlines its
relevance to the thesis. Their specific approach to ‘seeing’ and ‘building’
postcapitalist possibilities is unpacked. The chapter argues that whilst many of
the elements of their approach are not new, it is the way in which they have been
bought together which is the novelty of the Gibson-Graham approach. It then sets
out the particular challenges to the diverse economy approach that can be
explored empirically.

Chapter Three argues the geography of the 1960s Counterculture has generally
been under-researched and where it has been acknowledged it tends to be a fairly
one-dimensional notion. The chapter develops a broader concept of the
Counterculture that extends its normal temporality and conceptualises it as an
26
overlapping set of sub-countercultures. Furthermore, it argues that the notion of
countercultural places is generally under-recognised and under-researched with
the literature offering only partial insights into the nature and construction of
such places.

Chapter Four highlights the type of postcapitalist institutions on which the
research focuses, as well as the academic work which seems to point to a
relationship between countercultural places and postcapitalism. It also reviews
two concepts which have been used in relation to both countercultural places and
postcapitalism and which therefore might have some explanatory purchase:
heterotopia and embeddedness.

Chapter Five sets out the methodological approach adopted for the research.
Overall the research can be regarded as a multi-method case study but with a
strong ethnographic core due to the fact that I lived in the field for the duration of
the empirical work. During this time, as well as utilising more traditional data
collection techniques I also engaged in participatory research with an
experimental ‘postcapitalist’ community currency, the Totnes Pound. The
strengths and weaknesses of the methodology are discussed in this chapter, along
with specific details of the research framework adopted.

Chapter six is the first of three empirical chapters that address the three research
questions set out in Figure 1.2 in turn. This first results chapter sets out to explain
the formation of Totnes as a countercultural place. Drawing on existing strands
of theory about the formation of such places it shows how Totnes has emerged as
a centre of countercultural practice since the 1970s whilst providing some new
theoretical insights into the formation of such places.

Chapter Seven explores the postcapitalist institutions that were ‘discovered’
within the field. As well as providing an overview of the wider postcapitalist
institutional landscape it undertakes a more in-depth exploration of the organic
‘marketscape’ within the locality and the extent to which it supports Gibson-
Graham’s post-structural economic ontology and arguments about proliferative
postcapitalism.
27

The last of the empirical chapters, Chapter Eight, explores the relationship
between countercultural places and postcapitalism. It suggests that
countercultural places are overlooked sites of ‘social innovation’. It also
identifies a central tension within the relationship between countercultural places
and postcapitalist institutions: that the very conditions that support the emergence
of postcapitalist practices (and other forms of social experimentation) are
themselves responsible for undermining the development of such collective
institutions. It outlines the implications this has for those who seek to build
collective economic entities.

Chapter Nine recaps and summarises the research questions. It provides some
concluding reflections on the research before highlighting some future directions
for research, both in terms of further explorations of countercultural places and
theorising interstitial postcapitalism.


28
Chapter 2: Theorising postcapitalist possibility

A central objective of this thesis is to explore the theoretically disputed
boundaries of capitalism and the extent to which place-based postcapitalist
institutions can be developed. This is the central preoccupation of the work of the
post-structural, post-Marxist geographers J.K. Gibson-Graham. Through their
recent work they have attempted to demonstrate the existence and significance of
a wide range of non-capitalist practices and institutions that, they argue, are
obscured by the dominant discourses of the ‘economy’ and ‘capitalism’. Their
work makes an important contribution to the literature, not only by raising
questions about assumptions of capitalist hegemony, but also by opening up
different dimensions of non-capitalism whilst also theorising the possibility of
supporting the development of further postcapitalist economic practices. Gibson-
Graham’s work is central to this thesis because of their focus on the potential of
places to establish postcapitalist economic activities, refusing to accept the
necessity for whole-scale structural / systemic change, or the fact that
‘capitalism’ will always co-opt or undermine non-capitalist activities. It is a core
argument of their work that alternative economic worlds are not only possible,
but that they already exist in the present (Gibson-Graham 2008). Building the
credibility, profile and durability of such postcapitalist worlds is a central pre-
occupation of their work.

The first part of this chapter outlines their theoretical approach, focusing on the
ways in which they theorise the development of interstitial postcapitalist
possibility. It highlights how their approach is based on developing a particular
‘weak theoretical’ economic ontology that informs their work and approach to
building postcapitalist forms. Part Two of the chapter argues that in order to
justify their theory of proliferative postcapitalism, more empirical examples of
postcapitalism ‘in action’ are required. Furthermore, these examples need to be
not only economically significant but also support their particular ontological
approach in the face of a range of challenges which are rooted in competing
structural or systemic conceptions of capitalism.

29
2.1 Theorising interstitial postcapitalism

Alex Callinicos (2003) outlines a range of different types of anti-capitalist
strategy, all of which share the objective of building a form of anti-capitalist
economy (Table 2.1 below).

Table 2.1: Varieties of postcapitalism (adapted from Callinicos 2003)


‘Interstitial’ postcapitalism as used within this thesis could encompass aspects of
both localist and autonomist anti-capitalism (indeed Gibson-Graham’s work has
been described as a form of ‘post-structural’ localism, see Glassman 2003). An
interstitial approach to postcapitalism has its roots in anarchist thinking and
describes

…various kinds of processes that occur in the spaces and cracks within
some dominant social structure of power.

Wright (2010, 32
Understood this way, postcapitalist institutions are ‘non-capitalist’ economic
forms that emerge from within a purportedly capitalist context (see Chapter
Four). Williams (2007, 248) therefore argues that contemporary postcapitalist
theorists such as Gibson-Graham are motivated by the

need to recognise, value and create non-capitalist economic practices that
are already here and emerging so as to shine a light on the demonstrable
construction of alternative possibilities and futures.


30
Interstitial postcapitalist theory suggests that postcapitalist possibility already
exists and, with the right kinds of interventions, can be further developed. It is a
strategy that involves ‘leaving’ capitalism rather than ‘overthrowing’ it and is
based on the central premise that

If we could locate noncapitalist activities here and now, if we could see
them as prevalent and sustaining, perhaps we could find more
possibilities of participating in the creation. Perhaps too the imagined
scale and temporality of socialist politics could undergo a shift, becoming
more partial and proximate.

Community Economies Collective (2001, 3)

It therefore argues that development of small-scale grassroots movements,
practices and institutions is an effective mechanism for precipitating wider
systemic change (e.g. Fournier 2002; Hawken 2008). Often, the potentiality of
place is central to many of these movements (Gross 2009) as are discourses of
‘community’. Such interstitial approaches to capitalism have emerged from a
number of different intellectual traditions. Like Gibson-Graham, Holloway
(2005) draws inspiration from a re-reading of Marx. He argues for a strategy of
driving towards ‘self-determination’ that starts with a strategy of disobedience
and insubordination and which explicitly avoids attempting to take power
through control over the state.

A second strand is that which finds its inspiration in grassroots activism and
social movements. Thus interstitial postcapitalism have also proved popular with
other strands of the ‘anti-globalisation’ or ‘global justice’ movement (Starr 2000;
Fournier 2002). Rebecca Solnit (2005) is someone else who has argued for the
potentiality of grassroots social activism, and, similar to Gibson-Graham, about
the importance of optimism and hope within such activities. Another explicitly
‘interstitial’ social movement is the ‘solidarity economy’ movement. This
movement, which has gained some momentum in North and South America
during the last decade, has a strong anti-capitalist ethic and advocates a range of
collective, grassroots methods of organising economic activity (de Sousa Santos
2007; Miller 2004).
31

Those opposing contemporary economic development trajectories from a ‘green’
perspective have also promoted interstitial strategies. For example, Douthwaite
(1996) argues that examples successful community economic initiatives would
give political leaders the confidence to develop and support them further. The
eco-socialist Derek Wall (2005) agrees that projects that work ‘within’ capitalism
can provide inspirational examples of possible alternatives, but that they also
have the potential to lead to self-exploitation. He also suggests that such
strategies need to be ‘amphibious’ in that they are

half in the dirty water of the present but seeking to move on to a new,
unexplored territory. Anti-capitalist alternatives should be assessed in
terms of the ability to address present concerns but also to move society
in a new direction (Wall, 2005, 178).

Other eco-socialists such as Gare (2000) have also argued that capitalism can
also undermined by socioeconomic forms that are created within it, such as the
eco-village movement which Ted Trainer (2000) suggests can act as a catalyst
for wider socio-economic change. What unites these different approaches to
interstitial postcapitalism is that they all put place-based grassroots development
at the heart of their transformative strategies.

Geographers’ interest in interstitial postcapitalism has been reflected in the
conception of Alternative Economic Spaces and Leyshon, Lee and Williams
(2003) suggest that the work of Gibson-Graham has been particularly important
within this strand of work. Gibson-Graham’s work argues for the significance of
non-capitalist economic practices and for the construction of economic
discourses that recognise the existence of a wider form of economy. Their
theoretical approach is set out within a number of journal articles and two books,
the End of Capitalism (As We Knew It) and A Postcapitalist Politics, Gibson-
Graham 2006a and 2006b respectively),
2
Drawing heavily on post-structuralism
and post-Marxism, The End of Capitalism (first published in 1996) is primarily a
deconstructive work which seeks to undermine the discursive power of
‘Capitalism’. This book is addressed primarily at Marxist scholars and criticises

2
For recent journal articles see for example Gibson-Graham (2002, 2005a, 2005b, 2008).
32
them for their role in the portrayal of global capitalism as far-reaching and
unassailable. Gibson-Graham argue that to portray capitalism as all powerful is
not only wrong, but that it also closes down the opportunity for different
economic forms to emerge.

For the purpose of clarity their particular theorisation of interstitial
postcapitalism will be termed (using a term favoured by Gibson-Graham
themselves) proliferative postcapitalism. In other words, it is not anti-capitalist in
a ‘revolutionary’ or reformist sense, in the sense that it advocates or desires the
complete removal and replacement of the capitalist ‘system’. Instead,
proliferative postcapitalism (like other interstitial approaches) argues that
potential exists to transform social and economic relations without the need for
either political revolution or a fundamental, systemic reorganisation of the global
economy.

Gibson-Graham’s approach to postcapitalism is grounded in a particular strand of
post-development that is concerned with discursive analyses of ‘development’
and commodification in order to expose the way in which they are created and
reproduced and open up the possibility of alternative discourses (Escobar 1995;
The Community Economic Collective 2001; Williams 2007). Indeed, Gibson-
Graham’s work on diverse economies has inspired its own strand of work within
economic geography and development (Leyshon et al. 2003; Lee et al. 2004;
Cameron and Gibson 2005; Leyshon 2005; Oberhauser 2005; Samers 2005 St
Martin 2005; McCarthy 2006; Smith and Stenning 2006; Martin 2007; Williams
and Round 2007; Halfacree 2010).

This chapter argues that many aspects of their proliferative approach to
postcapitalism are not new ideas. Indeed it is important to recognise that there is
a long history of interstitial postcapitalist strategies which stretch back at least to
the disagreement between Marx and the Utopian Socialists about whether
capitalism can be reformed by building alternatives within it (Levitas 1990).
What is important about Gibson-Graham’s work is the way in which they
combine various strands of postcapitalist thought and strategy. Firstly, they
combine a range of different non-capitalisms that are often kept discursively and
33
conceptually separate. Secondly, I would argue that their post-structural
approach contains a more explicit strategy than is usually found within the
interstitial postcapitalist literature (Wright 2010). Both of these aspects of their
work are explored in more detail below, starting with the poststructuralist basis
of their work.

2.1.1 A poststructural approach to ‘Capitalism’

Gibson-Graham have suggested that one of the purposes of their first book, the
End of Capitalism, was to open up a space for thinking about ‘non-capitalism’
through the production of a discourse of economic difference that was not
capitalocentric (Gibson-Graham 2006b, xxxiv). To undertake this task they draw
on a number of theoretical tools, most importantly post-structuralism and
feminism(s), whilst also retaining and reworking some key Marxist concepts.
Central to their argument is that within Marxist discourse ‘Capitalism’ is
normally portrayed as unified, total and singular – a situation that has closed
down the possibility of thinking about and instigating alternative economic
strategies:

Calling the economy "capitalist" denies the existence of … diverse
economic and class processes, precluding economic diversity in the
present and thus making it unlikely in the proximate future ... None of
this is to deny the power or even the prevalence of capitalism but to
question the presupposition of both. It is legitimate to theorise capitalist
hegemony only if such hegemony is delineated in a theoretical field that
allows for the possibility of the full co-existence of noncapitalist
economic forms. Otherwise capitalist hegemony is a presumption, and
one that is politically quite consequential.

(Gibson-Graham 2006a, 262)

Their central argument is that capitalist hegemony is a ‘discursive artefact’
(Gibson-Graham 2006a, 3), which is not as powerful or all embracing as is often
portrayed. However, the implication of the way it is ‘thought’ is that it makes it
difficult for people to imagine its supersession. Further to this, discourse, which
equates ‘capitalism’ with ‘the economy’, obscures the wide range of non-
capitalist economic forms and practices that exist, and thus closes down the
34
possibility of alternative development strategies. Gibson-Graham have
themselves come to call this the ‘diverse economy theory’ (Gibson-Graham
2006b, 60) which, following Eve Sedgwick, they argue is weak theory in that it is
‘little more than description’ and which ‘requires acting as a beginner, refusing
to know to much, allowing success to inspire and failure to educate, refusing to
extend diagnoses too widely or deeply’ (Gibson-Graham 2006b, 8). The
definition of their work as weak theory is one way in which they are able to
defend their project against critics who maintain a belief in a dynamic capitalist
system.

To problematise dominant portrayals of capitalism Gibson-Graham draw on the
anti-essentialism of Laclau and Mouffe (1985) and Althusser (1972). Following
Althusser, they adopt the concept of overdetermination to the economy, and in
doing so attempt to undermine the portrayal of capitalism as a systematic whole
and something that is driven by a set of internal logics and laws which overrides
all other social processes. They argue that overdetermination can be thought of as

the essential complexity – as opposed to root simplicity – of every form
of existence; the openness or incompleteness of every identity; the
ultimate unfixity of every meaning; and the correlate possibility of
conceiving an acentric – Althusser used the term “decentred” – social
totality that is not structured by the primacy of any social element or
location.

(Gibson-Graham 2006a, 27)

Approaching capitalism from this direction requires us to ‘think about the radical
emptiness of every capitalist instance’ (Gibson-Graham 2006a, 15) and the way
in which

with an overdeterminist strategy we may empty capitalism of its universal
attributes and evacuate the essential and invariant logics that allow it to
hegemonise the economic and social terrain.
(Gibson-Graham 2006a, 45)

The concept of overdetermination is an important element of the Gibson-Graham
project. By denying that there is a consistent ‘internal’ essence or logic to
35
capitalism that overrides all other social processes, the possibility exists that
alternative economic forms can be built and sustained. There is no inevitable
logical or structural impediment to the creation of alternative economic spaces.
Overdetermination is also used to reflect the inherent complexity of any given
economic moment, and that fact that no particular social process (such as
‘capitalism’) can be seen as more fundamental than any other in determining a
given social outcome.

Overdetermination forms one strand of Gibson-Graham’s attack on
capitalocentrism. This they define as ‘situating capitalism at the centre of
development narratives, thus tending to devalue or marginalize possibilities of
noncapitalist development’ (Gibson-Graham 2006a, 41). Within the End of
Capitalism they deconstruct the discourses of both Globalisation and Post-
Fordism arguing that both denigrate and obscure non-capitalist economic
opportunity. As part of this deconstruction they take issue with common
economic metaphors such as ‘the ladder’ (for progress or development) whilst
also questioning metaphors based on organicism:

In economic development theory as in biology there has been a tendency
to run "a steamroller over a labyrinthine pathway that hops from branch
to branch through a phylogenetic bush" (Gould 1992: 180) of economic
forms. In the process the many capitalist and noncapitalist forms that
have co-existed with the "dominant" form have been obliterated from
view. This discursive marginalization functions powerfully to constrain
the visions and politics of the future
(Gibson-Graham 2006a, 115)

Their challenge to the discursive portrayal of a homogenous capitalism also
draws on feminist re-theorisations of sexual identity. Gibson-Graham suggest
that they are attempting a ‘queering of economic identity’, which entails ‘a
breaking apart of the monolithic significations of capitalism (market / commodity
/ capital) and a liberation of different economic beings and practices’ (Gibson-
Graham 2006a, 146). This strategy is used to argue that globalisation, rather than
being seen as an all encompassing and oppressive process, can in fact be seen as
opening up a range of different development paths and that capitalism has no
essential or coherent identity. This notion is used to challenge the capitalist / non-
36
capitalist binary and to problematise the relationship between the two,
particularly the argument that capitalism necessarily oppresses and subjugates
non-capitalist economic forms. Thus they argue that ‘when capitalism exists as
sameness, non-capitalism can only be subordinated or rendered invisible’
(Gibson-Graham 2006a, 43). Queer theory inspires their attempt to breakdown
the monolithic identity of capitalism and is therefore an important inspiration for
their self-identification as ‘thinkers of political and economic possibility’
(Gibson-Graham 2006b, 1). Such a stance enables them to retain their belief that
capitalism is ‘a set of economic practices scattered over a landscape, rather than a
systematic concentration of power’ (Gibson-Graham 2006b, 2) in the face of
ongoing challenges from colleagues and critics.

Different strands of feminist theory provide inspiration for the diverse economy
project in other ways too. At one level they are inspired by the way in which the
feminist movement has spread as a practice of ‘organisational horizontalism’
(Gibson-Graham 2006b, xxiii), which did not involve formal organisation nor
rely on co-ordinated alliances and actions. Thus they

are intrigued at the way that loosely interrelated struggles and happenings
of the feminist movement were capable of mobilizing social
transformations at such an unprecedented scale, without resort to a
vanguard party or any of the other “necessities” we have come to
associate with political organisation.

(Gibson-Graham 2006b, xxiv)

Therefore the resolute optimism of their work - that non-capitalist economic
activity can proliferate as successful place-based initiatives, and is not
fundamentally structurally repressed - has its roots in feminism. Indeed they also
credit the development of feminism as one of the sources of their faith in the
potentiality of ‘modest beginnings and small achievement’ (Gibson-Graham
2006b, 196). One final aspect of feminist academic work that is crucial to the
diverse economy is academic studies on the household economy. Research
undertaken into the size and importance of the household economy is an
37
important buttress to their argument that the economy is more extensive than that
normally associated with capitalocentric discourses.

The household also forms a key site in their reformulation of class. Post-
Marxism inspires Gibson-Graham to reject the standard view of class as ‘a social
group’ (Gibson-Graham 2006a, 49). Instead they develop a concept of class as
the ‘social process of producing and appropriating surplus labour’ (Gibson-
Graham 2006a, 52 emphasis in original). This notion posits that class relation
(and thus exploitation) can occur in a range of different sites (including the
household) and are not restricted the capitalist economy. It also means that
people hold ‘multiple and fractured’ (Gibson-Graham 2006a, 59) class identities.
However, despite being ‘loathe’ (Gibson-Graham 2006a, Ch 1, fn4) to define
‘capitalism’ it is this appropriation of surplus value that reflects the nub of
capitalism that remains after their deconstructive project. Thus in Postcapitalist
Politics they define capitalism as ‘a social relation, or class process, in which non
producers appropriate surplus labour in value form from free wage labourers’
(Gibson-Graham 2006b, xxiv). It is therefore arguable that Gibson-Graham’s
economic ontology consists of a ‘minimalist’ capitalism amongst a much wider
economic landscape, much of which can be, in their eyes, defined as non-
capitalist.

Their work is premised on the argument that economic discourse is performative,
that it shapes the world. Therefore constructing different discourses of the
economy becomes a pre-requisite for the emergence of postcapitalist practices
and institutions. A Postcapitalist Politics (Gibson-Graham 2006b) refines their
central arguments and details their attempts to create alternative economic
discourses through action research. It consciously places their work within the
wider context of a post-Seattle ‘place based globalism’ (Gibson-Graham 2006b,
xxi) that is seeking to develop more just and equitable forms of economy. As
such, the general thrust of Postcapitalist Politics is constructive, having
dismantled ‘capitalism’ as a hegemonic and cohesive system, they set out their
particular vision for the community economy as ‘an ethical and political space of
decision in which negotiations over interdependence take place’ (Gibson-Graham
2006b, 192). Furthermore, through their own action research they explore the
38
processes of ‘economic resubjectification’ that entails individuals ‘seeing’ the
economy differently and constructing different economic identities for
themselves. Therefore there are three important dimensions to the way in which
they theorise the construction of postcapitalist economic practices:

i) The performance of anti-capitalocentric discourse
ii) The resubjectification of economic subjects
iii) The construction of community economies

Each of these processes is now reviewed in more detail below.

(i) Performing anti-capitalocentric discourse

The End of Capitalism leaves capitalism deconstructed but with very little to
replace it. In their work, since the first publication of the book, Gibson-Graham
have been developing to create an anti-capitalocentric discourse ‘in which the
economic landscape is represented and populated by a myriad of contingent
forms and interaction’ (Gibson-Graham 2006b, 54). As they put it themselves:

Since the publication of The End of Capitalism, we have been less
concerned with disrupting the performative effects of capitalist
representation, and more concerned with putting forward a new economic
ontology that could contribute to novel economic performances.

Gibson-Graham (2005, 615)

As the foundation of this new economic ontology, Gibson-Graham developed the
following schematic (Figure 2.1) to illustrate their portrayal of this ‘diverse
economy’.


39

Figure 2.1: The diverse economy (Gibson-Graham 2006b, Figure 19)

This conceptual framework for illuminating economic difference is based on the
three dimensions of Market, Wage and Enterprise (intended to be read
vertically). For each of these ‘practices’ they highlight the multitude of economic
forms that exists ‘outside’ of capitalism, which is reflected by the top row of the
schematic. One aspect of their post-structural critique is that capitalism should be
seen to have an ‘outside’ (Gibson-Graham 2006a, 20). Thus they highlight a
plethora of economic activity that is, according to their definition, not capitalist.
It should be noted that the designation of an activity as ‘non-capitalist’ does not
necessarily mean that it is not exploitative as indicated by the inclusion of slave
labour and theft. They offer a number of anti-capitalocentric readings (of
businesses, individuals, and activities such as childcare) to illustrate their
approach, and their argument is that this approach to conceptualising the
economy



40
proliferates difference in the economic landscape and at the same time
calls into question the hegemonic capitalocentric dynamics – mechanistic
logics of reproduction, growth, accumulation, commodification,
concentration, and centralization – on which capitalism’s naturalness (and
naturalized dominance) are grounded.
(Gibson-Graham 2006b, 71)

As such
the language of the diverse economy can be used to explore the multi-
dimensional nature of economic existence and the possibilities this
creates for political acts of economic transformation.
(Gibson-Graham 2006b, 77)

Gibson-Graham stress that the schematic is only illustrative and contingent and
does not attempt to capture the ‘reality’ of the economy. Instead it provides an
alternative approach to constructing a discourse about the economic interactions
of a given economic unit or site.

The idea that the economy exceeds the ‘narrow’ confines of market transactions
and circuits of capital is not new. In addition to the household and feminist
economics that directly inspire Gibson-Graham, it is an idea that also features in
the work of Karl Polanyi (Polanyi et al. 1957), who pointed to the existence of a
‘substantive’ economy that was unmeasured, often unmonetised, but which
sustained livelihoods. Similarly, the economic historian Fernand Braudel (2002)
develops a threefold typology, of ‘capitalism’, ‘markets’ and ‘everyday life’.
Polanyi and Braudel’s historical analyses leads them both to argue that the rise of
capitalism undermined the non-market economic activity which played an
important part in the construction of many livelihoods. The fact that they make
this argument through a historical-descriptive approach highlights the practical
difficultly of ‘seeing’ hidden economic activity. A central function of Gibson-
Graham’s diverse economy schematic is therefore to make such economic
activity ‘visible’. However, they are not the first theorists to develop such visual
devices to illustrate an economy beyond that which is monetised. Henderson
(1981 [1988]) produced an illustrative economic ‘cake’ which represents a
similar visualisation of the ‘diverse economy’, which predates Gibson-Graham’s
work by some twenty-five years, as illustrated below (fig 2.2).
41




Figure 2.2: Hazel Henderson’s ‘Cake’ showing economic ‘diversity’ (Henderson
1981 [1988])

Similarly, Pearce (2003) offers the diagram below (Figure 2.3) to illustrate a
three sector model of the economy which again is intended to make visible the
‘hidden’ aspects of the economy, in this case the importance of the ‘social
economy’ or ‘third sector’ but also including the economies of the household and
the state. The social economy itself has a history of being proposed as a space of
postcapitalist possibility (Lee 2000; Amin 2009a).



42

Figure 2.3: Three-system approach to conceptualising the economy (Pearce
2003)

These diagrammatic representations illustrate the fundamental problem of
‘seeing’ the wider economy, particularly where it is non-monetised. However,
whilst the diverse economy schematic does help to make the different types of
economic activity visible, it does not provide any particular mechanism by which
the economic significance of non-capitalist economic activity can be evaluated.
This, it is argued needs to be a central feature of anti-capitalocentric discourses,
not only that such practices are part of the economic landscape but that also they
are (or could be) significant. One approach that has been developed within
feminist economics is an evaluation of the time spent on different types of
economic activity, for example Marilyn Waring’s (1989) seminal If Women
Counted. Gibson-Graham do touch on such metrics suggesting that measuring
economic activity ‘in terms of hours worked is one way of showing the capitalist
43
economy in a less extensive role’ (Gibson-Graham 2006b, 68). However, they do
not take this argument further and develop the diverse economy schematic
around a temporal notion of economic value. The question of economic
significance is arguably a key issue with their work and will be returned to later
in the chapter.

Despite its potential problems, the diverse economy schematic is a useful tool for
bringing together a range of different forms of non- and post-capitalism within a
single heuristic framework. It attempts to highlight and combine various
‘economies’ that are obscured from mainstream economic discourse. For
example Langley and Mellor (2002) identify three different ‘economies’ which
are outside the scope of the conventional market but which might also provide
the site for alternative forms of provisioning: (i) domestic – local subsistence;
(iii) abandoned informal; (iii) associational - voluntaristic. All three of these are
encompassed within the diverse economy schematic. An important feature of
their work is therefore to try and bring together different strands of non-
capitalism within a single ‘hybrid’ framework, what has been called a ‘plural
economy’ approach (Amin 2009b). However, as a weak theory of the economy
their diverse economy approach does not presume that relationships between
distinct sites of the diverse economy are structured in predictable ways (Gibson-
Graham 2006b, 77). Whilst they acknowledge the uneven contours and power
relations across any given economy these relationships have yet to have been
explored either empirically or theoretically.

(ii) Processes of economic ‘resubjectification’

Gibson-Graham (2005; 2006b) put the process of individual resubjectification
very much at the heart of their own action research. They discuss this in terms of
a ‘micro-politics’ that enables people to become different kinds of economic
subject and therefore see the economy differently (Gibson-Graham 2006b). Their
action research praxis draw on the Asset Based Community Development
approach of Kretzmann and McKnight (1993), a form of local community
development practice that rejects a needs based approach and instead map the
assets within a given community. This creates a picture of the diversity of the
44
economy within the locality, and can also reveal the multiplicity of individuals’
economic identities. Such a process provides the groundwork for the
‘resubjectification’ of economic subjects and the creation of new economic
identities and practices. Gibson-Graham’s approach to resubjectification draws
its inspiration from the work of Foucault (self-cultivation), Nietzche (self-artisty)
and Varela. This work inspires them to look to both the psychoanalytic and
Buddhist tradition to create strategies that enable the construction of different
subjectivities (Gibson-Graham 2006b, Ch. 6). This enables them to attempt
processes of ‘reframing’ and ‘renarrativising’ that open the possibility of new
economic subjectivities. However, through their work they also come to realise
that ‘the subject is not constituted by language alone’ (Gibson-Graham 2005c,
70). Instead they come to realise that collective practices and sensations are also
important, describing how within of their action research projects the

researchers took a week-long trip to Cape Breton to attend a conference
on worker cooperatives, and spent three days listening to stories of
workers who appropriated the surplus they produced and distributed it to
sustain a community economy. Amid the hilarity in the dormitory and the
van, during the sunlit walks, in restaurants and cafes, on the eleven-hour
ferry ride, we explored and debated (desultorily) the virtues of worker
cooperatives. Fears were spoken and then let go. By the end of the trip,
we had produced several fantasies of communal enterprises and the social
life they might enable, as a way of performing and acknowledging our
temporary, satisfying collectivist.

(Gibson-Graham 2005c, 70)

Gibson-Graham reject the criticism that this process is manipulative with the
argument that it is ‘ethical political action’ (Gibson-Graham 2006b, 133). Their
own action research therefore entails them trying to work with communities to
‘see’ the local economy differently and to develop new forms of economic
organisation. This is also a process through which they go themselves, describing
it as:




45
The co-implicated process of changing ourselves / changing our thinking
/ changing the world are what we describe as ethical practice. If politics
involves taking transformative decisions in a undecideable terrain, ethics
is the continual exercising of a choice to be / act / or think in certain
ways.

(Gibson-Graham 2008, 618)

Within their work they discuss their experiences of undertaking action research
to build the community economy in Australia, the United States and Papua New
Guinea.

The importance of economic resubjectification is also emphasised within other
strands of postcapitalist literature, although not from a post-structuralist
perspective. Ted Trainer (1995) argues that a shift in people’s values is the most
important requirement in building his vision of a ‘conserver society’. Korten
(1999) draws on the Buddhist notion of ‘mindfulness’, whilst the ecological
economists Daly and Cobb (1989) also talk about the necessary change in terms
of a ‘religious’ shift. A focus on developing economic subjects who are not
orientated towards material accumulation and consumption is a strong theme of
some of the ecologically rooted postcapitalist literature (e.g. Douthwaite 1996;
Trainer 1995; Shiva 2006). The idea here is that the consumption, in the form of
consumer ethic, is a corollary of the profit motive of businesses, that a consumer
ethic is part of the ‘drive’ of capitalism (Barber 2007). Thus it is argued that
individuals need to reject material acquisitiveness and develop a sense of
‘enough’ (Meadows et al. 2005). Some have argued that such ‘post-materialism’
is in fact a growing feature of affluent countries (Inglehart 1990; Ray and
Anderson 2000; Schwarz and Schwartz 1998). In keeping with post-Marxist
roots of their work, Gibson-Graham’s concept of resubjectification tends to focus
on labour and productive aspects of economic identity. They have little to say
about resubjectification in terms of economic subjects as consumers, save for
noting some difficulty in encouraging subjects to forgo consumption within their
own community economic projects (Gibson-Graham 2005a).


46
(iii) Building ‘community economies’

As described in the previous section, within the work of Gibson-Graham the
process of shifting individual economic subjectivities is actually a collective
process. Indeed, they develop the idea of postcapitalist collective entities using
the term ‘community economies.’ This element of their project is underpinned by
what they call a ‘politics of the here and now’ (Gibson-Graham 2006b, xxvi
emphasis in original) based on four key principles:

• Centrality of subjects and ethical practices of self-cultivation;
• The role of place as a site of becoming, and as the ground of a global
politics of local transformations;
• The uneven spatiality and negotiability of power, which is always
available to be skirted, marshalled or redirected through ethical practices
of freedom; and
• The everyday temporality of change and the vision of transformation as a
continual struggle to change subjects, places, and conditions of life under
inherited circumstances of difficulty and uncertainty.

(Gibson-Graham 2006b, xxvi)

Gibson-Graham describe their notion of the community economy as an ‘ethical
and political space of decision in which negotiations over interdependence take
place’ (Gibson-Graham 2006b, 192). A more recent definition stresses the
democratic nature of community economies, which they suggest are

…simply economic spaces or networks in which relations of
interdependence are democratically negotiated by participating
individuals and organizations

(Gibson-Graham 2008, 627)

They set out four co-ordinates around which such negotiations should take place:

• What is necessary to personal and social survival;
• How social surplus is appropriated and distributed;
• Whether and how a social surplus is to be produced and consumed; and
• How a commons is produced and sustained.

(Gibson-Graham 2006b, 88, emphasis in original)
47

These four co-ordinates form the parameters of what they call an ‘ethical praxis
of being in common’ (ibid). ‘Being in common’ is a concept that Gibson-Graham
borrow from Jean-Luc Nancy (1991a; 1991b) which is intended to liberate
‘community’ from its ‘traditional recourse to common being’ (Gibson-Graham
2006b, 85). Instead ‘being in common’ is intended to reflect an ethic of co-
existence and interdependence, rather than a normative (and potentially stifling)
ideal of what community should be. The potentiality of being-in-common
combined with the designation of the community economy as an ethical space of
decision-making, are the means by which Gibson-Graham avoid proscribing an
‘ideal type’ community economy and, in keeping with the wider arguments of
their diverse economy theory, allow for the possibility of different community
economies to emerge based on different sets of negotiations. This, they contend,
is a different approach to other discourses of the community economy which tend
to be premised on a sense of ‘common being’ and which often position the
community economy as the other to the ‘real economy’ (Gibson-Graham 2006b,
86).

Despite this nuanced understanding of ‘community’ there is no doubt that
Gibson-Graham’s community economy is very much based around the potential
of place-based community based collective forms of economic activity. Gibson-
Graham take particular inspiration from the Mondragón Co-operatives of the
Basque region of Spain. This, they contend, is a fine example of an ‘intentional
economy’, a project which treats the economy as a political and ethical space of
decision (Gibson-Graham 2006b, 101). Thus when discussing the tensions
between the values of Mondragón and the imperatives of competing in the global
market they frame this as a process of ethical discussion. What particularly
inspires them about Mondragón is the way in which the surplus produced by the
co-operatives is distributed:

The process of marshalling surplus and directing it towards the expansion
of a co-operative economy is intricately connected with the becoming of
ethical communal subjects. Indeed Mondragón’s greatest achievement
could be seen as the construction of communal subjects via methods that
operate on a range of material, social cultural and spiritual levels, but
48
especially through the experience of ethical decision making around
issues of individualism and collectivity.
(Gibson-Graham 2006b, 125)

Within their work Gibson-Graham draw on Gunn and Gunn’s (1991) notion of
social surplus, which can be understood as

…a broad term for what is also known as surplus product, or surplus
value. By calling surplus “social”, we hope to raise questions in readers’
minds about how surplus is created, appropriated and distributed under
various economic systems and in specific communities within them. The
conceptual category of social surplus is generally applied at broad levels
of social and economic aggregation. Using it in analyzing economic
activity of smaller territorial and juristic levels can shed light on the
development challenges they face.

Gunn and Gunn (1991, 5 - 6)

So whilst the diverse economy contains several categories of economic activity
that do not involve engaging with circuits of financial capital, their concept of the
community economy is very much concerned with the equitable distribution of
economic surplus. Gibson-Graham acknowledge that the construction of a
community economy is an active process which ‘needs to be sustained by the
continual work of making and remaking a space for it to exist in the face of what
threatens to undermine and destroy it’ (Gibson-Graham 2006b, xxvii). They
acknowledge that their own action research is an attempt to construct such
‘spaces’, and that such spaces can disappear once their action research is over
(Gibson-Graham 2006b, 162). In practice, the construction of such economic
spaces is therefore rooted in places and associated ideas of geographic
communities. This is in keeping with their faith that ‘if we are to enact new
economies, we need to imagine “the economy” differently – as something that is
created in specific geographical contexts and historically path–dependent ways’
(Gibson-Graham 2006b, 54).

Gibson-Graham acknowledge that they are not the only theorists who drawn on
the concept of a ‘community economy’ as a space of economic potentiality (e.g.
Pearce 1993; Dauncey 1988; Curtis 2003; Imbrosico 1997). However, Gibson-
49
Graham object to the way in which the term is often used to describe an ‘other’
economy to the mainstream (e.g. Douthwaite 1996; Curtis 2003). Despite their
attempts to distance themselves from what they consider are ‘normative’ usages
of the term, it is arguable that Gibson-Graham’s work is far closer to much of
this literature than they acknowledge. Not only is the community economy often
theorised as a ‘non-capitalist’ place based phenomena, but many of the other
accounts of the community economy promote the same kind of economic
practices and institutions as Gibson-Graham. Effectively, Gibson-Graham’s
strategy for interstitial postcapitalism is premised on the development of forms of
co-operative economic activity, albeit one which starts from a different
philosophical and theoretical position.

2.1.2 Summary of Part One

This section has introduced the theoretical work of J.K. Gibson-Graham and
argued that they represent one of the most fully developed theorisations of place-
based postcapitalism that have emerged in recent years. Their work offers a
broad flexible framework for exploring the potential of places to create
alternative economic spaces. Much of the diverse economies project builds on
work that has been undertaken within a range of different fields as their
bibliography illustrates (see Gibson-Graham 2008). There are longstanding
arguments for a ‘wider’ conception of the ‘economic’ rooted in a range of
disciplines and philosophies. Similarly, the emphasis on co-operatives as a
strategy for economic reform is not new. However, their project does make some
novel contributions to the theorising of postcapitalism. Their diverse economies
approach highlights the importance of ‘language politics’ and the importance of
‘seeing’ different practices and institutions as a precursor to change. Their
diverse economies approach also offers a way of breaking down a simple
capitalist / non-capitalist binary, opening up a range of different postcapitalist
possibilities. As such they offer a ‘hybrid’ economic ontology that brings
together a diversity of non-capitalisms that are entwined with capitalist processes
(Wright 2010). It has been argued that their contribution is not so much in any
given element of their approach but in the way that they have brought them
together.
50

In summary, their proliferative postcapitalism offers a competing ‘economic
imaginary’ (Jessop 2004) to more structuralist conceptions of the economy and
capitalism. This economic imaginary is central to their approach to changing
capitalism. Their weak theoretical approach and ‘minimalist’ conception of
capitalism underpin the way in which they approach the possibility of building
postcapitalist practices and possibilities, arguing that over-theorising capitalism
is itself a barrier to creating new possibilities. However, there have been few
critical assessments of this theoretical approach to postcapitalism (Williams and
Rounds 2008). The next section of this chapter sets out the challenges that
proliferative postcapitalism must face in order to justify itself in the face of
critiques that conceptualise capitalism in different ways and thus propose
competing anti-capitalist strategies.

2.2 Challenges to proliferative postcapitalism

It was argued in the previous section that many elements of Gibson-Graham’s
proliferative postcapitalist project are not new. Both interstitial strategies and
debates about the potential of ‘marginal’ or ‘grassroots’ economic activity have
long histories. Indeed, the untapped potential of the ‘informal’ economy seems to
be rediscovered with unerring regularity. For example, Redclift and Mingione
(1985) highlight the emergence of a ‘marginality debate’ within development
discourses of the 1970s that focused on the economic opportunities offered by
the ‘informal’ economy. They observe that the early 1980s economic recessions
led to a rediscovery of a world of work ‘outside’ capitalist relations in
industrialised economies and debates to its significance (e.g. Hardy 1986). Thus
they suggest that

These new structures of work and employment are seen by some as the
vanguard of an alternative life-style, and by other as exploited by and
subordinated to capital

Redclift and Mingione (1985, 4)

51
Similarly, in the 1990s there was much interested in ‘alternative local economies’
based around LETS currencies, co-operatives and credit unions, which it was
argued represented some kind of potential autonomous economy (Dickens 1996,
194; Dobson 1993). Arguably, Gibson-Graham’s work reflects one of the most
recent iterations of this ongoing debate about the significance of ‘marginal’
economic activity (Williams and Rounds 2008) although, as argued above, their
framework attempts to extend beyond the informal economy and hybridise it
with the social and ‘ethical’ non-capitalism(s). However, the relationship
between such activities and ‘capitalism’ remains highly contested, with critics
often pointing to the parallels between such ‘self-help’ projects and the tenets of
neo-liberalism (Davis 2006). Thorne (1996) characterises this as a debate about
whether the informal economy is a site of emancipation or immiseration.

Perhaps unsurprisingly therefore, the Gibson-Graham project has attracted both
supporters and critics (Rutland 2006). This section sets out some of the most
pressing challenges that their particular variety of proliferative postcapitalism
must overcome in order to substantiate its aspiration to become a more widely
used theoretical and practical approach. In essence the overarching challenge is
to provide more empirical evidence that substantiates their particular economic
ontology. It is a central contention of their work that there is an existing
proliferation of postcapitalist practices and institutions that are obscured by
conventional economic discourses. However, through their own action research,
they have failed to sustain economically viable alternative practices in
‘developed’ countries. They generally defend themselves against such
shortcomings by their attitude towards failure that distinguishes between
possibility and probability (Gibson-Graham 2006a xxxi). In other words, just
because certain things often fail it doesn’t mean that they will always fail.
Similarly, they argue that ‘strong theory’ is based on a certain paranoid stance
that means that

Experimental forays into building new economies are likely to be
dismissed as capitalism in another guise, or as always already co-opted;
they are often judged as inadequate before they are explored in all their
complexity and incoherence.

52
(Gibson-Graham 2008, 618)

However, it is contented here that theory of proliferative postcapitalism must be
underpinned by ‘solid, liveable alternatives to neo-liberal globalisation’ (Wall
2005, 172). In other words, there needs to be a strong empirical basis to their
postcapitalist optimism. Indeed, it is a weakness that they use Mondragón as
their ‘exemplar’ of a community economy, bearing in mind that it is a ‘sacred
cow’ of the Left (Pepper 1993, 241), which appears regularly within the literature
which advocates place-based postcapitalist possibility (e.g. Sale 1980; Dauncey
1988; Douthwaite 1996; Imbroscio 1997; Shuman 2000; Starr 2000). A central
purpose of this thesis is therefore to explore the extent to which the Totnes area
might provide a different empirical example that supports Gibson-Graham’s
proliferative postcapitalism. However, this section now highlights four specific
challenges that such examples must overcome.

2.2.1 Economic significance

The Gibson-Graham project is based on the premise that there is a proliferation
of economic activity that is economically significant but unseen by conventional
economic discourse. It is a central element of their project to contest the common
assumption that such practices are economically marginal. For example, in a
recent paper they make the following claim:

What is intriguing, however, is that ‘marginal’ economic practices and
forms of enterprise are actually more prevalent, and account for more
hours worked and/or more value produced, than the capitalist sector.

Gibson-Graham (2008, 617)

To sustain this argument they draw on a number of different enumerative
techniques:

• Estimated financial replacement value in dollars of unpaid household
labour in the US
• Global Employment levels within co-operatives
53
• Numbers of community initiatives and participants (Community
Supported Farming / Community currencies)
• Estimated GDP of the Social Economy in Europe

It is clear that Gibson-Graham are here adopting multiple metrics of economic
significance to bolster their argument. Indeed it might be argued that they
actually switch between different ‘economies’. After presenting the above
evidence for the economic significance of diverse economic practices they go on
to suggest that

Many more economic activities and movements could be included in this
list, including squatter, slum-dweller, landless and co-housing
movements, the global ecovillage movement, fair trade, economic self-
determination, the relocalization movement, community-based resource
management, and others. But their status as marginal and unconvincing is
difficult to budge. It is here that we confront a choice: to continue to
marginalize (by ignoring or disparaging) the plethora of hidden and
alternative economic activities that contribute to social well-being and
environmental regeneration, or to make them the focus of our research
and teaching in order to make them more ‘real’, more credible, more
viable as objects of policy and activism, more present as everyday
realities that touch all our lives and dynamically shape our futures.

Gibson-Graham (2008, 617 – 8)

Here the significance of practices being referenced not to their economic value
but on their contribution to social wellbeing and environmental wellbeing. This
is, I would argue, a fundamentally different argument to saying that non-
capitalist practices are economically significant. This is suggesting that these
practices are socially and environmentally significant. It relates to longstanding
arguments that indicators of wellbeing are a better measure of progress than
simple notions of economic development such as GDP (Layard 2005). However
the point of such indicators is that they are alternative forms of enumeration that
go beyond simple economic enumeration. In other words, it is a separate debate
about how we evaluate economic activity that relates to arguments around a
‘triple bottom line’.

54
A key problem with Gibson-Graham’s weak theory is therefore that it does not
provide the tools to establish the economic significance of non-capitalist
practices. The way in which the diverse economy is presented categorically (see
Figure 2.1 above) is of no assistance here, giving as it does equal symbolic
significance to each different type of non-capitalist practice. Indeed to some
extent it could even be regarded as a rhetorical device that visually presents the
non-capitalist economy as ‘bigger’ than the capitalist economy.
3
A similar point
could be made about the diverse economies they present in a Postcapitalist
Politics (Gibson-Graham 2006b, pp. 75-76). The schematic gives equal symbolic
weighting to different categories of economic activity without actually exploring
their differing economic significance. It is suggested here that the question of
significance is fundamental to the argument that postcapitalist practices are of
relevance. As Jessop (2004, 4) has argued, material economic significance is
central to the implementation of competing ‘economic imaginaries’:

these imaginaries must have some significant, albeit necessarily partial,
correspondence to real material interdependencies in the actual existing
economy and/or in relation between economic and extra-economic
activities


Without justifying the significance of non-capitalist activities they are open to
the charge that they are only romanticizing informal economic practices and
institutions (Samers 2005). However, their work does offer one broad way that
the economic significance of non-capitalist practices can be empirically explored:
the extent that they contribute to individuals’ livelihoods. As Gibson-Graham
have previously argued, their interest in community economies is based on their
ability to




3
Indeed all three figures in this chapter use a form of visual representation to suggest that the
‘size’ of the non-capitalist economy is significant. Another such device used by Gibson-Graham
is the ‘iceberg’ drawn by Ken Byrne. This portrays capitalism as the ‘ice’ above the water,
supported by a much larger area of hidden non-capitalist practices below the water (See Gibson-
Graham N.D).
55

sustain lives and maintain wellbeing directly (without resort to the
circuitous mechanisms of capitalist industrialisation and income trickle-
down)’

(Gibson-Graham 2005a, 16)

Therefore the extent to which non-capitalist practices and institutions sustain
livelihoods is one broad measure of economic significance that can be applied to
different practices and institutions. Indeed, this justification can be found in
research that has adopted the diverse economies approach (e.g. McKay et al.
2007; Graham and Cornwell 2009) albeit measured in financial terms.

2.2.2 Transcending the institutional context

Much of the critique of Gibson-Graham’s diverse economy theory is focused on
their refusal to theorise wider systemic or structural aspects of the economy. As
detailed above, their whole approach to postcapitalist possibility is based on a
refusal to extend theory too far. For example, they have also been criticised for
failing to deal with the issue of the relationship between the state and economic
practices (Kelly 2005). This is despite the fact they have recognised the
importance of the local state in sustaining the economic practices that they have
cultivated through their own action research (Gibson-Graham 2002). Amin et al.
(2002; 2003) have argued that the state plays a crucial role in underpinning the
social economy. Others, such as Frankel (1987) also suggest that the role of the
state is often under-theorised by those who propose small-scale alternatives and
that the relationship between welfare provision and the wider economy is often
overlooked.

Their commitment to weak theory also leads them to refuse to theorise wider
institutional features to the economy. As such, their work does not acknowledge
the existence of what the development economist Manfred Max-Neef (1991)
calls the ‘macro-micro articulation’ - the way in which a particular macro-
economic ‘system’ supports or undermines the development of localised
practices. Whilst such a binary might be simplistic it does draw attention to the
56
way in which ‘non-local’ factors shape ‘local’ economic possibilities. Thus some
postcapitalist theorists would argue that the ‘institutional framework does set the
parameters within which social action takes place’ (Fotopoulos 2000, 292). Thus
Lawson (2005) has argued that there is a need to understand the relationship
between the ‘alternative’ economic practices which Gibson-Graham advocate
and wider global economic processes. Tonkiss (2008) points out that they ‘define
out’ the most dynamic and complicated sector of the capitalist economy from
their theoretical work – financial capitalism. This not only makes their
minimalist conception of capitalism harder to defend, but also means that the
opportunity to explore how aspects of financial ‘capitalism’ might support non-
capitalist practices is not taken up. It is therefore a theoretical challenge to the
Gibson-Graham project to defend the position that institutional analysis and
reform is not a necessary precondition for the building of economically
significant postcapitalist forms as others have argued (e.g. Magnuson 2008). The
interplay between institutional context and local possibility is therefore of
ongoing interest in theorising the limits of grassroots postcapitalist possibility
(Amin 2009a).

2.2.3 Resisting systemic tendencies

Gibson-Graham’s weak theory also leads them to reject the idea of ‘systemic’
capitalist dynamics that are found in Marxist accounts of capitalism (Callinicos
2003). As such they do not recognise the existence of systemic tendencies that
might undermine postcapitalist possibilities. Their refusal to theorise a wider
capitalist economic ‘system’ reflects the key philosophical difference with
structuralist Marxist approaches to capitalism. For example, Glassman (2003)
follows Isaac’s (1987) idea of “power to” to describe the structural power of
‘capitalists’ who he says

…do not just dominate workers as one group of persons dominating
another. Rather, the ability of capitalists to collectively dominate workers
- which is always contested and in need of re-creation - resides in their
capacity to exploit workers through control over investment decisions
upon which workers and others in society are dependent, a capacity that
is inscribed in legal structures, customary practice, institutions of
repressive force and networks of social relations.
57

Glassman (2003, 692) goes on to critique Gibson-Graham’s interpretation of
overdetermination which he suggests, is actually rooted in a structuralist
ontology and which actually is intended to mean that

The struggle to produce class transformation is itself simultaneously a
political, cultural, ideological and – it must be added, against a culpable
historical Marxist silence – gendered and racialized struggle, within and
against specific crystallized forms of power.


For critics of a structuralist persuasion, small-scale non-capitalist experiments are
doomed to fail (Fotopoulos 2000). For example, Harvey has argued against the
potential of ‘local’ resistance to capitalism from a more orthodox Marxist
perspective, both through his notion of ‘militant particularism’ (Harvey 1996)
and more recently through his critique of spatial utopias (Harvey 2000), which,
he argues, inevitably get perverted by compromising with the social processes
that they are supposed to control. This is the argument that non-capitalist or
‘alternative’ economic spaces are always under threat or co-option. Certainly
some research has pointed to their fragility of such practices and the fact that
they are often under threat from wider economic processes or ‘incorporation’
into the ‘mainstream’ (Seyfang 2001; Crewe et al. 2003; Renard 2003; Renting
et al. 2003). Indeed, different ‘readings’ of the Mondragón Co-operatives have
pointed to the economic pressures that it has been subjected to in recent years.
Pepper (1993, 241) quotes Encel (1990) who suggests that

Mondragón, like so many similar, if less ambitious schemes, has
experienced the phenomenon of ‘goal displacement’. From an attempt to
rehabilitate the devastated Basque community after the Spanish civil war
has now come a set of businesses dedicated to survival on the basis of
capitalist economic premises. The wage differentials have eroded from
1:3 to 1:6-7, for example. There is insufficient reinvestment of profits in
the social structure, while the further education institution now just
teaches technical skills not the value of cooperation.

It could be argued that it is the global capitalist markets in which Mondragón
operates that have exerted the above pressures on it. Such a position reflects a
belief in the existence of a ‘market system’ that
58

…leads to capitalism because firms have an incentive to invest in new
technology to produce cheaper goods to undercut rivals and maintain
profits

Wall (2005, 9 - 11)

History has shown that over a given period of time, the operation of competitive
markets has a deflationary effect on prices driven by innovation and competition
(Smil 2006). Under such competitive conditions it might become increasingly
difficult for ‘non-capitalist’ businesses to balance their ethics and their
profitability. Markets can also undermine the possibilities of grassroots self-help
(Davis 2006). Gibson-Graham (2006b, 62) assert that ‘…not all markets are
where capitalist commodities are exchanged and not all commodities transacted
in formal markets are produced by capitalist firms. However, the do not go on to
elaborate a clear theoretical distinction between capitalist and non-capitalist
markets, despite the distinction within their diverse economy schematic. Their
economic ontology does not therefore accept the argument that markets tend to
evolve into ‘capitalism’, where they are dominated by a handful of larger firms.
However, nor do they provide examples of how and where such market
dynamics can be resisted, along with the other systemic economic tendencies.

2.2.4 Postcapitalist coherence

The notion of ‘coherence’ is being used here to highlight the co-ordination
between different elements of the economy between actors and institutions and
the extent to which they connect and hang together. Thus

Economic geographies are circuits of consumption, exchange and
production sustained over space and through time….However all
economies and economic geographies are both material and social
constructs

Leyshon and Lee (2003, 8 emphasis in original)


Gibson-Graham (2006b, 69) suggest that the diverse economy theory is grounded
on their particular concept of the economy in which ‘values’ are produced,
59
exchanged and distributed within social circuits. The argument here is that for
such circuits to reflect postcapitalist spaces they must cohere into circuits that
connect different postcapitalist actors, practices and institutions and which are
maintained over time.

For example, Tonkiss (2008) criticizes their use of the Republic of Kiribati as an
example of postcapitalist possibility, on the basis that it derives significant
income from offshore funds and investments in international financial markets.
This relates to a wider argument that postcapitalist non-market economic activity
is actually underpinned by economic value that is generated through market
transactions. For example, Frankel (1987, 46) suggests that:

[I]t would be romantic to believe that current informal practices constitute
the basis of a massive demarketized sector along the lines envisaged by
post-industrial theorists and members of the environmental movements.
Nearly all the current forms of cashless transactions depend directly or
indirectly on income derived from the formal market or state sectors (that
is, from individuals receiving all or part of their sustenance in money
form). Moreover, these alternative urban communes, craft centre, etc.,
have limited market and non-market viability; a proliferation of cafes,
repair shops, craft centres and other alternative institutions would be very
difficult to sustain in most capitalist cities. Most existing alternative
enterprises barely survive; this very delicate informal economy could not
possibly support a flood of new entrants.

Amin et al. (2002) also suggest that wealth is the most significant in influencing
whether the social economy of a given locality flourishes. If purportedly non-
capitalist activity is dependent on the wealth generated in the capitalist economy,
then it might undermine Gibson-Graham’s argument that these practices
represent genuinely viable alternatives. The challenge is therefore not only to
construct novel circuits of value, but circuits that are also defensibly ‘outside’
capitalism. If postcapitalist practices and institutions do not ‘cohere’ in this way
then it becomes hard to defend the argument that they are interstitial. Whilst
Gibson-Graham highlight many ways that it is possible to get ‘outside’
capitalism it seems necessary for these instances to ‘join up’. Otherwise, the
competing arguments – that postcapitalism exists only on the ‘cracks’ of
capitalism, or that it is often underpinned by ‘capitalist’ wealth – becomes more
convincing.
60
2.3 Concluding remarks

This chapter has explored the theoretical work of J.K Gibson-Graham, whom it
argues, have made an important recent contribution to theorising the
development of place-based interstitial postcapitalism. It argues that their work
on proliferative postcapitalism is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, it
challenges the idea of a mono-cultural capitalist economy and opens up the
different ways in which non-capitalism can be empirically explored. Their
diverse economy brings together a range of different economic institutions,
practices and relationships that can be ‘outside’ capitalism. As such it
problematises capitalist hegemony and offers a conceptual framework for
exploring potentially postcapitalist spaces. Their work brings together a breadth
of ‘non-capitalisms’ in a way that had not been done before. Furthermore, their
work offers some theoretical basis for how such spaces are constructed. Their
approach is based on the combination of language politics, individual re-
subjectification and community economic development. Again, the strength of
their work is not that their advocacy of these processes is novel, but the way in
which Gibson-Graham bring them together. As such they offer a novel form of
economic ontology that leads to a different set of potential interventions. As one
of their intellectual inspirations has argued

there is a tight connection between social reality, the theoretical
framework that we use to interpret it, and the sense of politics and hope
that emerges from such an understanding

Escobar (2004, 349)

In other words, the way in which you conceptualise capitalism implicitly affects
the ways in which it might be changed. However, the chapter has also argued that
in order to justify their particular ‘economic imaginary’ there is a need for more
empirical examples of postcapitalism ‘in action’. Such examples need not only to
support the argument that such practices and institutions are economically
significant but also rebut some of the structural and institutional challenges that
61
can be made to their theoretical approach. As Glassman (2003, 693) has argued,
Gibson-Graham need to

show that the strategies she promotes as alternative versions of
revolutionary practice can actually change the structural, class relations of
interest to leftists. If this were to prove possible, then leftists might quite
reasonably adopt such “small” and “local” strategies as part of a larger
project of transforming capitalist society into something else.


This is therefore not just an abstract theoretical debate. It has direct relevance to
the different postcapitalist strategies that might be engaged in to build different
kinds of economy. This chapter has argued that in order for Gibson-Graham’s
approach to gain credibility in the way that Gibson-Graham (2008) aspire, other
‘existing’ examples of postcapitalism need to be explored. Such examples will
also contribute to a greater understanding of the ‘uneven’ geography of
postcapitalist possibility, something that is generally absent from their work. This
thesis is particularly interested in the relationship between grassroots
postcapitalism and countercultural places. The next chapter sets out how we
might start to think about such places.

62
Chapter 3: Exploring Countercultural Places

This chapter discusses and explores the concept of a ‘Countercultural’ place. One
overarching ‘hypothesis’ that the thesis is exploring is that some places might be
more productive for the emergence of postcapitalist institutions. As highlighted
in the next chapter, there is also some evidence that ‘alternative’ or
Countercultural places would fall into this category. However, there is little
academic work which explores the nature or emergence of such places. Such
places appear to be generally unrecognised within the academic literature and are
consequently under-researched. Furthermore, when they have been the focus of
research it tends to be with narrow theoretical lenses that generally obscures the
wider countercultural connection. Part One of the chapter therefore develops the
argument for a broader understanding of the Counterculture as an ongoing socio-
cultural reaction to ‘industrial modernity’ which began in the 1960s and which
consists of a number of overlapping strands. Part Two then argues that research
that engaged with notions of Countercultural place has tended to focus on only
aspects of this wider conception, or have ignored key aspects of it. Finally, it
argues that research that does recognise the existence of Countercultural places
has not specifically addressed the processes that ‘construct’ such places.

3.1 Opening up the Counterculture

3.1.1 ‘The Counterculture’ and countercultures

It is important to set out how this thesis is using the term ‘Counterculture’. A
starting point is to distinguish between (small ‘c’) countercultures as a socio-
cultural phenomena and the (big ‘C’) Counterculture as a specific historic
process. Throughout history there are many examples of countercultures - groups
which sought actively to resist the ‘mainstream’ or ‘conventional’ values and
norms of the society that they inhabited (Musgrove 1974; Goffman and Joy
2005). This highlights two important fundamental features of countercultures.
Firstly they are collective phenomena and secondly, they are ‘oppositional’ and
intrinsically relational:

63





As expressions of norms and values sharply at variance with those of
society at large, countercultures tend to be defined, both by themselves
and by others, as much by what they are set against as by their own
normative system.


Yinger (1982, 41)

They are groups that emerge in opposition to institutions, practices or values of
their society in which they exist. The other key commonality of countercultures
is therefore some processes of transgression. It is for this reason that
countercultures are sometimes associated with criminality or deviance and that
some sociologists recognise the existence of ‘criminal’ countercultures (Yinger
1982). Goffman and Joy (2005) suggest that there are three meta values that can
distinguish countercultures from the mainstream, subcultures, religious and
ethnic minorities and non-countercultural dissident groups:

• Countercultures assign primacy to individuality at the expense of social
conventions and government constraints
• Countercultures challenge authoritarianism in both obvious and subtle
forms
• Countercultures embrace individual and social change

Goffman and Joy (2005, 29)

They go on to add that the history of countercultures could also be considered a
history of ‘freethinkers’ and ‘free thought’.

Some confusion can arise between discussions of countercultures as a
generalised historic form and the ‘Counterculture’ – a specific historic movement
64
that gave birth to the term itself (see Roszak 1970). As understood within this
thesis, the latter term refers to the specific set of countercultural movements,
practices and institutions that emerged in the 1960s, particularly (but not
exclusively) in the United States and Western Europe.
4
Inevitably there are many
possible readings and constructions of the Counterculture as a socio-political
moment that can make sweeping generalisations problematic. In particular, the
impact and legacy of the Counterculture are particularly contested (Watts 2001).
However, within this thesis it is broadly conceived as a utopian reaction to
‘advanced’ capitalist industrial modernity. Some key elements of this reaction
are sketched out below.

Firstly, the Counterculture was a cultural rebellion that was rooted in the affluent
middle classes, particularly the younger generations that had benefited from the
expansion of higher education and post-war capitalist expansion. As Suri (2009)
points out, those involved in the Counterculture were not predominately the
dispossessed demanding more access to resources or on the cultural fringe
searching for freedom; they were the empowered, questioning their own power.
It was this paradox which caught the social theorists of the time off-guard, and
led Daniel Bell (1976) to develop his thesis regarding the cultural contradictions
of capitalism: that by creating increased affluence capitalism would undermine
the values that sustained it. Suri (2009) goes on to argue that it was this social
composition and the geographical extensivity that made the Counterculture
unique. Certainly, the values espoused by some of the members of the
Counterculture were not new, echoing those of the Romantics from the previous
century, including the objections to industrialism and ‘pure’ rationalism
(Musgrove 1974). Thus Yinger (1982, 22) suggests the Countercultural objection
to rationality was based on the view that

Society is corrupted by its overemphasis on “repressive rationality” to the
neglect of the importance of the irrational in human experience, by its
oppressive bureaucracies, and by its exaggerated dependence on science
as the only road to truth


4
Goffman and Joy (2005, 337- 341) mention the mostly overlooked Tropicália counterculture of
Brazil that emerged in the late 1960s, along with the suppressed Mexican student revolt. See also
Suri (2009) on the Soviet Counterculture of the same era.
65
Clearly, some critics perceived excessive rationality to be embodied in the social
systems and structures of society and questioned the legitimacy of such
structures including the growing role of the state. Thus Roszak (1970) describes
the Counterculture as a rejection of the ‘technocracy’, which Rycroft (2007, 619)
defines as ‘the technocratic control of human bodies and minds’. Therefore
personal expression and ‘freedom’ were a key meta-values that cut across many
elements of the Counterculture. Indeed, many of the French postmodern and
post-structural social theorists who theorised micro-political resistance were in
contact with the Countercultural movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s
(Cusset 2008).

The Countercultural rejection of rational scientism was also driven by the
growing recognition of the impact that industrial agriculture was having on
ecological systems (Carson 1963), as well as a number of scandals associated
with ‘orthodox’ scientific medicine (Eagle 1978). Such distrust was underpinned
by a critique of Western scientific reductionism. Therefore, several aspects of the
Counterculture were underpinned by ideas of ‘holistic’ or ecological thinking
that focused on the interconnectedness and complexity of existence (Tipton
1982). Such philosophies were found particularly in the growing ecological
movements of the period, as were as some of the Eastern and new spiritualities
which grew in popularity. Indeed, these spiritualities were also a reaction to
philosophies of rational analyses or scientific verification (Heelas 1996).

There was also a specific rejection of industrialism, large-scale technologies and
capitalism.
5
The critique of capitalism was based partly on the emerging
phenomenon of mass consumerism, illustrated by Herbert Marcuse’s ([1964]
2002) influential One Dimensional Man. The Counterculture therefore raised
questions about economic materialism and, as Suri (2009, 67) has noted,


5
It is worth noting that the technological developments of industrial capitalism played a key role
in underpinning geographic spread of the Counterculture including the opportunities for
increased individual mobility (Jobs 2009) and the development of offset litho printing (Smith
1977; Fountain 1988) which underpinned the ‘underground’ press and therefore the circulation of
countercultural discourses.
66
The counterculture did more than just challenge existing authority; it also
questioned the basic assumptions about the “good life” that underpinned
social order.

Related to this there was a growing critique of the ‘bigness’ that was epitomised
and valorised within advanced capitalist societies. This was reflected in the work
of Kohr (2001), Schumacher (1993) and later picked up by Kirkpatrick Sale
(1980). These writers argued that large-scale institutions and technologies led to
a concentration of power, inefficient outcomes, ecological problems and
dehumanising effects. This led to calls from such thinkers for ‘human scale’
solutions arguing that there was a ‘natural’ size for human institutions that
should not be exceeded (Sale 1980).

This section has argued that the Counterculture can be broadly conceived as a
utopian reaction to advanced industrial modernity. What also cut across many
aspects of the Counterculture was a utopian politics that was committed to
processes of social change (Rozak 1970). Having established this broad
definition the next section seeks to define some of the key strands of this broad
movement and also argue that the Counterculture is therefore an ongoing
process.

3.1.2 Unpacking the Counterculture

Whilst the Counterculture can be conceived as a single movement it is also
important to recognise the diversity, difference and conflict within it. The
historian Arthur Marwick rejects the idea that the Counterculture was a unified
totality and instead posits that ‘large numbers of new subcultures were created,
which then expanded and interacted with each other, thus creating the pullulating
flux which characterises the era’ (Marwick, 1998, 11). Marwick’s sub-cultural
perspective on the counterculture is one way of beginning to breakdown the
singularity of the Counterculture. Thus the Counterculture reflects a useful
‘meta-level’ label that occludes the diversity of subcultural groups, practices and
movements that constitute it (Desmond et al. 2000). Musgrove (1974, 21)
suggests that

67
Today [in 1974] the counterculture is synonymous neither with student
activism nor hippiedom. It has broken from its base. At its core it is true,
there is a relatively small number of people who have rejected work as it
is conventionally conceived and leisure that they see as its mirror image.
They are mystics, aesthetes, anarchists, music-makers, community actors,
political and social activists, sculptors, painters, potters, wood-carvers,
metal-workers, social philosophers, writers and poets, gardeners, poster
designers and unpaid social workers.

Similarly Clecak (1983, 18) suggests that “the Movement” became an umbrella
term that covered a range of political and countercultural activities and attitudes
in the late 1960s. However, whereas Clecak (and others) argue the Movement
diffused in the 1970s, others see it as an ongoing phenomenon. For example, Cox
(1995) suggests:

These different phenomena - "1968", "new social movements", "the
alternative economy", "green politics" and so on - can then be seen not as
a series of isolated developments but as aspects of a single process: the
growth of counter cultures in the sense of distinct complexes of meanings
and practices which challenge those of the dominant culture

Cox (1995, 4)

It could be argued that the term ‘Alternative Culture’ is used to reflect ongoing
manifestations of the Counterculture. For example St John (1999, 7) suggests
that contemporary Alternative Culture is

expressed in various social movements (e.g. communitarian, bohemian,
agitation art, healing-arts, green, feminist, queer, peace, civil and land
rights movements), new spiritualities (e.g. Neo-Paganism or the New
Age), and youth subcultures (e.g. new traveller, raver-dance, feral). It is
the combination of such currents, their accumulation and their fusion, that
I refer to as the ACM [Alternative Cultural Movement] - a heterogeneous
movement, a matrix, even palimpsest, of voluntary and unstable de-
centrist ‘neo-tribes’ (Maffesoli 1996), affinity groups and
‘disorganisations’ holding to alternative values and vocabularies.

This definition of Alternative Culture is very close to the notion of
Countercultural adopted by this thesis. The current preference for ‘Alternative’
is perhaps because ‘Counterculture’ now sounds anachronistic (Desmond et al.
2000) or unfashionable (McKay 1996) and has strong temporal associations with
68
the 1960s. However, the use of Alternative can be problematic because
‘Alternative Movement’ and ‘Alternative Culture’ also have established emic
meanings that refer to a certain subset of linked Countercultural practices. The
usage of such terms increased in popularity in the 1980s (Stott 1986; Preston and
Preston 1982; Osmond and Graham 1984). Osmond and Graham (1984, 25)
suggest that the

Alternative movement is seeking change through example. Many feel that
simply living out their beliefs is itself a contribution to changing the
world. It is a case, more often than not, of actions speaking louder than
words.


Osmond and Graham’s celebratory guide, which accompanied an HTV television
series highlights alternative education, ‘living lightly’, the New Age, co-
operative forms of living and ‘Holistic Healing’ as keys aspects of the
Alternative Movement. Similarly:

Alternative Australia is about rebuilding a culture of co-operation
between people and the rest of the planet. Alternative Australians are
building cutting edge realities that are a culture in waiting for the time
and place for their role in transformation of the dominant paradigm: this
transformation will surely come when the planet says ‘enough is enough’.
Cook (2000, 55)

This conception of Alternative therefore relates strongly to ‘green’ politics and
beliefs. The use of the term Countercultural in this thesis therefore attempts to
avoid confusion over different meanings of ‘alternative’ but also because it is
conceived of as being broader than emic (green) conceptions of the Alternative
Movement or Alternative Culture.

The idea of a ‘single’ movement can also obscure difference and conflict. Again,
back in the 1970s Musgrove (1974, 196) suggested that

The counter culture as a group of ideas or as groups of people is
apparently splintered, contradictory, divided.

69
The fissures of such conflict can cut across many dimensions both amongst what
Goffman and Joy (2005) call ‘subcountercultures’ and within them. For example,
Yinger (1982) discusses the differences between Marxist counterculturalists and
Abbie Hoffman, founder of the Yippies – the political wing of the ‘hippie’
movement. Inevitably conflict can also occur within perceived homogenous
countercultural subcultures. For example, Castells (1983) details schisms within
the gay movement of 1970s San Francisco. McWilliams (2000, 65) makes a
distinction between those hippies who were ‘peaceniks’ and aligned with
elements of the peace movement and those who were nondoctrinaire and
indifferent to politics.

In order to recognise the range of different Countercultural strands it is necessary
to develop a loose typology, in a similar way that Gibson-Graham’s diverse
economy permits us to ‘see’ a range of different economic practices. The danger
of developing typologies is that whilst they can act as a tool of organisation and
revelation, they can simultaneously obscure (Halfacree 2001). However, in order
to develop a broader conception of the Counterculture that respects a certain
amount of diversity whilst also maintaining some overall coherence, a typology
of five loose strands of Countercultural practice is developed below.

(i) Radical politics

There is a strong connection between the Counterculture and emergence of the
New Left in the 1960 and 1970s (Esler 1971). It is this ‘withering’ of the
revolutionary politics of the student uprisings of 1968 that is often emphasised in
interpretations that the Counterculture was a ‘failure’ and evolved into
postmodernism (Eagleton 2000). However it is argued in this thesis that such
discourses of failure ignore the success and development of other dimensions of
political practice that emerged from the Counterculture (Watts 2001). Indeed,
despite 1968’s apparent ‘failure’ there was in fact an increase in radical Leftist
grassroots political organising in the 1970s (Harman 1988). McKay (1996)
provides an account of what he calls ‘cultures of resistance’ since the 1960s. His
book is an explicit response to the narrative of failure of the 1960’s
70
Counterculture, which he argues, is prevalent in many accounts. Contrastingly,
he suggests that

…one of the aims of this book is to reclaim the power of the notion of the
counterculture, partly to show that the utopian project of the 1960s is still
with us – in fact never went away – and partly to signal that the traces
and strands of resistance the book uncovers form some sort of larger and
longer lasting achievement, a significant challenge to majority culture.

McKay (1996, 6)

McKay focuses in particular on oppositional countercultures, such as New Age
Travellers, Rave Culture and radical eco-activism. More recently the ‘Anti-
Globalisation’ and various Anti-capitalist movements could be regarded as
another ongoing expression of radical Countercultural politics (Starr 2000; Wall
2005). Various forms of green politics also developed within the Counterculture,
reflected in both the emergence of organised Green political parties and
alternative approaches to political economy such as ‘New Economics’ and
radical localism (Boyle and Sims 2009; Starr 2000)

(ii) New Social Movements

Watts (2001) argues that the diversity of political practices and movements that
emerged from the 1960s was one the lasting legacies of the Counterculture. The
term ‘New Social Movements’ can be used to refer to a diverse range of social
groups that gained prominence in the 1960s and 1970s such as the Peace
movement, and various different ‘rights’ movements (women’s, gay, minority
etc). Of course, all of these movements existed before the 1960s but the
argument made in this thesis is that the ‘Counterculture’ reflects a step change in
the popularity, reach and impact of such movements. Certainly, in the case of
some of them, such as Environmentalism, there were very strong links with the
wider Counterculture (Reich 1971). An extensive literature has emerged which
studies these movements from a range of different perspectives (Buechler 2000,
45 - 51) and thus they have become one of the most ‘visible’ legacies of the
Counterculture. However, it could be argued that the association of the
Counterculture with both ‘radical’ and ‘oppositional’ politics has obscured the
71
other ways in which the utopian politics of the Counterculture have also been
expressed.

(iii) Alternative Pathways

Hess (2007) uses the term ‘Alternative Pathways’ because he argues that the
terms ‘social movement’ or ‘contentious politics’ do not fully capture the range
of organisations that are engaged in forms of social change. He argues that some
organisations that mix social change goals with other goals may not see
themselves as engaging in contentious politics or as part of a social movement.
Hess (2007) focuses on how such pathways have shaped science and technology
from a position ‘outside’ the conventionally conceived structures of innovation.
However, it is argued here that many Alternative Pathways are rooted in the
Counterculture, but have generally been overlooked in discussions of it. These
Alternative Pathways are linked closely to the idea of the ‘Alternative Society’
that emerged in the 1970s. Because of the general lack of acknowledgement of
this strand of the Counterculture, its origins are explored in more detail here.

Green (1998, Ch. 13) uses the term ‘Alternative Society’ to characterise attempts
to build parallel Countercultural institutions such as the Arts Lab. The
‘Alternative Society’ therefore reflects an interstitial strategy of changing society
from the bottom up. Belasco (2007, 68) sums up the shift in political emphasis
within what he calls emergence of the ‘countercuisine’, the Countercultural food
and agricultural movements that emerged from the 1960s:

To be self-sustaining, a cuisine needs more than ideas about food; it also
needs the food itself – and a separate infrastructure to supply it. As the
countercuisine evolved, the ideological changes often came first,
sometimes accidentally and experimentally, sometimes drug-related,
sometimes tied to apocalyptic or mystical visions. Experiments in
radically different ways of growing, distributing, and retailing food came
next – along with numerous books hoping to publicize and perpetuate the
initial gains. These efforts were at once realistic and utopian: realistic
because they were determined to do the hard work of coming up with
practical alternatives, utopian because the alternatives frequently posited
fundamentally subversive ways of doing business and constructing
society. Here was the counter-cuisine at its most ambitious – and also at
its most conflicted and vulnerable.
72

Therefore Yinger (1982, 90) argues that there is a third strategy for
countercultures that is often overlooked. In addition to ‘political activism’ and
‘withdrawal’ there is the process of attempting to build what he calls a
‘countercommunity’. However, within the context of the Counterculture
narratives of ‘dropping out’ and ‘failure’ have obscured the development of this
strand of activism during the 1970s. For example, Cornell (2009) provides a
history of the US based anarchist Movement for a New Society that he argues has
a ‘forgotten’ history and which pioneered a range of prefigurative political
practices. This section now briefly gives an overview of some of lost history of
engagement with the ideas of the ‘Alternative Society’ in the UK.

Within the UK the notion of the Alternative Society gained increased currency in
1972 when the organisation of the same name was established to

provide a communication network for all those who, in different fields,
are working to create the cells of a new society…Projects: housing,
probation work, neighbourhood health, land trusts. Seeking to establish a
Foundation for Alternatives

(Clarke 1977, 303)

In 1975 the Alternative Society organisation opened a Centre for Alternatives in
Urban Development at Lower Shaw Farm near Swindon. The notion of the
Alternative Society gained a higher profile in 1973 with the publication of A
Book of Visions, Directory of Alternative Society projects. Published by the Ideas
Pool, with the support of the BIT information service (itself a grassroots
countercultural institution) the project involved a number of the countercultural
elite of the era. Paul McCartney donated the £1,250 prize and the judges included
(amongst others) the writer Germaine Greer, Richard Neville (publisher of Oz
magazine) and countercultural entrepreneur Nicholas Saunders. The book came
out of a competition for ideas of projects for an ‘Alternative Society’. It was
intended to have a number of functions, but a central intention was to highlight
the range of possible projects that did or could exist that were trying to build an
Alternative Society. It was therefore to
73

…help people appreciate that there are alternatives to the present cock-up
in society, with ‘projects’ in the making’ in every sphere of human
activity – based on new and valid alternative educational / cultural /
technological / economic and political policies & principles. And to help
people get the feel of what kind of beast it is that’s emerging, this
‘Alternative Society’, and what its dominant features appear to be

The Ideas Pool (1973, 219 emphasis in original)

On one level therefore the directory functions as a gazetteer of different project
ideas about grassroots societal change several of which use the term Alternative
Society in their title. Ideas include an early example of ‘fair trade’ (the ‘Earth
Exchange Handicraft Development and Marketing Project’) as well recycling
initiatives, both ideas that have since become far more ‘mainstream’. However,
the directory also provides some insight into how the Alternative Society was
conceptualised by some of its proponents. For example, Ben Cass, described as
one of the founders of the countercultural food magazine Seed (the first UK
journal of ‘organic living’) suggested that

We’ve passed the time for preaching and we’re into the age of living our
beliefs. If a country like Britain, for example, is dotted with ‘oil spot’
groups of people living the whole earth life, those oil spots will gradually
spread and eventually merge together

Quoted in The Ideas Pool (1973, 60)

This ‘oil spot’ analogy captures the way in which some proponents of the
Alternative Society believed that a multiplicity of small-scale institutions could
lead to systemic transformation. The directory also contains the last chapter of a
pamphlet written by Guy Dauncey called ‘Pamphlet on Radical Alternatives’.
This rejects the need for class revolution and the need to overthrow the state with
violence, arguing instead that:

The alternative movement works with two hands – while the right hand
protests, the left hand builds alternatives that can do instead..But when
the struggle gets further, both hands need to work together – protests
become take-overs, work-ins, and people start running their schools and
buses themselves, without the controlling hand of the authorities. The
74
alternative projects explore the way, and help prepare for the time when
their ideas and experiences can be put into action in a much larger way.

Dauncey quoted in the The Ideas Pool (1973, 209)

Dauncey goes on to set out twelve points that he sees as emerging features of the
Alternative Society, reproduced in Figure 3.1 below.


Figure 3.1: Characteristics of the 'Alternative Society' from Ideas Pool (1973)

Thus during the 1970s there was grassroots institution building in health and
medicine (Eagle 1978); food and agriculture (Conford 2008; Belasco 2007);
education (Smith 1977); housing - both in terms of communes (Rigby 1974a, b)
and a green building movement (Smith 2004); alternative technology (Smith
2005); and alternative media (Fountain 1988). Saunders (1975) highlights the
Countercultural connection of many of these movements. Whilst the wider idea
of the Alternative Society faded, many of these institutions continued to be
advocated as part of the ‘Alternative Movement’ of the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed,
as Hess (2007) discusses, many of them have, to some extent, had an influence
on ‘mainstream’ society.

75
(iv) Alternative Spiritualities

Another countercultural strand that is also recognised as having its roots in the
Counterculture is the ‘New Age’ (Goffman and Joy 2004). Ferguson (1981) and
Capra (1982) drew public attention to the New Age movement in the early 1980s
arguing that it was seeking to change society through personal transformation.
The term ‘New Age’ is highly contested and often used with pejorative
connotations (Kemp 2004). Similarly the extent to which it reflects a coherent
‘movement’ is also debated (Reddon 2005; Shimazono 1999). Holloway (2000)
argues that the New Age is a heterogeneity of practices that are concerned with
changing the world through self-development. It reflects what Heelas (2005)
calls the rise of ‘self-religiosity’ which was also found in many aspects of the
Counterculture (Tipton 1982) and which is underpinned by different forms of
psychological practice such as meditation, sometimes part of organised
programmes such as est or other ‘new’ spiritual groups. Heelas (1996, 16)
suggests that the New Age

…designates those who maintain that inner spirituality - embedded within
the self and the natural order as a whole - serves as the key to moving
from all that is wrong with life to all that is right

Understood in this way the term ‘New Age’ does not cover all the spiritual
practices which grew in popularity within the Counterculture but is instead a sub-
category within a wider set of esoteric spiritual practices, illustrated by York’s
(2005) discussion of the antipathy between neo-paganism and the New Age.
Indeed Corrywright (2004) suggests that the term New Age has been rejected by
many of those to whom it has been applied and suggests instead the term
alternative spiritualities. This is the collective term used in this thesis to reflect a
range of Eastern religious practices, neo-paganism, Wicca, and other forms of
self-religiosity that were associated with the Counterculture. As noted above,
such alternative spiritualities grew in popularity during the 1970s (Greenfield
1975; Tipton 1982; Musgrove 1974). There was a spiritual dimension to some of
the practices and lifestyles which were motivated by visions of an Alternative
Society also had a spiritual dimension such as some communes (Rigby 1974b),
and the back-to-the land movement (Halfacree 2006). Many of the more recent
76
expressions of the Counterculture, such as the anti-roads protests of the 1990s,
also had a spiritual dimension for some participants (Plows 1998). Like other
aspects of the Counterculture, the European roots of many of the alternative
spiritualities can be traced back to late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
(Kemp 2004; Akhtar and Humphries 1999).

(v) Alternative Lifestyles

The final strand of Counterculture reflects aspects of countercultural lifestyle,
many of which overlap with some of the previous categories but which also need
to be recognised in their own right. Such lifestyles are often associated with more
popular and public imaginaries of the Counterculture, particularly the idea of the
‘hippy’. For example Musgrove (1974) suggests that at that time most Americans
equated the Counterculture solely with communes. A range of alternative
lifestyles can be connected to the Counterculture including Bohemianism (Esler
1971), communal living (Rigby 1974a, b), New Age Travellers (McKay 1996),
the ‘Back to the Land’ movements (Edginton 2008; Halfacree 2006) and the
‘voluntary simplicity’ movement (Elgin 1993). Each of these reflects to some
degree a conscious rejection of the ‘work’ and lifestyles associated with
‘conventional’ consumer modernity. Like the other aspects of the
Countercultural strands discussed in this section, contemporary manifestations of
these different lifestyles can be found within the UK (e.g. Pickerill and Maxey
2009).

3.1.3 Summary of Part One

This section has set out the framing of the Counterculture that underpins this
thesis. It has argued that the Counterculture consisted of a diversity of
overlapping sub-cultural practices, ideas, groups and institutions that differed in
many ways but which also share a rejection of advanced industrial modernity. It
has suggested that far from ‘failing’ in the late 1960s and 1970s there has been
ongoing evolution of the Counterculture and ongoing expressions of utopian
intent. A five-fold typology has been developed which that enables us to ‘see’
this wider manifestation of the Counterculture.
77

Figure 3.2: Strands of the Counterculture

Figure 3.2 illustrates the five strands of the Counterculture whilst clarifying the
relationship with the two other key concepts of Alternative Culture and the New
Age. Understood this way, Alternative Culture cuts across all the strands of the
Counterculture but does not reflect its totality because, as noted above it tends to
be linked to ‘green’ ideologies and perspectives. Thus there are aspects of the
Counterculture that fall ‘outside’ this particular movement. Similarly, the New
Age is a smaller category that has some overlap with both Alternative Culture
and the wider Counterculture. The Figure also illustrates the way in which
different political strategies can be loosely associated with the different strands.

Clearly even this account of the Counterculture remains an interpretive
simplification. Indeed, as the discussion noted, there are numerous overlaps and
connections between these different expressions of the Counterculture the blur
the conceptual boundaries. There is also a question about the extent to which
different aspects of each of these strands remains ‘countercultural’. Many writers
argue that countercultures are dialectical in their relationship with the
mainstream (Musgrove 1974, Desmond et al. 2000; Herbst 2003). As Green
(1998, xiii) argues, many of the ideas of the Counterculture of the 1960s and
1970s have since been absorbed into the mainstream:

Fringe theatres, arts centres, natural food stores, a host of ‘cottage
industries’ and workers co-operatives, a concern for the environment and
its ecology, the ‘personal politics’ of gay liberation and the women’s
movement, the squatting movement and its legacy of housing action
78
groups, the obsession with a clean healthy body, the variety of alternative
physical and therapies.

The question of the extent to which such practices have either transformed or
been absorbed by the mainstream is beyond the immediate scope of this thesis.
Instead, the key argument is that there is analytical purchase in framing the
Counterculture in wider terms than most conventional accounts.

3.2 Placing the Counterculture

This section discusses the research that has linked some of the main aspects of
the Counterculture and place. There are three overarching arguments being made
within this section: first there is a general lack of research on reputed sites of
‘Alternative Culture’ such as Totnes, particularly those places that have become
recognised as hotspots of such activity in recent decades. In other words
‘Countercultural place’ does not really exist as a recognised object of
investigation. Second, research that does explore the spatial unfolding of the
Counterculture tends to be either conceptually or temporally narrow in its focus.
Most research explores only one aspect of Countercultural practice and does not
necessarily make connections to other strands in the way that this thesis attempts.
Third, the formation of Countercultural places is generally under-theorised.
However, there are certainly some commonalities and propositions that reoccur
within the literature and these are drawn out in Section 2.2 below.

Before the literature is explored it seems necessary to define how the term
‘Countercultural place’ is being used. As noted above – there is a general lack of
research interest in ‘Countercultural’ or ‘Alternative’ places. It is a central task of
this thesis to increase the recognition of such places as well as provide a more
theoretically informed understanding of them. Therefore, at a basic level
Countercultural places can be understood as places that have evolved as
recognised sites of Countercultural activity. As such Countercultural places are
also countercultural places, insofar as the Counterculture is a mixture of
overlapping countercultures. However, not all countercultural places are
necessarily Countercultural.
79

3.2.1 Geographies of Countercultural place

This section discusses the dominant ways in which Countercultural places have
been conceptualised and researched within the academic literature.

(i) Communes

The general neglect of the wider dimensions and complexity of the
Countercultural movements of the 1970s is reflected in the academic research
that was undertaken during the 1970s and 1980s. Much of the research of the era
focused on the commune movement such as Kanter (1973); Rigby (1974a, b);
Mellville (1972); Shenker (1986); Berger (1981); Zicklin (1983). The focus on
communes obviously provides research with a place-centred focus that is stable
and bounded, but in doing so neglects much of the wider Countercultural practice
that was ongoing at this time. There is an ongoing thread of literature that
explores the legacy and survival of such communes (Pepper 1991; Meijering et
al. 2007) as well as more recent evolutions of ‘intentional communities’ such as
eco-villages and ‘Low Impact Developments’ (LIDS) (Trainer 2000; Taylor
2000; Hatton 2009; Pickerill & Maxey 2009). Whist these contemporary
examples certainly have some lineage from the Counterculture they also fit
within a much longer heritage of spatial utopian experiments (Hardy 2000;
Coates 2001).

(ii) Back to the land migration

Halfacree (2009, 2007a, 2007b, 2006, 2001) argues that geographers have poorly
researched the ‘back to the land’ movement and failed to recognise it as a distinct
form of counterurbanisation that he has explored from a number of angles (see
also Mac Éinrí and White 2008). Kockel’s (1991) chapter on Western Ireland is a
rare exploration of processes of Countercultural migration. He identifies several
waves of migration that have impacted on the area and have led to the
development of an ‘indigenous’ counterculture. The area also retains connections
to other countercultural places through transient migrant countercultures. Lees
80
(1999) also argues that there has been a similar migratory processes within the
North American Pacific Northwest where immigrants have been attracted by its
‘Ecotopian’ image and a simpler more spiritual form of life, but which have also
led to a negative reaction from some communities.

(iii) Urban enclaves and scenes

The importance of urban sites to the development of the Counterculture is
highlighted in the recent paper by Jobs (2009) who details the roles of
Amsterdam, Paris and later Prague in the late 1960s. Within the UK, Rycroft’s
(2003) recent paper explores the underground press of London and notes the
‘territorial appropriation’ of the West End. Similarly an earlier sociological study
of London by Mills (1973) outlines two contrasting London ‘scenes’ one based
around the West End and one based around Notting Hill which he says

In so far as ‘hippies, heads or freaks’ concentrated anywhere in London,
it was here and to some extent this was the centre also of that broader and
even more diffuse collection of dissenting young people who represented
what the popular press call the ‘Underground’ and many of the
institutions and services that represented the hip and underground
communities: Release, an advice and welfare system for people on drug
charges; BIT, an information and advice centre for young people coming
to the area; the Electric Cinema and the macrobiotic restaurants; and I.T
and Friendz and numerous other more ephemeral journals. The area, now
and then, is dominated by young people of the kind I have described, and
by immigrants, and as a consequence it has a transitory and unsettled air.

Mills (1973, 51)

However, Mills’ (1973) study like other UK studies of the 1970s urban
counterculture is primarily a study of sociological aspects of the counterculture
rather than its geography (Musgrove 1974; Willis 1978).

There is a wider literature that has highlighted the existence of urban
countercultural sites in North America. Rycroft (2007) suggests in passing that in
the 1960s many American cities contained recognised countercultural enclaves
81
but that it was the West Coast cities that were most associated with the
emergence of cultural politics associated with the Counterculture, in particular

San Francisco’s position as a centre for esoteric practices was, by the
early 1960s, well-established and widely celebrated. As a result, the local
underground media and economy was able to emphasize these aspects
and built a representation of San Francisco as a centre for cultural
experimentation that is still familiar.

Rycroft (2007, 623)

Rycroft (2007) also notes the existence of the ‘beat’ communities of Venice
Beach and North Beach and perhaps most famously the area of Haight-Ashbury
in San Francisco which was strongly associated with the Counterculture
(Hoskyns 1997; Zimmerman 2008). Castells (1983) work on the rise of the ‘Gay
Community’ in San Francisco gives some insight into the processes that lead the
city to emerge as a hub of Countercultural activity. He points to a number of
overlapping factors including migration and a flow of transient people, the
existence of overlapping subcountercultures, and a growing reputation. He also
describes how the development of ‘gay territory’ led to a process of
gentrification that displaced other communities.

The work of David Ley (1996) also links urban countercultutral enclaves and
gentrification. Using examples from a range of North American cities his thesis
is that countercultural and artistic communities stimulate the subsequent
enbourgeoisment of inner city districts, that the new middle classes ‘follow the
hippies’. Butler’s (1997) study of Hackney also linked the ‘progressive’ middle
classes and processes of gentrification. Interestingly, Caroline Ware ([1935]
1965) observes a similar consumption-side process taking place the bohemian
enclave of Greenwich Village in the 1920s, describing three different phases of
in-migration. She also notes that other cities had similar enclaves such as
Chicago, San Francisco and other areas of New York. Not only does this
illustrate that countercultural urban enclaves predate the Counterculture in North
America, but also that Jane Jacobs, whose Death and Life of Great American
Cities ([1961] 1993) is often attributed to first recognising the impact that artistic
82
communities can have on urban communities (Florida 2002; Brooks 2000), was
actually writing about (and living in) a neighbourhood (Greenwich Village) that
had been experiencing a form of proto-gentrification for forty years. Such
consumption based explanations of gentrification contrast with production side
theories such as those proposed by Neil Smith (1979) where gentrification is
driven by flows of economic capital within the wider capitalist system.

Another theorisation of countercultural enclaves is offered by Richard Lloyd
(2002) who uses the neighbourhood of Wicker Park in Chicago to advance a
theory of ‘neo-bohemia’ arguing that it illustrates

how socio-spatial patterns once thought to be marginal, or even
oppositional, to the real productive work of cities like Chicago now
potentially operate as key features in a new regime of capital
accumulation.
(Lloyd 2002, 718)

Conceptualising bohemia as a spatial phenomena he argues that such ‘neo-
bohemian enclaves’ are now integral to a new logic of accumulation. Similarly,
Florida (2002) argues that the presence of significant bohemian concentrations
within urban areas signifies an underlying openness to innovation and creativity
that is economically beneficial. Florida points to the increasing integration of
bohemian and bourgeois culture. This is also the thesis of Brooks (2000) who
coins the neologism ‘bobos’ to reflect a hybrid of bourgeois and bohemian
culture that he argues reflects the new upper class. Geographically Brooks (2000,
104) locates the heart of this culture in ‘Latte towns’ that he describes as

upscale liberal communities, often in magnificent natural settings, often
university based, that have become crucial gestation centers for
America’s new upscale culture. They tend to be the birthplaces of the
upscale retailers, gourmet bread stores, handmade furniture outlets,
organic grocery stores, and the rest of the uplifting enterprises that make
up Bobo consumer culture.

Whilst bohemianism has its roots as a distinct counterculture there are clear
overlaps between these usages of ‘bohemian’ and some of aspects of the
Counterculture as defined within this thesis.
83

(iv) ‘New Age’ Networks

Within the literature on the Counterculture it is particularly the ‘New Age’ aspect
that has been explored in relational and network terms. Indeed, the idea of the
New Age as a networked phenomenon is often a feature of the emic literature.
Marilyn Ferguson (1982) adopted the SPIN theory (segmented, polycentric,
integrated network) from Gerlach and Hine (1968) to popularise the idea of a
decentred, leaderless New Age movement as a ‘network of networks’. Her book,
The Aquarian Conspiracy, also became a key node in the constitution of this
network, including as it did the contact details for a range of groups, magazines
and networks, as did other guides of the same era (see Adams 1982, Osmond and
Graham 1984). The SPIN model has also been adopted by researchers interested
in the new age ‘New Age’ such as York (1995, 330) whose description of the
‘holistic movement’ reinforces the notion of a broad focus on countercultural
phenomena, suggesting that it includes the

New Age, Neo-paganism, the ecology movement, feminism, the Goddess
movement, the Human Potential Movement, Eastern mysticism groups,
liberal / liberation politics, the Aquarian Conspiracy, etc.

York (1999) has also explored the connection between local scenes of the New
Age and the wider global movement, a theme that has been picked up in other
papers on the phenomenon. For example, D’Andrea (2007a) explores the global
networks that connect utopian sites across the globe, in particular how Osho
Sanyassins (a form of alternative spirituality that emerged in the 1970s) not only
form a connection between the 1960s Counterculture and the Techno
counterculture of the 1990s, but also connect Ibiza with Goa and Pune in India.
Similarly, Nigel Thrift (1999) suggests how the overlapping global Actor –
Networks of the ‘New Age’ and Complexity Theory create space but also that at

certain sites, networks can physically coincide and these sites can provide
particularly important points for the transmission of metaphors since they
allow direct interaction and negotiation to (quite literally) take place

Thrift (1999, 53)
84

One such site within the network which Thrift (1999) describes is Schumacher
College near Totnes and he goes on to cite Heelas (1996, 108) who suggests that,
outside of London:

Then there are the more rural heartlands of the [New Age] movement:
Glastonbury, the Totnes region, the Welsh borders, Central Wales, and
places along the ‘Celtic’ littoral including the Isle of Arran. East
Grinstead is also worthy of note, being home, for instance, to the British
headquarters of the National Pagan Association, the Rosicrucians and
Scientology.

However, little more is said about the geography of the New Age.

(v) Other research focusing on the UK

There are a few other examples of research that explores certain sites of
Countercultural activity within the UK. For example, Glastonbury has received
attention as a site of alternative spirituality (Prince and Riches 2001; Ivakhiv
2001; Holloway 2003). The community of Findhorn in Scotland has been
researched in a similar vein (Sutcliffe 2003). Other research highlights the
connection between certain places and individual strands of the Counterculture
for example organic farming in West Wales (Lampkin 1990; Conford 2008) and
Horton’s (2002) PhD study of Environmental Activism in Lancaster. Smith and
Phillips (2001) develop the idea of ‘greentification’ of Hebden Bridge
implicating countercultural in-migration in the gentrification of the town, whilst
Higham (1996) provides some insights into the early stages of this process.
Smith (2007) provides a rare example of the unfolding of the socio-spatial
processes that form the ‘alternative spatiality’ of the Shoreham-on-Sea boat
community. However beyond this, there is little acknowledgement or exploration
of the geography of ‘Alternative’ places or culture, despite the fact that some
places have such reputations both within academic literature and popular culture.
For example, publications from the 1970s such as Alternative Brighton,
Alternative Edinburgh, Alternative London, and Alternative England and Wales
provide insight into the range of countercultural activities and groups that were
85
active at the time.
6
Alternative England and Wales begins with a section called
‘Impressions and Contacts’ that gives an overview of the ‘freak scene’ across
England and Wales (Saunders 1975, pp. 6 – 18) and highlights some areas such
as West Wales and Liverpool as particularly vibrant areas. The former has
continued to retain a reputation as a site of Countercultural activity however,
there is little research that acknowledges the existence of such places or seeks to
explore their construction.

(vi) Summary

This section has sought to give an overview of the main areas of literature that
acknowledge the existence of geographies of the Counterculture. There are a
number of conclusions that can be developed from the above discussion. The
first is that most research focuses on one dimension of Countercultural practice
rather than the wider framing adopted by this thesis.

Within the literature there appears to be a fairly sharp line drawn between
conceptions of countercultural place as an urban phenomena (the idea of the
‘enclave’) and its rural manifestations which attempt to (re)construct an Arcadian
rural idyll (rural communes and back to the land movements). However, beyond
this there is there is little recognition of the existence of ‘Countercultural’
‘Alternative’ or ‘New Age’ places from geographers. In particular there is very
little research on the small towns around the UK that have developed reputations
as ‘alternative’ places (e.g. Totnes, Stroud, Lewes, Hebden Bridge), nor on the
cities that have ‘Alternative’ reputations (e.g. Brighton, Bristol, Bath, Norwich).
The research that does exist tends to focus on only one dimension of the
Counterculture or take a fairly homogenous view (e.g. Smith and Phillips 2001).
Furthermore, there has been no detailed research into what processes construct
such places and how they might interact.


6
The Alternative Edinburgh guide was perhaps a little less countercultural than some of the
others but did have sections on the underground press and living cheaply. One of the editors was
the recent British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.
86
Whilst academia has in recent years paid more attention to what Foucault (2003)
calls ‘subjugated knowledges’ it is arguable that the ghosts of modernity and
scientific objectivity still haunt much academic work, leading to an avoidance of
Countercultural phenomena which could be perceived as ‘unscientific’. The
reluctance to engage with Countercultural places could therefore reflect an
academic reluctance to engage with phenomena that are perceived as being
‘irrational’. For example, Hetherington (2000) argues that practitioners of Earth
mysteries value forms of ‘rejected knowledge’ that have been lost in the post-
Enlightenment world. However, the academic archaeologist Adam Stout (2008)
has recently defended the ‘radicals’ who have led the development of prehistoric
archaeology and the alternative discourses that they created. The general lack of
research and recognition of Countercultural places means that little work has
specifically focused on how such places are shaped and emerge. The next section
draws out some of themes that can be found within the existing literature.

3.2.2. Processes of constructing Countercultural places

This final section examines some of the processes that are implicated in the
formation of Countercultural places, suggesting that six different propositions
can be distilled from the literature. These factors are not only important in
understanding why Countercultural places are constructed but what they are and
how they should be understood. The first of these is migration. The importance
of migration in the formation of countercultural places is explicit in some of the
literature (such as that on the back-to-the-land) and implied in much of the rest.
To some extent all of the categories of literature detailed in the last section
involve different kinds of migration and movement. It is therefore present within
most accounts of Countercultural places. This section identifies five other factors
are implicated in the production of countercultural places, many of which are
linked to migration.





87
(i) Reputation

The reputation of a place is often implicated as a driver of Countercultural in-
migration (Castells 1983; Smith and Phillips 2001). Shields’ (1991) argues that
some places develop a reputation for ‘marginal’ practices, which he suggests

is located in an imaginary geography vis-a-vis the place-myths of other
towns and regions which form the contrast which establishes its
reputation as a liminal destination a social as well as geographical
margin, a ‘place apart’.

Shields (1991, 112)

Hall (1998) argues that such reputations can shape places materially:

All cities have an image. In fact, it would be truer to say that all cities
have, and always have had, a number of images. A place image of any
kind is the simplified, generalised often, stereotypical, impression that
people have of any place or area, in this case of cities. Yet it is impossible
to know cities in their entirety. To make sense of our surroundings we
reduce the complexity of reality to a few selective impressions. In being
selective in this way we are producing a place image. Place images
typically exaggerate certain features, be they physical, social, cultural,
economic, political or some combination of these, while reducing or even
excluding others. That the actual conditions in a city may have changed
considerably since the image of the place was formed is not the point. In
the world of perception the image is more important than the reality.

Hall (1998, 110 – 111)

Hall goes on to suggest that there are several ways in which such ‘place images’
are created: media coverage, satire, personal experience and hearsay and
reputation. For example, there is a tendency within the media to designate certain
places as ‘New Age’ centres (Kemp 2004). Similarly Gesler’s (1998) exploration
of the evolution of the city of Bath’s reputation as a centre of healing makes a
number of additional points about reputations. Gesler argues that even though the
truth of a reputation might not be testable empirically it does not mean that the
reputation does not have a strong influence on actual behaviour. Furthermore, his
88
work highlights how reputations can change over time, and how reputations can
be both controversial and contested.

(ii) Institutions

Although not often made explicit the role of various institutions seems to be
linked to the development of Countercultural place. Institutions often seem to
form important nodes in the construction of local scenes. One of Musgrove’s
(1974, 133) interviewees introduces the notion of an ‘alternative scene’:

Like in any big city, there’s a core of people who make up the alternative
scene. It just happens that someone may be in the Information and Aid
Centre and the Gypsy Liaison Group, for instance, or into community
action and the restaurant group. It works out like that. They all interlock.

This is perhaps similar to the Wicker Park artistic ‘scene’ described in Lloyds’
(2002) account of neo-bohemia. Similarly, another of Musgrove’s interviewees
talks about the existence of a local ‘alternative society’:

There are shops, you know, like some of them are alternative and some of
them like to think that they are. One down the road is alternative, not
because of what it sells, but because it is organised as a co-operative and
gives money to other alternative groups. But the Food House isn’t. Its
good food, mind, but it’s just a hippie capitalist affair. They employ
freaks, but that’s because freaks will work for less than anybody else –
they don’t get much more than on social security. Then there are the
alternative bookshops.

Respondent quoted in Musgrove (1974, 134)

The idea that geographically fixed premises create a localised countercultural
scene echoes the way in which Pickerill and Chatterton (2006) argue that
‘autonomous space’ is created within politically radical social centres. The
importance of alternative / radical bookshops as a hub of such scenes the 1970s
has been mentioned by Tim Lang (1999, 127) as an important source of
information in the 1970s:

89
Often collectives, they were a window on the alternative view of the
world, wells of radicalism from which students and local libertarian left
culture drew. They were a statement that questioning was alive in this
town. Everything then was ‘alternative’: alternative bookshop, alternative
agriculture, alternative philosophy, alternative culture, alternative presses
and newspapers, and so on.

The radical librarian John Noyce produced an annual list of radical bookshops in
the UK during the 1970s (e.g. Noyce 1973; Noyce 1978). Similarly Castells
(1983) highlights the importance of the City Lights bookshop in San Francisco as
well as fact that

the bars and the drag queens were fundamental to the creation of
networks, making gay people visible, and stating their right to gather in
public places.

Castells (1983, 141)

Similarly, writing about the ‘head-shops’ in Los Angeles, Rycroft (2007, 624)
suggests that

These outlets or ‘outposts of revolution’ served an important role as
centres of information for the countercultural community that briefly
came to rival the underground press itself

Therefore there are a number of different types of local institution that are
important in the creation of countercultural social space.

The literature also suggests that the alternative press are an institution that plays
a role in place making processes. Firstly, like the head shops and radical
bookshops discussed above, the local underground press let countercultural
subjects know what was going on in their locality. It provided a way into the
local ‘scene’. The importance of the underground press in providing a way into
countercultural spaces of the 1960s is something that Nigel Fountain has
emphasised (1988, viii)

The underground, as Jeff Nutall wrote in his pioneering Bomb Culture
back in 1968, happened everywhere, but in Britain it first developed in
90
London in the early 1960s. Hundreds, and then thousands, and then tens
of thousands of people - young and old - began to enter it, whether for a
weekend or a decade. However long the stay was, some method of
communication that ditched mainstream preoccupations of Fleet Street
and their official youth offshoots was bound to develop. Sometimes it
was movies, sometimes word of mouth, but crucially it was the
underground press.

Noyce’s (1979) extensive Directory of Alternative Publications 1965 – 1974
gives a sense of the proliferation of grassroots publications during this era. By
publicising events, courses, conferences and contacts these built countercultural
network space within a specific locality. Publications that covered a large
geographical area also created a social space that link distant sites. Dominic
Corrywright’s (2004) paper on Resurgence (a well known publication of the
Alternative Movement, see for example Osmond and Graham 1984) highlights
the way in which publications connect countercultural places, people and ideas
(in this case Schumacher College near Totnes and the activist Satish Kumar).
Holloway (2000) also uses Actor-Network Theory to highlight the importance of
the ‘New Age’ publication South West Connect and has also written about the
importance of the underground press in radical environmentalism (Holloway
1998).

(iii) Rural Landscapes

The rural landscape is invoked in much of the literature on communes and back
to the land movements as a key driver of migration (e.g. Lees 1999; Edgington
2008). The rural landscape obviously has longstanding associations with historic
anti-industrialist movements and also inflects the contemporary Counterculture
(Schmeid 2005). Often the desire of migrants to be closer to ‘nature’ is cited as
key factor. However, there are also indications of a connection between ‘sacred’
landscapes and Countercultural places such as in the case of Glastonbury
(Holloway 2003) and Western Ireland (Kockel 1991).

(iv) Economic margins

Economic marginality is often invoked in discussion of Countercultural places.
Peripheral places are preferred, it is argued, due to the lower cost of land and the
91
potential for less regulatory interference (Hardy and Ward 1983; Schmeid 2005).
Certainly, the low cost of land was an influence in attracting the 1970s
generation of organic farmers to West Wales (Conford 2008). Similarly, in an
urban context Jane Jacobs (1993, 254 - 255) was one of the first to point out the
way in which such economic margins can allow creativity to flourish, whereby
they use ‘low yield’ buildings for their workshops but that this has the effect of
increasing the yield over time. However, in a range of contexts, such marginal
countercultural spaces often appear to become gentrified (Smith 2007b).

(v) Networks

As noted in above, networks feature strongly in analyses of New Age
phenomena, often highlighting the connections and flows between different
global sites. The free festivals and fairs of the 1970s and early 80s created a
different network of countercultural sites with connections to the ‘New Age’
(McKay 1996). These themselves created a network that was created by the
multiple festivals and fairs:

By the end of the 1970s a regular summer circuit had been established.
From May Hill at the beginning of May via the Horseshoe Pass,
Stonehenge, Ashton Court, Ingleston Common, Cantlin Stone, Deeply
Vale, Meigan Fair, and various sites in East Anglia, to the Psilocybin Fair
in mid-Wales in September, it was possible to find a free festival or a
cheap community festival almost every weekend.
(Aitken 1990, 18 quoted in Partridge 2006, 43)

Partridge (2006) describes how a group of ‘hippies’ who were on this circuit
evolved into the Peace Convoy which itself evolved into what became known as
‘New Age travellers’.

3.3 Summary of Chapter

This chapter has established how the Counterculture is conceptualised within this
thesis. It has set out a deliberately broad conception of the Counterculture that
has five distinct (but overlapping) strands of activity. Furthermore, it has argued
that, understood in this way, the Counterculture can be reconstructed as an
92
ongoing process with different localised manifestations and temporal emphases.
“Alternative Culture” and the “New Age” culture therefore reflect aspects of this
ongoing Countercultural phenomenon.

It has then explored the main areas of literature that have engaged with the
relationship between Counterculture and place. It has argued that these tend to
adopt narrower conceptions of the Counterculture and few studies engage with
the type of site being explored within this thesis. Furthermore, there is little work
that attempts to understand how such places might be produced. The final section
therefore drew out six different causal factors that are implicated within the
literature in the formation of countercultural places. Throughout the chapter there
have been a number of indications as to why it might be expected that
Countercultural places might be productive sites for postcapitalist development –
not least the fact that there is sometimes an explicit anti-capitalist ethic to some
Countercultural practices. This is an issue that is explored more fully in the next
chapter.

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Chapter 4: Countercultural place and postcapitalism



This chapter builds on the previous two theory chapters to bring together
postcapitalism and Countercultural place. Part One describes the kinds of
postcapitalist institutions on which my empirical research focused, highlighting
the basis of their ‘postcapitalist’ credentials. Part Two then highlights some
evidence for the overarching research hypothesis – that Countercultural places
might be produced sites for Postcapitalist possibility. It then highlights two
concepts that might help to explain this relationship, embeddedness and
heterotopia. Finally, Part Three draws some conclusions and recaps the research
questions that the research is attempting to address.

4.1 Exploring Postcapitalist Institutions


4.1.1 Introduction

Chapter Two argued that Gibson-Graham’s diverse economy approach
represents a hybrid framework that brings together a number of different non-
capitalist spheres, practices and institutions. This breaks down a simple capitalist
/ non-capitalist binary and instead proposes what has been called ‘plural’ or
‘differentiated’ capitalism (Mendell 2009) which recognises that capitalist and
non-capitalist processes and institutions are entwined. As will be discussed in the
next chapter, there were a number of different ways in which postcapitalism
could have been explored in the field. An important methodological decision was
whether to attempt to mobilise the whole of the Gibson-Graham diverse
economy framework or only an element of it. The diverse economy schematic
(Figure 2.1) itself combines both ‘individual’ economic practices with forms of
collective economic institution to illustrate a breadth of possible non-capitalist
activity. Individual economic activities and relations tend to reflect those that
might involve ‘informal’, ’household’ or ‘self-provisioning’ activities. These
constitute elements of livelihood construction that fall outside conventional
economic discourse. Contrastingly, postcapitalist institutions tend to be
94!
collective forms of economic organisation that are ‘outside’ capitalism in some
discernable way.

The literature suggests that the exploration of individual (livelihoods)
postcapitalist experiences requires the delineation of a fairly homogenous
economic subject or ‘community’ (e.g. Gibson-Graham 2005a; McKay et al.
2007; St John 2005). In developing the research design I felt that this was at odds
with the heterogeneous approach to the Counterculture that was emerging
through the initial fieldwork. I therefore decided to focus primarily on the
‘institutional’ forms of postcapitalism. Such a research focus brings together a
number of different forms of postcapitalist institution that are normally kept
conceptually distinct in conventional economic discourses. It is therefore broader
than an approach that would look at just the ‘social economy’ of the case study
area, for example, but is not as broad as an attempt to adopt the whole of Gibson-
Graham’s diverse economy framing within a specific locality. This section of the
chapter therefore provides an overview of the main categories of such
institutions, illustrating the ways in which it is often argued that they are
‘outside’ capitalism.

4.1.2 Postcapitalist businesses

(i) Workers’ co-operatives

Co-operatives have long been promoted as a ‘solution’ to capitalist exploitation
going back to the mid 19
th
Century and the Rochdale Pioneers (Parker et al.
2007). This reflects a concern with the allocation of surplus value and
distributive justice that is rooted in Marxist economic analysis. Thus the surplus
is not extracted from the workers but re-distributed amongst them,
democratically. Co-operative forms are also advocated as an ideal means of
grounding economic activity within a locality or place, given that places
themselves are not ‘actors’ (DeFilippis 2004). As noted in Chapter Two,
Gibson-Graham are not alone in using the "#$%&'()$ co-operatives as a
hopeful symbol of existing postcapitalist possibility. Another popular example is
the co-operatives of Emilia Romagna in Italy (Roseland and Soots 2007).
95!
Workers’ co-operatives are therefore valourised as a way in which economic
activity can be re-embedded in place, and by which workers can take control of
their economic destiny (Lincoln 2003).

(ii) Independent businesses

Another potential category of non-capitalist business is independent or family-
run businesses. These are often valourised in the literature as an alternative to
‘corporate’ enterprises (Shuman 2006; Starr 2000). Such businesses are
perceived to be postcapitalist because, it is argued, they may not be solely
motivated by capital accumulation. Gibson-Graham suggest that

We may no more assume that a capitalist firm is interested in maximizing
profits or exploitation than we may assume that an individual woman
wants to bear and raise children, or that an American is interested in
making money. When we refer to an economy-wide imperative of capital
accumulation, we stand on the same unsafe ground (in the context of the
anti-essentialist presumption of overdetermination) that we tread on when
we refer to a maternal instinct or a human drive to acquisition.

Gibson-Graham (2006b, xxx)
Therefore such businesses may be ‘capitalist’ in their structure (i.e. they extract
surplus labour) but not in their ‘ethic’. For example, Ross (1986) suggests that a
range of objectives beyond simple profit maximisation often motivates small and
family-owned businesses. Such non-profit maximising desires can also be seen in
the business strategies of ‘lifestyle’ entrepreneurs who choose to keep their
businesses small (Walters 2002). Small businesses are also perceived to have a
greater commitment to their immediate locality. This is reflected in Richard
Douthwaite’s (1996, 341) description of a community business being an
enterprise that ‘supplies the wants or needs of a community and its owners accept
that they have a moral obligation to balance their community's interests against
their own.’ Similarly, Shuman (2006) lists several perceived benefits of local
ownership that are perceived to embed economic activity within the locality and
provide an alternative to corporate globalisation.


96!
(iii) Ethical businesses

A different type of non-capitalist enterprise is suggested by Brandt (1996) who
suggests that Socially Responsible Businesses (SRBS) are a form of value-
orientated enterprise that engage in range of practices which cut against pure self
interest. The economist Muhammed Yunus, founder of the successful
microfinance institution Grameen Bank has recently advocated a similar idea of
‘social business’ which he suggests is a mechanism by which poverty can be
‘solved’ (Yunus 2008). ‘Ethical’ or ‘green’ businesses are also businesses that
although they are privately owned, are seen to balance the need to sustain
themselves with a wider set of values (Zsolnai 2002). With reference to these,
Hazel Henderson (2006) describes the expansion of the Lifestyles of Health and
Sustainability (LOHAS) sectors of the economy. LOHAS industries include
those relating to ecotourism, alternative healthcare and ecological lifestyles and
fair trade and have an estimated global value of $228.9 billion (Hallsmith et al.
2006, 57). According to Ray and Anderson (2000, 328) they reflect a form of
‘conscious commerce’.

4.1.3 Community enterprises

There has been a great interest in recent years in the potential of social and
community enterprises as a form of economic institution that can deliver social
and economic benefits whilst also being self-sustaining (Amin et al. 2002; 2003).
Definitions of social enterprises vary from Paton’s (2003, x) suggestion that it is
‘an organisation where people have to be business-like but are not in it for the
money’ to Johanisova’s (2005) fivefold criteria:

1. Formal co-operative structure
2. Co-operative structure in the spirit of the Rochdale pioneers
3. Conscious ethical goal of commercial activity
4. Emphasis on local resources and local production for local
consumption, local money flows and employment, local
environmental sustainability
5. All or large part of income from own resources

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The key difference with workers’ co-operatives is that the surplus is not
distributed to individuals but reinvested in the work of the organisation. Pearce
(2003) suggests that the distinction between community enterprises and social
enterprises is that the former tend to be focused on more specific localities.
Pearce suggests that community enterprises can be involved in a range of
different activities including providing financial services, housing, community
owned shops, community transport, training, environmental services and
recycling. He also argues that community enterprises have a distinctive value
base which clearly distinguishes them from both private business and from
public enterprise, a value base which puts the emphasis on community
ownership, accountability and benefit.

There is a wide-ranging literature which suggests that community enterprises
offer a mechanism by which places can ‘resist’ the pressures of wider capitalist
economic change (Shuman 2000; Douthwaite 1996; Willamson et al. 2003;
DeFillippis 2004; Pearce 1993; Brandt 1995). Some examples, relating to the
main categories of enterprise found within the literature are detailed in Table 4.1
below.
98!

Table 4.1: Examples of Community Enterprise
Type of community enterprise Description Examples of recent literature
Community Development
Corporations (US)
Development Trusts (UK)
Organisations that own commercial assets on behalf of a given
community undertaking a variety of social and economic
functions.
Williamson et al. (2003); Shuman
(2000); Stott (2005); Pearce (1993);
Zdenek (1987); Green and Haines
(2002)
Community Finance Financial institutions that are community owned and provide
financial services to a given geographic community. Examples
include Credit Unions and Community Development Finance
Initiatives.
7
Sometimes also called Microfinance.
DeFilippis (2004); Fuller and Jonas
(2003); Roseland and Soots (2007);
Williamson et al. (2003); Shuman
(2000); Douthwaite (1996); McGeeham
and Goggin (2007); Swack (1987)
Community Land Trusts and
Housing Co-operatives
Collective ownership of land either for housing or for
agricultural production. This reflects one aspect of Community
Supported Agriculture (see section 1.4 below). Recent
manifestations of Community Land Trusts have included
experiments with Low Impact Developments (LIDS) where
communities live ‘on the land’ in simple structures and meet
some of their needs directly from it. This obviously has some
similarity with the ‘commune’ movement and other forms of
‘intentional community’ such as eco-villages. Collective
ownership of conventional housing is often known as housing
co-operatives.

Douthwaite (1996); Imbroscio (1997);
White and Matthei (1987); Green and
Haines (2002); Dauncey (1988);
Pickerill and Maxey (2009); Soil
Association (2005); DeFilippis (2004).
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
7
Community currencies could be included in this section but have been omitted because they are discussed in more detail below.
99!

The notion of a community enterprise tends to be based on what might be
regarded as a ‘geographic’ notion of community. For example:

The usual interpretation of community in relation to community
enterprise is a geographical one where there is a sense of identity within a
particular area. Although this cannot be prescribed in terms of population
or square miles, a sense of ‘localness’ is important. A second
interpretation of community concerns a group with a common need or
interest which acts as their ‘common bond’ rather than residence or
employment in an area.
(Pearce 1993, 30)

Much of the literature takes a similar line of making strong associations between
geographic notions of community and place. For example, Williamson et al.
(2003, 4) suggest that when a community’s economic base is undermined it leads
to the destruction of accumulated social capital.

4.1.4 Alternative Food Initiatives

Alternative Food Initiatives have emerged in response to a neoliberal global food
economy (Goodman 2003; Hendrickson and Heffernan 2002).
8
Many of these
initiatives have their roots in the ‘countercuisine’ that emerged from the
Counterculture (Belasco 2007; Allen et al. 2002; Sage 2003). Venn et al. (2006),
Hughes (2005) and Holloway et al. (2007) all provide reviews of this extensive
literature. Broadly defined, AFIs consist of a range of local food initiatives that
attempt to reconfigure systems of food provision. Examples include farmers
markets (Holloway and Kneafsey 2002; Alkon 2008) ‘Box schemes’ (Torjusson
et al. 2008) and farm shops (La Trobe 2002) and Community Supported
Agriculture (Feagan and Henderson 2009). Notions of the ‘local’ are very
important to AFIs (Allen et al. 2002) and thus AFIs are often linked to ideas of
food ‘localisation’ (Hinrichs 2001). As such they often attempt to construct
‘shorter’ food chains (Marsden et al. 2000) or connect food consumption and
production to particular places (Harris 2009). Such initiatives are also linked to
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
8
There is some variety in the nomenclature used to describe such initiatives. Goodman (2003)
prefers Alternative Agro-Food Networks (AAFNs), whereas other use Alternative Food
Initiatives (Allen et al 2002) or Alternative Food Networks (Venn et al 2006).
100!
the idea of re-embedding economic relationships within social and cultural
relationships (Sage 2003).

4.1.5 Community Currencies

A large recent literature has explored the potential of ‘community’ or
‘complementary’ currencies. These reflect a form of grassroots economic
institution and feature within the Gibson-Graham diverse economy schematic
and also in their most recent paper (Gibson-Graham 2008). Complementary
currencies also featured heavily within green and ‘localist’ literature (Dauncey
1988; Douthwaite 1996; Robertson 1998; Shuman 2000; Cahn 2000; Seyfang
2009). Such currencies are promoted to address a range of perceived ‘failures’ of
the conventional money system (Seyfang 2009, Ch 7), and are sometimes
perceived to represent a potential political challenge to global neoliberalism
(Helleiner 2002; North 2006; 2007). Thorne (1996) argues that they represent a
‘re-embedding’ of exchange within social relationships. Many community
currencies are based on some notion of geographic community or place.

There has been a proliferation of such systems since the mid-1980s when
Michael Linton developed the LETS mutual currency model on Vancouver
Island Canada (Croall 1997) and Edgar Cahn developed the concept of time-
banking in Miami, Florida (Cahn 2000). A third model within North America
and Northern Europe is reflected by, what is termed herein ‘Regiomoney’ such
as the Berkshares currency of upstate New York, and Regiogeld model of
Germany (Gelleri 2009).
9
As Hughes’ review article (2005) highlights, there has
been extensive research on the social and economic potential of community
currencies within economic geography and related disciplines.

Of particular relevance here is the research that has explored the potential
economic impact of such currencies. Thus North (2007) draws both on Gibson-
Graham’s work and Foucault’s concept of heterotopia to explore the extent to
which complementary currencies can create economic ‘spaces of liberation’.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
9
It should be noted that the proliferation of complementary currencies is not just a European /
North American phenomenon. See Seyfang 2001a, North (2007, Ch. 8), Lietaer (2004).
101!
Williams et al. (2001) and Seyfang (2001) both argue that LETS enables some
localised trading to take place that would otherwise not have occurred. William’s
(1995) study of the LETS in Totnes also concluded that it made a significant
contribution to members’ purchasing power. Contrastingly, Lee et al. (2004)
conclude that local currency systems are less significance for their material
effectiveness than for their demonstration of the potential proliferation of
economic and financial geographies.

4.1.6 Social markets

Gibson-Graham (2006b, 62) point to the many forms of alternative market in
which commensurability is socially negotiated. However, whilst they point to the
variety of possible ‘non-capitalist’ forms of exchange, it is arguable that within
their own work they do not make a clear theoretical distinction between capitalist
and non-capitalist markets. However, they are not alone in arguing that not all
markets are capitalist (e.g. Shiva 1996; Korten 1999). Inspiration is often drawn
from Polanyi’s (1944 [2001]) concept of embeddedness, describing the way in
which markets are socially constructed and contextualised and can thus be
subordinated to social concerns. Ekins (1992, 327) describes the rise of
‘progressive’ markets by arguing that they relocate ‘the market-place in its
human, social context, and in doing so, imbues it with a powerful potential for
the transformation of traditional markets’. Jacob (2003, 170) discusses the idea
of ‘social markets’ which

demands that all costs in the agricultural production and distribution
equation be reflected in commodity prices, as opposed to the nominally
free market which ignores social and environmental costs

In describing such markets Jacob draws on Derber et al. (1995) who explore
different models of social markets. Mutersbaugh (2005, 390) makes a similar
distinction as Jacob between conventional markets and social markets arguing
that



102!

‘intrinsic’ (internal) qualities such as taste, appearance, or chemical
composition integral to the product and which may be ascertained by
consumers or via downstream product testing, versus ‘extrinsic’
(external) qualities such environmentally friendly or fair-labor production
practices that cannot be verified in the final product except via a label or
seal attesting to the inclusion of said qualities.

Thus social markets reflect types of goods for which the consumer is willing to
pay more because certain conditions (or ethical considerations) are seemingly
met during the processes of production and distribution, for example organic
agriculture. The additional financial cost of these extrinsic qualities reflects what
has been called a ‘social premium’ (Stott 2005). As such social markets could be
considered as illustrating a way in which markets can be socially re-embedded,
and can allow firms to avoid having to chase economic value at a social or
environmental cost. The rapid growth of fair trade markets reflects an obvious
example of this (Nichols and Opal 2005). Wall (2005) has suggested that
embedded markets are a socialised form of economic activity that represent a
challenge to capitalism and economic growth. Similarly, some advocates of
economic ‘localisation’ also promote the development of local economies and
markets as a form of progressive economic development (Hines 2000; Woodin
and Lucas 2004; McKibben 2007). As Hess (2009) argues such localisation
movements are often an uneasy alliance of small business groups and
‘countercultural’ middle classes. Within the UK the idea of local social markets
is perhaps most clearly illustrated by the rise of ‘local food’ economies (Morris
and Buller 2003).

4.1.7 Summary of Part One

This section has given an overview of a range of place-based institutions that
appear within the postcapitalist literature. Table 4.2 summarises these institutions
and how they can be considered to be outside ‘Capitalism’.




103!


Table 4.2: Summary of postcapitalist institutions


The review has also highlighted why it might be expected that there should be a
correlation between Countercultural places and postcapitalist activity. The fact
that for many the Counterculture reflects a rejection of key features of late
(capitalist) industrial modernity indicates an obvious affinity with postcapitalist
institutions. Many of them also reflect examples of social or ecological
entrepreneurship, where new institutions and initiatives are developed to address
perceived socio-economic or ecological problems (Bornstein 2004). Chapter
Three argued that a broader conception of the Counterculture recognises
grassroots institution building as a key strand of activity. For example,
Hetherington (2000) suggests that the free festivals of the 1970s were intended

not only as a critique of the larger commercial festivals but also as a
utopian model of an alternative society, aiming to offer an ethos of
freedom from constraints and an economy based on reciprocity and gift
and around principles of mutual aid rather than money.

Hetherington (2000, 48)

Interstitial political and economic strategies were explicit in the 1970’s ideas of
the ‘Alternative Society’ and are reflected in both the Alternative Pathways and
Alternative Lifestyles that emerged in that era. Such prefigurative strategies have
continued to be associated with more recent manifestations of the Counterculture
including the ‘Alternative Movement’ of the 1980s (Osmond and Graham 1984)
and the DIY Culture of the 1990s where there was an aspiration to build a
104!
‘parallel economy’ outside capitalism (Plows 1998). More recently, many of the
strategies of the anti-globalisation movement reflect grassroots approaches to
building economic alternatives to capitalism (Starr 2000; Wright 2010). Radical
green politics also places a strong emphasis on interstitial political strategies as
well as various forms of postcapitalist institution building focused on economic
localisation and self-reliance. For example, Curtis (2003, 86) suggests that the
idealised eco-local economy consists of

collectives and co-operatives, buying clubs, community enterprises, not-
for-profits, barters and skills exchanges, mutual aid, voluntary activity,
household and subsistence production, and what is variously termed the
informal or underground sector

Such institutions are interstitial in that they are attempts at ‘delinking’ from the
wider ‘system’. Thus, within the Counterculture there are various movements
and groups committed to building grassroots postcapitalist institutions but to this
date little has been done to understand how such activity unfolds in different
places. Indeed, this section has illustrated how notions of place or community (or
often both) are central all of these different kinds of postcapitalist economic
institutions. As such, ‘community’ is often conceptualised in explicitly
geographic terms in relation to these institutions. Part Two now briefly highlights
some of the evidence that suggests a connection between the geographies of
postcapitalism and the Counterculture.

4.2 Countercultural place and postcapitalism

Part One and the preceding two chapters suggest that there are a number of
reasons to believe that ‘Countercultural’ places might be a productive site for
postcapitalist institutions. However, It has been argued that the academic
literature has to some extent ignored important aspects of the geography of the
Counterculture within the UK. Furthermore, despite the fact that ‘place’ is often
central to the development of postcapitalist institutions, little work has explored
the ‘situated practice’ of such institutions (Amin 2009a). Thus, just as capitalism
has an ‘uneven’ geography (Harvey 2000) then it follows that different places
also have different postcapitalist trajectories and potentialities. Certainly the
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literature offers some hints that there is a relationship between Countercultural
places and postcapitalism.

One example would be the emergence of an established organic agricultural
sector in West Wales (Lampkin 1990; Conford 2008), an area that developed a
strong Countercultural tradition in the 1970s (Saunders 1975). Another example
would be the town of Maleney in Australia that again has a Countercultural
reputation and has developed a strong co-operative sector (Douthwaite 1996;
Jordan 2003). The complementary currencies movement provides some more
examples. Lee et al. (2004) suggest that the Commox Valley (Vancouver Island,
Canada) where the LETS currency was first developed was a site of
countercultural activity. Similarly, Collom (2005) suggests that the Pacific
Northwest and North East United States appear to be more ‘culturally conducive’
to local economic alternatives because they have a stronger liberal or progressive
traditions. This assertion is certainly backed up by Jacob’s et al.’s 2004b study of
Ithaca Hours, which they suggest originated in the city’s ‘bohemian’ and
‘granola’ community. Kockel (1999) also suggests that the countercultural
immigrants of the Western Ireland are heavily involved in informal economic
activity. As indicated here, those studies that do acknowledge the socio-cultural
context of such experiments tend to focus only on one dimension of
experimentation. The rest of this part of the chapter discusses two concepts
which appear regularly within the literature and which might be useful in
understanding the relationship between place and postcapitalism.

4.2.1 Embeddedness

It is notable that the concept of ‘embeddedness’ is invoked in relation to several
of the institutions discussed in Section One above. Embeddedness originates in
the work of Karl Polanyi ([1957] 2001) and was reworked and popularised by
Granovetter (1985). Polanyi’s central argument was that the rise of market
exchange driven by capitalism led to the disembedding of economic activity
from the social and cultural norms which guided the two other modes of
exchange, redistribution and reciprocity. However he also pointed to the way in
which the state plays a key role in creating the institutional framework for the
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market economy to function. Therefore there were two dimensions to his notion
of economic embeddedness: cultural and institutional. In a useful paper Hess
(2004) explores the various meanings of the concept and some of the problems
with it. He offers the following clarification of some of the different disciplinary
usages (Table 4.3).

Table 4.3: Different views of embeddedness based on Hess (2004)
Who? In what? Geographical
scale
Polanyi’s Great
Transformation
‘The
economy’,
systems of
exchange


‘Society’ social and
cultural structures
No particular
scale, but
emphasis on the
nation state
Business systems
approach
Firms Institutional and
regulatory
frameworks


Nation state,
‘home territory’
New Economic
sociology
Economic
behaviour,
individuals
and firms
Networks of
ongoing social
(interpersonal)
relations


No particular
scale
Economic
geography
Firms Networks and
institutional settings
Local / regional

The notion of ‘embeddedness’ has been invoked in a number of different ways in
relation to the postcapitalist institutions discussed above. Perhaps the two most
common ‘varieties’ are place embeddedness and moral embeddedness. The
former reflects the way in which postcapitalist institutions might offer the
possibility of re-embedding economic flows and relationships within a given
locality. Such a form of place-embeddedness is linked with many of the AFIs,
Community Currencies and the wider localisation movement and reflect what
Harris (2009) calls ‘process and place’ embeddedness – the idea that certain
economic processes can be embedded ‘in’ place. A second common usage is to
reflect the moral embedding of economic transactions, which suggests that
postcapitalist institutions might be a way of rejecting the instrumentalism of neo-
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liberalism and enable the re-embedding of economic relationships within a
certain social and moral norms (e.g. Thorne 1996).

However, whilst it is argued that such institutions can socio-culturally ‘re-
embed’ economic relations there is also some evidence that the institutions
themselves are socio-culturally embedded, reflecting a third way in which it
might be used. For example, some argue that AFIs tend to be supported by the
affluent middle classes (Hinrichs 2000; Hendrickson and Heffernan 2002).
Socio-cultural embeddedness is therefore one factor that might explain the
geography of postcapitalism. Amin et al.’s (2002) research highlights six
variables that can help to explain the uneven geography of the social economy in
the UK. One of these variables relates to the localised presence of
countercultures:

The presence of voiced minority cultures expressing non-mainstream
needs and values…The presence, in different doses and mixes of outreach
artists, environmentalists, New Age groups, yeoman values, women’s
groups, ethnic minority demands, Quaker, Methodist or other ethical
organisations committed to social empowerment, has helped to legitimate
and support bottom up initiatives designed to meet social needs or
harness alternative economic values (e.g. fair trade, reciprocity, profit
sharing)

Amin et al. (2002, 120 – 121)

The concept of embeddedness therefore suggests facets of a locality – including
perhaps countercultural socio-cultural values and networks – might be significant
in creating postcapitalist economic possibilities.

4.2.2 Heterotopia

Some writers have argued that Countercultural sites can create certain kinds of
social space that opens up experimental possibilities. Both Partridge (2006) and
St John (1999) use the anarchist thinker Hakim Bey’s (2003) concept of the
Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ) to describe the way in which festivals
create a space for social and cultural experimentation. Hetherington (1996; 2000)
and St John (1999) both draw on the Foucauldian concept of heterotopia to
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explore how certain ‘other places’ create the possibility of other orderings of
things. Hetherington (1996, 38) suggests that

The main principle of hetertopias is that they bring together a collection
of unusual things (or discursive statements), and give them a unity of
meaning through the production of a space that acts symbolically as a site
for the performance of an alternative mode of social ordering.

Similarly, North (2007) links heterotopias with complementary currencies to
develop the idea that the economy could be considered a heterospace arguing
that it

…might then mean the existence of multiple temporal, lasting alternative
spaces existing alongside each other, living by different rules, but not
being able to impose their values more widely.

North (2007, 35)

Academic interest in the concept of heterotopia grew after the posthumous
publication of a set of Foucault’s lecture notes from 1967 (Foucault 1986).
Foucault suggests that heterotopias were

something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which
the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture,
are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted
Foucault (1986, 24)

Genocchio (1995) points out that in actuality two contradictory versions of
heterotopia exist within Foucault’s work, both as an actual site and as a
discursive space and that there is a ‘coherency problem’ as to how heterotopias
can actually exist ‘outside’ other spaces. Despite this, it has been used as a
concept to explore sites that produce ‘reordered’ space. For example, St John’s
(1999) research on the countercultural ConFest in Australia argues that
‘Alternative Lifestyle Events’ can be conceptualised as alternative cultural
heterotopia, of which he defines four dimensions:


109!

• They are primarily spaces of otherness, that which Foucault has called
‘countersites’
• They are heterogeneous spaces
• They are contested spaces
• As event spaces they are liminal realms

(adapted from St John 1999, 22 emphases in original)

The idea that liminal space can be produced in certain places is another
theoretical linkage between countercultural space and place and has been adapted
from Turner’s (1969) anthropological work on rites of passage. This is the
argument made by Kevin Shields (1991) in his discussion of Brighton which he
suggests has a reputation (a ‘place myth’) as a liminal destination. Shields (1991,
83) suggests that liminality

occurs when people are in transition from one station in life to another, or
from one culturally-defined stage in the life cycle to another

Shields argues that people travel to Brighton to experience liminality, to live
outside their normal patterns of life, but Jobs (2009) also argues that the process
of travel itself can be a liminal experience suggesting that travel and pilgrimage
are liminal space: ‘anti-hierarchical, democratic, and full of potential for
transformation.’ The ‘hippie trail’ to India might be considered as another form
of liminal countercultural space (see also Halfacree 2009).

Soja (1996) draws on the concept of heterotopia and the work of Henri Lefebvre
(1971) to develop the concept of Thirdspace - a ‘trialectics of spatiality’.
‘Firstspace’ is the material, socially produced space of societies in the form of
landscape and buildings. Secondspace reflects ‘representations of space’ that are
constructed by ‘science, planners, urbanists, artists. Such spatiality is

Conceived in ideas about space, in thoughtful, re-presentations of human
spatiality in mental or cognitive forms.

Soja (1996) argues that such representations inform the way that we think about
spaces and places and thus have a material impact. ‘Thirdspace’ then reflects the
110!
‘space of representation’ is lived space that reflects a complex symbiosis of first
and secondspace. Thirdspace reflects the way in which places are experienced,
which is in turn reflected by what we know of them through Secondspace. This
‘trialectics’ of spatiality has been adopted in different ways to explore the
possibility of alternative economic spaces. For example, Halfacree (2007) uses
Lefevbre’s concepts in his exploration of radical ruralities. Contrastingly,
Wolford (2004) illustrates the importance of competing ‘spatial imaginaries’ (i.e.
Secondspaces) in the development of two different Brazilian Landless Workers’
Movement sites. Lefevbre’s and Soja’s work therefore highlights how the
representation and imagination of place can open up different kinds of
possibilities for postcapitalist practice in different places. This thesis adopts the
concept of Thirdspace as a pragmatic framework for thinking about place that
can accommodate a material dimension, ‘spatial imaginaries’ and the lived
spaces of subjects and which allows the interactions between the three to be
explored.

4.3 Conclusions and Research Questions

This thesis seeks to address a number of gaps in the literatures. Most centrally it
seeks to explore the relationship between a Countercultural place and the
formation of postcapitalist institutions. In doing so it seeks to understand the
ways in which such places do or do not support the development of postcapitalist
institutions. Certainly, drawing on the existing literature, there appear to be a
number of reasons to expect why such institutions might flourish in such places.
However, the uneven geography of postcapitalism is not explored within
Gibson-Graham’s work. Certainly whilst place does ‘matter’, they do not explore
the ways in which different places might create different ‘conditions of
possibility’ for postcapitalist experimentation. As North (2008, 481) has argued,
it might be more appropriate to shift focus from the de-industrialised areas that
have been the primary focus of their work and focus instead

on the nonmaterialist or anti-capitalist middle class in the global North
who build cooperatives, credit unions, local currency networks, ethical
businesses?’

111!
Thus the research seeks to explore aspects of the ‘situated practice’ of
postcapitalism in the case study area. In doing so it will also assess the extent to
which this case study highlights the existence of proliferative, interstitial
postcapitalism, and by extension, the particular theoretical approach and
economic ontology of Gibson-Graham.

However, to understand properly the ‘situated practice’ it is also necessary to
develop a richer understanding of the context in which such institutions have
emerged. This is not only because there is no existing historical account of the
evolution of Totnes as a site of Countercultural practice but also because such
places have generally been neglected and under-theorised. Therefore the other
primary research objective is to explore the emergence of Totnes as a
Countercultural place. This involves exploring a place whose Countercultural
reputation developed in the 1980s (Heelas 1996, 127) and which has been
particularly associated with ‘New Age’, ‘Green’, or ‘Alternative’ cultures. As
discussed in Chapter Three, scholars have not taken much interest in such places,
and when notions of the Counterculture have been connected to places it is
usually in a fairly narrow sense. Taking a wider view of the Counterculture, this
thesis explores the key processes that led to Totnes ‘becoming’ a Countercultural
place. The research questions are recapped in Figure 4.1 below.

Figure 4.1: Recap of Research Questions

An empirical chapter is dedicated to addressing each of these questions in turn.
Before that, the next chapter sets out the research methodology that was
developed to answer these questions.

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Chapter 5: Research Methodology

This chapter sets out the methodological approach developed to undertake this thesis.
Whilst it could be argued that every methodology is to some extent unique, this
thesis involved some more unusual elements. These included living in the field and
engaging in community activism. The justification for these particular methods is set
out below, along with specific details of the technicalities of the research. Part one
describes what might be described as the broader ‘methodological framework’, the
wider characteristics of the enquiry. Part two details how the specific research focus
was developed. Part Three discusses the specific methods that were utilised, whilst
part Four covers analysis and verification, before Part Five offers some brief
concluding reflections.

5.1 Methodological Framework

5.1.1 A Critical Realist research philosophy

Research methods cannot be separated from their underlying research philosophy
(McKendrick 1999). This section therefore explains the philosophy that underpins
this thesis. As discussed in Chapter One this thesis does not have a comfortable
(sub)-disciplinary home. However, it does have some affinity with what has become
known as Cultural Political Economy (CPE). This itself is a relatively youthful field
of work that seeks to explore the interaction of culture and economy. To some extent
it can be regarded as part of the wider heterodox challenge to neo-classical
economics, and its reduction of the ‘economy’ to abstracted mathematical models
that has included the rise of scholarly work on the cultural economy (e.g. Amin and
Thrift 2004). CPE challenges the abstraction of neo-classical economics by
exploring the co-constitution of the economic and the socio-cultural. As such, those
undertaking CPE are influenced


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not only by ‘classical’ political economy but also by postmodern thinkers.
They thereby draw inspiration from ontological and epistemological
perspectives other than radical postmodernism and orthodox political
economy. They reject both the universalistic/positivistic stand of the latter
and the radical relativism of the former. They accept both that reality exists
but our knowledge is situated; and they regard social processes as co-
constituted by material and semiotic practices.

Ribera-Fumaz (2009, 455)

CPE therefore acknowledges the social construction of knowledge regimes but also
recognises that political economies, at varying scales, have extra-discursive impacts
and tendencies:

Thus ‘cultural political economy’ can be said to involve a critical, self-
reflexive approach to the definition and methods of political economy and to
the inevitable contexuality and historicity of its claims to knowledge. It
rejects any universalistic, positivist account of reality, denies the subject-
object duality, allows for the co-constitution of subjects and objects and
eschews reductionist approaches to the discipline. However, in taking the
‘cultural turn’, political economy should continue to emphasise the
materiality of social relations and the constraints involved in processes that
also operate ‘behind the backs’ of the relevant agents.

Jessop and Sum (2001, 94)

The relationship between the tendencies which operate ‘behind the backs’ of agents
and the discursive construction of the economy is therefore a central concern of CPE
and of this thesis. As such Jessop (2004) points to the importance of competing
‘economic imaginaries’ which are discursively constituted but which can lead to
new ‘structural and organisational forms’. The idea that new discourses of the
economy can lead to new institutions and practices is a central argument of J.K.
Gibson-Graham (2006a; b). Indeed their work has been identified as a form of CPE
(Ribera-Fumez 2009; Amin 2009). The fact that they offer a different way of ‘seeing’
the economy would suggest that their work is not premised on pure ontological
relativism. Accepting epistemic relativity but rejecting ontological relativism aligns

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CPE very closely with a Critical Realist research philosophy. Much CPE could be
regarded as adopting a similar philosophical stance. Indeed, as Porter (2002) argues
Critical Realism has abandoned the notion of causal structures and instead adopted
the concept of ‘tendencies’. The exploration of tendencies is a central to CPE (e.g.
Sayer 2001; Jessop and Sum 2001; Jessop 2004) and, as highlighted in the
theoretical chapters, is also central to this thesis.

Castree (1995) argues that Critical Realism offers a ‘third way’ between empiricism
and radical constructivism. He draws attention to the way in which Critical Realism
contains within it a distinction between “intransitive objects of theoretical enquiry”
(which exist and act independently of the theorist) and the “transitive dimension”
that reflects theorists’ conceptual vocabulary. He goes on to quote Bhaskar (1978) to
highlight that Critical Realism

…entails acceptance of (i) the principle of epistemic relativity, which states
that all beliefs are socially produced so that all knowledge is transient, and
neither truth-values nor criteria of rationality exist outside historical time.
But it entails rejection of (ii) the doctrine of judgemental relativism, which
maintains that all beliefs are equally valid, in the sense that there can be no
rational grounds for preferring one to another. It thus stands opposed to
epistemic absolutism and epistemic irrationalism alike.

(Bhaskar 1978, 24 quoted in Castree 1995, emphasis in original)

Similarly, Porter (2002) argues that Critical Realism can be used to underpin a post-
postmodern form of ethnography

… which accepts that there is a reality beyond individuals. But which does
not over-extend its claims about how much we can know about that reality
(in response to postmodernism) or the degree to which external reality
controls the decisions of individuals (in response to phenomenology). In
short, what is needed is a realism that is not naïve. (Porter 2002, 60)

By adopting a position of epistemic relativism but rejecting ontological relativism
Critical Realism reflects to some degree a ‘weak’ form of social constructivism, one
which is fairly close to Berger and Luckman’s original formulation (Jones 2002).
Indeed it is arguable that this is the philosophical position adopted by Gibson-

115
Graham who posit the existence of a ‘real’ economy that exists outside conventional
economic discourse and offer their own epistemological framework (the diverse
economy) in order to shed light on it.

5.1.2 Case studies

The overall research framework can be regarded as a case study. Colin Robson
(2002) has suggested that every enquiry is a form of case study, in the sense that
they take place in particular places, with particular people. The sense in which case
studies are tied in with localities is reflected in Miles and Huberman’s (1994, 27)
preference for the term site because ‘it reminds us that a “case” always occurs in a
specified social and physical setting’ and that the case and context cannot be
separated. Definitions of case studies are legion, but Punch (2005) provides a useful
summary of four key characteristics. Firstly he suggests that the case is a ‘bounded
study’ and that the researcher needs to be able to describe the boundaries as clearly
as possible. Whilst the data collection has focused in and around the town of Totnes,
it has also involved exploring more distant relational connections too. These
relations and practices fall within the scope of the research, as it does not seem
appropriate to draw an artificial boundary to delineate a rigidly geographical case
study area, particularly as I am interested in the way that relational factors may have
shaped the material development of Totnes. Indeed the process of trying to
understand a Countercultural place requires sensitivity to both material and non-
material processes. Punch’s second criterion is that the case needs to be ‘of
something’. In this case the research is focusing on two ‘somethings’: how and why
Totnes has evolved as a Countercultural place and what kinds of postcapitalist
economic institutions have evolved in the area. Thirdly, a case study should be
‘holistic’ – there is an attempt to preserve the wholeness of the case in question. As
discussed below, it has always been the intention to try and retain a ‘wide angle’ in
relation to the research topic, rather than examine in minute detail, one aspect of
postcapitalist economic activity. Fourthly, a case study allows multiple sources of

116
data and multiple data collection methods to be used, with ‘naturalistic’ techniques
typically central to the approach.

Robson (2002) suggests that the case study approach can be regarded as being
appropriate for the study of (geographic) communities, both as a means of analysing
the relationships between the members of the community and as a means of theory
testing. Stake (1995) identifies three main types of case study: intrinsic, instrumental
and multiple. This particular case study can be considered to be both intrinsic and
instrumental. It is intrinsic in that it is focused on researching the particular
economic institutions in a specific locality. In this sense it is addressing Lawson’s
(2005) point that we need to know what kind of ‘diverse’ economic practices are
possible in different places. However, it can also be considered instrumental in that
it is hoped that the specific case of Totnes will provide insights that enable us to
interrogate theories of postcapitalist possibility as well as the conceptualisation of
countercultural place.

A case study is not a methodology in itself; it is a methodological framework that
can incorporate the use of a variety of data collection methods to study a given
phenomenon with in a defined site. The flexibility that this approach can provide is
suitable when the exact nature of the phenomena in question is not understood and
the research process may need to be developed as time in the field progresses. In this
sense the case study can start as an ‘exploratory’ mode of enquiry which develops
into a more ‘explanatory’ mode at a later stage (Robson 2002). Therefore a key
strength of organising research around the concept of the case study is that the study
is necessarily unfolding, with the researcher unable to be overly prescriptive about
the direction it might take, particularly in early stages (Punch 2005). However, that
does not mean that it is appropriate to enter the field without any framework in place
at all (Miles and Huberman 1994), hence the importance of Gibson-Graham’s work
in providing a broad framework for exploring postcapitalist possibilities.



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5.1.3 An ethnographic approach

This PhD research had a strong ethnographic core because I lived in the field for a
period of two and a quarter years. Indeed, I specifically moved to Totnes for the
purpose of the research. It could be argued that this approach is unusual because it is
neither ethnography of a community which is radically unfamiliar in the traditional
sense of the approach, nor is it the multi-sited ethnography which has become a
popular method for studying the impact of globalisation, following the work of
Burawoy et al. (2000). Nor does my work follow the conventional model of a PhD
where the researcher is based primarily within an academic institution and then
‘goes out’ into the field to gather their data. In fact it is almost opposite, in that I ‘left’
the field to enter the formal spaces and processes of scholarly research, a factor that
contributed to an unusual research positionality, discussed further in the next section.

There has been an increasing interest in the use of ethnographic methods within
geography in recent years. As a method, ethnography has its roots in social
anthropology (Denscombe 1998). However, despite the emphasis on an
ethnographic approach, it should be emphasised that this research should not be
considered an ‘economic anthropology’ of Totnes. As Rankin (2003) has noted,
anthropologists have a tendency to assume an isomorphism between place and
culture. Similarly, Mullings (1999) suggests that ethnographers tend to provide an
in-depth understanding of a particular social group. From my early engagements
within the field it became clear that there was a certain degree of (counter)cultural
heterogeneity within Totnes. An economic anthropological approach would need to
identify and select one such ‘community’ and explore its economic practices in
depth. I felt that such an approach would be too narrow and would not allow an
investigation into the way that different economies are connected or the gaps
between them.

Hendry (2003) has noted a distinction needs to be made between ethnography as a
process of writing, and ethnography as a methodological approach. A further

118
confusion can arise within the research methods literature, where the terms
ethnography and participant observation are sometimes used synonymously.
Hoggart et al. (2002) distinguish between ethnography and participant observation
by suggesting that the former is a methodology that embraces multiple methods
including participant observation as a ‘core feature’ (ibid, 253). Suttles (1976)
claims that ethnography consists of ‘shameless eclecticism’ and ‘methodological
opportunism’ emphasising the flexibility of the approach. Yet, as Maxey (1999) has
also observed, all research involves a certain degree of opportunism. Therefore a
balance was struck between sticking to a well-planned methodological approach but
which was flexible enough to allow adaption and development when required.

The adoption of a broadly ethnographic approach was based on the contention that it
would be necessary to immersing myself in the field would provide a deeper
understanding of the place. This meant that the research had a strong core of Metis in
that it consists of ‘forms of knowledge embedded in local experience’ (Scott (1998)
quoted in Pretty 2002, 149). It thus enabled me to develop a deeper, personal
knowledge of the place than I would have otherwise obtained. Such knowledge
proved invaluable in the more formal data collection activities and also enabled me
to be more critical about the different claims that other people made about the place.
The other primary motivation was that living in the field would enable me to build
up relationships of trust and social networks that would provide access to subjects
and data. This was particularly significant early on when it was less clear which
direction the detailed research was going to go, and could have involved engaging
with the informal or even criminal economies. Even though it did not end up going
down that path, there is no doubt that living in the field gave me access to data that
would have otherwise been undiscovered.

Following the completion of the majority of the data collection, my family and I
moved away from Totnes in October 2008. The decision to leave was a complex and
difficult one, involving personal and professional factors. From a research point of
view the most significant factor was to ensure that my departure from the Totnes

119
Pound project was not overly disruptive and would jeopardise its future operation
(see Section 3.1 below). For this reason I ensured that I gave plenty of notice to my
fellow organisers and undertook a formal handover of my responsibilities.

5.1.4 Research positionality

Punch (2005), amongst others, has argued that the strength of an ethnographic
approach is that it allows an ‘insider’s perspective’ along with the study of a
phenomena in its natural setting. Living in the field therefore offers a way of moving
from being an ‘outsider’ to becoming at least an ‘insider’ in some senses. However,
it is important to recognise that there are different depths and dimensions of being an
‘insider’. Thus, whilst on one level I was an ‘insider’ whilst I was a resident of
Totnes, I was also still a ‘blow in’, ‘incomer’ or ‘Greckle’
10
, part of the wider wave
of in-migration that the South West of the United Kingdom has experienced in
recent years. Furthermore, even when I was an ‘insider’, I was only inside certain
groups, communities and networks within the area and remain outside others from
which Totnes would appear and be experienced very differently. For example, many
of my close contacts came through the Transition Town Totnes network (see Section
3.1 below), and not other social or activist networks that were in the area.
Furthermore, my personal life affected the people who I came into contact with. My
status as a married man with two small children (one born in Totnes) influenced
whom I came into contact with. My age, as a ‘mature’ PhD student will also have
influenced both the circles I moved in and how I was treated. Again, different
personal circumstances would have shaped the way the thesis evolved.

It is also simplistic to assume that ‘insider’ status will necessarily always guarantee
better access to information and greater levels of trust with respondents. Herod
(1999) has argued that it can sometimes be advantageous to be an ‘outsider’. He
problematises the straightforward insider / outsider binary, suggesting instead a

10
‘Greckle’ is a Devonian term for someone who is not from Devon, often used to refer to tourists but
also to other ‘outsiders’

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‘sliding scale of intimacy’. Mullings’ (1999) criticism of the insider / outsider binary
is that it obscures the dynamism of positionalities over time and through space. She
suggests that researchers should seek ‘positional spaces’, in other words shared
positionalities that engender a level of trust and co-operation. Such positionalities
could include dimensions such as race, gender or professional status. Mullings (1999)
goes on to suggest that being geographically ‘local’ can form a positional space that
elicits a greater amount of information from interviewees. I certainly benefitted from
such shared positionalities and would argue that the research approach I took did
enable me to benefit from insider status and elicit data that otherwise would have not
been available.

Positionality is therefore a dynamic, relational and multi-dimensional concept,
which can be influenced by our intrinsic characteristics, our social roles and our
identities. Herod (1999) has also written about the way in which different identities
can be manipulated in different situations. Therefore the reflexive researcher needs
to be aware that different identities will offer the opportunity for the realisation of
various shared positional spaces. Being reflexive about your positionality can
therefore be regarded as an ongoing process of negotiating different identities in
different situations. However, it is important to note that these different identities
and roles exist simultaneously and are not adopted in a serial fashion. Therefore,
within Totnes I was always a resident and always a researcher, it is just that at
certain points different roles were more prominent, both in my public identity and in
my own mind. In addition to resident and researcher, I also developed a role as a
community activist. This has offered the opportunity to create a different set of
positional spaces with potential respondents and to become an insider (and outsider)
in different networks and communities. Thus, whilst that many of my friends and
contacts knew that I was doing research, it was only during the interviews that I
actually adopted the more formal identity and practices of a researcher. In some
cases, with people who I already knew, the formality that this bought with it (such as
signing a consent form) seemed strange but necessary.


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5.1.5 Multi-Method research

McKendrick (1999) notes that geography has a long tradition of methodological
experimentation. In recent years the qualitative and cultural ‘turns’ have seen the
range of methodological tools expand further, along with a corresponding debate
about their merits and weaknesses. To avoid the charge of methodological
eclecticism it is incumbent upon the researcher to justify why particular methods
have been combined, something that, as Baxter and Eyles (1997) have noted, is often
lacking. Researcher reflexivity must encompass an explication of the reasons that
different methods have been utilised. This thesis combines a number of qualitative
methods. There are two overlapping reasons that justify the particular combination
of methods adopted within this thesis and the choice not to utilise quantitative
methods. Firstly, as will be discussed in more detail below, the use of multiple
methods is often employed as a form of ‘methodological triangulation’ in order to
underpin the rigour and validity of the research. Secondly, a multi-method approach
can also be justified in terms its ability to generate different data from
complementary methods. Thus, McKendrick (1999, 42) argues that multi-methods
can be useful where there is a lack of existing data, allowing for a ‘cross-fertilization
of insights from different methods.’ This concurs with Denzin and Lincoln’s (2005,
25) assertion that case study research consists of the complementary methods of
interviewing, observation and documentary research, all employed, to some extent
within this research. Part three details the specific methods that were combined
within this research, before that Part Two details how the research focus evolved.








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5.2 Developing the research focus

5.2.1 Selection of the case study location

The market town of Totnes in Devon was selected from amongst a number of areas
provisionally identified through a review of the academic and popular literature.

As
detailed in previous chapters there are a number of areas that have reputations for
either density of ‘alternative’ cultures or economic experimentation. Possible case
study areas included west/mid Wales, west Ireland, southwest France and Freiburg
in Germany. The latter two areas were not possible because of language barriers;
Ireland was not suitable due to family commitments, which left parts of Wales and
the southwest UK.

Totnes and its immediate hinterland were selected as the study area for a number of
reasons. Firstly, Totnes features prominently within the postcapitalist literature,
described as a ‘hotbed of economic experimentation’ (Douthwaite 1996, 349; see
also Dauncey 1986; 1988). The only academic research into this side of Totnes was
a study by Colin Williams (1995) into the Totnes LETS community currency
scheme in the mid-1990s. He suggests that ‘although the geography of the
'alternative/green culture' has yet to be written, Totnes may well be considered one
of its centres.’ Although his research focuses on only one ‘postcapitalist’ institution
he notes that with over 250 members it was at the time of writing one of the largest
rural LETS schemes in the UK. Totnes is also mentioned with the literature on the
‘New Age’ as one of its centres (Heelas 1995; 2005; Hetherington 2000) but its
development as such as ‘centre’ is not discussed. The town also had similar
reputation within the mass media. It has been described within the Observer
newspaper as the ‘alternative capital of the UK,’ (Siegle 2005) and recently in the
Sunday Telegraph as ‘the Capital of New Age chic’ (Edwards 2007). This reputation
is also acknowledged by a senior local authority officer, the Director of Environment,
Economy and Culture at Devon County Council who has described Totnes as ‘a
Mecca for alternative cultures’ (Chorlton, 1993, 61). Similar descriptions can be

123
found in tourist guides. For example, Britain: The Rough Guide describes Totnes as
‘enjoying an esoteric fame as a centre for the New Age arts-and-crafts crowd’
(Andrews et al., 2000, 320). These different sources indicate that Totnes’ reputation
as site of Countercultural activity exists within a range of different discourses, but
without ever having been comprehensively researched.

Initial field visits confirmed these impressions and the fact that there appeared to be
something culturally ‘different’ about the area and certainly the existence of a
variety of postcapitalist institutions such as explicitly ‘green’ businesses and a town
centre that consisted, unusually, of a high density of small retailers. Furthermore I
was aware that a new grassroots experiment – Transition Town Totnes - was due to
be launched in September 2006, corresponding with the start of my research. I
rightly anticipated that this might provide a contemporary example of an interstitial
approach to economic development and an opportunity for participatory research, as
discussed further below.

5.2.2 Developing the research focus

Punch (2005) argues that with a case study the researcher needs to find a balance
between establishing a broad framework to what you are doing and not conceptually
closing things down before you enter the field. The research in Totnes could be
described as a two-phase process, in which the first stage was an exploratory and the
second more focused. In order to start exploring the Countercultural and
postcapitalist practices within the field, Phase One involved a process of broad
categorical mapping. Similar to the schematic approach used by Gibson-Graham
(2006b) and within Asset Based Community Development (Kretzman and
McKnight 1993) this was a process of descriptive mapping, organising different
aspects of the wider ‘alternative’ culture within the area under a set of evolving
categories, as well as the range of postcapitalist economic practices. The purpose of
this process was to try and capture a wide-ranging picture of ‘alterity’ within the
area and to provide a platform for the more detailed Phase Two of the research.

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Understanding the broader historical and socio-economic context is an important
part of understanding why certain practices may or may not have developed within
the area. The mapping categories evolved and emerged through both fieldwork and
through reference to the literature in an ongoing reflexive process. Research themes
also emerged throughout the whole research process (Cope 2003). The categorical
mapping provided an initial overview of some of the key areas of significance and
was the foundation for the more detailed second phase of research. Phase One ran in
parallel with the initial literature reviewing. It was therefore during this phase that I
discovered that the range of activities that had developed in the area did not easily fit
into existing notions of ‘countercultural’ places and I began to try and develop a
broader notion, which eventually evolved into the typology outlined in Chapter Two.
Furthermore, I discovered that there was no existing literature (academic, grey or
otherwise) which dealt with the evolution of Totnes as an ‘alternative’ place. Had
such sources existed, there would have been no need to undertake that strand of
research and the empirical work could have focused in more depth much more on
the postcapitalist economy. However, its concern with the ‘situated practice’ of
postcapitalism meant that it was necessary to developing an understanding of the
socio-cultural context from which such postcapitalist experiments had emerged.
Thus during this phase the most ‘significant’ aspects of Countercultural activity
were indentified for further investigation in Phase Two.

During the first phase of the research a number of different research foci were
explored in parallel with initial engagements with the field, literature reviewing and
theoretical development. As discussed within Chapter Two, Gibson-Graham’s
diverse economy is a hybrid framework that brings together a number of different
‘forms’ of postcapitalist practice, institution and relationship. Having decided not to
use the whole framework, Phase 1 involved deciding which aspects to focus upon.
One option was to focus on individuals and the different ways in which they engage
in non-capitalist economic activity. The second option was to focus on the
development of different kinds of postcapitalist institution, which was the eventual
chosen route. However, early on in the PhD there was the possibility that either

125
approach could have been taken. One conceptual framework that was explored was
the Capabilities Approach, following the work of the development economist
Amartya Sen (Clarke 2005). This is a research framework which has mainly been
adopted in the South but which has been advocated for greater use in Northern
research (Korf and Oughton 2006). The capabilities approach is of particular utility
in looking at how households or individuals construct their economic relationships
(see for example Oughton and Wheelock 2003 on small businesses). Such an
approach would be productive for exploring how certain groups construct their
livelihoods and whether living in the Totnes area allows people to ‘escape’
capitalism to some degree.

However, there were a number of issues that led me to select an institutional
approach as opposed to a lifestyle approach. The first was a sampling issue – exactly
whose lifestyles was I investigating? This approach requires a fairly strict and
bounded sampling strategy, to culturally delineate the group of study (O’Leary
2004). My early fieldwork was highlighting a certain degree of cultural
fragmentation and heterogeneity that challenged the conventional categories of
‘Alternative Types’ or ‘Hippies’. To overcome this it might have been possible to
define a fairly homogenous sub-set of the wider Countercultural community but this
would have meant narrowing the overall research focus, something that, as discussed
further below, I was not keen to do. Furthermore, as I did my initial mapping it
became clear to me that there were people who lived ‘outside’ of the conventional
housing system, either in caravans, benders, or in sheds for example. It might have
been possible to construct a sample from such a group of people and the way in
which they constructed their livelihoods would have been an interesting
investigation. However, my concern was that by focusing on them I would have
drawn attention to their lifestyles and, bearing in mind the illegality, threatened their
ability to continue to live in this way. To research such a phenomenon would have
required me to be able to conceal not only their identities but also the site of research
to avoid future repercussions. An interesting study no doubt, but not possible in the

126
context of the way the research was being undertaken and the wider questions about
the shaping of a place.

As I undertook the initial ‘mapping’ of the area it became clear that there was also
the potential to narrow the focus and explore in depth just one specific aspect of the
postcapitalist economy. For example: intentional communities, the local currency
experiments, or the local biodynamic agricultural sector. Whist in some ways this
would have been easier, I also resisted the temptation to narrow the focus on just one
of the phenomena in the area. Instead I aspired to retain a wider focus that cut across
different kinds of institution. Therefore, throughout the thesis I was keen not to
undertake a ‘micro-scale’ study but do something which was more meso-scale and
spoke of the perceived diversity and complexity, even thought this almost certainly
made it a much more difficult endeavour.

One particular area of focus that did emerge during Phase 1 was the role of
‘Dartington’. Dartington was a ‘utopian experiment’ established in the 1920s by
Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst on a large estate in the village of Dartington just
outside Totnes. Now existing as the charitable Dartington Trust, it has in its history
engaged in a range of pioneering activities in the arts and crafts, education,
agriculture and housing as well as engaging in a range of economic activities. My
initial fieldwork led me quickly to understand that Dartington was attributed with
having a considerable impact both on the development of Totnes as an ‘alternative’
cultural centre and on the fact that the area has been a site of economic
experimentation. Whilst there is some literature on different aspects of Dartington,
there was nothing that explicitly explored its connections to the Counterculture.
Again, doctoral research could be (and has been) undertaken on just one aspect of
Dartington such has been the scope of its work and legacy. Again, in the research
that I undertook, I attempted to retain a slightly wider focus, to try and establish its
particular role in the development of Countercultural activity in the area and how
this related to Totnes’ development as an ‘alternative’ centre. Figure 5.1 below
summarises the overall process through which the research focus was refined.

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Fig 5.1: Two phases of research

It should be noted that this is a somewhat simplified representation of how the
research was phased. In particular, the different data collection aspects of Phase 2
started at different points in time. The specific of these methods are discussed in the
next section.

5.3 Research Methods

This part of the chapter details the particular research methods that were adopted
within the thesis.

5.3.1 Participatory research through community activism

In her review of recent developments in social geography, Rachael Pain (2003)
suggests that research which embraces activism is growing in both popularity and
confidence. A distinction needs to be made between the practical issues of
combining research practice with activism and the broader arguments about
politically engaged scholarship. This section engages with both issues, as part of a

128
wider discussion about the merits and pitfalls of combining activism and research,
before then detailing the specifics of they way in which activism was incorporated
into the research strategy of this thesis.

On moving to Totnes to start the research, I made a conscious decision to get
involved in the Transition Town Totnes (TTT) initiative. The motivation for getting
involved in community activism was twofold. Firstly, I felt it was good way to get
involved in the community, to move from being an ‘outsider’ to becoming an
‘insider’ within certain networks or communities and thus fitted well with the
broadly ethnographic approach to the research. In particular it seemed a good way of
beginning to explore the existing ‘alternative’ economic practices, and who was
involved in them. TTT offered the added advantage that it was a new initiative, so
integration would be potentially easier than with a group that was already well
established. Secondly, I shared what Routledge (1996) calls ‘a politics of affinity’
with the Transition Towns initiative in that I had some sympathy with its objectives.
However, very early in the research process I had to consider how best to manage
the potential tensions and criticisms of combining activism with academic research.

(i) Combining activism and academic research

One way in which my own situation differed from many academics who have
written on this subject is my own positionality vis a vis the academy. The literature
on activism and research tends to treat the academy as ‘home’, the central question
is how to justify and defend activism within a professional academic context (see for
example Routledge 1996). This shapes the way in which the debate is framed: it is a
debate about activism by academics that is carried out in academic journals and
conferences.
11
Not only does this mean that the debate is one sided (it is not about
combining academic work with activism) but it also unavoidably subordinates
‘activism’ as one facet of their ‘becoming’ as a professional scholar. Thus writing

11
One could also point to the way in which activist literature is, with a few exceptions, generally
ignored within academic scholarship, a fact which reinforces the impression that scholarship only
occurs ‘within’ the academy, and more particularly the pages of peer reviewed journals.

129
about ‘activism’ becomes a facet of an academic’s professional and intellectual
output. Therefore, despite the emphasis on finding a mutually reinforcing ‘thirdspace’
(Routledge 1996; 2003; Anderson 2002; Mason 2007) that allows activism and
academia to be productively integrated, there is an unwitting bias which privileges
the academy as the site of paid employment, and which treats activism as something
subordinate, which, because it is often not paid, is not ‘work’. Whilst Maxey (1999)
is right to point to the way in which the ‘activist’ is discursively produced, so too is
the ‘academic’. Therefore within the debate on integrating academic work and
activism it is still the latter which is given more importance, even the most
passionate advocates of activism tend to treat activism as a problem that needs to be
addressed. The point is that the debate about combining activism and academia, not
withstanding the evident ‘critical reflexivity’ and enthusiasm of many of its
advocates, is still embedded within the political economy of the academy and from
an overwhelmingly ‘insider’ perspective.

Contrastingly, I undertook my research fieldwork with a more complex positionality
that combined the identities of a social economy professional, a community activist
and an ‘early career’ academic. At the time of undertaking the research, there was no
clear hierarchy with these roles, and which of them felt like ‘home’ at any given
point tended to vary over time and location. Indeed, one of the motivations for
undertaking the thesis was to bring the rigour of scholarship to the areas of
professional interest and activism in which I had previously been engaged. Therefore,
as well as being physically located outside the academy, I was also an outsider in a
professional sense. In contrast, to the conventional academic standpoint, I saw
scholarship as being instrumental to improving my knowledge and professional /
community practice, not just as the means by which I could establish a professional
career within the academy. Therefore my own personal politics and values were
central to the endeavour. But then since the ‘reflexive turn’, most academics now
accept that personal politics impact on all academic work. St Louis and Calabrese
(2002, unpaginated) have argued that the subjectivity of researchers consists of


130
…the life experiences that researches have had as well as the social, cultural,
and political factors that influence an individual and how those experiences
and factors contribute to biases and assumptions in the type of research that
researchers choose to engage in.

Donna Haraway (1991) refers to such subjectivities as the ‘maps of consciousness’
of researchers. Within the field of economics, this personal subjective context
reflects what Schumpeter (1954) calls the economist’s ‘pre-analytic view’. In other
words, as is now widely accepted in the social sciences, there is no purely objective
starting point from which a researcher departs. Reflexivity is therefore often invoked
as a necessary condition of combining activism and academic work, the consequence
of reflexivity is to lay bare the subjectivities and assumptions that underpin an
academic’s work, both to themselves and to their peers. Intellectual transparency
should therefore be a consequence of the process of reflexivity. Transparency
actually opens up the research to a more thorough scrutiny of its rigour, the
cornerstone of good scholarship, by exposing the philosophical starting point of the
academic. Rigour is a qualitative concept and one that can be used to interrogate
both academic argument and the processes of research. Baxter and Eyles (1997)
describe rigorous research as that which satisfies the criteria of credibility,
transferability, dependability and confirmability. Rigour delineates the committed
scholar from the polemicist. Combining rigour and transparency confirms Fuller’s
(1999) argument that it is possible to be both committed and critical when
combining activism with academia.

Engaging in community activism also ‘fitted’ well with the research praxis
advocated by Gibson-Graham. Indeed, Gibson-Graham (2006b) are themselves
advocates of research that adopts an explicitly political stance and advocate the use
of action research methods. Their rationale for this approach is that:

In action research interventions we aim to show how enlarging the field of
credible experience might become a prelude increasing the possibilities for
economic experimentation around development (Gibson-Graham 2005a, 6).


131
More recently they have described this as adopting a ‘performative’ epistemology
(Gibson-Graham 2008). As explored in Chapter Two, a key focus of their work is
explicitly about changing ontological framings of the economy and constructing
alternative economic discourses and practices. A key advantage of this
methodological approach is that it can generate experiential data about the
phenomena that a researcher is exploring. Indeed, as the sociologist Kurt Lewin
argued, ‘the best way to understand something is to try and change it’ (quoted in
Hoggart et al. 2002, 289). In this sense it can be a genuinely ‘experimental’ form of
data collection, rather than the form of retrospective critique that typifies much
academic work.

(ii) Community activism as a form of ‘giving back’

Community activist research can also provide a mechanism by which the academic
can ‘give back’ to the community with which they are working. As Kitchin and
Hubbard (1999) have argued, only a minority of geographers seek to address the
power imbalances that exist between researcher and researched through the marriage
of research practice and political and social actions. They point at the need to
maintain the ‘partitioning’ of academic knowledge in order to maintain the privilege
of ‘academic’ credentials. They go onto suggest that action research methods may
‘offer a route for geographers to combine a role of activist with putative academic’
(ibid, 196). My research cannot be considered as ‘traditional’ action research, not
least because I entered the field with the broad contours of my research already
defined, rather than letting the purpose of the research emerge through a
participatory process. Nor has it followed the iterative model of ‘Plan’, ‘Act’ and
then ‘Reflect’ in iterative cycles (Stringer 1999). Nor is my approach the same as the
academics whose process of giving back is to study the movement in which they
participate (e.g. Maxey 1999; Routledge 1996) Instead, my approach can best be
described as reciprocal activism, where my activism has become part of a process of
giving back to the community.


132
Mason (2007) has argued there are two ways for researchers to ‘give back’ through
activism, either through their ‘work’ or in a more direct, practical ways. The
argument that reciprocity should extend further than just giving back through
academic work is rooted within the feminist critiques of academic praxis (Pain 2004).
Drawing on her own experiences researching the Tibetan government, McConnell
(2007) argues that activism can form a legitimate process of giving back where it is
complementary to the research but not directly linked. She argues that in addition to
being a process of giving back to the community it also can act as a means of
gaining access to the community and as a way of ‘being’ in the field. All three
dimensions are relevant to my experience in Totnes, where as a consequence of my
activism I gained knowledge and understanding of the research field that would have
been difficult for an ‘external’ researcher to access. In return I have contributed my
time, knowledge and professional skills to community initiatives. At the start of my
involvement I did not know to what extent my research would focus on the
community projects with which I was involved, but I did not expect it solely or
specifically to focus on these activities. I have always been an ‘overt participant’
(Cook 2005) open about my research into the ‘alternative’ economy in Totnes and
provided further information as required. I was also explicit that I hope that my
activism will be of both of benefit to my wider research and to the community itself,
the basic sense in which it can be regarded as reciprocal. Importantly though, it is
the sharing a ‘politics of affinity’ with the projects I have supported also takes the
process beyond a solely functional research relationship. Beyond, the need to justify
the validity of combining activism and research, the biggest problem of taking such
an approach is the commitment of time it requires, a factor recognised by other
academics (Routledge 1996). Undertaking community activism within the social
economy means committing considerable time to the ‘extraordinarily ordinary’
(Amin 2009b), as testified by my research diaries. Davison (2006, 217) captures this
tension well with his description of a Community Garden Management Committee
who



133

…found themselves bogged down in the complex workings of the business,
discussing turnover, taxation law, business plans and stock control rather
than the matters of social and ecological vision that had motivated their
involvement.

Such activities are often overlooked in romantic depictions of the social economy
and postcapitalism. Furthermore, from the perspective of an action-researcher, the
time to data ratio generated by such activities is not favourable and involves
spending considerable amounts of time on activities which are not valued within the
political economy of academia, whilst also deflecting attention from those which are,
such as writing papers for publication.

(iii) Community activism with Transition Town Totnes

My community activism within Totnes was primarily through participation within
the Transition Town Totnes (TTT) initiative. TTT started in September 2006, just
over a month after my family and I moved to Totnes. The purpose of Transition
Town Totnes was to develop a localised community response to the perceived threat
of Peak Oil. Peak Oil refers to the temporal point when the maximum global supply
of oil is reached and the rate of supply subsequently begins to decline. In recent
years a disparate group of writers, ex oil industry workers, geologists and activists
have been arguing that, contrary to the position of international bodies such as the
International Energy Association (IEA) and national governments, that the peak is
imminent and that it will have profound effects on a civilisation that is underpinned
by ‘cheap oil’. It should be noted that since TTT started in September 2006 the
prospect of Peak Oil has become much more widely discussed, not least due to a
significant spike in oil prices in the summer of 2008. Indeed, the position of the IEA
– the official body responsible for predicting levels of production and reserves –
appears to have shifted towards an earlier peak (Macalister and Monbiot 2008).
Business groups have also begun to lobby for more government intervention in this
area (The UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security 2008, 2010).


134
The Transition Town process is intended to lead to the creation of a community led
Energy Descent Action Plan (EDAP) that maps out the way to a low-carbon future
for a given settlement. The ecologists Odum and Odum (2001) developed the
concept of ‘energy descent’ to describe the transition away from a society whose
energy consumption is based primarily on fossil fuels. The Transition Town model
is centrally concerned with the building of parallel infrastructure covering a range of
different systems of provision (Bailey et al. 2010). There therefore is a strongly
interstitial ethic to the Transition movement. Indeed it draws heavily on the ‘radical’
economic idea of relocalisation (Hopkins 2008). Since its launch in September 2006,
Transition Town Totnes has evolved into a ‘global’ Transition ‘movement’ with 243
official Transition initiatives established by November 2009 and hundreds of
‘mullers’ who were considering establishing an initiative. Whilst most of these
initiatives were based in the UK they exist also in wider Europe, North America,
Australasia and Japan (Bailey et al. 2010). As an arguably ‘new’ social movement,
the Transition movement has received increasing attention from the media,
environmental activist networks and the research community (Bailey et al. 2010;
Brook 2008; North 2010; Haxeltine and Seyfang 2009; Chatterton and Cutler
2008).
12


The TTT structure involves a number of thematic groups that act as loose
coordinating bodies for projects and activities.
13
As well as attending numerous
events it was through such groups that my activism was manifested. In November
2006 I became involved in a group that was planning a local food directory. My
early fieldwork had highlighted the presence of an interesting local food economy
(see chapter 7). I felt that involvement in this group would increase my knowledge
of the local food economy whilst I would also be ‘giving back’ by assisting with the

12
Whilst the Transition movement itself could be regarded as a ‘new’ form of ‘post-carbon’ social
movement (see Seyfang et al. forthcoming) many of its underlying assumptions and concerns are
closely aligned with those that sparked the first wave of environmentalism in the late 1960s and early
1970s. Indeed the prospect of imminent resource depletion was a key narrative of this movement first
articulated in the 1972 publication of The Limits to Growth from the Club of Rome. Furthermore, the
geological concept of Peak Oil was developed by M. King Hubbert (1956) who accurately predicted
the ‘peaking’ of US production in 1970.
13
For a more detailed description of the Transition Town process see Hopkins and Brangwyn (2007)

135
production of a ‘public’ knowledge (see Transition Town Totnes 2007, 2008). I was
transparent with the group about my research and that my involvement with the
group could be useful to it, but that the group itself was not a direct focus of my
research. Instead, involvement in the group provided access to local knowledge,
networks and a practical way of giving back. Day-to-day activities within the group
involved attending meetings and assisting with the research and preparation of the
guide. I also utilised my ‘professional’ skills to write a funding application that
secured £2,800 towards the costs of producing a second version of the Local Food
Guide.

In December 2006 I also became part of the embryonic Economics and Livelihoods
group. Again, the Economics and Livelihoods group seemed a good opportunity to
get involved in the community and find out about the existing local initiatives whilst
also making a contribution. The early stages of this voluntary work involved
assisting with the planning and execution of the launch of the Economics and
Livelihoods Group and an Open Space day in May 2007.
14
However, following its
launch, the Economics and Livelihoods group evolved into a group of local
economy related projects. My main involvement continued through involvement in
the Totnes Pound project, a community currency that was launched in May 2007.
Obviously being involved in the development of a ‘new’ community currency was
an opportunity to experience first hand the process of attempting to establish a
postcapitalist economic institution in Totnes. It was also a good way to engage with
some of the local businesses and allowed me to develop a different ‘activist’ related
identity to that of my work with the food directory group. My participation in the
Totnes Pound project entailed being a member of the core group who managed and
attempted to develop the currency. Throughout my involvement I undertook a wide
range of activities including project administration, recruiting businesses, preparing
project literature, and media interviews. The Totnes Pound became one of the
flagship initiatives within the wider Transition movement. In order to gather data on

14
‘Open Space’ is a particular type of consultative technology that has been adopted by the TTT
process. See Owen (1998). At the Economics and Livelihoods Open Space I ran a session on the
‘diverse economy’ that provoked an interesting discussion.

136
my involvement I kept, with the permission of the wider group, a separate detailed
ethnographic log between March 2008 and October 2008 when I left the field along
with other project literature such as minutes of meetings. I also conducted a small
focus group with two other members of the Totnes Pound group towards the end of
my time working on the project. The experience with the Totnes Pound does not
feature centrally within the thesis although the experience was used to triangulate
with other community based economic projects. It has also been written up in more
detail in Longhurst (2010a).

Beyond the day-to-day activism with TTT, I contributed to debates about the
emerging legal and management structure of TTT drawing on my ‘third sector’
management experience. I wrote some short articles for non-academic publications
that raise awareness of the Transition Town process (Longhurst 2007a, 2007b). I
also helped to develop some research protocols for the Transition Network and
arranged the first research workshop for researchers interested in the movement.
Indeed, I had the novel experience of being interviewed by an academic researcher
whilst undertaking my own research. Whilst I was living in Totnes I would describe
my positionality within TTT as have being on the edge of the ‘inner circle’. I was
not involved in central decision-making and did not attend the ‘core group’ (main
decision making body), primarily because of time constraints. My involvement in all
these activities has certainly played a significant part in deepening my understanding
of Totnes, identifying key informants, building trust and networks, and in providing
specific data for both the initial ‘mapping’ and the subsequent purposive sampling of
interview subjects.

5.3.2 Qualitative interviewing

Qualitative interviewing was used to explore in more depth the development,
perspectives and experiences of ‘postcapitalist’ institutions in the Totnes area as well
as some of the key areas of countercultural practice. Following the decision to focus
on ‘institutional’ forms of postcapitalist practice, a period of qualitative interviewing

137
was undertaken with a range of different respondents. This section first explores the
strengths and weaknesses of qualitative interviewing before detailing what was
actually done within this research project.

(i) Strengths and weaknesses of qualitative interviewing

Atkinson and Silverman (1997) suggest that qualitative interviewing has become the
method through which contemporary social science engages with the questions that
concern it. The use of qualitative interviewing in geography has increased in recent
years, although, as Cloke et al. (2004) illustrate, it has a longstanding pedigree
within the discipline. Valentine (2005) suggests that interviews are particularly
suited to multi-method research, whilst Johns (2004) suggests that qualitative
interviewing has a close affinity with ethnography. As will be discussed below,
interviewing-as-method can be designed and implemented in a number of ways, the
common denominator for all interviews – however structured – is that it is a method
that involves researchers asking basically open ended questions (O’Leary 2004). It is
the richness of the data that this method generates that can be considered one of its
great strengths. A further advantage is suggested by Cawthorne (2001), who argues
that qualitative interviewing allows the researcher to build up a more complete
picture of the phenomena they are studying and cross check information given by
other informants, otherwise known as ‘source’ triangulation.

However, the researcher must be careful how they treat the data that emerge from
interviews. Rapley (2001), following Seale (1998), makes the distinction between
two different ways in which interview data can be understood:

! Interview data as resource – the interview data collected are seen as (more or
less) reflecting the interviewees’ reality outside the interview
! Interview data as topic – the interview data collected are seen as reflecting a
reality jointly constructed by the interviewee and interview



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Rapley (2001) argues that it is ‘data as resource’ which has come under sustained
critique with the rise in the conception of interview as ‘artifact’, a consequence of
the wider ‘crisis of representation’ within social science. Her own particular
contribution to this debate is to encourage awareness and analysis of the
interviewer’s talk in producing both the form and content of the interview. In doing
so, we come to understand that

the ‘data’ gained in the specific interview begin to emerge as just one
possible version, a version that is contingent on the specific local
interactional context.

(Rapley 2001, 309 emphasis in original)

The recognition that interview data are ‘co-constructed’ (Cloke et al. 2004, 129)
points to the need for reflexivity throughout the practical research processes, from
planning, through implementation and into the analytical phase. There are a myriad
of factors that the reflexive researcher must be aware. These include: where the
interview is held (Elwood and Martin 2000); how you present yourself (Valentine
2005); how you conduct yourself in the interview (O’Leary 2004) and power
relations (Cloke et al. 2004, 130).

To some extent my research did involve using interviews as a ‘resource’ because
they were focused on developing narratives about the experiences of different
postcapitalist institutions and countercultural practices. I therefore attempted to be
reflexive about these different aspects of interviewing and the way in which they
might have shaped the ‘artefact’ that emerged. In particular my early interviews
highlighted my own eagerness to interject and shape the conversation, something I
learned to control. Furthermore, they led to two important methodological strategies:
a strong emphasis on data triangulation and sampling for ‘authority’. Both of these
were a response to the fact that interviews were a mixture of recollections,
perceptions and opinions. It was therefore necessary to ensure the validity of these
through both seeking out the most authoritative sources and through multiple
sources of data.

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(ii) Sampling and development of topic guides

Valentine (2005, 112) argues that qualitative sampling needs to be purposive, where
the aim ‘is not to choose a representative sample, rather to select an illustrative one.
Choosing who to interview is therefore a theoretically motivated decision.’ However,
research that utilises purposive, or non-random sampling needs to address both
unwitting bias and erroneous assumptions that could damage the credibility of the
findings (O’Leary 2004). The former problem relates to the way in which you may
act to confirm what you already suspect, whereas the latter is where you use
incorrect assumptions. O’Leary recommends that the researcher be open and
reflexive about their sampling strategy to reduce chance of these errors. The initial
sampling strategy was guided by the themes and categories that had emerged from
the Phase One research (Cope 2003). Thus a range of seemingly significant areas of
postcapitalism had been identified, along with some key strands of Countercultural
activity. To manage this mixture of different types of respondent I developed a
three-fold sampling strategy and three separate topic guides (see Figure 5.1 below).




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Sample 1: Postcapitalist businesses and social markets
Phase 1 identified a range of different postcapitalist markets and businesses within the
area. Again, rather than focus on one particular type I aspired to try and take a slightly
wider view. This sample sought to balance a degree of ‘sampling for difference’ with the
ability to triangulate within and amongst each sub-category of respondent. Therefore the
interview strategy focused on exploring three or four different areas of institutional
postcapitalism that seemed particularly significant:
1. The ‘local’ organic food economy (retail & production)
2. ‘Green’ businesses
3. Non-food ‘ethical’ retailers
4. Independent retail in Totnes
I focused on businesses that were either perceived as being significant in some way, had a
high profile or apparent historic role in Totnes – collectively (loosely) labelled as
‘pioneering’. These interviews explored both the businesses and the markets in which they
operated, following the theoretical distinction made in Chapter Four.
Sample 2: Community Economic projects and activities
These interviews covered the range of non-market economic activities e.g. social economy
institutions, currencies and some of the Alternative Food Initiatives. Again this required
handpicking to find the people who had the authority to discuss specific initiatives.
Interviewees include both existing projects and those that had ceased. These interviews
were intended to standalone but also could be triangulated with my own experience with
the Totnes Pound. Again, it was not feasible to cover the whole range of institutions. Some
degree of selectivity was therefore required. On the community projects side I chose to
focus only on the economic projects rather than the wider social economy initiatives. This
way, it was possible to interview all of the local institutions that had a strong ‘economic’
dimension.
Sample 3: Countercultural Place
The purpose of this sample was to explore the emergence of different aspects of
Countercultural activity within the area. This also required a handpicked sample of known
existing contacts and was reliant on specific targeted interviewees and recommendations.
The sample was focused on exploring a wide range of issues relating to significant
dimensions of Countercultural practice that had emerged during Phase One of the research.
These interviews were often focused on one specific aspect of countercultural activity and
thus were much less structured. They were intended to triangulate with other ethnographic
notes and material obtained from archival and other secondary sources.
Figure 5.2: Three strands of sampling strategy


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In all three samples I sought to interview people who were closely involved with
institutions in which I was interested. The overall sampling strategy adopted within
this research project could best be described as ‘handpicked’ (O’Leary 2004).
However, it could also be described as an attempt to sample for authority in the
sense that I sought out those who had ‘lived it’, not simply that they were ‘experts’
on the subject (see McKay 1998, 32). In a sense, then the community activism was
also an attempt at ‘living it’ whilst gathering data in more conventional ways. Table
5.1 (overleaf) has a list of interviewees and their particular area of authority.

Whilst organising the sampling in this way made sense from a research strategy
point of view, it was also expected that that many respondents would potentially
provide useful data relating to other areas. For example, some of the businesses had
been involved in the community economic practices. Furthermore, many
respondents had some knowledge of the development of Countercultural aspects of
the locality. Therefore flexible topic guides were developed following Mason (1996)
and were intended to allow interviewees to engage with all three areas of research.
Indeed, as it emerged, many interviewees did have multiple areas of knowledge that
were significant to the research project as a whole. ‘Member checking’ was used
within the interview process to validate the overall sampling strategy and check
other respondents who would be good to speak to. This ‘snowballing’ approach was
particularly useful in the interviews about Totnes as a Countercultural place, where
it was not necessarily immediately obvious who was a good informant. Finally, the
business interview topic guide contained a wider range of discussion points around
issues of postcapitalism. This related to some of the early literature with which I
engaged and was also to some extent a ‘back up’ strategy in case I was unable to
complete the research into Totnes as a Countercultural place to a sufficient degree.

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Ref Name Significance / Authority
1 Robert Vint GM campaigner, community activist and local councillor.
2 Paul Hall Managing Director of Colour Works, a ʻgreenʼ printing company.
3 Tristram Madge Journalist who grew up in the area.
4 Derek Lapworth Ran Velwell Orchard, a biodynamic small-holding.
5 Rob Hopkins Co-founder of Transition Town Totnes and the wider Transition Movement.
6 Paul Wesley Chair of Chamber of Commerce, business owner, peace campaigner.
7 Tom Welch Established Yarner Trust at Dartington and supported permaculture development in area.
8 Alison Hastie Founder of Green Shoes, a former co-operative artisan shoemaking.
9 John Watson Founder of Riverford Farm.
10 Alan Langmaid Manager of local museum and longstanding local resident.
11 William Lana Co-founder of Green Fibres.
12a, b,c Andy Langford Businessman and social entrepreneur. Involved in several local projects.
13 Toby and Ruth Chadwick Run the Natures Round organic vegetable box scheme.
14a, b Jim Pilkington Manages the anthroposophicically influenced Salago shop. Also involved in the establishment of the South
Devon Steiner School.
15 Christopher Titmuss Involved in establishment of Buddhism in the Totnes area.
16a,b Rosemary Burns Former librarian at the Dartington College of Arts.
17 Sarah Strong Involved in the second LETS scheme (1990s).
18 John Elford Managing Director of Green Books, a publisher of ecologically focused books.
19 Mark Burton Former Schumacher College student trying to set up a version of the interest free JAK bank in the UK.
20 Noni McKensie Local food activist.
21 Hazel Selene Set up the Totnes Womenʼs Group and the Natural Birth Centre.
22 Guy Watson Established Riverford Organics one of the largest organic box schemes in the UK.
23 Marcea Colley Former LETS co-ordinator and involved in other forms of community activism.
24 Mike Freeman Involved in Hood Faire festival and Riverside self-build housing project.
25 Charles Staniland Former organic grower and co-founder of Devon Organic Growers co-operative.
26 Bob Mann Local writer and historian.
27 Michael Hughes TTT activist and ʻgreenʼ architectural consultant.
28 Judy Smith Biodynamic farmer.
29 Belle Collard Founded first health food cafe in Totnes.
30 Carolyn Whitwell Founder of Bishopston Trading Company, ethical retailer who have an outlet in Totnes.
31 Norman Duncan Significant community activist in the 1980s and early 1990s
32 Jonathan Parker Involved in the Totnes Natural Health Centre.
33 Bone Wilson Chair of the Devonlane Credit Union.
34 Helen and Barry Pope Former owners of Seeds Healthfood Shop (formerly Cranks).
35 Saskia Thomas Founder of Hood Faire festival.
36 Jeanne Day Founder of the Alexander Technique Training School.

Table 5.1 Interviewees and key informants


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Ref Name Significance / Authority
37 Prem Ash and Mark
Beeson
Two of the organisers of TILT loan fund. Mark Beeson also ran the Dart community magazine. Prem worked
for Conker Shoe, one of the towns first ʻcounterculturalʼ businesses.
38 Tissi Pilkington Founder of Salago one of the first ʻcounterculturalʼ businesses.
39 Vicky Evans Daughter of the Canters - founders of Cranks restaurants.
40 Carol Briscoe Owner of the building used by the Totnes Womenʼs Centre.
41 Jamie Sermon Co-owner and founder of Greenlife healthfood shop.
42 Ben Watson Founder of Riverford farmshops.
43 Heather Williams Bill Elmhirstʼs first wife.
44 Martin Stott Wrote Spilling the Beans (1986) book which identified Totnes as a centre of New Age culture.
45 Matthew Criddle Managing Director of Nature Save, green insurance company based in Totnes.
46 Christian Taylor Founder of South Devon Community Supported Farming and organic smallholder at Beenleigh Meadow.
47 Peter Kiddle Former teacher at Dartington College of Arts.
48 Ollie Watson Founder of Riverford Dairy and manager of the Farm.
49 Douglas Cockbain Current owner of Arcturus Books, an ʻalternativeʼ book shop.
50 Caroline Hayman Local Quaker who has researched local Quaker history.
51 Tom Merrington Co-founder of Seeds wholefoods shop in the 1970s.
52 Ian Noble Manages the South Devon Organic Growers Co-operative which supplies Riverford Organics.
53 Jan Innes Was a member of the core group of the Totnes Natural Health Centre and also owned the ʻalternativeʼ clothes
shop Revival.
54 ------ Former traveller who has settled in the area.
55 Bob Jelfs Established Arcturus bookshop in 1970s.
56 Michael Couzens Economic development officer for South Hams District Council.
57 Benji Piper Artist who went to Dartington School in the 1970s with connections to the new age traveller movement.
58 Sean Johnson Manager of Annies Organic shop.
59 Michael Kendell Involved in establishing Totnes Development Trust and other local projects.
60 Landmatters Low impact community based near Totnes.
61 Prem Ash and Verity
Swann
Both worked for Conker Shoe, artisan shoe-making business.
62 Felix Lambe Started first biodynamic garden in the area.
63 Frankie Van Der Stok One of the group which established the Camphill community near Buckfastleigh.
64 ------ A follower of Andrew Cohen (spiritual guru).
65 Marguerite Osborne Early practitioner of Trancendental Meditation in the area.
66 Roger Jones The first organic farmer in South Devon.
67 Noel Bartdorff Involved in feminism in the area in the 1970s.
Table 5.1 Interviewees (continued)

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(iii) Interview access, practice and confidentiality

Gaining access to interviewees was done in a number of different ways. At various
times email, telephone and face-to-face contact was used to approach interviewees.
Whilst an initial roster of interviewees was developed during Phase One, a process
of ‘snowballing’ led to others informants being identified. The initial contact would
often involve a short description of the research and the interview process. When the
interview took place the interviewee was given a Research Information Sheet and
confidentiality agreement of which they were able to retain one copy.

Interviews were undertaken at a time and location convenient for the interviewee.
Most were undertaken in their offices or homes but a few were at my home in
Totnes. In addition some interviews were undertaken over the telephone or over the
Internet using the Internet telephony application Skype. This was because some of
the ‘pioneers’ who had established projects or businesses were no longer in the
Totnes area. In such cases the interview paperwork had been emailed to the
interviewees. All interviewees were asked if they were amenable to being taped
using a digital recorder. The interviews that were recorded were transcribed using
some standard conventions. In most cases they were but occasionally they weren’t
and instead handwritten notes were taken. This was also the case in those telephone
interviews that were not undertaken over Skype. Not every interview managed to
cover the totality of the topic guide. The interview style was generally informal,
particularly as I knew some of the interviewees. As such, whilst I tried to cover the
topic guide, the interests of the interviewees and the areas where they had more to
say to some extent, influenced the direction of the interviews. Therefore some
interviews followed the topic guide closely whereas others were more informal. On
some occasions, the interview was combined with other tasks and formed more of an
‘ethnographic’ conversation than a sit down interview. The length also varied, some

145
interviews were extensive ranging across a variety of topics whilst some were short
and focused on a specific issue.

The fact that only one interviewee who was approached declined to be interviewed
is, I think, a testament to the overall methodological approach. Indeed, it would have
not been possible to find many of the key informants without the ethnographic
approach taken. Inevitably there were a few informants who could not be tracked
down or who had unfortunately passed away. However, on the whole the data
collection strategy was highly successful in identifying and finding the informants
who had been involved in key institutions and practices.

5.3.3 Research Diary and ethnographic notes

From April 2007 onwards I kept an electronic research diary. This is where I kept
notes of what I had been doing, observations, reflections and other conversations I
had. Time pressures have meant that this does not have the full richness of an
ethnographic account, and are instead akin to the ‘jottings’ made by conventional
ethnographers (Emerson et al. 1995). However, the research log has been a useful
way of recording relevant information as I encountered it, as well as ideas about
connections to theory as they emerged. For some visits, meetings and events I also
wrote up more detailed ethnographic notes of proceedings that would have normally
appeared in the research diary.

5.3.4 Archival Research

Archival research was undertaken at the Totnes Museum Study Centre, the
Westcountry Studies Library in Exeter, and the Dartington Hall Trust Archive. The
British Library also proved useful in obtaining some materials that could not be
sourced elsewhere. This work also proved invaluable in undertaking ‘source’
triangulation and verifying data that came from other sources such as interviews or
conversations. In particular, it corroborated people’s recollection of particular

146
activities and also provided more specific times and dates for certain key events.
Once I discovered archived local publications such as the Dartington Hall News, the
Dart and Totnes Community Magazine they all provided particularly useful. For
example, I analysed every (weekly) edition of the Dartington Hall News from 1968
to 1981. Archive copies of the weekly local newspaper the Totnes Times also
proved valuable as a secondary source of data as did some other books and
magazines recommended by respondents and contacts. Some other specialist
publications were also checked for references to the Totnes area. For example, the
feminist publication Spare Rib was used to verify the date that the Totnes Women’s
Group was established.

5.3.5 Other secondary data

The lack of academic literature on Totnes’ development as a site of Countercultural
practice meant that there was a need to engage with non-academic literature to
explore the history and development of Totnes and the postcapitalist practices in the
locality. Furthermore, even non-academic histories make virtually no reference to
the ‘alternative’ side of Totnes. One strand of the research strategy was therefore to
find any relevant material relating to the research questions being explored. As Cope
(2003) has argued, such textual materials can play an important role in filling gaps in
information that could otherwise not be known.

A range of other secondary data sources including other newspapers, official reports,
books, magazines, leaflets and obituaries were gathered during the course of the
research. Again these provided valuable background information and were able to
triangulate data obtained from other sources. Indeed, the way in which I was able to
borrow a full set of Sherrack (a local alternative magazine, not available in any
archive) from one of the original team behind it was an example of the benefits of
the overall ‘ethnographic’ approach to the research. Also, throughout the data
collection phase various web searches were undertaken on different aspects of
Totnes’ Countercultural activity. Often this was to find out more information about a

147
‘lead’ that had been obtained elsewhere, or to triangulate an assertion from a
respondent. It was sometimes necessary to email contacts for information because it
was the only way in which to get in touch with them. Their replies themselves
contained information that was useful and so the email was logged and regarded as
another form of data.

5.4 Data analysis and verification

This section of the chapter sets out how the data were analysed and verified. It is
argued that in qualitative research projects such as this one, the concept of rigour is
of vital importance. Therefore a discussion of rigour precedes an explanation of the
particular techniques used.

5.4.1 Establishing Rigour

Baxter and Eyles (1997, 506) suggest that rigour is commonly understood to mean
the ‘the satisfaction of the conventional criteria of validity, reliability and objectivity
within quantitative research.’ They identify the use of multi-methods as one of
eleven different strategies used by geographers to establish qualitative rigour within
their work. They argue that in order for qualitative research to stand up to evaluation
and be deemed rigorous there is a need for transparent criteria against which the
research can be measured, and suggest using Lincoln and Guba’s (1985) criteria,
reproduced in Table 5.2 below, the bold text in the ‘strategies’ column indicating
those strategies that have been adopted within this research for this thesis.

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Table 5.2: Criteria for evaluating qualitative research (based on Lincoln and Guba 1985)

Criteria Definition Assumptions Strategies / practices to satisfy
criteria.
Credibility Authentic representation of
experience
Multiple realities
Causes not distinguishable from effect
Empathetic researcher
Researcher as instrument
Emphasis of the research endeavour
Purposeful sampling
Disciplined subjectivity /
bracketing
Prolonged engagement
Persistent observation
Triangulation
Peer debriefing
Negative case analysis
Referential adequacy
Member checking
Transferability Fit within contexts outside
the study situation
Time and context bound experiences
Not responsibility of ‘sending researcher’
Provision of information for ‘receiving researcher’
Purposeful sampling
Thick description

Dependability Minimization of
idiosyncrasies in
interpretation
Variability tracked to
identifiable sources
Researcher as instrument
Consistency in interpretation (same phenomena always
matched with the same constructs)
Multiple realities
Idiosyncracy of behaviour and context
Low inference descriptors
Mechanically recorded data
Multiple researchers
Participant researchers
Peer examination
Triangulation, inquiry audit

Confirmability Extent to which biases,
motivations, interests or
perspectives of the inquirer
influence interpretations
Biases, motivations, interests or perspectives of the
enquirer can influence interpretation
Focus on investigator and interpretations
Audit trail products
Thick description of audit trail
Autobiography
Journal / notebook



149

Despite admonishing social geographers for over-focusing on validity / credibility
within the academic debates on rigour, Baxter and Eyles (1997) also dedicate more
time to discussing that particular criterion than the other three. They suggest that
triangulation is one of the ‘most powerful’ techniques for strengthening credibility.
They draw on Denzin (1978) to distinguish between four different types of
triangulation, including methodological triangulation, which involves corroboration
using different methods, and source triangulation, using different sources of data.
Both of these are key elements of my research design. O’Leary (2004, 115) also
argues that triangulation is a strategy to build credibility, whilst Lincoln and Guba
(1985) suggest that triangulation also is one of three preventative techniques which
can be used to mitigate the potential effects that social relations between researcher
and interviewee can have on the data. The other two, prolonged engagement and
persistent observation, are also features of my research approach. Ultimately, as
McKendrick (1999) has suggested, the use of multiple methods enables a researcher
to strengthen their research conclusions, by providing corroborating data from
independent sources and different approaches. As Cope (2003) has argued,
triangulation remains central to the process of research reliability and validity and
therefore was central to the data analysis process in the next section.

5.4.2 Data analysis and verification

Analysis of the interview data was undertaken using the matrix approach set out in
Miles and Huberman (1994). For each of the topic guides a matrix was developed
which was able to summarise the interview data in a form of in vivo coding (Cope
2003). For the interviews with the businesses and community enterprises this took
the form of a conceptually ordered matrix that cross-referred summaries of their
answers with the respondent. Once the matrix had been populated it was possible to
read ‘down’ to get a summary of the whole interview with a particular respondent or
‘across’ to explore the different ways in which respondents answered specific
questions or topic areas. This ‘tactic’ as Miles and Huberman (1994) call it, allows
for comparison and contrast to be made. This permitted a process of ‘source


150
triangulation’ to be undertaken that drew out key themes, commonalities and
differences between respondents and allowed the data to ‘speak’. The interviews
based on topic guide three were also transcribed to a matrix but one that was
thematically ordered on themes that had emerged from the other data. These themes
emerged not only out of the analysis of the other two interview schedules but also
through my prolonged engagement with the field.

This approach was preferred because unlike much research this research project was
not a detailed study of a homogenous sample of subjects. Nor was it primarily
concerned with a ‘deep’ understanding of how such subjects construct their own
realities. Instead the primary purpose of the analysis was to construct co-created
narratives about both the development of Totnes itself and the experience of
postcapitalist institutions. The data analysis therefore involved a great deal of
reading ‘across’ the data rather than in depth, in order to develop new themes and
test those that had emerged during the earlier fieldwork. A second matrix was
therefore developed to capture all the various data sources that were gathered
relating to specific countercultural and postcapitalist institutions and practices. This
matrix was used as the basis of source triangulation about key events in the
evolution of countercultural and postcapitalist activity in the Totnes area. Mapping
out the data in this way enabled me to build up a chronology of key stages in the
development of Totnes as a countercultural place. Indeed the overall case study
could be understood as an aggregation of many much smaller ‘micro’ case studies.
The ethnographic data I collected on the Totnes Pound was used to construct a
narrative reflection on the development of the project that I then verified with other
participants on the core project team.
As well as a mechanism to triangulate data, the matrices were used then to construct
the meta-narratives about what had happened in the area. These narratives were
constructed into the first drafts of the data chapters that were rich, thick descriptive
accounts of both its development as a Countercultural place and its role as a site of
postcapitalism. These narratives were then subjected to various forms of ‘member
checking’ in order to verify my interpretations of the data. Firstly, I have regularly


151
published extracts from my data chapters on a ‘blog’, Alternative Totnes
(http://alternativetotnes.wordpress.com see Figure 5.3 below).


Figure 5.3: Screenshot from Alternative Totnes blog.
The purpose of this has been twofold. Firstly, it has been another dimension of
‘giving back’ to those who participated in the research. Many respondents and
contacts were interested in the topic and wanted to be kept informed of
developments. The blog has allowed people to read about an important aspect of
Totnes’ development that until now had not been documented. Secondly, it has acted
as a mechanism of member checking, both in terms of my interpretation of events
and the theoretical arguments that have emerged. When I first started the blog I
contacted most of the interviewees and my other contacts in the Totnes area to notify
them of its existence whilst also generating some press coverage for the site. The
blog contains much of the detailed data that I gathered that did not previously exist
and therefore provides the first comprehensive rich description of many of the
aspects of Countercultural practice that emerged in the area.



152
By September 2010 the site has received nearly two thousand views and I had not
received any comments or emails that disputed my interpretation of events or the
history of specific practices or institutions. Indeed, it has actually proved a useful
mechanism through which people have been able to confirm certain events and
interpretations, providing additional data. A second web-based tool has been the
development of a web-based mnemographic tool called TimeGlider that details the
key events the emerged from the research. Again this is publicly viewable (linked to
the blog) and is published as a ‘work in progress’ which is open to challenge or
critical comment. Again, this not only provides information on key events and
activities but also illustrates one of the central arguments of the thesis, that a critical
mass of Countercultural activity built up towards the end of the late 1970s which is
when it began to have a significant material impact on the town of Totnes. At the
same time as developing the narrative I was re-engaging with the literature to try and
understand what was happening. This involved both returning to the original
literature but also seeking out new conceptual language that helped to fill some of
the gaps that I had found. Once satisfied with the strength of the narrative that I had
co-constructed, I then ‘re-theorised’ the data chapters. This enabled me to address
the research questions more directly and also to bring the theory ‘back in’. This
inevitably involved losing much of the thick description from the final versions. In
addition, at this stage I also undertook a further round of ‘member checking’ with
key respondents, to verify my theoretical arguments or interpretations of events
(Cope 2003). Over the writing up period I also undertook some short telephone
follow-up interviews to fill key gaps in the literature and to verify the analyses that
emerged from the more in-depth interviews and other data.












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5.5 Concluding Reflections

Denzin and Lincoln (2005) describe the qualitative researcher as a Bricoleur who
prepares a representation from multiple fragments. Again, they emphasise the
importance of triangulation, suggesting that

The combination of multiple methodological practices, empirical materials,
perspectives, and observers in a single study is best understood as a strategy
that adds rigour, breadth, complexity, richness and depth to any enquiry.

(Denzin and Lincoln 2005, 5)


Such a depiction comes close to describing the data collection process that underpins
this thesis. Whilst I would argue that there is a complexity, richness and depth to this
particular enquiry, I am also conscious that it is still only one interpretation of events
and one that remains partial. In reflecting on my research methodology, it is clear
that my stubbornness not to close the research down to a more ‘micro’ scale made it
a more difficult and complex endeavour. However, it seemed an inadequate exercise
to study the postcapitalist institutions without a fuller understanding of the context in
which they operated and emerged. The complete absence of existing literature –
academic or grey – on how Totnes became ‘alternative’ and what that might mean,
left me with little choice but to include such questions within the scope of the
research. Had such material already existed then there is no doubt that the research
would have focused more entirely on the development of postcapitalism in the area.
Instead, I had to strike a balance between addressing the two ‘sides’ of the research
(countercultural place / postcapitalism), which inevitably involved some
compromises.

Thus, whilst I am extremely confident in the narratives and arguments that have
been developed there are still some gaps and other ‘stories’ to be told. Such gaps
exist because key informants could not be found or information just was not
available. In particular, certain materials within the Dartington Trust’s archive
remain embargoed. On the side of ‘postcapitalism’ there were more markets and


154
businesses to explore, especially other areas of ‘green’ activity (e.g. green builders,
green funerals etc). On the side of ‘Countercultural place’, more interviews would
give richer accounts of some of the key areas of development. In many ways then,
this thesis reflects a starting point for understanding both particularities of the
empirical case in question, and some of the wider theoretical questions. That starting
point begins in the next chapter, which discusses the evolution of Totnes as a
Countercultural place.


! "##!
Chapter 6: The emergence of a Countercultural place

This chapter seeks directly to address the research question: What are the
processes that have led to the emergence of Totnes as a countercultural place?
What implications does this have for how such places are understood? Its
central argument is that the concept of a countercultural milieu is important for
understanding the processes that have shaped Totnes as a countercultural place.
The chapter illustrates how a utopian experiment based near Totnes – Dartington
Hall – was the primary cause underlying the emergence of the milieu, but that it
involved a range of overlapping and interconnecting processes. In theorising the
emergence of the milieu, the chapter draws the different propositions relating to
the formation of countercultural place outlined in Chapter Three and shows that
most of them have some analytical relevance in the case of Totnes. However, the
research makes an additional contribution to the understanding of the formation
of such places, firstly by showing how such processes overlap and interconnect
and secondly by emphasing the importance of a key concept that is mostly absent
from the existing literature – homophily – the tendency of individuals with
similar traits or characteristics to aggregate in social networks and sites.

This chapter first describes the key areas of Countercultural practice that have
emerged in the area since the 1970s. The majority of the chapter focuses on a
‘model’ that describes the processes that have led to the emergence of Totnes as
a countercultural place. It then goes on to explore the different elements of this
model, drawing on empirical examples from the fieldwork. Space precludes the
inclusion of much of the rich empirical detail that was gathered and which
enabled the overall narrative to be developed. More detailed accounts of the
different elements of the milieu can be found on the research blog.






! "#$!
6.1 The emergence of a Countercultural place

6.1.1 A countercultural milieu

The usage of countercultural milieu within this chapter differs from the way in
which the concept of an ‘alternative milieu’ has been occasionally used within
the literature. For example O’Doherty et al. (1999) describe an alternative milieu
that reaches across the whole of the South-west UK. However, they use it in a
way that primarily relates to (green) Alternative Culture (see Chapter 3) and to
refer to networks of individuals. It therefore has something in common with
concept of a milieu that has been developed in innovation studies and economic
geography to stress the institutional and cultural embeddedness of innovation
(Maillet 1995). In this context the concept of the innovative regional milieu
(Maillet 1995 et al.) has been used to describe the importance of geographic
propinquity. In this context a milieu can be used to refer to a range of actors and
institutions such as firms, educational establishments, NGOs, etc (Truffer and
Dürrenberger 1997). Therefore, in this context, the notion of a milieu is being
adopted to refer to the geographic density of countercultural networks,
institutions, groups, practices and individuals that co-exist within the Totnes
locality. Following the conceptual framework outlined in Chapter Three, a
countercultural milieu is therefore broader than the ‘alternative’ milieu described
above. It also stresses the importance of institutions and is used in a somewhat
more ‘localised’ sense.

This notion of a milieu has some resonance with the concept of an enclave,
which has been adopted in relation to some notions of countercultural places
(e.g. Lloyd 2002). However, the notion of an enclave tends on the whole to be an
urban concept, and I would argue, tends to have a more bounded sense both
ethnically and geographically. Milieu is therefore preferred both for the sense of
heterogeneity and fluidity that it conveys, particularly in the context of an
approach that is built on a wider conception of countercultural practice. It also
highlights the importance of institutions in Totnes becoming an alternative place.
Drawing on the meta-categories first outlined in Chapter Three, Table 6.1 below
! "#$!
describes some of the main strands of the Countercultural milieu that has
developed around the Totnes area.

Table 6.1 illustrates that by taking a wider analytical lens a broad range of
Countercultural practices within the area become ‘visible’. The table reflects
those practices which have been most visible and, in most cases, which have had
some kind of enduring impact on the locality. However, even this depiction of
the milieu in Table 6.1 is by necessity simplified. There are some aspects of
Countercultural practice that are not fully described: The ‘human potential’ side
of the ‘New Age’ and the development of drug culture(s) within the area are two
obvious examples. Nor does the table fully reflect the local manifestations of
bohemian culture or paganism. However, even in its current form the table
supports the argument that these different practices can be linked as part of an
ongoing Countercultural tradition that shares a rejection of (aspects of) Western
modernity. Indeed, despite their many differences, the detailed fieldwork
highlights numerous connections and linkages between these different strands.
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Strand Details
Radical
politics
There was little evidence of organised radical left / anarchist politics in the area. There has been a local green party presence which stood in the four general elections between 1983 and 1997 but did not exceed 2% of the vote. Unlike some
other areas, a strong green presence has not been established, although there has been some recent progress. Radical politics have therefore been expressed through the local organisation of social movements and community activism, as
detailed in other categories. There are therefore different manifestations of radical green politics locally. There are also local strands of conspiracy politics reflected for example in the existence of a Totnes branch of 911 Truth.
New social
movements
Environmental activism There were Friends of the Earth groups active in the area in the 1970s. In the 1990s there was a ʻgreenʼ community office which was a site of some DIY Culture including as the office of South Devon Earth First. The
Totnes area also became a site of Anti-GM community activism in 1998 when a test crop was planted adjacent to the organic Riverford Farm. This led to the establishment of the Totnes Genetix Group (TOGG) which played a role in the national
GM campaign as did other local activists. Doherty et al (2007) describe Totnes as being amongst the 2nd tier of activist groups within the UK during the 1990s
Feminism Radical feminism was a strong influence around Totnes in the late 1970s and early 1980s. There was a strong feminist influence at the Dartington College of Arts during the 1970s. In 1979 a womenʼs group was started in Totnes. In
May 1981 the group established a Womenʼs Centre in Totnes. This became a base for several women owned businesses and other activist groups.
Peace activism There were longstanding connections to the peace movement through Dartington. In the late 1970s there was a range of local groups opposing nuclear power and weapons. More recently, there has been mobilsation against
the Iraq war and a Peace Group who hold a weekly silent vigil outside St Maryʼs church in Totnes.
Alternative
pathways
Education The area has been an ongoing site of alternative education since the establishment of the Dartington Hall School in 1925. The establishment of the South Devon Steiner School in 1979 created a second ʻalternativeʼ school in the
area. Park School (1986) and Sands school (1987) were both established following the closure of the Dartington School in 1987. Schumacher College opened in 1991 focusing on ecological and holistic science.
Countercuisine Businesses related to the countercuisine were established in Totnes from the late 1960s. In 1979 the Devon Organic Growers Co-operative was established inspired by Community Supported Agriculture schemes in
Switzerland. In the mid 1980s Guy Watson began growing organic vegetables on Riverford Farm. In 1992 he began a vegetable box delivery scheme which has since become one of the largest in the country. His brothers also run organic milk
and meat businesses. Following the emergence of anthroposophy (see below) in the area a small biodynamic sector has emerged, with 14 local sites in 1998. There are also local members of the Wholesome Food Association what might be
considered a ʻpost-organicʼ scheme. There have been a number of different attempts at community supported agriculture, most recently the South Devon Community Supported Agriculture Scheme was established in 2003.
Alternative press The area has had a regular underground press since the mid 1970s. Sherrack was a community magazine that appeared for 21 issues between April 1975 and December 1978. It had articles on several countercultural
themes and was connected to the Hood Faire and the Totnes Natural Heath Centre. The Dart was launched in April 1981 to cover the ʻbioregionʼ of the Dart river. It ran bi-monthly until 2001. Again it had connections to other countercultural
institutions like the Totnes Womenʼs Centre. In the 1990s another Totnes focused magazine started (the Small Ads Magazine - later the Totnes Community Magazine which ran for several years and had links to the Green Community Office.
There are other examples of both local and national underground press and alternative magazines including the ʻnew ageʼ publication Kindred Spirit which started in the area in 1987.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine CAM practitioners began to proliferate in the area during the 1970s. The Dartington Solar Quest centre opened in 1974 (see table 6.2) and the Totnes Natural Health Centre opened in 1978 providing
self-help groups free access to therapies and a donation based system. This was one of the first centres of its kind in the UK. During the 1980s a number of other centres opened or relocated to the area including The Self Heal Association
(1981), the Totnes Birth Centre (1982), the Devon School for Shiatsu (1985) Karuna Institute (1987) and the Arcturus Clinic (1995). Totnes has since become recognised as a site of CAM activity (Andrews 2003).
Permaculture Permaculture is a form of ecological design which has links to the sustainable development and global justice movements (Trapeze Collective 2007). Totnes became a significant site of permaculture practice in the mid 1980s
after some local people travelled to the South of France for a training course. In 1986 the embryonic Permaculture Association of the UK was relocated to South Devon and regular courses were started on a piece of rented land which also
functioned as a ʻlow impactʼ community. Several prominent members of the UK permaculture movement did their training there including Patrick Whitfield and Graham Bell. In 1992 the Agroforesty Research Trust was established on the
Dartington estate to experiment with permaculture techniques. Most recently the permaculture inspired Transition Town movement started in Totnes in 2006.
Alternative
spiritualities
Quakerism reemerged as a local spiritual practice in the 1960s with a Totnes meeting restarting in 1964 which remains active, with reputedly a larger attendance than the meeting in the nearby city of Plymouth.
Western Buddhism practice was supported through the establishment of the Sharpham North Buddhist community (c.1982) and Gaia House (1983). Some prominent Buddhist writers are based in the area and both Sharpham and Gaia House
are part of the global retreat networks.
Anthroposophy - following the teachings of Rudolph Steiner - emerged as a form of spiritual practice in the late 1970s. A study group led to the establishment of the South Devon Steiner school, which was followed by other anthroposophical
inspired institutions including the Hapstead Camphill Community, a Christian community and biodynamic farming and smallholding.
Other examples of organised alternative spiritualities include a group of Sanyassins lived in a commune at Gara Bridge in 1978 and then in a property in Totnes until 1981 when they were evicted. Other spiritual practices such as neo-paganism
are also present in the area and it has also attracted other spiritual ʻgurusʼ. In the mid 1980s the spiritual leader Andrew Cohen was based in the Totnes area for a while, attracting a local following. John de Ruiter, a philosopher and teacher also
speaks in Totnes as part of his global circuit.
Alternative
lifestyles
Hood Faire Hood Faire was a medieval themed fair that first ran in 1979 over the midsummer weekend on a meadow not far from Totnes. The fairs attracted thousands of people and provided a platform for many of the other strands of
countercultural practices. They also acted as a network which bought together a group of likeminded people. The festivals ran seven times between 1979 and 1985. In 1993 there was one attempt at running a contemporary verison of the
Totnes Carnival that involved participants of the countercultural milieu but reverted to the traditional ʻ1950sʼ theme the following year.
New Age Travellers Some farms and pieces of land around Totnes have functioned as informal traveller sites since the late 1970s. The was a traveller connection to the Hood Faires and to the traveller movement through the Tibetan Ukranian
Mountain Troupe. Following the dismantling of the Peace Convey in the mid 1980s some travellers settled in the Totnes area. In the early 1990s a group attempted to develop a permanent site at nearby Beacon Farm. Blocked by the local
authority they occupied Steamer Quay in the town centre until they were evicted. There remains some ʻsettledʼ traveller sites around Totnes as well as ʻinformalʼ temporary sites
Alternative housing In 1981there was a high profile squat in Totnes in (Critchell Hostel) and a local protest movement about luxury housing being built in the area (The battle of Barrack Hill). Following this, two successful self-build projects
developed in the town. Contemporary examples of communal living include Bowden House and the Landmatters low-impact community.
Table 6.1: Significant dimensions of Countercultural activity around Totnes 1970s onward

! "#$!

It is important to recognise that the range of countercultural practices that developed
around Totnes were not in themselves unique. ‘Alternative’ businesses,
complementary medicine, spiritual centres, and women’s centres were proliferating
across the UK during the 1970s and early 1980s. However, what was unusual was the
fact that there was a range of these activities within and around a rural market town
with a population of only 5,529 in 1981.
15
For example, Bouchier (1983) suggests
that in the early 1980s it was not unusual for a provincial city to have a women’s
centre. Therefore, the fact that a town the size of Totnes could support a range of
activities described in Table 6.1 appears to be unusual, as was arguably the mixture of
‘rural’ and ‘urban’ countercultural activity. This majority of this chapter therefore
seeks to explain how such a density emerged and how this enables a more
sophisticated understanding of countercultural place to be developed.

6.1.2 The emergence of a countercultural milieu

Like some of the other Countercultural places detailed in Chapter 3, in-migration has
been a significant factor in the construction of the countercultural milieu around
Totnes. However, this study reveals new insights into the processes by which such
migration takes place, and by which the milieu becomes a self-sustaining entity.
Figure 6.1 below shows a schematic model that emerged from the detailed research. It
describes the emergence of the milieu and how some of the different causal drivers
link together. The model features most of the six theoretical countercultural ‘place
making’ strands outlined in Chapter Three. However, this research makes a
contribution to the formation of such places by identifying some additional factors,
whilst also providing some important insights into how they interact.

Firstly, as I show later in this chapter, migration to the Totnes area does not appear to
have been particularly driven by the search for economic margins, unlike some other
places (e.g. West Wales, West Ireland, North Devon). Whilst this may have been a
factor for some migrants, the general impression is that the presence of the millieu
had the opposite effect, contributing to the processes of rural gentrification identified
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by other research (Smith and Phillips 2001). Secondly, whilst reputation and
landscape are both factors they are not the core drivers of the milieu. Instead, the
emergence of the milieu can be traced back to the establishment of a single
‘institution’, the utopian ‘Dartington experiment’ which was established by Dorothy
and Leonard Elmhirst in 1925. Over the intervening years a milieu built up around
Dartington which, in the 1970s, energised by some of the ideas of the Counterculture,
‘spilled out’ into the surrounding locality. The research therefore has implications not
only for how countercultural places are understood but also how utopian communites
are conceived and researched, which, in the literature, is often as ‘bounded’ objects of
study. Thirdly, the research identifies a significant factor in the construction of a
countercultural milieu, best described as homophily. This sociological term describes
the the tendency of like-minded or similar people to gather in networks or groups
(McPherson et al. 2001). As discussed below, homophily emerged as a significant
factor in the construction of the milieu.
! "#"!
! "#$!

The remainder of this chapter describes each of the elements of Figure 6.1 in more
detail, with the sections organised around the different key factors, illustrating their
particular sigificance. It is important to note that whilst the emergence of the milieu is
not a simple linear process there is a certain temporality to the overall process. The
Dartington millieu grew into a wider countercultural milieu in the 1970s with Totnes
emerging as its economic, cultural and symbolic centre in the late 1970s and early
1980s. Following this, it is argued, the wider milieu has, at the time of writing,
become a self-sustaining entity which has transcended and eclipsed the original
Dartington ‘experiment’.

(a) The ‘Dartington experiment’

The belief that Dartington was the primary cause of Totnes’ alternative cultures was a
recurrent theme of the research interviews. For example

It's Dartington - I mean I don't see it can be anything else. There's no root
apart from Dartington - Dartington always attracted sort of innovative thinkers
and artists and what have you, dancers and so on and somehow out of that
grew I think this sense that Dartington, and presumably by extension Totnes,
was actually a seedbed for interesting thinking !
John Elford [Interview 18]

One of the reasons it’s alternative down here was the Dartington folk…that
must come up time and time again

Charles Staniland [25]

The Dartington effect is not just in the town its in a wider area all the
neighbouring villages and so on…Go to Ashburton and Harbertonford and
places like that… you’ll have a lot of people there who have come in for the
same reasons

Robert Vint [1]

In this context Dartington refers to a longstanding utopian experiment that is located
adjacent to Totnes. This section highlights how Dartington played a key role in first
establishing and underpinning the countercultural milieu around Totnes. It argues that
it played two important roles. The first was as a driver of immigration through its
16S
various activities, a role that had an ongoing and cumulative impact. Second, the trust
played a role in bringing countercultural ideas to the area. This section briefly
introduces Dartington before highlighting both of these roles.

The pre-history of Dartington and the first several decades of its existence have been
well documented by Bonham-Carter (1958) and Young (1996) but both accounts only
cover the period in which the founders, the Elmhirsts, were alive and actively
involved in the experiment. Jeremiah (1998) suggests that there are three key periods
to Dartington’s history: the early years, post war reconstruction and the post-founder
years. The 1970s falls into the ‘post-founder years’. Dorothy Elmhirst died in
December 1968 whilst Leonard Elmhirst moved to Los Angeles early in 1973 with his
second wife and subsequently died in April 1974. There is no comprehensive post
1970s account of Dartington during this era nor, in particular, of how it engaged with
the ideas of the Counterculture. To fill this gap this section (and the wider chapter)
has therefore been constructed from interviews, archival data and secondary sources.

(i) Background to the Dartington experiment

Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst purchased the Dartington estate in 1925.
16
Dorothy
Elmhirst was a wealthy American heiress from the Whitney family who had a history
of supporting progressive causes.
17
Leonard was the son of a parson from a Yorkshire
landowning family. He had become interested in ideas of rural reconstruction when
working with the Indian poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore on a rural
regeneration project in India. This work was funded by Dorothy and was one of the
inspirations for their Dartington experiment. After their marriage they developed the
idea of a rural regeneration project in England and purchased the decaying Dartington
estate. Both Tagore and wider Indian culture was a significant influence on Leonard
and thus the influences of both India and the United States have been thread
throughout the history of Dartington.

16
Foi the puiposes of this thesis heieaftei the teim 'Baitington' will be useu to iefei to the
Baitington expeiiment. Theie is also a village anu paiish of Baitington which will be iuentifieu
with the appiopiiate qualifiei when iequiieu.
17
Foi example, Boiothy Elmhiist was instiumental in the cieation of the Ameiican piogiessive
jouinal! "#$! %#&'()*+ (Rauchway 1999). She was also active in the suffiagette movement anu
othei piogiessive causes of the eaily 2u
th
Centuiy. !
! "#$!


Figure 6.2: Map of Dartington and Totnes

The original centrepiece of the Dartington experiment was a ‘progressive’ school,
Dartington Hall School, which at that time pioneered a radically different educational
philosophy to the conventional approach drawing inspiration from Dewey and
Rousseau.
18
In addition to this, a range of ‘departments’ and businesses were built up
over the following decades across a number of fields, including forestry, agriculture,
poultry, building and housing, textiles, orchards, gardens and dance and drama. Some
of these activities evolved into commercial businesses that were owned by the Trust,
others remained dependent on cross-subsidy from the Trust. A central objective of
Dartington was to attempt to show how the decline of rural areas could be allayed,
and how their economies could be revitalised. Young (1996, 100) suggests that
Dartington was founded on five underpinning beliefs:

• Mankind (sic) can be liberated through education
• A new flowering of the arts can transform a society impoverished by
industrialism and secularisation.
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• A society which combines the best of town and country combines the best of
both worlds
• A pervasive concern for the individual human being and his (sic) right to self
determination can be combined with the efficient operation of agriculture and
industry
• The scientific spirit can be a continuous spur to progress

Over the years Dartington developed links with a huge range of wider networks and
places, including strong connections with the middle-class liberal left intelligentsia,
George Bernard Shaw describing it as a ‘Salon in the countryside’ (Stoliday 2004, 1).
Its commitment to Arts and Crafts and artisanal production also indicates a strong
affinity with the ideas of John Ruskin and William Morris but did not also prevent it
from engaging with modernism. It also developed a variety of reputations, not least
for the Dartington Hall School which was regarded as being somewhat scandalous for
its commitment to co-education (including living arrangements), rejection of corporal
punishment and the practice of allowing naked student bathing in the river Dart. The
range and depth of the experiment means that there is an extensive literature covering
a range of different aspects of the work it did. For example, Nicholas (2007)
highlights its importance in the world of dance; Jeremiah (1998) its connections with
modernism; and Cox (2005) its involvement in the wider Arts. Some of this literature
is scholarly, some written by those involved. These different activities acted as a
driver of immigration to the area, the key factors of which are discussed in the next
section.

(ii) Dartington as a driver of in-migration

The Elmhirsts themselves were incomers to the Totnes area having no previous
connection to the region. Ever since the establishment of the experiment it has
continued to attract people to the area. A former student of the Dartington Hall School
described this process as far back as the 1930s:




! "##!
In a way it was marvellous. Dartington was almost an absurd, grotesque
Disneyland. It attracted a lot of hangers-on and you felt that anyone with a
weird skill, say a Trotskyite weaver in corduroy breeches with a great shock of
hair – would be made welcome.
Quoted in Punch (1977, 20)

Since its early days Dartington generated diasporas of people who supported its
activities and were occasional visitors, covering a range of different activities. As
Stoliday (2004, 1) puts it

some who came, who performed, lectured, wrote or showed their work, were
only brief visitors, while others came frequently and yet more came and stayed
for some time, or even for many years. The sheer variety of the talents and
activities of those who came adds to the colour and density of the patchwork.
There were musicians and economists, writers and potters, educationalists and
architects, dancers and psychologists, artists and agriculturalists, poets and
painters, sculptors and social theorists.

Some members of this Dartington milieu were temporary visitors to the area but
others settled. Indeed, Dartington itself became a developer of housing in the area
(and beyond) working with modernist architects such as Le Corbusier and Lescaze
(Jeremiah 1998). This area of work led not only to the establishment of their own
construction company Staverton Builders, but also the establishment of Dartington
Housing Association in 1958. Between 1921 and 1971 the population of Dartington
village grew from 492 to 1560 (King 2007, 50). Despite the house construction of
Dartington, there remained a chronic shortage of housing in the immediate area. A
report in the Dartington Hall News in early 1974 repeats a suggestion from a recent
Dartington Parish Council meeting that perhaps mobile homes could solve the
problem for young couples finding a house in the area. Migration driven by
Dartington therefore had a material impact on the locality and, in the 1970s, this
impact became increasingly significant and evident.

One important migratory driver was the Dartington Hall School. Punch’s (1977)
sociological study of the school defines it as a ‘radical’ progressive school of which
there were only a handful in England. In a chapter on the school’s parents he reports
that one of his respondents refers to the Dartington of the 1930s as the ‘village school
of the Bloomsbury intellectual set’ (Punch 1977, 29) referring to, amongst others,
167
Bertrand and Dora Russell, Aldous Huxley, Victor Gollancz and Ernest Freud, son of
Sigmund. There was a similar roll call in the post-war era, and whilst it was a
boarding school some families did relocate to the area so that they could send their
children to the school as day pupils, such as the poet Sean O’Casey in the post-war
era. The fact that employees of Dartington received a discount on their fees was
another driver of in-migration of those who wished to send their pupils to the school.
19
Inevitably, the school also attracted teachers who were interested in progressive
approaches to education for example, David Gribble, who worked at the school for
many years, describes how he first arrived

I first encountered an alternative to conventional education when I was
twenty-six, having already found much to object to in the school where I was
teaching. One day when I was browsing in a bookshop I came across a
description of Dartington Hall School, which seemed to answer all my
objections within a year I was working there

Gribble (1998, 1)

The school therefore attracted families and teachers who were sympathetic to its
progressive ideals, some of whom became long term residents in the area, as did some
of its growing alumni. Perhaps not surprisingly, the students at the school were
themselves partly engaged in some of the Countercultural politics of the era. In 1973
staff and students who were concerned by the lack of serious environmental action by
the government formed an Environmental Action Group. They ran film and lecture
nights that were open to the public.
20
They also implemented paper recycling at the
school and attempted to extend it to Dartington village, as well as food and health
issues, including ‘compost grown vegetables’
21
Later, a group of students from the

19
Seveial inteiview iesponuents mentioneu moving to the aiea because of the school. Paul
Wesley a peace activist |6] moveu to the aiea foi this ieason in the 198us just befoie the school
closeu, although he also auueu that he was not suie that he coulu affoiu the school anyway. Bazel
Selene who was the instigatoi of the Totnes Women's Centie came to the aiea in 1978 foi the
school but unuei the misappiehension that woiking uiiectly foi Nauiice Ash woulu entitle hei to
uiscounteu fees, which it uiu not |21]. Noiman Buncan, a community activist in the 198us was
able to ielocate to the aiea because he anu his wife got employment at the school, but again this
was shoitly befoie it began to close uown |S1].
2u
'Action foi the Enviionment' !"#$%&'$(&)*"++),-./, 1S Febiuaiy 1974, p. 2
21
'Aie you enviionmentally awaie' !"#$%&'$(&)*"++),-./, 8 Naich 1974, p. S
168
Dartington School were part of the Totnes and Dartington contingent that participated
a 1981 Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) march in London.
22


A second (and perhaps more) significant driver – in terms of the countercultural
milieu – was the Dartington College of Arts. Cox (2005) dates the formal start of the
College of Arts as September 1961 but it built on a much longer history of Arts
tuition and training. The College started by providing two courses focused on
teaching music education in primary and secondary schools. Through the decade and
into the 1970s the College continued to grow both in numbers and the scope of its
work. By 1972 there were more than 200 students studying at the College.
23
The
College has its own rich history of innovation and breaking new ground.
24
For
example, it was the first institution in the UK to pioneer certain traditions of eastern
music, another way in which Dartington’s connections to India were manifested.
Along with the London School of Contemporary Dance it was also responsible for
pioneering ‘dance avante garde’ in the 1970s (Mackrell 1994). Crickmay (2003) also
details the work that the college did in terms of developing ‘Art in Social Context’,
arguing that this was pioneering institution that was rooted in the radical artistic
movements and cultural ferment of the 1960s and 1970s. In particular the Art in
Social Context course, which began in 1977, was a precursor to contemporary
community based art and also had a strong ecological ethos. Understandably, it also
attracted students to the area who were not interested in the world of commoditised
art and galleries but instead in community arts. Therefore, the College of Arts was
very much infused with the ethic of experimentation that ran through the wider
Dartington experiment and engaged directly with some ideas of the Counterculture.

Paul Oliver, who arrived at the college as the Director of Art and Design at the
College September 1973, gives an example of this engagement.
25
He brought with
him an interest in intermediate and Alternative Technology, inspired by the work of

22
'Nucleai Piotest', !"#$%&'$(&)*"++),-./, Su 0ctobei 1981, p. S.
2S
'Baitington College looks to the futuie' in supplement !"#$%&'$(&)0(++-'-)+((1/)"$)$2-)34$4#- in
!"#$%&'$(&)*"++),-./, 26 Nay 1972, p. 2
24
Foi a uetaileu histoiy of the College of Ait anu its anteceuents see Cox (2uuS). A biiefei
summaiy is pioviueu by Cox (1977).
2S
Foi moie backgiounu on this see Cox (2uuS, chaptei 28).
169
E.F. Schumacher (1973). In an article following his arrival at the College he sets out a
vision in which Dartington embraces alternative technology:

It is hard to envisage a centre with as great potential as Dartington to develop
a self supporting, ecologically balanced, alternative-technology-based
community. Studies in Intermediate and Alternative technology could be
developed here at a level that is scarcely possible elsewhere.
26


Oliver goes on to outline how Dartington’s connections to the Asian Institute and the
African Trust would enable the technologies to be applied, whilst there was great
potential in collaboration with the farms, forestry, horticulture and craft activities
around the Estate. The immediate aim was to start studies in Design for Intermediate
and Alternative Technology in the Art and Design Department of the College, later in
1973. Art and Design students in the College therefore began to study solar energy,
wind energy, methane digestors, hydroponics and a range of building techniques
including geodesic structures, cob, compacted earth and the use of recycled materials.
27
The Dartington Trust offered the students a small orchard site and the Shippon (a
disused milking parlour) at Droridge Farm to use for their project, which became the
base for the Intermediate Technology Department. Over the next couple of years a
number of the ideas were implemented there including a compost toilet, solar energy
and a geodesic greenhouse.
28


An important impact of both the school and the college was that former students
settled in the area and in 1970s and 1980s became involved in Countercultural
practices. For example, one former student who later became involved in the LETS
community currency (see chapter 6) explained her reasons for coming back

I decided to come back here because I had friends here and this was the only
area in which I felt comfortable…A certain percentage of students have
always stayed around…if you ask around you’ll discover that a certain
percentage of students have stayed

Sarah Strong [17]


26
'Besign foi inteimeuiate technology' !"#$%&'$(&) *(++,',) +((-.) "$) $/,) 01$1#,) supplement
publisheu with the !"#$%&'$(&)2"++)3,4.5)26 Nay 197S, p. 8
27
'Alteinative Bousing', !"#$%&'$(&)2"++)3,4., 22 Naich 1974, pp. 1 - 2.
28
See 'Bown on Alteinative Faim', !"#$%&'$(&)2"++)3,4.5)4 Iuly 197S, p.1
! "#$!
As will become clear through the data chapters, ex-students (of both kinds) played an
important role in developing the milieu. Furthermore, some of the individuals who
became involved in countercultural activities in the 1970s were the children of
previous in-migrants to the area with connections to Dartington. For example Ollie
Bosence, who had attended the School and whose mother had worked there was one
of the early organic agriculture pioneers in the area as was David Lance. Verity Swan,
one of the co-founders of Conker Shoe (a co-operative, ‘countercultural’ artisan
business), was also the daughter of a teacher at the school. Her then husband, Andy
Langford, was the son of a state school teacher who had migrated to the area because
of the establishment of the Totnes Comprehensive School but who was very much
interested in the work of Dartington. As well as founding Conker Shoe, Andy
Langford was a significant instigator of other countercultural activities in the 1970s
and 80s as will be discussed in chapter eight.

Whilst the wider elements of Dartington were important in attracting people to the
area it seems that both the School and the College of Arts were key drivers in the
initial development of the milieu. This has some parallels with Brooks’ (2000)
assertion that North American ‘Latte towns’ tend to be host to higher education
establishments. Certainly in the case of Totnes, both of these ‘progressive’
educational establishments were an important stimulus to the growth of the milieu in
the 1970s and its widening material impact.

(iii) Dartington as a countercultural node

Unlike many utopian communities, Dartington lacked a central spiritual or political
philosophy around which it was organised. Its broad progressive aspirations were not
hung on any particular religious or political doctrine. Young (1996) identifies this as
one of the weaknesses of the experiment, however it might also be regarded as a
strength in some regards, in that it underpinned the open-mindedness and tolerance
that was central to Dartington’s ethos and activities.
29
Chapter Three noted that
‘freethinking’ is a key aspect of countercultures (Goffman and Joy 2005). Indeed as
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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456$2-7$.),(!*662',8#!)'!9'8-,(!:/;8#'('+;!EL*=3>!L-*->G!3*!6-=45>-*!?>+0!4(-!,->)+1!"&M$!N!FB!!!
! "#"!
Young (1996, 199) notes, so called ‘free thinkers’ (in a religious sense) were roundly
abused both in Devon and beyond in the 1920s. Following this it could be argued that
even in its early years there were many aspects of Dartington which might be
considered countercultural which a small ‘c’, such as the progressive education, the
tolerance of spiritual diversity and a somewhat Bohemian strand to the experiment.
Dartington was described by one interview respondent as ‘Bloomsbury group by the
Sea’ [7]. The Bloomsbury group itself has been defined as a counterculture
(Musgrove 1974, 24). Dartington also had connections to thinkers such as Gerald
Heard and Aldous Huxley who became important intellectual figures in the US
Counterculture (see Falby 2003). In many ways therefore Dartington cut against the
grain of many contemporary ‘mainstream’ values and beliefs and was regarded with
suspicion by some locals for many years.

It is arguable that in the early 1970s the Dartington Trust faced two struggles that
provided an opportunity for some countercultural ideas to gain some purchase at the
Trust. The first was that it found itself struggling for a sense of purpose following the
deaths of its two founders. Hardy (2000) has argued that whilst the Elmhirsts were
involved directly in Dartington there was always an element of ‘squirarchy’ to the
Dartington community. Young (1996) also highlights many occasions where they
were required to referee or act as the arbitrator of last resort regarding internal
disputes. Their deaths left the Trustees in charge of an organisation that lacked a
central organising philosophy and a void in terms of its central purpose. There were,
however, still family connections on the Trust board, not least Maurice Ash, the Chair
during the 1970s who was married to Leonard’s and Dorothy’s daughter Ruth
Elmhirst.

The second challenge that the Trust faced was the wider economic turmoil of the
1970s, from which Dartington did not escape. This led to the revision of the
abandonment of the policy of ‘endowment’ at the end of the 1973-4 financial year.
Endowment had entailed the provision of sums of money for unspecified purposes to
the various departments of Dartington and was replaced instead with a system of
grants for specific purposes that were renewable over a specific term. This affected all
the ‘spending departments’ i.e. those that relied on the Trust for at least some of their
172
income.
30
In 1974 Trust businesses were not only facing liquidity problems but also
the issues that had arisen through previously generous salary ‘threshold payments’ to
individuals.
31
Economic difficulties continued throughout the 1970s, with jobs lost in
the estates and farms department in March 1977. There was, therefore, also a search
for a new economic model for the Trust itself. The combination of philosophical and
economic crises created an opportunity for certain Countercultural ideas to be
promoted within the Trust. Indeed Dartington did directly instigate some
Countercultural related activities as detailed in Table 6.2 below.


Su
'A new piinciple foi Tiustee finance' !"#$%&'$(&)*"++),-./, 8 Febiuaiy 1974, 2
S1
'The Tiustees' piioiities now', !"#$%&'$(&)*"++),-./, 2u Becembei 1974, 4
! "#$!



! "#$!


Therefore Dartington itself did have some direct engagement with the wider
Countercultural movements of the 1970s. In particular it acted as an important node in
the Countercultural networks of the era, bringing ideas and actors to South Devon.
Some of these projects were influential such as the support that the Yarner Trust gave
to local organic growers and ‘back-to-the-landers’. The wealth of Dartington also
supported some of the other activities that were not directly instigated by the Trust
such as the Totnes Natural Health Centre and South Devon Organic Growers Co-
operative.

However, in general Countercultural ideas remained divisive within the Trust and
amongst the wider Dartington community. Embracing one aspect of countercultural
practice – such as working at the school – did not mean embracing others. Indeed, the
internal conflict over such ideas led Maurice Ash, the Chair of Trustees and son-in-
law of the Elmhirsts, to resign as chairman of the Dartington Hall Trust in 1983 and
instead focus on developing the Sharpham estate where he lived, like Dartington
itself, a few miles outside Totnes. Ash’s decision to resign was prompted by the
spiritual vacuum that he perceived to be at the heart of the Dartington initiative.
Instead, inspired by E.F. Schumacher’s ‘lifeboat theory’, he devoted his time to
developing Sharpham as ‘something of a model, if you like, for how life might be
reordered within a disintegrating society’ (Ash quoted in Titmuss 1991, 84). So, like
Dartington itself Sharpham became a second, smaller scale ‘utopian’ experiment
which was motivated by Ash’s concerns of ecological and economic collapse, allied
with Ash’s personal interest in demonstrating that there was a spiritual core to rural
life. Subsequently a number of initiatives evolved on the Sharpham estate including
five agricultural holdings and small-scale artisan food production. The holdings
included the first bio-dynamic farm in the area, run by Richard and Judy Smith. Ash
also gave the first floor of his house to the Sharpham North Buddhist community.
Like Dartington, a Trust was set up to manage and administer the estate and its
activities. Education in the form of workshops, conferences and talks became a
regular feature of Sharpham and a Buddhist college was later launched in 1996 whilst
a Buddhist retreat centre, the Barn, was also established. Sharpham therefore became
! "#$!
a further site of Countercultural activity in particular focusing on Buddhism and food
production.

(iv) Summary of this section

This section has argued that the Dartington experiment was the key driver behind the
emergence of a Countercultural milieu in the Totnes area during the 1970s. It played
two important roles in this process: firstly as a driver of in-migration to the area, and
secondly by forming nodes in the some of the countercultural networks of the era. The
importance of Dartington suggests that utopian communities themselves can play a
role as institutions that not only create countercultural ‘network space’, but also can
have an impact on their locality, creating countercultural places that extend beyond
their boundaries. However, this chapter also argues that whilst significant, Dartington
is not the only factor that underpinned the development of the milieu as explained by
the next section.

(b) Landscape aesthetics and imaginaries

A strand of the literature on countercultural place points to the importance of the
affective ‘beauty’ of the rural landscape in driving countercultural migration (Lees,
1999; D’Andrea 2007b, 88). The data suggests that the landscape around the Totnes
area (see Figure 6.3 below) also played some role in constructing the milieu. Not
least, it played an important role in first attracting the Elmhirsts to Devon. After his
first visit to Dartington Hall, Leonard wrote to Dorothy:

In we went and up and down some wonderful hills till we pulled up in a
veritable fairy land – in winter too – what it would be like in spring or summer
or autumn I dare not imagine. I wanted to kneel and worship the beauty of it
all and every fresh vista only seemed the more to recommend the handiwork
of nature joined with the reverent hand of generations of men

Leonard Elmhirst quoted in Young (1996, 104)

Hardy (2000, 147) concurs that this was an important aspect of the Dartington
experiment:
! "#$!

The deep countryside of South Devon provided a perfect backcloth for the
experiment, and the estate itself, with its historic manor, picturesque river and
gently rolling grounds, evokes thought of William Morris’s News from
Nowhere.

In a similar vein, this thesis later argues that utopian readings of the landscape play a
role in constructing ‘Thirdspaces’ of radical experimentation. However, at a more
material level, the landscape did also play an important role in attracting people who
became involved in the milieu. In addition to the rural landscape of South Devon,
there were two other aspects of the landscape that appear to be significant factors in
driving in-migration, the proximity of Dartmoor and the townscape of Totnes itself.


Figure 6.3: View towards Totnes


(i) Dartmoor

Dartmoor’s significance as a spiritual site grew during the 1970s with the rise in
interest in earth mysteries and alternative spiritualities based on druidic or pagan
! "##!
traditions. The publication of The View over Atlantis in 1969 by John Mitchell
renewed interest in ‘ley lines’, purported ancient paths and tracks constructed by the
alignment of religious buildings, prehistoric sites and natural landmarks. These tracks
are believed to make use of ancient ‘telluric’ [earth] energies (Michell 1983, 7). The
View over Atlantis argued for the importance of Dartmoor as a prominent site for such
earth mysteries, not least through the existence of the St Michael line, a line of hilltop
shrines dedicated to St Michael or other dragon killing saints that crosses Dartmoor
(Michell 1983, 72). Michell (2003) later identifies a number of other ‘sacred sites’ on
Dartmoor. The presence of such sites has attracted visitors some who have relocated
to the area. For example, a well known ‘white witch’ Paddy Slade lived on Dartmoor
for many years.
32
Interviewee Peter Kiddle worked as a guide for people who visited
Dartmoor to visit the spiritual sites in the 1970s and recalled that a number of visitors
were thinking of relocating to the area because of the ‘sense of spirituality’ [47].
Therefore (Secondspace) spatial imaginaries of the Dartmoor landscape as a sacred or
spiritual site are important for attracting temporary visitors and incomers. But, unlike
for example Glastonbury, where there is a much longer historical narrative relating to
a sacred landscape, Dartmoor’s reputation has emerged in fairly recent times.

(ii) The Totnes townscape

The aesthetics of the Totnes townscape and the sense of place that it could create also
proved to be a driver of migration to the area amongst some respondents. Tissi
Pilkington [38] founder of an early countercultural business (Salago) and co-founder
of the South Devon Steiner School was one person who was attracted by the sense of
place in Totnes:

I had spent 4 weeks along the South Coast looking for a suitable town to start
my business and when I finally came to Totnes, this quiet, old fashioned little
Market town, I had a strong inner feeling that this is where I wanted to be,
where I was meant to be, and where my destiny had led me to, to be
instrumental to some of the changes that came about.
Tissi Pilkington [38]

Similarly, Saskia Thomas, who instigated the Hood Faire festivals, was attracted by
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
$%
!&''!())*+,,---./01)203'24/567./08,96::;<%=&76:'.()8!764)!6//'44':!=>,"%,%==>!
! "#$!

Just the feel of the place [Totnes]. I just liked it and felt at home and went
straight into the post office and signed on [for family allowance] for my
family – that was…the decision was that quick

Saskia Thomas [35]

The sense of place generated by the Totnes townscape therefore is also a factor in
attracting key members of the milieu. As Kockel (1991) has noted, countercultural
incomers often play a role in preserving or reinvigorating ‘traditional’ culture. In the
case of Totnes the local movement to preserve the heritage of the town does coincide
with the time that the milieu was expanding in size.
33
The townscape, along with the
surrounding rural landscape therefore played a role in the construction of the South
Devon milieu. Indeed, the aesthetic beauty of the area may be the reason (along with
Dartington) that there was a history of artists and writers settling in the area (Mann
1994a). Furthermore, the landscape itself may have influenced the development of
certain countercultural practices. Andrews (2003) suggests that there is a particular
sense of place that is an important aspect of its role as a site of complementary
healthcare. This correlates with other sites of natural beauty that have also developed
countercultural healthcare traditions (Guthman 2004; Kopp 2004).

(c) Other local influences

The nearby conurbations of Exeter, Plymouth and Torquay all played some role in the
development of countercultural practices in the area. Of the three, perhaps the most
significant was Torquay. It was Tagore who recommended that Leonard look for the
site for his experiment in rural regeneration in Devon following a previous visit to
Torquay. Later, in the 1970s it is arguable that there were initially more visible
manifestations of Countercultural activity in Torquay than in Totnes. For a start,
Torquay had a history of esoteric religious practices such as Theosophy stretching
back at least as far as the early 20
th
Century. Rudolph Steiner spoke in Torquay in
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2)+,(1<-*0)+!)>!&)*+(,?!&'(!3)20(*4!5-,!6-7+2'(.!->*(1!/-1*0+@*)+!1-+!-!AB')!2-1(,!5'-*!&)*+(,!
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*'
!H-+7-14!"8#8F!=?!%!!
179
1924 to warn against the dangers of spiritualism.
34
In the 1970s it had manifestations
of Countercultural practice that predated their emergence in Totnes. For example,
there was also alternative bookshop, Cosmic Books that predated the opening of the
‘alternative’ bookshop Arcturus in Totnes and was one of its inspirations [55]. There
was also the Cornucopia restaurant where several talks on various countercultural
issues were held in early 1970s. Finally, Kevin and Venika Kingsland established the
Centre for Human Communications in Torquay in 1971. Whilst Kevin taught yoga in
Totnes in 1971, people from the Totnes area also visited the Torquay centre, which
advertised in the Dartington Hall News.
35
To a lesser degree, the influences of Exeter
and Plymouth are also discernable.

(d) Homophily

Homophily is a sociological term that describes the observable tendency of the way in
which individuals with similar characteristics tend to aggregate together in social
networks and groups. The term was coined by Lazerfeld and Merton (1954, 23) to
reflect ‘a tendency for friendships to form between those who are alike in some
designated respect’. In a recent review article McPherson et al. (2001) identify a
number of different ‘types’ of homophily. Most relevant to this thesis are the concepts
of value homophily and familial homophily. Value homophily reflects the way in
which people tend to prefer to be amongst people who share their values. The way in
which Dartington and the area drew in ‘likeminded’ people can be interpreted as a
process of value homophily. Similarly, the in-migration of people because of either
familial or personal networks also appears to be a significant factor in the construction
of the milieu, as this section will explain.





S4
Steinei's 11 lectuies in Toiquay aie publisheu as Steinei anu Paikei (2uuS). It shoulu be noteu
that some local anthioposophists |followeis of Steinei's teaching] see these lectuies as being
highly significant to the uevelopment of anthioposophy, in the Totnes aiea, even though a ciitical
mass of anthioposophical activity uiu not emeige until the late 197us. See Coopei (2uuS, 18) anu
Inteiview |4] with Beiek Lapwoith.
SS
Inteiview SS with Bob Ielfs. See !"#$%&'$(&)*"++),-./)14 Ianuaiy 1977 foi a couise auveitiseu
at the Centie foi Buman Communications.
18u
(i) Value homophily

The fact that Dartington provided a range of employment opportunities made it
possible for people who were sympathetic to its aim to relocate to the area. One such
employee, Pat Kitto, put it this way:

People don’t come to Dartington to join a community but to work on a farm,
or in industry, or in school or on college. On the other hand, there is a strong
feeling of community living here. One finds tolerance and acceptance here,
warmth and generosity, concern for the ill, lonely and elderly. It is an aspect of
the place that strikes visitors very strongly and is totally unlike any other
similar conglomeration of living units. It is not easy to say what creates this
feeling. Perhaps it is that, in fact, people come here not only for a job but
because of Dartington itself, which means that like-minded people are
working together.
36


Pat and her husband Dick are good examples of people attracted by the ‘value
homophily’ of the Dartington project, and who then became involved promoting
countercultural ideas outside their employment with the Trust. It is therefore worth
detailing their influence in a little more detail.

The Kittos arrived in Dartington in 1951, inspired by its progressive vision. Dick
became secretary to the then headteacher of the school W. B. Curry. They had
previously been living in a bohemian community of artists and writers in Heligan
Woods in Cornwall.
37
During the 1960s Dick set up an organic compost business in
the nearby village of Ipplepen called Powlings and also ran an organic orchard. He
was also a correspondent to the Dartington Hall News on organic farming and the
wider crises of the industrial age.
38
In 1973 Stan Windass of the Foundation for
Alternatives visited Dick and asked him to set up and run Lower Shaw Farm near
Swindon. This community organised a range of conferences on issues such as organic

S6
'LETTERB0X: Thoughts on community', !"#$%&'$(&)*"++),-./, 1S Novembei 197u, p. S. Theie
was something of a pie-occupation with the notion of 'community' at Baitington in the 197us
anu this was one of the factois that unueipinneu the initiatives launcheu by the Tiustees. Theii
concein was to tiy anu maintain a sense of community amongst the uiveisity of activities anu
businesses that constituteu the Baitington pioject.
S7
0&)1-+-2#"$%(&)(3)$4-)5%3-)(3)6"$#%7%")8"#9):%$$();<;=)>)?@@A)
S8
Be wiote seveial letteis as pait of the uebate about oiganic agiicultuie ovei Becembei 1969
anu Ianuaiy 197u.
181
farming, building, WWOOFing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms), rural
resettlement, education and new perspectives on health and healing.
39


It was here that Dick was also responsible for helping to establish Education
Otherwise, the charitable organisation that supports home education in the UK.
40
The
courses that Dick put on at Lower Shaw Farm were advertised in the Dartington Hall
News and in May 1977 he visited Dartington with a group of Alternative Society
members to talk to the Trustees about their ideas for an Alternative Health Service.
41

He also wrote a number of books on composting and the Rural Resettlement
Handbook that contained advice on going ‘back to the land’. It contained a wealth of
advice on the practicalities such as purchasing a property, organic growing, self-
sufficiency, and even including a specific map of the most affordable areas in
Southwest England.
42


Arguably Pat Kitto had an even greater impact in terms of promoting ‘alternative’
ideas in Totnes and Dartington. One of Pat’s particular interests was in
complementary health. As early as 1969 she had written in the Dartington Hall News
about a visit she had made to Henderson Hospital in Sutton, Surrey, which was one of
only two hospitals in the UK at that time that used ‘community’ based approaches to
treat mental illness.
43
Pat went on to establish the practice of re-evaluation counselling
in Totnes and Dartington. Re-evalution counselling, a form of peer counselling, was
started in the United States in the 1950s by Harvey Jackins and arrived in the UK in
the early 1970s (Clark 1977, 323). In September 1976 Pat instigated a Re-evaluation
Counselling group in Totnes, which was followed, in January 1978 with another
group being established as part of the Adult Education programme at Shinners Bridge,
Dartington.
44
Pat’s interest in health and alternative therapies led her to establish a

S9
!"#$%&"''(%)%*+,+-.)'"(/ memoiial fiom his funeial.
4u
Peppei (1991) incluues Lowei Shaw Faim in its stuuy of the enviionmental cieuentials of
communes
41
'Fiontieismen', !).'"/0'(/%1("#+2%Nay 1977, p. 6
42
The Ruial Resettlement Banubook is available online at http:¡¡www.iuial-iesettlement-
hanubook.oig¡inuex.html last accesseu u9¡12¡2uu9
4S
See Baitington Ball News, 2u
th
Iune 1969 pp. 8 - 9
44
Pat Kitto wiote a piece about Re-evaluation foi the alteinative magazine 34+..)#$. See 'Re-
evaluation Counselling What is it.' 34+..)#$, 11, p.1S. Re-evaluation counselling gioups still meet
in Totnes in the piesent uay.
182
‘Towards Total Health Group’ in September 1977. The purpose of this group was to
provide

…[e]ducation about alternative therapies, to use group work, and workshops
to discuss and work towards setting up a Natural Health Centre in Totnes.
There will be talks on healing, health centres, counselling, the Alexander
Technique, and we hope to have more experience of Tai Chai [sic], yoga and
other movement work.
45


The group of people attending the Towards Total Health group provided the main
impetus and energy behind the establishment of the Natural Health Centre in Totnes
that opened in September 1978 and was one of the first of its type in the country. In
establishing the centre the group worked with the Healing Research Trust (HRT) an
organisation set up in 1974 and based in Plymouth, where they were also working to
establish a Natural Health Centre. The HRT was established to promote alternative
medicine and to bring practitioners into repute.
46
The Chairman of the Trust was Dr
Alec Forbes, Senior Consultant Physician at Plymouth General Hospital.
47
Forbes was
very influential on the Totnes group and he later went on to help establish the
pioneering Bristol Cancer Care Hospital where Pat Kitto also worked as a volunteer.
48


A further example of value homophily can be given by the owners of Green Fibres, an
organic textiles company that moved to Totnes in 1998. Totnes was one of a number
of possible places that they were considering relocating to from London. Like other
respondents detailed above, William Lana was struck by the beauty of Totnes and the
area but also:

by walking up the high street and you know, everything from going into Green
Shoes and getting a pair of shoes cut for me that day to walking into Sacks and
seeing at that time Mike who was the owner…he had a stack of green Soya
Milk and at the time living in London nobody knew what Soya milk was,
especially nobody knew the Provamilk green one…anyway and there were

4S
Baitington Ball News, 1S Ianuaiy 1978, centie pages.
46
'Bealing: spiiitual, uivine oi faith' !"#$$%&', 17, p. 9
47
A shoit obituaiy of Alec Foibes can be founu in the Biitish Neuical Iouinal, 8 Ianuaiy 2uuu, p.
12S. It mentions that he became inteiesteu in spiiitual healing anu that nutiition along with the
patients minu anu spiiit weie impoitant in the tieatment of cancei. Although he ieceiveu
ciiticism foi his iueas at the time some aspects of the caie he intiouuceu aie now accepteu as
conventional tieatment.
48
'0nce 0pon a Time.An inteiview with Pat Kitto', ()*+#,- .)//0+1*2- 3%4%51+#, 1u Septembei
199S, unpaginateu.
! "#$!
these cases of it, you know! And I felt like, ‘This is my home!’ you know?
Whereas we previously had to go through a five minute explanation of what
we wanted in the health food shops in London or in Brussels.

William Lana [11]

Therefore, whilst the place image of Totnes as an ‘alternative’ place had been
important for the Lanas to consider relocating to Totnes (i.e. put it on their list) it was
the sense of likemindedness and shared values that were important in actually
persuading them to relocate as well as the physical nature of the place. Here we see an
interplay between homophily and the place image of Totnes / Dartington that has a
material impact on the construction and renewal of the milieu. It seems likely that in
other cases there are similar interactions between the different factors.

(ii) Familial homophily

Familial homophily has also been an important migratory driver in expanding the
millieu. Indeed, Ruth and Maurice Ash returned to the area because of Ruth’s desire
to come back ‘home’ to Dartington (Titmus 1991, 80). Familial homophily also had
an impact through the way in which it drew relatives of previous migrants into the
locality. The Canter family provides a relevant example. Vicky Canter came to the
College of Arts and settled in the area marrying a tutor. This bought her parents, Kay
and David Canter to the Totnes area. They were the founders of the Cranks vegetarian
restaurant in London which Twigg (1981) has argued was a significant factor within
the development of the UK wholefoods movement. Their ongoing connection to the
Totnes area led them to establish two Cranks shops in the locality (at Dartmouth and
Totnes) and a restaurant (at Dartington). These played a role in introducing
‘Countercuisine’ wholefoods and organic produce (often called ‘compost grown’ in
the 1970s) to the area. A local Soil Association group that formed in the mid 1970s
met at the Cranks restaurant and the Canters also got involved in supporting the South
Devon Steiner Waldorf School in the early 1980s. David Canter also took on other
work within the Dartington Trust.

The Canter family also illustrates the way in which friends and contacts could be
drawn to the area. Jeanne and Aksel Haahr were first invited to Dartington in 1969 by
! "#$!
the Canters to explain the Alexander Technique (an ‘alternative’ form of physical
therapy) to the music department after treating Vicky Canter in Surrey. The Haahrs
continued to visit the Dartington area intermittently throughout the 1970s offering the
Alexander Technique until, early in the 1980s they relocated to Devon from Scotland
and, with the support of Dartington, set up an Alexander Technique training school in
Totnes, which had its own impact in attracting annual cohorts of students to the area.
Thus ‘familial’ homophily can be usefully broadened as a concept to encompass the
friends, associates and contacts of individuals. For example, Robert Vint a
community activist who relocated to the area in 1998 describes the process by which
he came to Totnes:

I can remember a particular moment being stuck on the underground and the
train had stopped and it was the middle of summer and we were absolutely
packed like sort of sardines in a tin we were only going to be there for a
quarter of an hour or so I go my diary out and went through the address list
and started putting little dots on the map of where all my friends and contacts
were and suddenly realised there was an enormous cluster of them around
Totnes within about 10 miles of there - a very significant proportion - and I
just wondered why and when I spoke to them [slight laugh] they all say ‘well
its an amazing place we’ve moved down because you know, there’s so much
going on here’

Robert Vint [1]

The research revealed many examples of both ‘kinds’ of homophily including Guy
Dauncey who wrote the first public critique of Dartington in the community magazine
Sherrack.
49
He was also involved in other Countercultural initiatives and later
became a significant figure in the development of ‘New Economics’ publishing a
book which helped to popularise LETS currencies in the UK (see Dauncey 1988) as
well as more generally promoting the potential of the informal or community
economy (see Schwartz 1985). The same reason underpinned the arrival of Christian
Taylor in the area. Taylor had been part of the group that established the first Farmers
Market in the UK in Bath in September 1997 (Tutt and Morris 1998). He would
subsequently establish the South Devon Community Supported Farming (CSF)
scheme and play a key role in developing Landmatters, a low impact community a
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few miles outside Totnes that he instigated after publicising the possibility of buying
the land through his own personal network of permaculture and land-based activists.

(iii) Summary of this section

This section has highlighted the significance of homophily in the development of a
countercultural milieu around Totnes in the 1970s. The discovery of the importance of
these personal connections in the construction of a countercultural place is perhaps
one of the most significant theoretical contributions of this thesis. It suggests a
‘driver’ of countercultural migration that had not been explicitly articulated in the
literature before. Furthermore, it highlights a linkage between reputation (one of the
countercultural ‘drivers’ indentified in Chapter 3, e.g. Smith and Phillips 2001) and
the process of migration, illustrating that it is the sense of shared values and like-
mindedness that can be a key driver for countercultural in-migration.

(e) Proliferation of practices and institutions

Saunder’s (1975) guide to Alternative England and Wales did not perceive the Totnes
area as a hotbed of Countercultural activity, unlike some other areas of the country.
Concurring with this, Figure 6.4 below depicting the online mnemograph illustrates
that it was towards the late 1970s that a density of new countercultural institutions
and practices began to consolidate in the area. The consequence of this is that since
the 1970s the countercultural milieu within the Totnes area has become a self-
sustaining phenomenon and to some extent, the wider effects of the broader
countercultural milieu have superseded the initial effect of the Dartington milieu.
Indeed it is arguable that Dartington has become ‘absorbed’ within the wider milieu,
reflecting one particular ‘site’, a set of relational connections and set of reputations
within a wider set of actors, practitioners and institutions.

The emergence of these different institutions led to a proliferation of Countercultural
Firstspaces in the area. Several of these sites were/are in Totnes itself, such as the
Totnes Women’s Centre, The Natural Health Centre, the Alexander Technique
Training School, and several ‘alternative’ businesses contributing to the town’s
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emergence as a focal point for alternative practices, as well as the economic and
symbolic centre of the milieu. Many of these Countercultural sites also have a similar
impact to that of Dartington: they produced local countercultural space but also
functioned as ‘nodes’ that connected the area to wider relational networks. For
example, the spiritually focused retreat sites connected the locality to what locally
based Buddhist writer Christopher Titmuss calls ‘the spiritual trail’ [15]. This
describes a global network of sacred sites and spiritual retreats that are attractive to
‘seekers’, people who are interested in personal and spiritual development.
Increasingly then, Totnes became a significant site of not a singular global ‘New Age’
or Countercultural network, but as a locality in which there were multiple nodes in
multiple networks.
! "#$!


















Figure 6.4: Proliferation of practices and institutions in the late 1970s around Totnes (see http://alternativetotnes.wordpress.com)
188


These additional nodes therefore have a similar (and complementary) effect to the
Dartington experiment itself in the way that they develop geographic diasporas;
attract in-migrants for their ‘services’ (such as the ‘alternative’ schools) as well as
employees and volunteers. One way to describe this would be – drawing on a term
from economic geography as an increasing of the Countercultural ‘institutional
thickness’ (Amin and Thrift 2004). Another important impact of many of these
institutions is that they played a role in drawing existing residents into
Countercultural practices. For example, interviewees spoke about the transformative
effect of being involved in Hood Faire [24], or the Women’s Centre [17]. Thus the
institutions also played a direct role in expanding the milieu from amongst some
sections of the local population. It is difficult to put a figure on the size of the milieu.
An unsubstantiated estimate from the Guardian in 1990 puts the figure of ‘Alternative
Types’ in the area at 1,800 (Pilkington 1990). However, this research suggests that the
actual figure is difficult to define for a number of reasons. Firstly, the boundaries of
the milieu are fluid and hard to define clearly. Indeed, this thesis challenges reductive
constructions of countercultural subjects. Whilst some people might be involved in
multiple practices, others might only be on the fringes. Secondly, there is clearly a
turnover of people within the millieu. Several interviewees from the ‘first wave’ of
Countercultural practices now live elsewhere. It seems plausible that further research
might identify more clearly distinct ‘waves’ as found by Kockel (1991) in Western
Ireland. Thirdly, a range of visitors to the area augments the locally based milieu:
tourists, students, people on ‘retreat’, travellers, friends and ‘drifters’.
50
All these
categories of visitors augment the localised milieu at any given time.

(f) Discursive impact

This section highlights the discursive impact of the milieu. In particular it highlights
the way in which different kinds of reputations emerge from the milieu and then play
a role in sustaining it. It highlights the importance of three different kinds of

Su
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reputation: institutional reputations, place images, and mystical reputations.
Collectively these illustrate a more sophisticated understanding of the role that
‘reputation’ plays in the construction of countercultural places. It then describes the
way in which the milieu also facilitated the local circulation of countercultural
discourses.

(i) Institutional reputations

Whilst this research has identified homophily as an important and hitherto overlooked
factor in the construction of a countercultural place, the data suggest that reputation
does also play a part. Prince and Riches (2001) have suggested a way in which
reputation drives migration with reference to the development of both Glastonbury
and Totnes as centres of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) practice:

By the end of the 1980s, then, Glastonbury had become a centre for alternative
healing, along with Totnes, another small town in the southwest of England.
There is a spiralling situation here. The more that healers are attracted to the
area and its reputation grows, so the more people visit and / or move to the
area to take advantage of the services - so even more healers arrive. In
addition people who have undergone healing sometimes train to become
healers themselves. It is, after all, a way of earning a living in a 'spiritually
attuned' manner.

Prince and Riches (2001, 93)

Using the wider countercultural lens adopted by this thesis, the data suggest that many
of the different countercultural practices and institutions each have their own
reputational effects within their own cultural fields and networks that attract people
both as short-term visitors and as in-migrants. For example, short course participants
at Schumacher College or families who relocate because of the South Devon Steiner
School. However, the institutional nodes also play a role in diffusing place images
and wider reputations about the Totnes area itself.

For example, drawing on my participative research with the Totnes Pound currency,
Table 6.3 illustrates some of the national and international media coverage of the
19u
Totnes Pound that directly involved the project team between March and September
of 2008.



Whilst this coverage was specifically about the Totnes Pound and Transition Town
Totnes it invariably carried representations of Totnes itself. For example, the piece in
BBC Countryfile magazine began

Totnes is a pretty Elizabethan town near Dartmoor. It’s a surprise at first to
find that it was voted one of the 10 funkiest places on the planet to live, until
you see the fluttering flyers in the market square advertising a wealth of
performances, classes and other happening and realize how easy it is to buy
organic, fair-trade and local produce with the local currency – the Totnes
Pound

Stiles (2008, 61)

Enquiries to the Tourist Information Centre in Totnes about Transition Town Totnes
and the Totnes Pound indicate that such representations have a material impact in
attracting people to the town. Indeed there was evidence of visitors motivated by the
town’s ‘green’ reputation that were disappointed that their expectations were not met.
51





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191

(ii) Place images

In addition to the cumulative reputational effect of the different institutional nodes, a
more general place image of Totnes as an ‘alternative’ or New Age centre emerged in
the 1980s. This can be traced back to the publication of Spilling the Beans (1986), a
satirical guide to the Alternative Movement written by Martin Stott. The data suggest
that it first put Totnes ‘on the map’ as far as being a ‘New Age centre’ was concerned.
In a section on ‘Where to live’ Stott suggests:

The area of Britain to live in is Devon. There are more natural healers, holistic
health practitioners, alternative therapists and other inner-directed souls to the
square mile in Devon than in any other part of the country. South Devon is
better than North Devon. The Totnes-Ashburton area is the veritable Marin
County of Britain. Living there is what all ATs [Alternative Types] ultimately
aspire to.
Stott (1986, 10 emphasis in original)

In the local vernacular ‘TQ9ers’ (the first part of the Totnes postcode district) has
since become a local term for Stott’s (1986) ‘Alternative Types’ [13]. Stott was
familiar with the area having visited Dartmoor to attend men’s therapies workshops
and through visiting friends who were going ‘self-sufficient’. He also developed
friendships with Maurice Ash and Satish Kumar that increased his knowledge of the
area [44]. Kemp (2004) notes the tendency of the media to name places as ‘New Age’
centres and it was in the early 1990s that this place myth began to circulate in the
mass media with reference to Totnes. This therefore reflects the point when Totnes
began to develop its own reputation as a site of Countercultural practice, and where
representations of the place began to symbolize the activities of the milieu.
52
Other
complementary ‘place images’ have also emerged. In April 2005 Totnes was
designated as one of the top 10 ‘Funky’ places to live in the world by the British
Airways in-house magazine High Life.
53
This was not only mentioned by several
interviewees [10, 36, 56] but also now features within the Tourist literature for the

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town.
54
Indeed, the ‘alternative’ side of Totnes is now a regular feature of touristic
representations of Totnes. For example, the most recent Lonely Planet guide to
Devon, Cornwall and South West (Berry et al. 2008) has a section within it on
Transition Town Totnes and mentions the Totnes Pound currency. Whilst these
images are simplifications they have an impact on the imaginaries of both visitors and
local residents.

It should also be noted that place images also emerge from the academic literature,
highlighting Totnes as a site of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Andrews
2003); New Age Travellers (Hetherington 2000); ecological direct action (Doherty et
al. 2007); alternative spiritualities (Heelas 1996; 2005); and green culture (Williams
1995). Academic literature can therefore play a role in reproducing place images,
although, as this chapter argues, each of these examples only reflect one aspect of the
wider countercultural milieu.

(iii) Mystical reputations

As Lowerson (1992) notes Totnes does not have a longstanding reputation for its
mystical geography, unlike, for example, Glastonbury (Holloway 2003). However, as
a consequence of the milieu a range of reputations have emerged since the 1970s. As
already discussed in the case of Dartmoor, these lay narratives construct the idea of a
mystical landscape which is significant in attracting people to the area but also in
constructing the idea that the area is ‘special’.

For example, the Dartington Solar Quest healing centre was founded on the belief that
Dartington is ‘a beautiful rural setting on the bank of the river Dart where a strong,
positive geo-magnetic force field exists’ (A Solar Questor, p. 50). This idea that the
Dart Valley is a special area has become a local discourse and the existence of ley
lines and earth energies within the locality came up in several interviews [4, 6, 26, 34,
55]. Alan Neal, a writer on ley lines in the South West (Neal 2004) who has taught in
Totnes confirmed his belief that there is

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a ley following the course of the main street up from what must have
originally been an important fording point over the river Dart. This street is
also believed to follow the course of a Neolithic trackway. There are also leys
crossing close to the mound of the Norman castle, and at a famous healing, or
holy well, the Leechwell…I too have heard many speak of the "special
energy" pervading Totnes and the surrounding area. Many of us are quite
unconsciously able to feel such things as underground water, and Leys, when
we are near or on them, and equally unconsciously to feel their special
significance.

Neal, personal communication, 04/06/2008

The Leechwell that Neal mentions is a specific example of the growth of specific
mystical reputations during the 1980s. The Leechwell is an example of a Devonian
‘Holy’ well (Brown 1957; Faull 2004) that has longstanding local reputed healing
properties. Mann (2009) recalls a spiritual group called Fountain International using
the well as the focus of meditative practice in the 1980s and suggests that the practice
of offering flowers and other adornments only started in the mid 1990s. The
significance of the site and the circulation of the reputation of its healing properties
have therefore been generated by the milieu.


Figure 6.5: The Leechwell in Totnes

194
(iv) Circulation of discourses

A key impact of the milieu has been the proliferation of countercultural discourses
within the locality. The place images discussed in the previous section reflect one
type of such discourse that is particularly connected to the place itself. However, a
much wider range of discourses also circulated within (and beyond) the milieu. Some,
such as many of the new religious movements, articulated more comprehensive
‘discursive fields’, understood here as competing ways of giving meaning to the
world and organising social institutions and processes (Weedon 1997, 34), in other
words a worldview, or specific subjectivity. In addition to this a broader plethora of
countercultural discourses and memes also circulate within and beyond the
countercultural group and networks.
55
For example, of relevance to this thesis,
discourses of economic localisation have circulated in the locality since the mid-
1970s. Such discourses and memes circulated in a number of different ways.

Firstly, there was the underground local press, which first emerged in the mid 1970s
and has been an ongoing feature of the locality for most of the era since then (see
Table 6.1 above). In addition, the local publications of Dartington also regularly
mentioned countercultural activities in the area, both in the articles and in the small
ads. Countercultural discourses were also circulated via public meetings. A range of
different groups became active in Totnes during the 1970s associated with the
different strands of Countercultural practice detailed in Table 6.1 this led to an
increasing numbers of public meetings being held in Totnes. At first such meetings
produced only transient social spaces, but over time, as indicated in section (e) above,
a range of fixed sites emerged. This suggests that there was a reflexive relationship
between the practice / institutions and the discursive impact. Institutions led to the
circulation of countercultural discourses and a visual materialised impact (see section
(g) below). However, the circulation of countercultural discourses also led to the
emergence of new institutional forms, often of countercultural ideas that had been
‘carried’ to Totnes across the wider networks of the milieu. Totnes, then became a site
where there was often ‘early adoption’ of new Countercultural ideas.

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(v) Summary of this section

The literature on countercultural places often suggests that reputation plays a role in
their ongoing construction (e.g. Castells 1983). This thesis offers a more specific
contextual account of the role that reputation plays, both in relation to other
influences but also in the case of the Totnes area, delineating three important kinds of
reputation. The first is the myriad individual reputations of various institutions and
organisations that are located within the locality. These circulate beyond the place in
various ways, through various networks. The second is the emergence of place images
of Totnes as a countercultural place within ‘mass’ forms of media such as television,
newspapers and travel guides. Nowadays, of course, the Internet also plays a role.

The third are ‘mystical’ reputations that emerge from, and are reinforced by, the
milieu. Whether or not one believes in the existence of ley lines or earth energies is
irrelevant to the argument being made here. What is relevant to this thesis is that these
discourses have a material impact on the area. Firstly, the circulating ‘place myths’
increase the countercultural reputation of the Totnes area as a sacred site, encouraging
new visitors and migration. Secondly, these discourses of place have an impact on the
members of the milieu themselves. In Soja’s trialectics of space, outlined in Chapter
Four, they reflect subaltern forms of Secondspace, ‘imagined or conceived
geographies’ (Soja 1996, 79). However place myths and earth mysteries reflect forms
of Secondspace that are not (re)produced by urban planners or architects but by the
localised milieu, the media, and other forms of literature. These Secondspace
representations also play an important role in producing meaning for some types of
countercultural Thirdspace practice within the area, including its role as a site of
economic experimentation. This theme is further explored in Chapter Eight.

(g) Material impact

One impact of the growing milieu was that throughout the 1970s there was an
increase in the material ‘visibility’ of countercultural activity around Totnes. In
addition to the underground press discussed above, this visibility was materialised in a
number of other ways. The proliferation of institutions such as shops and centres was
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one obvious way in which the visibility of the milieu was manifested. As noted above,
many countercultural practices developed fixed sites of activity that gave then a
tangible and visible presence, several of them in Totnes itself. Transient events such
as the Hood Faire festivals also played a role in making different ‘alternative’ cultural
practices both visible and accessible. Such events also encompassed elements of
countercultural performance. However, in addition to buildings, sites and events,
there were other key ways in which the countercultural practices were made visible.

The first was through noticeboards in shops and other buildings. These were both a
channel of communication and a visible manifestation of the Countercultural milieu.
The Buddhist teacher Christopher Titmuss describes how, having chanced upon
Totnes he became aware of the countercultural activities in this way:

We were just kind of driving around and we were just in the town here and I
just noticed in the in a bookshop we went into, lots of cards, lots of alternative
things were going on

Christopher Titmuss [15]

As suggested by Lang (1999) such shops and noticeboards created a way ‘into’ the
countercultural scenes of the area. The importance of posters as a form of local
communication is also illustrated by the example of the Totnes Birth Centre. This was
first advertised using posters around the town advertising for women who were
interested in ‘alternative’ birth. Four came forward and that was the start of the centre
(Wyndham 1983). This form of communication is still prevalent today with many
shops in Totnes still having noticeboards with business cards, flyers and posters on
display.

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Figure 6.6: Posters in a Totnes cornershop window.

The countercultural milieu was also made visible through clothing. At times there has
been the presence of certain countercultural ‘groups’ that wore notably different
clothes (e.g. the Sanyassins, New Age Travellers). Local shops also produced clothing
that was appealing to certain ‘alternative’ cultures. Salago and Revival also provided
‘hippy’ and student fashion styles. Conker and Green Shoes also made distinctive
handmade footwear, often in bright colours, which became strongly associated with
Totnes. One of the shoemakers described the reputational impact of these shoes:

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Between us and Conkers it was like a national [corrects herself] a local dress,
I’ve stood on Paddington Station and people have said ‘You must be from
Totnes’

Alison Hastie [8]

References to the visual impact of the milieu therefore not only make the milieu and
scenes ‘visible’ but they also play a role in the representations of Totnes as an
‘alternative’ place, often reflected in the national media coverage (e.g. Edwards
2008).

Part 2: Summary of Chapter

This chapter has sought to understand the construction of Totnes as a countercultural
place. Adopting a broad framing of the countercultural has revealed how many of
these practices – often dealt with separately within academic work – have co-evolved
in a specific locality. It has argued that the concept of a countercultural milieu is to
understand how Totnes became recognised as an ‘alternative’ place, and which also
captures the range of institutions and practices that are involved.

The empirical exploration of the milieu has suggested that most of the propositions
have some purchase in explaining the emergence of the area as a countercultural
place, as indicated in Table 6.4 below.

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Using the countercultural milieu as a central organizing concept this chapter has
elaborated how, in the case of Totnes, these different influences have overlapped and
interrelated. Extending these theories, it has suggested that homophily is a hitherto
unrecognized factor in the formation of countercultural milieus. This is reflected in
familial and personal networks as well as a desire to be amongst likeminded people.
Of the other various theories outlined in Chapter Three that have been related to the
formation of countercultural places, only theories of economic marginality appear to
have had little relevance to the Totnes area. Indeed, the back-to the-land focused
Rural Resettlement Handbook, written by Dartington connected Dick Kitto, (1984)
did not recommend the South Devon area as a particularly cheap area to move to. In
fact, the data suggest that the milieu was having an impact on the availability and
affordability of housing as early as the early 1970s, at least in the immediate area of
Totnes and Dartington. This research does therefore support the consumption based
theories of gentrification (e.g. Ley 1996; Smith and Phillips 2001). However it sheds
more light on how such processes take place in this context. Indeed value homophily
might be a missing link between countercultural migration and the desire to live
amongst ‘people like us’ that drive certain forms of gentrification (Butler 1997).
Indeed the significance of the art college and the School point not only to a different
countercultural strain of ‘studentification’ (Smith 2005) but also overlapping
processes of gentrification.
! "##!

This chapter also attempts to develop a more sophisticated way of thinking about
countercultural places. The existence of a countercultural milieu reflects a diversity of
institutions and practices each of which reach out beyond the immediate locality in
which they are based. As argued by Nichols (2009) in relation to social movement,
both proximate and relational space is important in the construction of Totnes as a
countercultural place. The Totnes area perhaps does resembles a physical node in the
SPIN (a network of networks) model that is sometimes used to characterise the New
Age (Kemp 2004). However, as has been argued, these are not just New Age
networks, but a range of countercultural webs. Furthermore, the geographic
propinquity of these institutions also has its own tangible effects that are potentially
overlooked by a ‘pure’ network analysis. Not least it contributes to the emergence of
overarching countercultural place images which although simplifications, reflect
different aspects of the wider milieu. These places images not only play a role in
material processes of migration and visitation, but they are also a key component of
the spatial imaginaries of members of the milieu. It has been argued that they can be
therefore considered as forms of ‘subaltern’ Secondspace: Imagined representations
of space that circulate both locally and beyond, and which in many cases are based on
their own non-positivistic epistemologies. Such Secondspace imaginaries of Totnes
and the Dart valley are important, not only because they have a material impact on the
place shaping processes, but also because they play a role in constructing the ‘lived’
Thirdspaces of postcapitalist economic and countercultural practice. The next chapter
explores in more detail the different kinds of postcapitalist practices that have
emerged from the milieu.
201
Chapter 7: The Postcapitalist institutional landscape of
South Devon

This chapter addresses the second research question: What kinds of postcapitalist
institutions have emerged around Totnes? To what extent do these support
Gibson-Graham’s theory of proliferative postcapitalism? Chapter Two argued
that Gibson-Graham’s strategy of proliferative postcapitalism requires other
examples of placed based postcapitalism ‘in action’ in order to support their
‘weak’, poststructural economic ontology. It was argued that such examples need
to be not only economically significant, but also ideally they need to show how
‘capitalistic’ tendencies and structures are being resisted and are able to
transcend their institutional context. Finally, it was also argued that for
postcapitalism to emerge in a meaningful way then the different moments of
postcapitalist possibility need to ‘cohere’ into sustained economic spaces and
circuits. This chapter therefore explores the postcapitalist institutions from such a
critical perspective.

Overall this case study does support the overarching hypothesis that
Countercultural places are often productive sites of postcapitalist
experimentation. ‘Reading’ the economy for postcapitalist diversity with the
taxonomy developed in Chapter Four suggests a proliferation of postcapitalist
experiments and institutions and a history stretching back to the 1970s. However,
when the analysis is extended beyond this initial reading it reveals that the case
study does not support Gibson-Graham’s diverse economy ontology against the
structuralist critiques outlined in Chapter Two. The chapter makes three
arguments based on the empirical data that were gathered. Firstly it argues that
there is not much coherence between the different postcapitalist institutions, that
many of them do not join up in meaningful ways. Indeed the chapter highlights
how postcapitalist institutions can compete and undermine each other. Secondly
whilst the research does suggest that countercultural places can provide a fertile
site for the ‘situated practice’ of postcapitalist experimentation, this does not, in
the case of Totnes, make more radical practices any more economically viable or
significant. Therefore, the socio-cultural ‘embeddedness’ provided by the
202
localised countercultural milieu appears to be less significant than the wider
institutional embeddedness. This has implications for advocates of interstitial
approaches to postcapitalism. Thirdly, the data suggest that the postcapitalist
institutions that are the most economically significant are those which are most
entwined with ‘capitalist’ processes and structures.

This research does therefore not particularly support Gibson-Graham’s ‘weak’
theoretical approach to place-based postcapitalism. The analysis undertaken
through an ‘institutional’ postcapitalist lens adopted by this thesis suggests that
it is necessary to widen critical analysis in order to understand the way in which
‘systemic’ and regulatory factors are critical to the emergence of postcapitalist
possibilities. This suggests a need to extend both theoretical analysis and the
strategic interventions needed to nurture grassroots postcapitalism. The chapter
highlights two areas in particular where such extension could be significant: the
regulation of land and buildings, and financial system. In both cases, it appears to
be necessary to extend critical analyses to encompass the role of the state in
supporting grassroots economic activity.

The structure of the chapter is as follows. Part One provides an overview of the
different postcapitalist institutions that were found in the field, using the
typology developed in Chapter Two. It briefly highlights some overarching
patterns and trends before Part Two explores the organic ‘marketscape’ of the
area in more depth. This is arguably one of the most significant and visible areas
of postcapitalism in the area, and one that cuts across several categories of
postcapitalist institution. It therefore provides an excellent opportunity to explore
some of the arguments outlined above. Finally, Part Three offers some overall
conclusions on the possibilities of place-based postcapitalism.

7.1 An overview of postcapitalist institutions in the Totnes area

It should be first restated that this chapter offers a particular ‘reading’ of the
postcapitalist economy of the Totnes area that focuses specifically on forms of
collective institution. As previously discussed, an approach that focused on the
203
intersection between countercultural places and the ‘informal’ economy or a
livelihoods approach would have produced a different reading. The literature
does suggest a link between countercultural places and the informal economy
(Kockel 1991) and it’s worth noting that there was evidence of such economy
around Totnes. For example, as one interviewee put it:

you could say the only alternative economy is that some people don’t like
working very much in Totnes

Paul Wesley [6]

This perceived rejection of wage labour, along with anecdotes about skip runs
(taking waste food from supermarket bins) and chickens being bartered for
haircuts point to the existence of hidden, informal economic activity.
56

However, the central concern of this thesis is the relationship between
Countercultural places and postcapitalist institutions as opposed to lifestyles. It is
therefore to this question that this chapter speaks, in particular the question of
what types of collective institutions have emerged in the area and the extent to
which they can be considered as ‘postcapitalist’. A summary of the institutions
can be found in Table 7.1 below.

This reading of the postcapitalist economy confirms the overall hypothesis of a
relationship between postcapitalist institutions and countercultural places.
Indeed, in some cases, such as TILT, Riverford Organic Vegetables or
Landmatters it could be argued that there have been some significant
‘pioneering’ postcapitalist experiments in the area, discussed in more depth in
the next chapter. A significant over-arching trend that emerges from the data is
that, in general, collective forms of organisation have not particularly prospered.
For example, whilst there has been some limited experimentation with co-
operatives, they have not become a prominent feature of the postcapitalist
landscape unlike for example, Maleney in Australia (Jordan 2005). Totnes does
not therefore represents a site where there has been great success in developing
community economies of the nature envisaged by Gibson-Graham.

56
Interview 23 and Research Diary 27/06/2007
Institution Presence in Totnes area Presence in Totnes area Presence in Totnes area Presence in Totnes area Presence in Totnes area Presence in Totnes area Presence in Totnes area Presence in Totnes area Presence in Totnes area
Businesses
Ethicalʼ businesses
There are businesses across a
range of sectors which purport to
have a specific ethical focus, for
example, green printers, green
funerals, green publishing, green
builders. There is also a cluster of
fair trade related businesses and
food businesses which assert
particular ethics, e.g. ʻlocalʼ or
ʻorganicʼ.
Independent businesses
Totnes has retained a retail centre which
has a strong independent sector (see
section 2.1 below).
The area also has high levels of self-
employment.
Both the Dartington and Sharpham
Trusts have supported the development
of independent businesses.
Independent businesses
Totnes has retained a retail centre which
has a strong independent sector (see
section 2.1 below).
The area also has high levels of self-
employment.
Both the Dartington and Sharpham
Trusts have supported the development
of independent businesses.
Independent businesses
Totnes has retained a retail centre which
has a strong independent sector (see
section 2.1 below).
The area also has high levels of self-
employment.
Both the Dartington and Sharpham
Trusts have supported the development
of independent businesses.
Independent businesses
Totnes has retained a retail centre which
has a strong independent sector (see
section 2.1 below).
The area also has high levels of self-
employment.
Both the Dartington and Sharpham
Trusts have supported the development
of independent businesses.
Workers Co-operatives
Some experimentation with co-operatives but the area has not become a significant site of co-
operative activity. In the late 1970s there were some co-operatives such as the Devon Organic
Growers, Green Shoes, and Conker Shoes, the latter two both artisan shoemaking businesses.
Neither Green Shoes or Conker are now structured as co-operatives. In the late 1970s there was
also a plan to turn one of Dartingtonʼs businesses (Dartington Tweeds) into a co-operative but this
was not pursued. There are some contemporary agricultural co-operatives in the area. Most notably
the South Devon Organic Producers which supplies the Riverford Organic Vegetables business
(see section 2.2).
Workers Co-operatives
Some experimentation with co-operatives but the area has not become a significant site of co-
operative activity. In the late 1970s there were some co-operatives such as the Devon Organic
Growers, Green Shoes, and Conker Shoes, the latter two both artisan shoemaking businesses.
Neither Green Shoes or Conker are now structured as co-operatives. In the late 1970s there was
also a plan to turn one of Dartingtonʼs businesses (Dartington Tweeds) into a co-operative but this
was not pursued. There are some contemporary agricultural co-operatives in the area. Most notably
the South Devon Organic Producers which supplies the Riverford Organic Vegetables business
(see section 2.2).
Workers Co-operatives
Some experimentation with co-operatives but the area has not become a significant site of co-
operative activity. In the late 1970s there were some co-operatives such as the Devon Organic
Growers, Green Shoes, and Conker Shoes, the latter two both artisan shoemaking businesses.
Neither Green Shoes or Conker are now structured as co-operatives. In the late 1970s there was
also a plan to turn one of Dartingtonʼs businesses (Dartington Tweeds) into a co-operative but this
was not pursued. There are some contemporary agricultural co-operatives in the area. Most notably
the South Devon Organic Producers which supplies the Riverford Organic Vegetables business
(see section 2.2).
Workers Co-operatives
Some experimentation with co-operatives but the area has not become a significant site of co-
operative activity. In the late 1970s there were some co-operatives such as the Devon Organic
Growers, Green Shoes, and Conker Shoes, the latter two both artisan shoemaking businesses.
Neither Green Shoes or Conker are now structured as co-operatives. In the late 1970s there was
also a plan to turn one of Dartingtonʼs businesses (Dartington Tweeds) into a co-operative but this
was not pursued. There are some contemporary agricultural co-operatives in the area. Most notably
the South Devon Organic Producers which supplies the Riverford Organic Vegetables business
(see section 2.2).
Economic
Focused
Community
enterprises

Totnes Development Trust
The Totnes Development Trust which was established in 1998. One of the
key instigators of the project was Michael Kendall who moved to Totnes in
1994 with the intention of linking his green conferencing business (Green
Paths) with Dartington [59]. TDT has yet to develop an ʻasset baseʼ with
which to support employment and education. Having developed a project for
shared artist workspace it spent several years attempting to secure premises
without success.
Totnes Development Trust
The Totnes Development Trust which was established in 1998. One of the
key instigators of the project was Michael Kendall who moved to Totnes in
1994 with the intention of linking his green conferencing business (Green
Paths) with Dartington [59]. TDT has yet to develop an ʻasset baseʼ with
which to support employment and education. Having developed a project for
shared artist workspace it spent several years attempting to secure premises
without success.
Totnes Development Trust
The Totnes Development Trust which was established in 1998. One of the
key instigators of the project was Michael Kendall who moved to Totnes in
1994 with the intention of linking his green conferencing business (Green
Paths) with Dartington [59]. TDT has yet to develop an ʻasset baseʼ with
which to support employment and education. Having developed a project for
shared artist workspace it spent several years attempting to secure premises
without success.
Totnes Development Trust
The Totnes Development Trust which was established in 1998. One of the
key instigators of the project was Michael Kendall who moved to Totnes in
1994 with the intention of linking his green conferencing business (Green
Paths) with Dartington [59]. TDT has yet to develop an ʻasset baseʼ with
which to support employment and education. Having developed a project for
shared artist workspace it spent several years attempting to secure premises
without success.
Devonlane Credit Union
Initial plans for a Totnes Credit Union were
developed in the late 1990s and evolved into a
merger with the existing Devonlane Credit
Union. The Credit Union has an office and
collection point in Birdwood House at the centre
of Totnes and around a 100 members from the
Totnes area.
Devonlane Credit Union
Initial plans for a Totnes Credit Union were
developed in the late 1990s and evolved into a
merger with the existing Devonlane Credit
Union. The Credit Union has an office and
collection point in Birdwood House at the centre
of Totnes and around a 100 members from the
Totnes area.
Alternative
Food
Initiatives
Organic Box schemes
The Riverford Organic Vegetables
box scheme originated in the area in
t he earl y1990s. Thi s f ol l owed
previ ous experi ments wi th box
schemes. There is also a smaller
Natures Round scheme which co-
exists with Riverford.
Organic Box schemes
The Riverford Organic Vegetables
box scheme originated in the area in
t he earl y1990s. Thi s f ol l owed
previ ous experi ments wi th box
schemes. There is also a smaller
Natures Round scheme which co-
exists with Riverford.
Farm shops
There are a number of farm shops
in the Totnes area including one run
by t he Ri v er f or d f ami l y i n
Dartington.
Farm shops
There are a number of farm shops
in the Totnes area including one run
by t he Ri v er f or d f ami l y i n
Dartington.
ʻAlternativeʼ Markets
There are popular markets on a Friday and
Saturday which provide an outlet for small
scale growers. A monthly farmers market ran
for 6 years until October 2008 when it was
forced to close due to poor custom.
#
ʻAlternativeʼ Markets
There are popular markets on a Friday and
Saturday which provide an outlet for small
scale growers. A monthly farmers market ran
for 6 years until October 2008 when it was
forced to close due to poor custom.
#
Community Supported Farming schemes
The area has seen several attempts at experimenting
with Community Supported Farming schemes in the
area (see section 2.3 and Table 7.2)
Community Supported Farming schemes
The area has seen several attempts at experimenting
with Community Supported Farming schemes in the
area (see section 2.3 and Table 7.2)
Community Supported Farming schemes
The area has seen several attempts at experimenting
with Community Supported Farming schemes in the
area (see section 2.3 and Table 7.2)
Currencies
LETS
The first LETS in Totnes was started in 1986 following a visit to the area by Michael Linton, inventor of the system. This made it one
of the earliest schemes in the UK. The first iteration of the scheme folded but it was relaunched in Sept 1991. The second scheme
built up a sizable membership (181 in 1993) including several businesses. It was researched by Williams (1995) who suggested it
was one of the largest rural schemes in the UK. However, in the following years it struggled for resources and administration and
folded in 2006. Recently there has been some effort to restart the scheme.
LETS
The first LETS in Totnes was started in 1986 following a visit to the area by Michael Linton, inventor of the system. This made it one
of the earliest schemes in the UK. The first iteration of the scheme folded but it was relaunched in Sept 1991. The second scheme
built up a sizable membership (181 in 1993) including several businesses. It was researched by Williams (1995) who suggested it
was one of the largest rural schemes in the UK. However, in the following years it struggled for resources and administration and
folded in 2006. Recently there has been some effort to restart the scheme.
LETS
The first LETS in Totnes was started in 1986 following a visit to the area by Michael Linton, inventor of the system. This made it one
of the earliest schemes in the UK. The first iteration of the scheme folded but it was relaunched in Sept 1991. The second scheme
built up a sizable membership (181 in 1993) including several businesses. It was researched by Williams (1995) who suggested it
was one of the largest rural schemes in the UK. However, in the following years it struggled for resources and administration and
folded in 2006. Recently there has been some effort to restart the scheme.
LETS
The first LETS in Totnes was started in 1986 following a visit to the area by Michael Linton, inventor of the system. This made it one
of the earliest schemes in the UK. The first iteration of the scheme folded but it was relaunched in Sept 1991. The second scheme
built up a sizable membership (181 in 1993) including several businesses. It was researched by Williams (1995) who suggested it
was one of the largest rural schemes in the UK. However, in the following years it struggled for resources and administration and
folded in 2006. Recently there has been some effort to restart the scheme.
LETS
The first LETS in Totnes was started in 1986 following a visit to the area by Michael Linton, inventor of the system. This made it one
of the earliest schemes in the UK. The first iteration of the scheme folded but it was relaunched in Sept 1991. The second scheme
built up a sizable membership (181 in 1993) including several businesses. It was researched by Williams (1995) who suggested it
was one of the largest rural schemes in the UK. However, in the following years it struggled for resources and administration and
folded in 2006. Recently there has been some effort to restart the scheme.
LETS
The first LETS in Totnes was started in 1986 following a visit to the area by Michael Linton, inventor of the system. This made it one
of the earliest schemes in the UK. The first iteration of the scheme folded but it was relaunched in Sept 1991. The second scheme
built up a sizable membership (181 in 1993) including several businesses. It was researched by Williams (1995) who suggested it
was one of the largest rural schemes in the UK. However, in the following years it struggled for resources and administration and
folded in 2006. Recently there has been some effort to restart the scheme.
LETS
The first LETS in Totnes was started in 1986 following a visit to the area by Michael Linton, inventor of the system. This made it one
of the earliest schemes in the UK. The first iteration of the scheme folded but it was relaunched in Sept 1991. The second scheme
built up a sizable membership (181 in 1993) including several businesses. It was researched by Williams (1995) who suggested it
was one of the largest rural schemes in the UK. However, in the following years it struggled for resources and administration and
folded in 2006. Recently there has been some effort to restart the scheme.
LETS
The first LETS in Totnes was started in 1986 following a visit to the area by Michael Linton, inventor of the system. This made it one
of the earliest schemes in the UK. The first iteration of the scheme folded but it was relaunched in Sept 1991. The second scheme
built up a sizable membership (181 in 1993) including several businesses. It was researched by Williams (1995) who suggested it
was one of the largest rural schemes in the UK. However, in the following years it struggled for resources and administration and
folded in 2006. Recently there has been some effort to restart the scheme.
Totnes Pound
The Totnes Pound was launched in March
2007 under the auspices of the Transition
Town Totnes initiative. It became a high profile
currency which has inspired further currencies
elsewhere (see Longhurst 2010a).
Social
markets
A number of different social markets are highly visible in the town. E.g. fairtrade, organic, ʻlocalʼ, ʻgreenʼ. This is reflected not only by the presence of specialist businesses in these
markets but also the presence of such products in non-specialist retailers.
A number of different social markets are highly visible in the town. E.g. fairtrade, organic, ʻlocalʼ, ʻgreenʼ. This is reflected not only by the presence of specialist businesses in these
markets but also the presence of such products in non-specialist retailers.
A number of different social markets are highly visible in the town. E.g. fairtrade, organic, ʻlocalʼ, ʻgreenʼ. This is reflected not only by the presence of specialist businesses in these
markets but also the presence of such products in non-specialist retailers.
A number of different social markets are highly visible in the town. E.g. fairtrade, organic, ʻlocalʼ, ʻgreenʼ. This is reflected not only by the presence of specialist businesses in these
markets but also the presence of such products in non-specialist retailers.
A number of different social markets are highly visible in the town. E.g. fairtrade, organic, ʻlocalʼ, ʻgreenʼ. This is reflected not only by the presence of specialist businesses in these
markets but also the presence of such products in non-specialist retailers.
A number of different social markets are highly visible in the town. E.g. fairtrade, organic, ʻlocalʼ, ʻgreenʼ. This is reflected not only by the presence of specialist businesses in these
markets but also the presence of such products in non-specialist retailers.
A number of different social markets are highly visible in the town. E.g. fairtrade, organic, ʻlocalʼ, ʻgreenʼ. This is reflected not only by the presence of specialist businesses in these
markets but also the presence of such products in non-specialist retailers.
A number of different social markets are highly visible in the town. E.g. fairtrade, organic, ʻlocalʼ, ʻgreenʼ. This is reflected not only by the presence of specialist businesses in these
markets but also the presence of such products in non-specialist retailers.
A number of different social markets are highly visible in the town. E.g. fairtrade, organic, ʻlocalʼ, ʻgreenʼ. This is reflected not only by the presence of specialist businesses in these
markets but also the presence of such products in non-specialist retailers.
Totnes Involvement in Local Trading (TILT)
TILT was a local loan fund that ran between 1989
and 1996. It was intended to provide finance for
local businesses and enterprises that could not
access finance elsewhere. It can be regarded as
a pioneering form of Community Development
Finance Initiative (CDFI), community investment
institutions which have grown in significance since
the 1990s (McGeehan 2007).
Table 7.1: Postcapitalist institutions in the Totnes area

205
Furthermore, whilst there has been some experimentation with forms of
community enterprises that have a specific economic focus it is hard to sustain
the argument that any of these enterprises have had a significant economic
impact. In the six years that it was active the TILT loan fund never managed to
exceed £4,780 in assets.
57
The Totnes Development Trust has no employees and
has yet to be able to secure and hold any assets in community ownership. The
Credit Union has only around 100 local members and struggles for both
resources and users. Both the LETS currency of the 1990s and the Totnes Pound
have attracted national media attention and inspired other places to experiment
with local currencies. However, in their own right, neither has managed to
construct significant new circuits of economic value within the locality.
Williams’ (1995) research on the Totnes Acorn (LETS currency) suggests that it
accounted for somewhere between 1.6% and 7.5% of members’ household
income. It is questionable whether, as he claims, this reflects ‘significant’
additional income. Furthermore, there remained problems with the spending of
the currency. Bishopston Trading, one of the businesses that participated made a
substantial loss through being unable to spend the Acorns that they had accepted
[30]. Similarly the economic impact of the Totnes Pound at this point reflects,
like its counterpart in Lewes, an ‘economic microcosm’ (Graugaard 2009). It is
difficult to measure the number of Totnes Pound notes in circulation but between
January and September 2008 a total of 2,352 notes were ‘cashed in’ from
participating businesses, a minute proportion of the local economy.
58


Whilst there has been some innovative experimentation in community-based
forms of postcapitalist activity they have, in the most part, faltered or struggled.
Whilst there have been a number of reasons for this, the data suggest that a
common factor is the lack of economic surplus in order to maintain the
institutions. All of the above community economic organisations have struggled
for resources to enable them to function effectively, relying primarily on
volunteer labour. Both TILT and LETS folded due to a lack of organisational
capacity. This is not an uncommon problem for small-scale monetary
experiments (Aldridge and Patterson 2002). Similarly, both Totnes Development

57
Interview 37 and analysis of TILT minutes
58
Analysis of Totnes Pound records
206
Trust and Devonlane Credit Union were also stretched in terms of resources at
the time of research. This was also the experience of the Totnes Pound, a factor
that has hindered its development (Longhurst 2010a). As such, the research
suggests that alternative culture (in the form of the localised Countercultural
milieu) is not a sufficient condition to enable radical postcapitalist experiments to
overcome the resource deficiencies that often hinder their development
elsewhere (e.g. Davison 2006; Chatterton and Pickerill 2010). The first empirical
argument of this chapter is that radical forms of postcapitalist economic
institution do not appear to be more economically viable around Totnes than
they might be elsewhere.

Contrastingly, it is argued that the independent businesses and social markets are
the more significant forms of postcapitalist institutions within the Totnes area.
As summarised in Table 7.1 a range of different ‘non-capitalist’ businesses and
markets intersect within the locality. This leads to the second argument that this
chapter makes: that the more economically significant aspects of postcapitalism
in the Totnes area are entwined with capitalistic processes and structures. The
significant aspects of postcapitalism in the Totnes area therefore reflect
manifestations of ‘ethical’ or ‘local’ forms of capitalism rather than more radical
economic spaces. However, this research reveals that despite the apparent
geographical density of these postcapitalist practices there is actually little
sustained coherence between them. Indeed, some of them are sustained by
extensive economic relationships that extend beyond South Devon. The third
empirical argument is that despite the apparent density of different practices
there is little coherence between different postcapitalist institutions. In other
words, they do not link up to create sustained economic circuits or spaces. These
arguments are set out in more detail through an exploration of the organic food
marketscape of Totnes.






207

7.2 The organic food ‘marketscape’

Lyson and Green (1999, 134) proposed the concept of a marketscape to refer to:

the geographic configurations of market opportunities relative to
agricultural production capabilities…Marketscapes are the geographic
spaces in which agricultural and food systems are organised. They
represent landscapes of production and consumption

The ‘marketscape’ therefore provides a conceptual tool to bring together the
different institutions of a given locality and a useful lens through which to
explore questions of coherence. The organic food marketscape in the Totnes area
can be regarded as one of the most visible aspects of postcapitalism in the
locality. As illustrated in Figure 7.1 below, it cuts across the postcapitalist
institutional categories overviewed in Table 7.1 above.















Figure 7.1: Dimensions of the postcapitalism organic food marketscape

208
It is necessary briefly to contextualise the organic food marketscape within wider
marketscapes of the area. Firstly, it reflects one dimension of a wider ‘quality’
food culture within the area. The food critic Mathew Fort (2007) recently asked

What is it about Totnes that encourages a range of opportunities to eat
that wouldn’t be out of place in Naples? How do they survive?

Similarly, research by Ilbery et al. (2006, 220) highlight the strength of a ‘local
food sector’ within the area speculating that it

might be associated with the presence of “alternative” culture and
lifestyles. Totnes, Dartington and Dartmouth (TQ7 andTQ9) are involved
with the promotion of sustainable technologies and lifestyles, including
sustainable food production and consumption

As such, the area exhibits several features of what Lyson and Green (1999) call
the ‘New Agriculture’, such as Community Supported Agriculture, Farmers
Markets, small- scale producers and organic farmers. As such, on the surface the
organic marketscape appears to reflect a version of idealised local organic food
economy that might appear in the pro-localisation literature (e.g. McKibben
2007).

The organic food marketscape also exists within a wider ‘organic’ marketscape
that extends beyond food. There are also markets/retailers/producers for organic
non-food products such as organic clothing, reflected in the presence of specialist
retailers such as Green Fibres, Seasalt and Salago. This marketscape is nested
within an even broader marketscape involving ‘green’ markets and businesses.
However, this section is not an in-depth exploration of the wider organic
marketscape, but instead focuses on three key elements of the organic food
marketscape: (1) independent organic retailers, (2) Riverford Organic Vegetables
and, (3) small-scale Community Supported Agriculture producers. Each of these
has its own claim to ‘significance’ and each is explored separately below.




209
7.2.1 Independent organic retailers

(i) Origins of organic retail in Totnes

The early organic retailers are a good example of institutions that emerged from
and were sustained by the emerging Countercultural milieu discussed in the last
chapter. The first health food business in Totnes was the Herb of Grace at 35
High Street. Established in 1967/8 it was run by Sula Williams. An advert from
1971 the same year describes it as selling ‘A full Range of Health Foods and
Herbal Remedies, Fresh Yoghourt [sic], Whole Meal Bread, Organically – grown
Fruit and Vegetables.’
59
In 1973 the Herb of Grace was sold to Cranks who
opened their Totnes shop in the premises at the beginning of June. The
background to Cranks and their connection to Dartington were covered in the last
chapter. Their connection to south Devon had led them to open a shop in
Dartmouth in 1971 and then in March 1976 the Cranks restaurant at the Cider
Press Centre in Dartington was opened. Cranks itself was inspired by a ‘re-
education’ in health that was experienced by the founders David and Kay Canter.
This led them to establish the first Cranks in Carnaby Street London with its
emphasis on vegetarianism, wholefoods and organic produce. Its ethics also
encompassed a strong affiliation with crafts and a form of organisation that
meant that ‘[i]nstead of the hierarchy of jobs, ours was the amateur, family style
approach’ (Canter, 1982, 13). The Cranks business itself was later sold and the
premises in Totnes became the Totnes Health Food Shop and then later Seeds,
although locally many people still referred to it as ‘Cranks’ [34].

Another Countercuisine retailer business that had Dartington connections was
Sacks. This was established by Tom and Lynda Merrington and started as a
market stall in March 1975 selling brown rice and wholemeal flour and other
health food products. Tom had been at the Dartington School where his mother
had taught during the Second World War. After a year on the market, Sacks
moved into a shop unit in The Narrows in the spring of 1976. The motivation
behind Sacks was a mixture of personal interest in food and ethical intent:

59
Veasey’s Directory of Totnes and Bridgetown (1971), p. 17.
210

I’ve always been into wholefoods health foods myself being brought up
as a vegetarian and that kind of thing so I’ve always been sort of focused
on that kind of thing, quality of food and…so bringing up a large family I
realised that health food shops … with all [the] packaging and marketing
and so on were expensive and so I thought I would look into trying to do
it cheaper … which is sort of that led me and my wife to realise that there
were other sources of wholefoods, not so packaged

Tom Merrington [51]

Therefore Sacks, partly inspired by a shop called City Ditch in Exeter, was
opened in order to compete directly with Cranks in the emerging market for
health-foods. However, there was still a strong ethical purpose behind the
business, both in terms of a genuine belief in wholefoods and in the fact the
business should only make a ‘fair’ profit. As Linda Merrington said on the
opening of the shop:

“We only want to make enough to live on, not a vast profit”, said Linda
“there is no mystery about whole-food – it doesn’t need to be expensive
or glossily packaged”

Linda Merrington co-founder of Sacks, quoted in Sherrack No. 7

This is an example of what Belasco (2007) calls ‘honest pricing.’ Sacks also
provided an outlet for members of the South Devon Organic Growers co-
operative [25]. Independent retailers first created the market for organic produce
in Totnes the late 1960s. These pioneers could be considered ethical businesses
in their attempts to incorporate certain values into their businesses. At the time of
the field research there were five independent retailers who sold organic food as
a principle aspect of their business as illustrated in figure 7.2 below. Riverford
also have another farm-shop nearby in Dartington that has a wide range of
organic produce.

211

Figure 7.2: Independent organic retail specialists in Totnes town centre (2008)

(ii) A (Counter)cultural ‘enclave’ economy

Those independent retailers that also had premises in other places noted the
unusualness of the organic food market in Totnes. Ben Watson, comparing his
shops in Kitley (16 miles from Totnes) and Totnes suggested:

Kitley-wise…there is less interest in organic down there. The local thing
is good and we are slowly becoming…I mean there are some shall we
saw less open-minded people…I mean organic is just like a swear word.
Yeah people will honestly say…I mean some people have said to me
before ‘I’m seventy years old I’m not going to eat organic because you
say its better for me because basically if I did that I’d be admitting to
myself that I’ve been making a mistake the last seventy years and I’m not
going to do that’ and people…I have actually…I mean someone actually
wrote me a letter saying that once, ‘We don’t want your organic stuff
down here, what are you saying we’ve been wrong we’ve been wrong for
years’ and all that. But so while Totnes there is definitely an established
market for organic produce as you can see, Greenlife whatever…

Ben Watson [42]

212
Helen Pope who ran the Seeds Health Food Shop and organic bakery noted how
they were not able to replicate their Totnes success in other places:

We thought that the other shops…I mean we thought ‘Ah we’ve got this
cracked same formula we could do it again.’ No. I mean it worked
because of Totnes. Totnes is a special place. Trading is good. It’s
unique. It’s busy because of its attractiveness.

Helen Pope [34]

She goes on to explain how the Totnes shop was different to the shops that they
also ran in Exmouth and Dartmouth, where it was harder to sell the produce:

And I mean you’d chat and talk to people and they’d try things and you’d
win them over and you had to build the market. You know you had to
market it very, very strongly as that with a really strong front. Whereas in
Totnes you’d stand behind the till and basket fulls and basket fulls of the
stuff just goes through the door.

Helen Pope [34]


The specialist businesses operating in this market believed that they met a
predominately local need, but felt that they served customers who came from
across the wider South Hams. This suggests in the case of organic food Totnes
acts as a ‘local’ retail centre for a wider geographic area than might otherwise be
expected for a settlement of its size. Its role as a ‘countercultural’ economic
centre creates a hinterland that exceeds that which might be expected of a
‘normal’ market town.

Those businesses that specialise in organic food retail attribute the consumer
demand to the ‘Dartington effect’ discussed in the last chapter and the associated
‘alternative’ cultures:

Totnes is quite unique I don’t know why um obviously Dartington Hall
influence must have been instrumental in making Totnes…well I don’t
think there are many rural towns I would like to live in really, but I mean
there’s not many around that um but certainly have the um same sort of
liberal open-mindedness about a breadth of sort of things that Totnes has
213
I don’t think. I'm sure there are I just don’t know them…which I think
makes it easy, easier.

Ben Watson [42]

But you know it is a hot bed for alternative stuff and that’s I would say
that’s ninety percent of the reason for the success of Greenlife

Jamie Sermon [41]

Well I suppose it just goes with the alternative…the nuts and seeds and
vegetarian based healthy diet which is brilliant, I mean it’s a shame it
hasn’t spread more really. It would be great for Britain at the moment

Helen Pope [34]

In terms of specific alternative cultures, both Ben Watson and Helen Pope
considered the importance of the ‘community’ created by the South Devon
Steiner school as being particularly important in creating demand for organic and
vegetarian food. Helen Pope also discussed the way in which they met the needs
of different subcultures interested in health:

All vegetarian always, always organically sourced and very much sort of
thinking about the different dietary requirements of people, you know
there’s the wheat free brigade there’s the gluten free brigade, there’s the
sugar free brigade, and there’s also…we did a lot of mainstream hungry
people who wanted a healthy lunch

Helen Pope [34]

Jamie Sermon also made a connection with alternative health:

Well I think its because of the kind of people in Totnes you know there
are an incredible amount of therapists and they are usually very health
conscious and very aware of what they should be eating and shouldn’t be
eating and so on and there are just a lot of alternative types and
Dartington College attracts a lot of people of that type as well, just
population was right for that kind of thing.

Jamie Sermon [41]

214
Greenlife was originally established as a business that would sell ‘green’
products and, unlike the pioneering countercuisine businesses, was at least partly
inspired by the financial success of the Body Shop. The shift into health foods
and CAM products was driven by consumer demand. As Jamie Sermon explains,
this was partly because the East Arch in Totnes caught fire on September 14
th

1990 blocking the main pedestrian route up through the town centre:

People were saying to us ‘Can you stock some of the things that we
would have otherwise had to walk up Sacks or had to walk up to Totnes
Health Shop to get?’ and so we did and started getting in more food and
more homeopathic remedies and herbal remedies and all these things that
we didn’t know anything about.

Jamie Sermon [41]

The data therefore suggest that a tangible economic effect of the Countercultural
milieu has been to create a strong localised demand for organic produce. As such
the organic market could be a manifestation of a (cultural) enclave economy
(Starr 2000, p 132). This is a term that is usually deployed in relation to urban
ethnic enclaves (e.g. Light et al. 1994) but here the term is used to capture the
local embeddedness of the organic food market, rooted within the localised
manifestations of the Countercultural milieu. This notion of an ‘enclave
economy’ not only reflects the way in which the milieu creates demand for
certain types of good and product (such as organic food) but also the process by
which entrepreneurs emerge from the milieu to provide services and goods to
meet culturally specific needs. However, as the last chapter illustrated, this
demand is not created by a single ‘alternative’ culture but by the overlapping
propinquity of a range of different countercultural strands. As well as the ‘green’
cultures in the area, the density of CAM activity must play an important factor in
sustaining the market, as a recognised driver in the consumption of organic
produce (Lampkin 1990; Makatouni 2002; Lobley et al. 2009). Thus whilst some
of the businesses might be considered ‘postcapitalist’ it is questionable whether
the market can be defined as such.


215
(iii) The preservation of independent retail

As discussed in Chapter Four, some writers advocate small, independent
businesses as a form of non-capitalist/postcapitalist activity (Schumacher [1973]
1993; Ross 1986; Korten 1999). A retail study published in 2006 by South Hams
District Council confirms that Totnes has a lower than average number of
multiple retailers, at 20% opposed to the national average of 34%. It goes on to
state that:

The role of small, independent operators is particularly evident in Totnes,
and is considered an important characteristic and attraction of the centre.

South Hams District Council (2006b), 22

The prevalence of independent retail is a feature of Totnes’ economy that was
highlighted by several interviewees as an aspect of its ‘alternative’ economy:

Well I think the advantages are that um Totnes somehow has drawn to
itself and sustained a whole group of independent retailers who largely
speaking I don’t think do tread on each others toes, we’re respectful of
what each sell and collectively we’ve been able to put together I think an
attractive shopping centre compared to the cities.

Jim Pilkington [14]

Most small town high streets are just full of multiples and building
societies and estate agents and not much else…Totnes is really special in
the range of speciality shops. It’s a speciality shopping centre of all sorts.

Douglas Cockbain [49]

I felt that in terms of this town’s overall economy the independent
businesses were one of the most important factors in the town yeah. It’s
what brings people into town. And they come into town and they come
into town, they, they eat here, they shop here, they drink here, they
sometimes want to come and live here even…and that its what gives the
town…its unique appearance

Paul Wesley [6]

216
The independent organic retailers therefore reflect one part of the independent
retail sector that can be characterised as an ‘alternative’ system of provision to
the dominant (‘capitalist’) supermarket system of food retail.



Figure 7.3: Small retail units in The Narrows, Totnes.


There are two principle reasons that Totnes has been able to retain a density of
independent retailers. The first reason relates to the way in which statutory
efforts to preserve the heritage of the town have had the side effect of regulating
physical retail space. Devon County Council designated a large proportion of
Totnes town centre as one of the first Conservation Areas in the county in July
1969. The District Council subsequently extended this in 1985. The
Conservation Area covers most of the retail centre and has restricted the
redevelopment of the town centre. As such many of the shop units are too small
for those normally required by ‘multiples’. Furthermore for much of the 1970s
there was a development embargo due to inadequate sewerage facilities, acting
as a further buffer on physical redevelopment of the town.

217
The second reason that Totnes has been able to retain an independent retail sector
is that the town has not seen the development of significant supermarket or out of
town retail provision. It seems that the combination of its small size, topography,
and the absence of suitable development sites have been the factors which have
limited supermarket provision. Located as it is, in a steep river valley, there are
very few suitable large, flat development sites for new-build ‘out of town’ retail.
A small supermarket opened in the mid 1980s just off Fore Street on the site of
former Critchell Hostel squat. However, it was not until the mid 1990s that a
larger supermarket (Safeways, now Morrisons) opened on the site of the former
Harris bacon factory. In keeping with the activist aspects of the milieu, the
development of both supermarkets was subject to local protest.

Therefore the reasons that Totnes has retained an independent retail sector does
not directly relate to any form of place-based postcapitalist activism or the
existence of the countercultural milieu. Instead the combination of spatial
regulation and geographical factors appears to have created the ongoing
possibility for independent retail to survive. Indeed any causal relationship with
the milieu is likely to be the other way: The preservation of an unusual retail
centre creates a specific sense of place that attracts both visitors and migrants.
Many ‘alternative’ businesses have benefited from the ongoing existence of this
independent retail centre and the availability of small, cheap units has been
instrumental in enabling new businesses to get established. However, as
discussed in the next section, that does not mean that the retail centre has not
changed over the years.

(iv) The gentrification of the retail centre

The data suggested that as Totnes’ reputation as an alternative centre grew, so
the economic pressures on the retail centre changed. Certainly, amongst a range
of interviewees there were shared perceptions that the town had become busier
[e.g. 23, 34, 61] and more affluent [e.g. 11, 41, 22]. One impact of this was that
new businesses were attracted to the town in the 1990s by its ‘alternative’
reputation such as Bishopston Trading [30] and Green Fibres [11]. Such
businesses reflected new institutions within the countercultural milieu but also
218
reflected the evolution of Totnes into a ‘specialist’ retail centre. Some businesses
welcome this perceived improvement to the town:

I think the, the standard of retail shop has improved and from being a sort
of old fashioned market town it’s now you know it has a better image.

Jim Pilkington [14]

However, other businesses noted downsides to this evolution such as an increase
in rents and rates [6, 58]. Paul Wesley, the chair of the Chamber of Commerce
suggested that the profusion of charity shops had the effect of putting up rates
and were also popular with landlords. He suggested that in the 1980s many of the
properties were bought up by investment house and banks that were absent
landlords. Paul Wesley went on to describe the pressure that the independent
retail sector was under:

…at the moment…I think that most independents just aren’t
economically viable…and that they survive on one of the partners
working in another job. I know of one that survives because the owner
draws a pension and that’s her income. It’s not the income from the shop.
Or they survive in my case because I own the property, I bought it
twenty-five years ago, I’m still paying the mortgage on it.

Paul Wesley [6]

Certainly Greenlife noted their regret in not buying their premises from their
Gibraltar based landlord [41]. Several other of the ‘specialist’ independent
businesses were also predominately supported by catalogue and on-line
customers rather than footfall in Totnes [11, 30]. This had prompted Green Shoes
– a women’s run, former co-operative that emerged from the milieu in 1981 to
move out of Totnes:

we were weary of running a shop, it also had very high overheads…you
didn’t have much flexibility…and we weren’t earning enough money for
all the work we were doing. We were constantly firefighting and not able
to do any forward planning. So we sold and have increased flexibility and
put ourselves under different pressure on the web, running workshops as
well as having our new premises open five days a week. We are taking
ourselves more seriously and we’re hoping that it will work

219
Alison Hastie [8]

The implications here for the organic retail businesses is that the same conditions
which have supported their existence – the countercultural milieu and Totnes’
role as an ‘independent’ retail centre are also factors which seem to have
contributed to the gentrification of the town centre and thus made retailing more
problematic. Such processes of gentrification appear to undermine the potential
of postcapitalist businesses to prosper in the longer term. It also highlights a
disjunction between those businesses that are attempting to serve the needs of the
local ‘enclave’ economy and those that are instead reliant on tourism and
placeless commerce. Indeed many of the interviewed non-food businesses relied
primarily on national custom facilitated via websites or catalogues.

(v) Competition within the organic marketscape

The wider processes of gentrification were not the only source of economic
pressures on independent organic retailers. There was also evidence of increasing
pressures within the local organic marketscape. For a market that is
predominately embedded within a specific mixture of local cultures it was not
surprising that businesses perceive their competition in particularly ‘local’ terms.
One dimension of this competition is between the specialist businesses
themselves. Barry and Helen Pope explained that Seeds developed an organic
bakery business to cope with the competition from the growing Greenlife, which
moved into larger premises in 1994. Greenlife themselves are now increasingly
focusing on their national Internet based distribution business [41]. The most
recent specialist organic shop was established in 2008 by Annies, an existing
grocer who had very little ideological commitment to organic food, unlike the
pioneers discussed earlier. The proprietor explained how they first started selling
organic food:





220
A few people asked and the old man said ‘no’ and [then] I got more
involved in the shop I’d been travelling and come back and I said ‘Yeah
OK, we’ll do a bit.’ We done a little bit and its just grown I suppose. You
know it’s not personal, its business isn’t it? You sell what people want
don’t you?

Sean Johnson [58]

The fact that the Annies Organic shop closed after a one-year ‘trial’ period
suggests that by 2008 (the time of the fieldwork) the local market was at a
saturation point. It also illustrated that competition is a dynamic feature of the
organic marketscape. Indeed, the interviewed businesses also spoke about the
rising competition from non-specialist retailers who compete in the same
markets. When Tom Merrington started Sacks his only competitor was Cranks
but

then places like Happy Apple [a local convenience store] started to creep
in and get in on the act, and then there was money to be made and the
competition began to increase as we mentioned, in the eighties

Tom Merrington [51]

Similarly, Jamie Sermon from Greenlife:

And even though you know other shops realised it as well and sell things
which you wouldn’t get in a normal town, like Food for Thought [a deli]
and so on, various other shops up the road …they all sell rice cakes and
soya milk and so on

Jamie Sermon [41]

Competition from supermarkets was discussed as further dimension of
competition:

supermarkets are now latching onto the fact that people want organic
food and gluten free food and free from sugar food and free from wheat
food and so on and so you see more and more of that in supermarkets
slowly but surely competition is increasing.

Jamie Sermon [41]
221

Ben Watson also spoke of his perception of increased competition in recent
years:

Oh definitely yeah…from 2001 from foot and mouth was...it just
generated…with [the] Western Morning News having their ‘buy local’
campaign...it generated so much goodwill towards small local foods and
farmers as well…but the next sort of four or five years were pretty good
for everybody really and people that got on the bandwagon
early…managed to establish their place in the market so to speak, but I
think there’s an awful lot of people, I think there is a hell of a lot of
people, that have either not done it very effectively or done it too late like
these two farm shops that I have mentioned. They really have missed the
boat and all they do is make it hard for everybody really without making
money themselves.

Ben Watson [42]

The data suggest then that the organic retail businesses face ongoing pressures
both from each other and from a wider range of businesses entering the markets
in which they operate. Like businesses within the ‘capitalist’ market they are
constantly having to adapt to new competition. That such markets are dynamic
and internally competitive is a factor that is often overlooked in the literature that
valorises social markets as a progressive force and a challenge to capitalism and
growth (e.g. Henderson 2006; Ekins 1992; Wall 2005). Indeed, it raises questions
about whether social markets can be considered as ‘non-capitalist’. Such
valorisation often also conflates the market with the participant, ignoring that the
growth of the market can lead to the marginalisation of the original ideological
pioneers. Instead, the experiences of these businesses seems to provide a
localised example of the way in which ideological countercultural ‘niches’ such
as organic food can be appropriated by the mainstream (Belasco 2007; Smith
2006).

(vi) Summary


This section has explored the independent organic retail businesses that have
developed in the Totnes area. It has been argued that they reflect a significant
part of the local organic marketscape, reflecting an important dimension of a
222
localised enclave economy that has emerged from the milieu. However, it has
also highlighted the fragility of these businesses and some of the key economic
pressures that they are under. The gentrification of Totnes – partly a consequence
of the countercultural milieu – has undermined the viability of independent retail
in the town. Furthermore, the expansion of the ‘postcapitalist’ market threatens
to undermine the independent businesses that first helped to construct it, pointing
to contradictions and conflict between different dimensions of the ‘diverse
economy’. Whilst these tendencies have been resisted so far, the businesses have
to keep adapting to survive, suggesting that being located in Totnes does not
particularly enable such businesses to transcend the problems faced by similar
businesses elsewhere.

7.2.2 Riverford Organic Vegetables

The second aspect of the organic food marketscape that this chapter explores is
Riverford Organic Vegetables. Its particular claim to significance is its rise to
become perhaps the largest organic vegetable box scheme in the UK as part of a
group of family owned businesses that are all based near Totnes.

(i) Emergence of Riverford Organic Vegetables

John Watson first rented Riverford Farm a few miles from Totnes in the 1950s.
Starting with 120 acres he later expanded to incorporate two other farms giving a
total acreage of around 500 acres. In its earlier years Riverford was part of a
scheme involving ICI whereby it was a model for chemical based industrial
agriculture. John Watson believes that reading environmentalist literature such as
the Ecologist and its Blueprint for the Future was more important in stimulating
his own conversion to organic methods than exposure to the local ‘alternative’
cultures [9]. During the 1970s he experimented with self-sufficiency and
diversification (farm tours) before, in the 1980s his children developed a range of
organic agricultural and food-based enterprises, including Riverford Organic
Vegetables, established by Guy Watson in around 1986.

Although the impact of the milieu was less direct on John Watson, it did have
some impact on Guy Watson’s business philosophy. He cited Gordon Strutt, one
223
of the area’s early organic smallholders, as a formative influence, as was Andy
Langford a local businessman / activist who gave him a copy of Honest Business
(Philips and Rasberry 1981) a book that was connected to the San Francisco
Briarpatch network. Briarpatch arrived in Devon via Dartington and there was
for a while a South West UK network which involved some Totnes businesses.
Its ideas of ethical business and right livelihood had an influence on Guy
Watson:

the combination of reading that and speaking to him a couple of times I
think at that very formative time when I was starting my business. I think
it really shaped quite a lot of my thinking obviously together with loads
of other things, I think my father was probably quite influential actually.

Guy Watson [22]

Therefore the ethics of Riverford were at least in part, shaped by the
Countercultural milieu. However, he also recalled being inspired by the farmers
markets that he had seen in the USA. Furthermore, both his parents were also
important influence on him, his mother in terms of her love of food and his father
in terms of his rejection of industrial agriculture.

Guy Watson starting by selling his produce in his brother Ben’s farm shop and
on Totnes market before expanding to supply a range of local shops. This then
expanded further to a range of shops from Cornwall to Dorset. However Guy had
a formative experience with a supermarket buyer that led him to seek an
alternative to the ‘conventional’ supermarket system:

he got this magic call from a supermarket buyer saying ‘We’re
considering listing you’ they don’t give you contracts, they never give
you contracts, they ‘list’ you …‘come and see us tomorrow’ and Guy said
‘Well I can’t make it tomorrow could it be the next day’ and the phone
went dead. And Guy re-established contact and said to the chap ‘I’m
sorry I think we were cut off’ and the classic answer came, actually this
manager chap was with him at the same time so is a sight witness to it: ‘I
cut you off sonny, look when we whistle you’ve got to learn to jump’

John Watson [9]

224
This experience led Watson actively to seek an alternative to the supermarket
distribution system. At around this time (1992) he learned about a vegetable box
scheme that Tim and Jan Deane has established at their 30 acre farm in the
nearby Teign Valley (Deane 2003). Guy Watson decided to replicate this model
becoming one of the first few ‘official’ box schemes in the country. However, as
the next section discusses the economic success of Riverford has been based on it
constructing new scales of operation unlike other local growers, who remained
focused on ‘local’ markets.

(ii) Transcending the locality

Vegetable box schemes are often characterised a type of Alternative Food
Initiative which ‘shorten’ the food chain between supplier and customer
(Marsden et al. 2000). They are therefore promoted as one tool for food
localisation. In contrast to this idealised model, Riverford has developed a
business growth model that based on the franchising of delivery rounds. This
model has underpinned the expansion of the Riverford business across the South
of England and now beyond into the wider UK. However, this expansion has not
lead to the complete abandonment of the localist ethic of vegetable box
distribution systems. Riverford is attempting to establish regional hubs of
farmers who can supply delivery franchisees in other parts of the country. The
first of these (River Nene) was established in 2004 and currently four other such
hubs exist. Riverford has stated its intention to reduce the geographic market
served by its own production to the just the South West region. Clarke et al.
(2008) describe the business model as ‘expanding without expanding.’ Figures
for the exact number of weekly boxes delivered vary but it seems likely to be in
the region of 30,000 per week.
60
However the expansion of Riverford is
indicated by a recent Soil Association (2008) directory which lists 229 organic
box schemes in England and Wales. Of these 105 (or 46%) are part of the
Riverford franchise network. Guy’s brother Ben Watson also sells organic ‘meat

60
Clarke et al. (2008, 222) suggest 50,000 boxes to 20,000 households every month. Coley
(2009, 153) suggests 32,000 per week. An interview with Watson (Prince 2008) suggests 45,000
boxes per week. BBC (2009) suggests 27,000 per week.
225
boxes’ as one strand of his Riverford business which are then distributed through
the national network.

The geographic expansion of the Riverford vegetable box business means that it
now operates over multiple scales (Clarke et al 2008). Local production therefore
now far exceeds the demand of the ‘local’ market and despite the fact that
Riverford produce is widely available within the Totnes area, and reflects a
significant part of the organic food ‘materiality’ within the area, through both
Riverford Organic Vegetables, the farm shops and also Riverford Dairy.
However, Guy Watson explained that even though there was a burgeoning
market for organic produce in the area in the mid 1980s it was never large
enough to absorb his vegetable production:

I started to [deliver to] three or four local shops and most of my sales
couldn’t care if it was organic or not…there was that kind of incipient
demand. There was some health food shops and there were a lot of people
talking about it. There was Cranks at Dartington, I think there might have
been Willow, a couple of kind of health food, vegetariany, sort of
restaurants. And people were just starting to talk about it but there…and
the only outlets were health food shops whose sales were pretty minimal
so you know I ended up selling to greengrocers…I couldn’t charge them
quite as much but they took larger volumes and they just wanted, really
wanted it to be fresh.

Guy Watson [22]

This experience echoes one of the other small-scale pioneer organic growers who
were working in the late 1970s and 1980s found that at that time the market
could not absorb their produce. A small-scale organic grower did feel that there
was a more developed organic market than other places at that time, but that it
was still not large enough to absorb all of his produce:

…fifty percent of my stuff went to an ordinary shop in Ashburton, then the
other fifty percent would go to the organic market if you like.

Charles Staniland [25]


226
Therefore whilst there has been longstanding demand from the local milieu and
local outlets in the form of shops, cafés and markets stalls, the size of the local
market for organic produce has therefore not been sufficient to support local
producers. To overcome this Riverford expanded the geographical scale of its
customer base, before switching to the wholesale market. Those that remained
‘localised’ such as Charles Staniland were required to augment their incomes
with other activities. As Oliver Watson has observed:

the way vegetable box has grown is to find the two percent of people who
want to buy organic stuff nationally or over a large area and sell it to
them.

Ollie Watson [48]

This research therefore suggests that the demand of the enclave economy for
organic produce has not been sufficient to support small-scale local growers.
Riverford confronted this dilemma by transcending the local market in order to
survive. Therefore whilst the circuits of value that sustain it might be considered
to be ‘non-capitalist’ (in that they bypass the industrial food systems) they are
not particularly localised.

There are several other aspects of Riverford that give it strong postcapitalist
credentials. For a start it is a family owned, independent business. It practices a
form of more ecologically benign agriculture. It appears to have a wider set of
ethics and motives that guide the business and for which it has won numerous
awards. It undertakes research into its own environmental impact (e.g. Coley et
al. 2009). It is aware of the paradox of its own expansion and is attempting to
develop a regionalised model that develops localised growing capacity. It also
appears to practice non-exploitative relationships with its suppliers and Guy
Watson spoke of his ‘responsibility’ for his franchisees. However, it can be
argued that the geographic expansion of Riverford has drawn it into wider
capitalistic processes and structures, as discussed below.



227
(iii) Organic conventionalism

The ‘conventionalism’ debate refers to the debate over the extent to which the
expansion of organic markets and agriculture has led to their incorporation by
capitalist processes and structures (Holt 2007). This section argues that the
growth of Riverford has seen it exhibit some aspects of organic conventionalism.
By his own admission Guy Watson is:

not an absolute evangelical believer [in organic]. I’m kind of pragmatic.

Guy Watson [22]

His decision organically was also based on his own experiences of the health
impacts on farmers of using chemical sprays, rather than any particularly strong
ideological motivation, as well as a sense that there was a growing market for
organic produce. Following Smith’s (2006) terminology of organic pioneers Guy
Watson can be characterised as an ‘entrepreneurial system builder’ rather than an
‘idealist’. Indeed, it was suggested by his father that Guy’s background as a
management consultant has been important in the successful development of
Riverford [9].

The growth of Riverford the organic box scheme led Guy Watson to establish the
South Devon Organic Producer Co-operative in 1998. Despite the fact that he
was voted off the co-operative due to personality conflicts it retains a close
working relationship with Riverford. At the time of the research it had 10 active
members (out of a total of 14) and around 800 acres under cultivation, most of
which is in the South Hams area. Legally, it is established as an Industrial and
Provident Society (co-operative) and has a five year rolling marketing agreement
with Riverford which provides them with security of a market for their produce
and certainly contrasts with the contract arrangements that are often part of the
supermarket distribution system. The co-op pools machinery and labour and is
only able to make a small profit under Financial Service Authority regulations.
However, most of the co-operative members are primarily motivated by financial
228
rather than ideological motives and there have been discussions about
demutualisation that would permit greater profits to be made [52].

The expansion of Riverford, both directly and via the co-operative has led to a
change in its engagement with labour markets, with both now relying on migrant
agricultural labour:

We used to have to put a lot of effort into trying to make crap people
reasonably effective and now we just don’t bother with them. So you
know we have reasonable people who we try to make very effective and
our sort of starting people. And that’s and the foreign labour has enabled
us to take that stance that’s the brutal truth of it. Um it is bloody hard
work…with these marginal people, who you might get two or three goods
hours out of in the morning and then its really hard work. You turn your
back and nothing happens sort of thing they need to be managed
absolutely micro-managed the whole way. And the Eastern Europeans I
mean you know everyone will tell you the same thing they are just
phenomenal, the you know the sort of honesty of their work.

Guy Watson [22]

So whereas Riverford had previously provided a source of casual labour for
members of the local countercultural milieu [57] its expansion has seen it
become distanced from it. Indeed, Watson expressed a specific dislike of
employing incomers who might be seeking a lifestyle change:

If they’re are moving down to this side of the world because they have re-
evaluated their life and they have decided that actually it is important to
spend time with their family and you know, quality of life is important,
I’m sorry we are just like any other business…I want my business to be,
you know, a large part of their life. Yes I do acknowledge that quality of
life is important and you know the office here is pretty empty by five
thirty but you know I don’t want a ‘downsizer’ and we’ve had a couple of
them and they’re a waste of fucking space

Guy Watson [22]

In general Watson felt that the location of Riverford gave it few advantages.
Riverford’s changing relationship with labour markets reflected the importance
229
of balancing economic imperatives with ethics. As such Watson perceived
himself as

[I am] a reluctant capitalist I think you have to accept that you live within
a sort of capitalist world and you have to understand the capitalist model
and be prepared to find something that will work within that sort of
framework that will be a little bit more enriching to the human spirit than
just naked capitalism which I just find really depressing.

Guy Watson [22]

Riverford’s entanglement with the wider processes of capitalism is also indicated
by the wealth of its customer base:

Yeah unfortunately, you know there is no doubt. I mean it must be a year
or two old the data but fifty per cent of them had a household income of
fifty thousand or more. I don’t know what the average household income
is…forty or something? Thirty-five, forty I’m guessing? Something like
that. So clearly they are the more affluent.

Guy Watson [22]

This research therefore resonates with the critique that participation in AFIs
tends to be the privilege of the affluent middle classes (Hinrichs 2000). Thus a
postcapitalist entity is supported by wealth generated elsewhere within the
economic ‘system’. Furthermore, the cost of a franchise, at around £25,000, also
requires access to capital or debt-finance and is a business model that tends to be
focused on ‘growth’.
61
Indeed the expansion of Riverford has been financed
through debt that now means that

…in our particular circumstances we do need to grow no doubt about it.
We need to grow…Yeah because that investment. We have also invested
a lot in IT I think probably quite dubious investments actually so we have
invested three and a half million pounds in the last eighteen months two
years on the assumption of this growth

Guy Watson [22]

61
See http://www.whichfranchise.com/franchisorPage.cfm?companyId=2240 last accessed 4
June 2010
230

Watson also receives ‘weekly’ offers to sell the business that he has thus far
resisted, stating instead an ambition perhaps eventually to convert to employee
ownership. However, the pressure to ‘sell out’ is a recognisable trend within the
development of the organic sector in North America (Howard 2009).

(iv) Summary

This section has argued that in order to build an economically viable business
Riverford has been required to transcend the locality. Whilst it still displays some
tangible elements of postcapitalist practice, it also displays elements of organic
conventionalism. In other words, Riverford is, in different ways, both inside and
outside, different capitalist processes and systems. This research therefore
concurs with Clarke et al.’s (2008) argument that Riverford is neither a small,
local, countercultural farm nor a large transnational corporate firm but instead
occupies a space somewhere between this dichotomy. These contradictions and
tensions within the operations of Riverford can inevitably lead to different
‘readings’ of Riverford: some argue that it is a positive influence on the area [11,
46] whereas there is also some local criticism that Riverford has become ‘too
big’ [see interviews 13, 20]. The next section discusses some of the initiatives
that have attempted to build more radical local organic economies.

7.2.3 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)


(i) Origins of CSA in the Totnes area

It is worth noting that the first organic farmer in the Totnes area was not an
ideologically driven member of the countercultural milieu. Roger Jones started
farming organically at Lipton Farm in East Allington in 1969. Jones’ principal
motivation for farming organically was because he could not justify the
expenditure on fertilizers [66]. However, during the 1970s some small-scale
organic growers in the area began to emerge from the countercultural milieu such
as Ollie Bosence and David Lance. Others such as Charles Staniland had
gravitated to the area after attending the nearby Seale Hayne agricultural college
231
[25]. In 1979 Staniland and Boscene got together and formed the Devon Organic
Growers co-operative, receiving a grant from the Dartington Trust to help
establish themselves. By 1981 there were 25 organic growers involved and over
70 acres of land used to produce organic fruit and vegetables. The group sold to
local businesses and also used a novel form of distributions which involved
dropping off produce at three private homes in Ashburton, Totnes and Plymouth,
inspired by a similar scheme in Switzerland.
62
This was a precursor to the
organic box scheme that by most accounts did not officially arrive in the UK
until the 1990s. The SDOG co-operative also sold produce on a stall at the
Dartington Farm Foods shop. CSA therefore has a long heritage in the area and
Table 7.2 summarises three of the recent examples.

62
See ‘The Growing Business’, The Dart, November 1981, p. 10.
232
Table 7.2: Examples of Community Supported Agriculture Schemes from around the Totnes area


233


It should be noted here that the examples given here do not fully reflect the full
range of CSA type initiatives in the area. For example, the Dartmoor Direct co-
operative was established in 1997 to act as a distribution hub for small-scale
producers in the area. Its main success so far is Clearly Devon bottled water that
is distributed across South Devon. Other examples include Lower Sharpham
Barton Farm another bio-dynamic initiative that distributes a small amount of
‘green top’ (unpasturised) milk around the area with the support of volunteers.
More broadly, there are also other smallholders, people involved in informal land
sharing activities, and members of the Wholesome Food Association, a low cost
‘post-organic’ certification scheme based on an ‘open gate’ policy. The
Transition Town Totnes project has also had an active strand of food focused
activity that has catalysed a successful campaign for new allotments and a
‘garden sharing’ project which has inspired a national campaign.

There is therefore an established local interest both in alternative approaches to
food production and distribution, as well as a longstanding interest in building a
‘localised’ food economy. In several cases the imaginary of the local is more
defined, focusing on the immediate Totnes area or, at the most, South Devon.
Some of these projects are based on a relationship to ‘the land’ that goes beyond
viewing it as a commodified asset. Like the organic market, such projects are
entwined in the different (spiritual) dimensions of the Countercultural milieu.
Such projects attempt to enact more radical, ‘anti-industrial’ philosophies such as
permaculture and biodynamic agriculture. Often they are also an explicit attempt
to construct new forms of economic circuit and relationship in order to sustain
small scale localised organic production. The successes of these attempts are
discussed below.






234
(ii) The economics of CSA in the Totnes area

Christian Taylor explained the initial aim of the South Devon Community
Supported Farming was to:

set up a group of likeminded people to work together towards increasing
the abundance and the diversity of local food produced at an affordable
price for those involved in the project. The idea came from recognising
that a lot of the (local) food is quite expensive and unaffordable for
people so we tried to make a structure whereby people could get involved
in the actual physical work on the land and could thereby reduce the
eventual costs of the items. The time they’ve put in would reduce the
financial price of the produce.

Dr Christian Taylor [46]

The CSF attempts therefore to engage people in the production process via
volunteering and shared labour between members. It has also launched its own
‘certification label’ for members to use. The established local market for organic
food discussed above does provide some retail opportunities for the CSF
producers. Some members ‘flypitch’ (i.e. sell without permission) at the weekly
Totnes markets [46]. The independent retailers such as Riverford and Greenlife
also provide an outlet:

…we have a lot of local suppliers I think we have thirty or forty local
suppliers all together particularly in fruit and veg, lunchtime snacks, a
few you know sort of baby products and I’m trying to think what else we
have…I know we did a whole piece on it on one of the newsletters…I
was really surprised.

Jamie Sermon (owner of Greenlife) [41]

For example, Greenlife sells the biodynamic salad bags from Velwell Orchard, a
CSF member. However, the interviews with CSF producers all revealed ongoing
problems with economics of small-scale production despite the existence of the
local market and the community support mechanisms. Christian Taylor explained
the problems of economies of scale in relation to the egg production that he was
undertaking:
235

One of the barriers to diverse local food production is economy of scale.
One way we could reduce our egg price would be if we had five hundred
chickens rather than just 75. I’ve done a business plan for five hundred
chickens for this land. I would have had to take out quite a substantial
loan to set up the five hundred chicken unit. There would have been
several free rage areas. The investment for the fencing and the
infrastructure including hutches, feeders and irrigation for drinking water
would have been twenty thousand pounds. Instead we have this one free
range area with a fraction of the birds which cost me just one thousand
pounds plus a lot of hard work and time bashing in fence posts, free-
cycling the hutches and installing the infrastructure. We also have a small
herb, flower and vegetable production terrace - which cost another
thousand pounds to sculpt into the south facing slope. What can you see
for it? You know you walk past it and you just think, in comparison to
any commercial venture: ‘what a small chicken area’ and ‘what a small
garden’ don’t you?

Dr Christian Taylor [46]



Figure 7.4: ‘Little chicken area’ at Beenleigh Meadow CSF site.


236
He went on talk not only about the ‘embedded capital’ in the rural landscape but
also the financial economics of his current level of production.

I make fifty quid in the market each week from the local produce, twenty
pounds a week is going on the food for the chickens so that’s thirty pounds a
week to take home and thirty pounds a week obviously is not enough to
survive on even if you’re just single let alone if you’ve got a family. I’ve got
family so its, this whole venture is just one income strand at the moment in
my life. I’ve also worked it out in terms of a wage – at an hourly rate, and
taking into account all the myriad of labours to produce high quality diverse
food, it’s about one pound twenty an hour I get for this.

Dr Christian Taylor [46]

Christian was not alone in struggling to create a livelihood from his small-scale
production. None of the small-scale producers who were interviewed were able
to exist solely from the financial income generated from the land. Judy Smith
spoke of the traditional difficulty that biodynamic agriculture has in terms of its
economic viability:

Richard’s ambition was that he was going to run one of the first
economically viable Biodynamic farms because they don’t have a good
track record economically, unless they are able to use a lot of student
help, I think I think they’re difficult enterprises to run, they are very
labour intensive, and I think the whole problem of having a mixed farm
means that there aren’t ever any slack times, we used to grow our own
cereals, we had our own mill, and it was just sort of non-stop activity

Judy Smith [28]

Small-scale unmechanised organic production is very difficult (Dowding
undated) and being based around Totnes – despite existence of the organic
enclave economy – does not appear to make small-scale production any more
viable. Thus the recognised economic marginality of these stronger forms of AFI
(Watts et al. 2005) is not overcome by local contextual factors. In other words,
the cultural embeddedness provided by the localised countercultural milieu does
not enable diseconomies of scale to be overcome or make it necessarily easier to
construct a viable lifestyle in this way (Hinrich 2000; Sage 2003). Nor had any
of the projects found a way to get ‘outside’ the market and support their
237
production in economically significant ways without recourse to the market.
Ruth and Toby discussed their aspirations to create a ‘commonwealth’ consisting
of themselves and their customers but had yet to establish a viable model for how
this might work [13]. Indeed it seems plausible that the strong local organic
market might make such more radical projects more difficult through a process
of what Morris and Buller (2003) call ‘competitive localism’. Here one form of
postcapitalist provision (a local independent social retail market) undermines the
development of other non-market possibilities because the former meets people’s
needs in a satisfactory way. The closure of the Farmers Market in 2008 might be
explained in this way, as might the perhaps surprising struggle of non-market
alternatives. Thus the strong local market provides a ‘weaker’ form of
postcapitalist alternative in that it primarily meets the needs of ‘rational’
consumers without any fundamental economic reconfiguration (Watts et al
2005). In short, the CSF projects appear to struggle to generate significant
surplus through their agricultural activity to ensure their own existence and
reproduction. Many of these businesses/initiatives display what Hinrichs (2000)
calls ‘low instrumentalism’ in that they prioritise non-economic goals. However,
the cultural embeddedness of the milieu does not enable them to easily create
livelihoods. Indeed, it is possible that the strong localist discourses that circulate
within the milieu (e.g. Transition Town Totnes 2007, 2008) might actually
hinder their development by advocating an imaginary of ‘the local’ that is too
geographically limited to sustain small-scale production.

Whilst the existing market for local organic food does not enable the CSF
initiatives to transcend the problematic economics of small-scale production the
milieu does provide support in other ways. Indeed it could be argued that whilst
it does not make CSF production more economically viable, it does, through
other mechanisms of support create the possibility for these initiatives to exist.
To some extent this support could be conceptualised as localised networks of
‘social capital’ or an economy of social regard (Lee 2000). For example,
Charlotte from the Landmatters Co-operative felt that ‘intellectual support’ was
the most important benefit of being based in the Totnes area and said that the
initiative had received financial, practical and political support from members of
the local community [60].
238

This kind of moral support appears to give the ‘pioneers’ the courage the
adversity to face challenges, as one early organic farmer suggested:

So I’m sure it helps because if, if you, if you’re struggling and you’re in
an area that is supportive, that’s one thing but if you’re struggling in an
area where they all think you’re wasting you time then it gets to you.

Charles Staniland [25]

This moral support can also be translated into practical help, sometimes in the
form of mutual support between people engaged in similar activities. For
example, Charles spoke of how some of the small-scale organic growers working
in the late 1970s used to collaborate to create a shared labour pool:

We had a circle of people that used to work on my patch and then they
would work somewhere else … that was quite fun, it lasted a few years
[laughs] it was like a labour pool. … It got you out of your own place …
it was quite good. I mean that does happen in other areas, I think when
you have a concentration…my wife comes from Northumberland, well
there might be an organic farmer there but the next ones going to be fifty
or sixty miles away, where as here they might be five or six miles away.

Guy Watson, also recalls something similar from one of his mentors, another
small-scale organic grower called Gordon Strutt:

But I think the thing was here, whereas there they would have been
absolute isolation here you know, there was a kind of a bit of a following.
He [Gordon] had a few people who would come out and so sort of help.

Such support is not always directly on ‘the land.’ For example, Higher Sharpham
Farm has been cross-subsidised by a family camp first held during a solar eclipse
of 1999. This has continued since and is now run with the support of a group of
volunteers. It has become a significant factor in sustaining the farm:


…the reason we are in profit is because this carrying group of five people
who have organised the camp have carried on doing that since Richard
died because they want to see the farm continue bio-dynamically so they
all do it on a voluntary basis which means a colossal amount of work
239
from about October onwards until the camp in August and that generates
enough money to pay the rent for the farm and without the camp it
wouldn’t really be viable.

Judy Smith [28]

Thus many of the small-scale agricultural projects combine voluntary support
with a range of income generating techniques. For example it is also evident that
a large number of institutions and organisations in the area generate income
through training and education, and even more specifically what Gibson-Graham
(2008, 618) call ‘ethical practice’ – the processes of ‘The co-implicated
processes of changing ourselves / changing our thinking / changing the world’.
Indeed for many, providing education in ‘self-artistry’ is a key strand of their
economic survival. For example, within the organic marketscape Landmatters
arrange training courses and host visits. Christian Taylor has also set up an
educational venture (RAISE) that overlaps with the CSF and his own site.
63

Indeed many wider Countercultural initiatives in the area generate income
through didactic activities, something that has been noted of other experiments in
marginal settlement (Halfacree 2001)
64


Another income generating strategy is to earn wages from outside occupations to
support the agricultural activity. State benefits can also be vital whilst also
undertaking small-scale production. Finally, a more radical strategy involves
reducing day-to-day living costs by residing on the land and construct neo-
peasant lifestyles. Ruth and Toby Chadwick deliberately moved onto their land
without permission in an attempt to reduce their costs of living [13]. Similarly,
the permaculture inspired Landmatters community is an explicit attempt to show
the viability of low impact living (see figure 7.5)


63
See http://www.raise-education.co.uk/ last accessed 18/01/2010.
64
There are a number of institutions in the area that do this in one way or another. Examples
would include Schumacher College, the various Buddhist centres, the Agroforestry Research
Trust etc. There are also various CAM training courses (see interview 32). Transition Town
Totnes has also launched a training arm to both spread the transition model and generate income.
240


Figure 7.5: Landmatters permaculture community

To some extent this strategy reflects a shift away from exchange value towards
use value and reducing the need for financial capital to support day-to-day
mundane consumption. However, as Landmatters have found, production for
use-value (collecting wood and water, growing food) is time consuming and
physically draining [60]. This reduces both the time and energy to develop
exchange value based activities that can generate income, which is still necessary
albeit at reduced levels from ‘conventional’ lifestyles. Therefore whilst low
impact living provides a mechanism to bypass certain monetised circuits of
consumption, it did not appear to be a sufficient factor in itself to enable
livelihoods to be easily constructed, as Sage (2003, 52) has noted of the original
wave of back-to-the-landers in West Ireland. Again, the benefits of the locality
do not mitigate documented difficulties of going ‘back to the land’ (Edgington
2008).

7.2.4 Summary: A fragmented marketscape

This chapter has sought to explore three significant areas of the organic food
marketscape around the Totnes area, one of the most significant and visible areas
of postcapitalist practice in the area. One of the main arguments that emerges
241
from the research is that there is little coherence within the organic food
marketscape around Totnes. Discourses of economic localisation and organic
production have circulated within the Totnes area since the mid 1970s. Yet the
institutions that have emerged during this period do not link up and create new
economic circuits in ways that the proponents of localisation might hope that
they would, or indeed in the way that they appear to at first sight. Despite its
prevalence and visibility, the organic marketscape does not reflect and idealised
form of local food economy. Figure 7.6 is a schematic this illustrates the ways in
which the different elements of the organic marketscape (don’t particularly)
overlap.



Figure 7.6: The fragmentation of the local organic food marketscape

Even in an area where there is established, localised demand for organic produce,
there is an asymmetry with local production. Riverford Organics overcame this
problem by transcending the south Devon market and then developing its own
distribution channels via its box scheme. It is now trying to construct a business
model around a scale that equates the regional with the ‘local’. Smaller
initiatives, which have more geographically restricted imaginaries of the local
have struggled for economic viability. In this sense, the localised countercultural
milieu does not seem to enable more radical postcapitalist experiments to
overcome diseconomies of scale and make them any more economically
significant. However, the milieu underpins their existence through a range of
other support mechanisms. Like other attempts to create localised alternative
242
economic spaces, the more radical examples appear to be constrained by forces
and actors that are acting beyond their immediate scale (North 2005). This
research also suggests that the expansion of postcapitalist institutions can itself
be problematic, bringing with it exposure to pressures and tendencies. Indeed, by
breaking down postcapitalism in this way it becomes clear that different
institutions compete and conflict with each other. In particular the expansion of
social markets may undermine other forms of postcapitalist institutions such as
independent retailers and non-market alternatives. Just like ‘capitalism’,
postcapitalism does not reflect a homogenous and even space. Postcapitalism is
not only fractured and dynamic but there is evidence of conflict between
different aspects of postcapitalism which is unacknowledged in much of the
literature. This is obviously of significance for those who seek to build
alternative economic spaces.

7.3 Conclusions – the limits of proliferative postcapitalism


This chapter has provided an overview of the postcapitalist institutional economy
around the Totnes area with a more detailed exploration of the organic food
marketscape. The chapter has argued that the postcapitalist economy around
Totnes does not reflect a particularly radical economic institutional space despite
efforts develop more radical initiatives. There is also a general lack of coherence,
reflecting instances or aspects of postcapitalism rather than a coherent space. If
the Totnes area does reflect an example of postcapitalism it is one that exists on
the fringes of the capitalist market economy rather than a more radical space
beyond it.

As this chapter has illustrated, those aspects of postcapitalism that are now the
most economically significant are those that are most entwined with capitalist
processes. Attempts to build non-market circuits of value have generally failed
and it is the market-based businesses that have been able to create livelihoods, in
the case of Riverford Organics to a considerable extent. The most significant
aspects of postcapitalism in the Totnes area are therefore perhaps best
characterised as forms of ‘local’, ‘ethical’ or ‘green’ capitalism. Those elements
that are most economically significant are not ‘alternative’ in any strong sense
243
because they are effectively satisfying rational consumers (Watts et al. 2005). To
some extent this reflects a form of (counter) cultural enclave economy that meets
the needs of primarily middle-class milieu reminiscent of Brook’s (2000) North
American ‘Latte Towns’. Indeed, it has been suggested that the processes of
‘competitive localism’ may actually have prevented more radical postcapitalist
possibility from emerging.

In summary, Totnes does not provide a strong example of proliferative
postcapitalism ‘in action’ and instead raises questions about both the potential of
interstitial approaches to economic change and, more specifically, Gibson-
Graham’s ‘weak theoretical’ approach. Understanding the success and failure of
these institutions can only be made with reference to wider structure and
processes. The case study suggests that institutional embeddedness is a more
significant determinant of possibility that the localised socio-cultural
embeddedness of the milieu. The favourable conditions provided by the latter
were not sufficient to overcome the barriers created by the former. Accepting the
existence of such institutions processes does not mean accepting their
inevitability or immutability. However, it is argued here that failing to
acknowledge such barriers (‘refusing to know too much’ in Gibson-Graham’s
terms) is itself as much a barrier to postcapitalist possibility as adopting a rigidly
structuralist economic ontology. The data suggest that an emergent approach to
postcapitalism which focuses solely on local development will fall into the ‘local
trap’ that assumes that the place based level is the best scale at which to effect
positive change (Brown and Purcell 2005). Instead, any such strategy needs to
address the regulatory and wider institutional structure in which postcapitalist
experiments operate (Magnusson 2008).

For example, this chapter has illustrated that regulatory regimes plays a key role
in creating postcapitalist possibility through the way it regulates building and
land usage. The resistance of such regimes can be part of the process of
transforming them, as in the case of Landmatters who initially occupied their
land without planning permission and then won a potentially precedent changing
appeal. However, it seems likely that a strategy of contentious politics that seeks
to unsettle and transform regulatory regimes needs to operate on multiple scales
244
and sites and with a range of tactics. One popular argument for grassroots
movements and small-scale experiments is that they provide tangible,
prefigurative examples of alternative futures (Fournier 2002). However, it might
also be argued that their continuing struggle and ‘failure’ within a hostile socio-
political context actually undermines the potential for their wider adoption
because it adds weight to the argument that these kinds of thing ‘just don’t
work’. Recognising that postcapitalist experiments will not fully prosper until a
different set of ‘conditions of possibility’ can be developed focuses activism not
solely on the experiments themselves, but also on the wider context in which
they operate. The economic vulnerability of the small scale organic producers
within this case study resonates with Jacob’s (1997) study of the North American
back to the land movement, which he describe as ‘overcommitted and
underfunded’. Consequently, he argues for wider ‘systemic’ regulatory changes
to support them. Similarly, Guthman’s (2004) exploration of the transformation
of organic agriculture in California concludes that ‘only the state has the capacity
to unlock some of the mechanisms of agricultural intensification’. For example,
it was legislative innovation which first empowered direct organic sales in
California leading to the expansion of direct sales and organic AFIs (Starr 2000).
Hess (2009, 225 - 7) also argues that both land-use policy and taxation regimes
are powerful mechanisms to support independent and non-profit businesses.

This research therefore supports the critique that interstitial strategies tend to
under-theorise the role of the state, a critique that has been made of Gibson-
Graham directly (Kelly 2005). It suggests that proliferative postcapitalist
strategies need to combine grassroots activism with other strategies to reform
aspects of the wider institutional structure (Wright 2010). The notion of
‘transitional demands’ – policy reforms which seem political feasible but which
act as a trigger for wider systemic changes might therefore be an approach which
can complement the interstitial (Wall 2005, 117). Indeed it is notable that their
own action research to build diverse economies has involved engaging statutory
authorities and recognises the role that academics can play in encouraging policy
changes which enable community and social economies to develop (CEC and
Gibson 2009). In the context of supporting grassroots postcapitalism in rural
areas there are a number of institutional reforms that could support such
245
postcapitalist experimentation, most obviously reform of the planning system.
However, policies that challenge the commodification of land are also possible
candidates as ‘transitional demands’ such as policy support for Community Land
Trusts (Pickerill and Maxey 2009, 73) or Land Valuation Taxes (Scott Cato
2009, ch 12). Developing new forms of ‘commons’ are also a possible strategy
(Donahue 1999). Furthermore, if contemporary experiments in low impact living
are to avoid the failures of the past then more attention needs to be paid to
mechanism of generating sufficient economic surplus.

This leads to another area where there is need for more extensive theoretical
development: ‘postcapitalist’ circuits of value. The research concurs with the
critique that a significant lacunae in Gibson-Graham’s theorisation of capitalism
is the lack of engagement with the financial and monetary systems (Tonkiss
2008). Gibson-Graham’s (2006a, 90) post-structural approach seeks to identify ‘a
range of economic practices that are not subsumed to capital flows’. However,
this chapter has argued that building postcapitalist institutions inevitably
necessitates flows of financial capital. As Tainter (1988, 91) has argued

Human societies and political organizations, like all living systems, are
maintained by a continuous flow of energy. From the simplest familial
units to the most complex regional hierarchy, the institutions and
patterned interactions that comprise a human society are dependent on
energy.

Within a ‘capitalist’ such energy flows predominately through monetary circuits
of value. This suggests that of their four co-ordinates of community economies,
surplus is the most significant. Wall (2005, 164) suggests that ‘without surplus,
communism would simply be the sharing of poverty’. Without a surplus there
can be no discussion about needs, commons, or consumption. None of the more
radical experiments have found ways of generating other forms of ‘social’
surplus that can act as a substitute for financial surplus. Some (such as the CSAs
and local currencies) have attempted to construct new localised financial circuits
but none have endured. Contrastingly, those businesses that have managed to
generate sufficient surplus have done so through engaging in market-based
activity and, in the case of Riverford, transcending the immediate locality.
However, this chapter has illustrated that even engagement in what some would
246
class as ‘social’ markets appears to expose institutions to ‘capitalist’ tendencies
and processes that blur postcapitalist boundaries. Indeed it is not clear whether
social markets can actually be considered as ‘postcapitalist’ or indeed if they can
be clearly empirically delineated. If all markets are ‘capitalist’ then getting
outside capitalism would appear to be more difficult that Gibson-Graham
suggest.

The monetary system is often central to institutional models of capitalism (e.g.
Ingham 2008; Magnusson 2008) and this case study suggests that this is another
area where there is a need for wider ‘systemic’ theorisation. Gibson-Graham’s
attempt to develop an ‘anti-capitalocentric’ development strategy falters from
this perspective unless ‘non-capitalist’ capital flows can be more clearly
identified and developed. This also again brings back attention to the role of the
state and its redistributive role in supporting social economy initiatives (Wright
2010). Therefore this research concurs with those theorists who would argue that
building postcapitalist economies requires a more theoretical engagement with
the monetary system and how it supports or undermines postcapitalist possibility
(Mellor 2005). In particular, the argument that the development of localised
economic institutions require access to financial capital (Hess 2009, Ch 8).
Indeed, with reference to Mondragón, Gibson-Graham’s ‘model’ community
economy, it has been argued that one of the central features that makes the co-
operatives viable is the existence of the Caja Laboral Popular, the co-operative
bank which is integral to the development and financing of new co-operatives
(Sperry 1985). The research suggests that such circuits are a critical element of
both the sustainability of postcapitalist institutions. As Frankel (1987, 13) has
argued ‘moral exhortation is not enough, if radicals cannot answer the serious
questions as to feasibility, organisation and finance’.

Overall, Riverford excepted, it would be hard to argue that the postcapitalist
practices discussed in this chapter have had a significant economic impact. This
highlights the dangers of uncritical ‘readings’ and the way in which
‘emancipatory’ discourses (such as ‘reading’ for postcapitalism) can distort in
the same was as oppressive ones. Table 7.1 constructs a picture that is, to some
extent, a mirage, certainly at the more radical end of experimentation. Whilst
247
there is no doubt that the area does exhibit an unusual density of postcapitalist
experimentation, ultimately its economic impact is limited. However, returning
to a theme of the previous chapter, it could be argued that collectively these
economic institutions do have a significant impact on the reputation and
imaginaries of the area. The co-existence of the independent and ‘alternative’
shops, AFIs, organic growers, community enterprises, NGOs contribute to
Countercultural sense(s) of place. The co-existence and visible materiality of
these institutions within the area reinforces the ‘place myths’ of its role as a
vibrant ‘alternative’ centre where alternative futures can be enacted (e.g. BBC
2009). As discussed in the last chapter, such institutions and reputations play a
role within the ongoing reconstitution of the localised milieu. As this chapter has
illustrated, to some extent these imageries obscure both the economic fragility
and disconnectedness of the different elements of postcapitalist practice.
However, these Secondspace interpretations have an important material impact –
not only on the place making processes but also on its role as a site of social
experimentation. This chapter has argued that being a Countercultural place does
not make localised (radical) grassroots postcapitalist experimentation any more
economically viable. However, being a Countercultural place does seem to
support wider processes of social innovation and this is something that is
explored in more depth in the next chapter.
248
Chapter 8: Spaces of Social Innovation


Chapter Seven argued that the postcapitalism that has emerged around Totnes
does not particularly support Gibson-Graham’s theoretical approach to
proliferative postcapitalism or their ‘weak’ economic ontology. Instead, the data
supported arguments that an understanding of, and attention to, wider
institutional reform is a necessary pre-requisite for postcapitalist proliferation if
an interstitial strategy is going to be pursued. Putting that argument to one side,
this chapter seeks to use the case study to explore in more detail the relationship
between a countercultural place and postcapitalist institution building by
addressing the third research question: Does being a site of countercultural
activity make it more possible to build postcapitalist institutions? What are the
implications for theories of interstitial postcapitalism? At first sight the answer
to the first part of the question would be appear to be negative. However, the data
point to a more complex picture, one that is explored in this chapter. It argues
that the data points to an intriguing paradox: they suggest that countercultural
places can function as sites of social innovation and experimentation. However
the very factors that support such innovation also appear to undermine their
ability to build localised, collective institutions. Irrespective of the underlying
economic ontology, this has implications for the development of collective place
based economic institutions, including implications for Gibson-Graham’s own
theorising of how community economies can be constructed.

Part One of this chapter draws on the empirical data to argue that Totnes has
been a site of social innovation, suggesting that ‘social entrepreneurs’ have been
a necessary part of this process. Part Two then explores the key spaces that such
entrepreneurs have inhabited and exploited. However, Part Three explores how
some of the selfsame factors that create the space for social innovation can also
create conflict that undermines the ability for collective entities to be developed.
In conclusion, this case study suggests that building community economies
requires more focus on understanding and managing processes of conflict than
might normally be the case in the literature which advocates ‘community’ based
forms of economic development.
249

8.1 Social innovation and the role of ‘insurgent architects’

Social innovation can be understood as

Innovative activities and services that are motivated by the goal of
meeting a social need and that are predominately diffused through
organizations whose primary purposes are social

Mulgan (2006, 146)

Mulgan points out that much social innovation starts as radical innovation and
that it often occurs outside conventional sites of innovation in the ‘margins’. For
example, Coates (2001, 303) points to the role that utopian communities have
played as sites of social innovation including the modern education system,
‘rational dress’, the Town and Country Planning system and social work. To
some extent the Dartington experiment supports Coates’ argument, being the site
of numerous experiments and innovations. Indeed Michael Young – the person
who coined the phrase ‘social entrepreneur’ – had lifelong links with Dartington.
Not only is he regarded as one of the pre-eminent social entrepreneurs of the
twentieth century but he also used Dartington as a vehicle for some of his
innovation (Briggs 2001). Social innovation reflects a form of hidden innovation
(NESTA 2007). In general the geography of social innovation appears to be
fairly under-researched, although for a recent exception see the edition of
European Urban and Regional Studies edited by Mouleaert et al. (2007) that
looks at the interaction between processes of social innovation and urban regime
formation albeit using a slightly different definition of social innovation (see also
Mouleaert et al. 2005).

Whist there appears to be little research on the geography of social innovation,
there are some indicators of a relationship between countercultural places and
processes of innovation. For example, speaking of Western Ireland, MacBain
(1995) suggests that someone should ‘write a thesis’ about the relationship
between ‘blow-ins’ and local community initiatives. Similarly Kockel (1999)
250
links countercultural immigrants with forms of entrepreneurship. There is other
evidence that innovation occurs in areas that have strongly developed
countercultural milieus, such as the emergence of biotechnology in the Bay area
of California (Vettel 2006). The way in which the Counterculture supported the
emergence of personal computing and the Internet has also been researched
(Turner 2005). As noted in Chapter 3, Florida’s (2002) work also makes a link
between bohemianism and processes of innovation. As bohemianism is a
counterculture that is particularly linked to artistic creativity it is therefore not
surprising the places with density of artists might also be creative sites in a more
broad sense. Indeed, Totnes itself, despite its small size, has been indentified as a
‘creative industries’ hotspot (Perfect Moment 2006). Thus there are several
reasons why one might expect Countercultural sites to be sites of social
innovation, not least because innovation, like countercultures, originate with
some kind of ‘problem framing’ (Rogers 2003, 137). In particular, the various
strands of Alternative Pathways are closely linked with processes of innovation
(Hess 2007). Table 8.1 highlights some of the key social innovations that have
connections with the Totnes area.
251

Innovation Year Significance
Totnes Natural
Health Centre
1978 Totnes Natural Health Centre was one of the first Natural Health Centreʼs in the UK. It offered a range of complementary therapies and self-help
techniques which have since become part of mainstream healthcare provision.
Devon Organic
Growers
1978 The Devon Organic Growers modeled themselves on the Swiss Community Supported Agriculture schemes. This was a very early example of
experimentation with CSA in the UK over 10 years before CSA is generally regarded to have reached the UK.
Alexander
Technique
Training School
1979 At the time of its opening the Alexander Technique Training school was one of only a handful in the UK and the only one outside a major city.
This is another example of a therapeutic technique which has since been absorbed into mainstream provision.
LETS c1986 Totnes was one of the first places to experiment with LETS. One of the local activists developed computer software which, for several years,
formed the basis of the software which was rolled out. Another wrote a book which (Dauncey 1988) which was significant in popularising LETS in
the UK.
Briarpatch 1980 Briarpatch was an ʻhonest businessʼ network which helped to popularise the idea of a ʻright livelihoodʼ which was imported from the Bay Area of
San Francisco via connections for Dartington. What is believed to be the only Briarpatch in the UK was run from Totnes for a while and a
Dartington based business featured in a book about ʻHonest Businessʼ values (Phillips and Raspberry 1981). The network didnʼt survive but
predated the mainstreaming of business networking and also influenced the values of several local businesses.
Permaculture mid- 1980s
onwards
Activists in Totnes were instrumental in popularising permaculture within the UK. The UK Permaculture Association was based in the area for
several years. The Agroforesty Research Trust is still based locally and regarded as an important Permaculture research institution.
Cowshare c1990 This was another CSA model which predated the general arrival of CSA in the UK. It developed an innovative finance model which enabled local
investors to invest in the herd of biodynamic cows in exchange for a share of produce (see table 7.2).
TILT 1989 - 1996 TILT was a grassroots attempt to create financial support for small businesses and social economy initiatives before the concept of social
economy was in general circulation. It was somewhat ahead of its time and also developed a unique legal structure to enable local development.
Landmatters 2007
(award of
planning
permission)
Although Landmatters (as a low impact community) is not particularly innovative in itself, its contribution in winning temporary planning
permission based on its environmental footprint may be a significant step forward for similar projects. Members of Landmatters are also involved
in developing new financial models to enable similar developments to take place (LINK to Ecological Land Co-operative).
Transition Town
Totnes
2006
onwards
The Transition Towns movement is a good example of an initiative which has replicated elsewhere both in the UK and beyond whilst also having
a discursive effect and translating into other institutional contexts (see Bailey et al 2009).
Table 8.1: Social innovation and experimentation around the Totnes area
# #
252

This table is not exhaustive; in particular it does not contain much of the social
innovation of Dartington itself that could form another table, if not thesis. What
is notable about Table 8.1 is that many of these innovations did not actually
originate in the area. Chapter Six highlighted the way in which certain
institutions (such as Dartington) have connected the Totnes area to a range of
other geographically distant places. Such connections have allowed the creation
of ‘social movement space’ (Nicholls 2009) through which innovations and ideas
have travelled. Such space facilitated the arrival of many of the postcapitalist
ideas that were pioneered in the area. Thus LETS and Briarpatch were both ideas
that originally came from North America both arriving in the area through visits
to the area from key progenitors. Permaculture reached south Devon via some
Totnesians who attended a training course in the South of France with Emilia
Hazelip, a member of the 1960s Countercultural ‘Merry Pranksters’ (see Wolfe
1968). Indeed many of the innovations pioneered by Dartington were ideas that
they imported from elsewhere, such as artificial cattle insemination. The area can
therefore be characterised as a site of early adoption or even translation, a
concept developed by Michael Serres that reflects how ideas change as they
move across space and time (Czarniawska and Sevon 2005). Whether or not the
Totnes area has been the original site of innovation, there are examples of further
diffusion of innovation from Totnes. For example, a ‘garden share’ scheme first
developed as part of the Transition Town Totnes scheme has been scaled up to a
national Landshare scheme.
65
Figure 8.1 also describes the translation and
diffusion of the Totnes Pound.

65
See http://www.landshare.net/ last accessed 25/07/2010
253

Figure 8.1: The translation and diffusion of the Totnes Pound currency

Another example of localised diffusion of a social innovation is the practice of
home birth. When the Totnes Birth Centre that started promoting home births in
1982 it was in the face of severe opposition from the local health authorities [21].
The area now has one of the highest home birth rates in the country and the local
NHS Trust now boasts of its expertise in this area.

Mulgan (2006) argues that social innovation requires both a social innovator and
a propitious environment. Whilst the notion of the heroic individual entrepreneur
has been somewhat critiqued within innovation studies (e.g. Tuomi 2002) the
research from the field does indicate the importance of what Harvey (2000) calls
‘insurgent architects’ in the creation of grassroots economic and social
institutions. However, the research suggests that a number of successful social
entrepreneurs have been able to exploit the favourable context to launch projects.
In the sphere of ‘alternative’ economics, one of the most significant innovators
was Andy Langford. In fact, as the diagram overleaf indicates, he is connected in
one way or another to much of the pioneering activity discussed in this thesis,
sometimes in collaboration with another influential social entrepreneur Norman
Duncan.


254


As Mark Beeson put it:

I suppose if you were writing a biography of Andy you would get more
threads than if you wrote a biography of anybody else in the area

Mark Beeson [37]

Figure 8.1 below highlights some of the key influences that he and Norman
Duncan have had, which can be traced through to the present. Such social
entrepreneurs seem to fulfil a number of functions within the development of
new initiatives. Firstly, they play an important role in the ‘voicing’ of alternative
ideas and values. Amin et al (2002) suggested that the presence of such ‘voiced’
minority cultures was an important factor in the development of social economic
activities. In Totnes, some interviewees made reference to such vocalization, for
example, Vicky and Michael Evans speaking of Pat Kitto, founder of the Natural
Health Centre:

Vicky: And Pat [Kitto] she was very alternative. And they were all very
strong CND people. That kind…there was a strong element of rebellion

Michael: In Totnes…they were quite vocal but on the other hand there
weren’t a huge number of people but they were vocal…


There were a number of discursive spaces which Pat Kitto’s used to spread her
views: The Dartington Hall News, letter writing in the Totnes Times as well as
through the courses and talks she put on around Totnes and Dartington. Rob
Hopkins also stresses the relationship between being vocal and the expression of
alternative ideas:

I think Totnes can be seen to be a very, very alternative town because the
alternative sides of it are very visible and are much more vocal, and if
you come here visiting you walk up the high street you see all of that.

Rob Hopkins, [5]

255

Figure 8.2: Influence of Andy Langford
256

The data also suggest the importance of personal qualities in inspiring people to
see the world differently, perhaps best understood in terms of charismatic
leadership. Mulgan (2006, 153) argues that social entrepreneurs

need to capture the imagination of a community of supporters through
the combination of contagious courage and pragmatic persistence

This quality is evident in some of the examples already discussed, for example
Richard Smith’s influence on spreading ideas about biodynamic farming and
anthroposophy was an inspiration in the opening of a failed Community
Supported Agriculture shop [20]. Another community activist also talked about
the ‘amazing talks’ of Richard, as well as the more general need for leadership in
community initiatives:

I think it really helps definitely to have someone with some dynamic
charisma but it shouldn’t need that … if everyone’s got the need to have
that facility then it shouldn’t matter who it is really

Marcea Colley [23]

In the case of Andy Langford, Alison Hastie describes him as a ‘great starter of
things around Totnes’ [8]. Mark Beeson also talks about the intellectual
inspiration that he drew from Andy Langford:

Why Andy had such a huge influence on me was because he talked about
this area in terms of business. He…had a business model on how it
would reclaim its own politics and its own artistic traditions and he used
the model of Conker as that sort of thing…whereas other people just
talked about Devon being a beautiful tourist destination Andy talked
about it as somewhere that should have its own political power, its own
economic power and give opportunities to people on the same level as
somewhere like London and to me that was something that I found
extraordinarily inspiring back in those days. I still believe in it.

Mark Beeson [37]

As noted in Chapter Seven, Andy Langford was also an influence on Guy
Watson and the subsequent business ethics of Riverford Organics. Similarly,
257
Mike Freeman talks about how Andy inspired him to instigate the Riverside self-
build project in the early 1980s:

I got involved in a big housing project really as a direct result of Andy
Langford. I always felt competitive with Andy. We competed for the
same girlfriends. And Andy started a very good project to build some
flats…the Old School flats. And I thought that was a great project and I
thought I’d like to do something not dissimilar.

Mike Freeman [24]

Finally, Prem Ash describes how he ‘spurred them all’ on to get involved in
different projects and agreed that charisma was ‘very important’, comparing
Andy to Rob Hopkins:

I was really pleased to see Rob turning up because I don’t know him but
I’m sure he must be like that [like Andy] he must be charismatic, he must
be motivating people right, left and centre

Prem Ash [37]

This comparison with Rob Hopkins is an interesting one, as he also featured in
several of the interviews as a ‘leader’ within the area:

Rob Hopkins has been a tremendous influence. Yeah, he has been a
catalyst, there again I’d like to say that when I read his Kinsale report,
first heard of it, I jumped on it right away, you know, and this was, I was
one of, you know Rob’s very early disciples….and I got it from it from
him, I got a copy of it and read it and I said ‘This is absolute sense’ you
know? ‘This is the future.’ It fitted in with my views completely.

John Watson [9]

It is interesting that this was not the only example of the usage of a religious
metaphor (‘disciples’) when discussing the influence of Rob Hopkins:




258

…its so refreshing to Rob coming in, in the body of the church instead of
the middle class, plush organisation which Dartington used to be

Tom Welch [7]

And

I think where Rob Hopkins is concerned he’s got this intuitive, its very
Gandhi like…he understands the psyche of people, he understands the
psychology of fear, the psychology of change and fear of change and he’s
addressed it.

Alan Langmaid [10]

These interview quotes suggest that the personal qualities of those who are
advocating a different way of seeing the world are also important. In other words
then, it is not just ideas that people need to believe in, but the people themselves,
and certain individuals might be more effective in persuading people to change
their perspective. Motivating people and encouraging processes of ‘reframing’ is
therefore an active process that depends, to some extent, on the qualities of the
advocate. Or to put it in post-structural terms, whilst discourse can be regarded as
performative, the attributes of the ‘performer’ also matter. Reflecting on the
processes of building interstitial economic institutions this highlights a potential
gap in Gibson-Graham’s theory of building community economies. They do not
explicitly address the question of who should be leading this processes if not
academic researchers. Their work does not therefore recognise that individual
characteristics such as charisma might be necessary to inspire collective action or
ontological ‘reframing’. Certainly, in the case of economic institutions such as
local currencies there is some evidence that local leadership is important (North
2010a). The data suggest that such leadership might be an important factor in
processes of subject formation and prevent experiments from ‘withering away’ in
the way experienced by Gibson-Graham (2002). Furthermore, as already
previously noted their work does not also explore the factors that may make
certain sites more productive for experimentation, something that is explored in
the next section.
259

8.2 Spaces of Experimentation

This section suggests that there are a number of spaces within the area that social
entrepreneurs are able to inhabit, and that each of these spaces is in some way a
product of the specific local context. This research does not suggest that any of
these should be privileged, but instead argues that they combine to produce the
Thirdspaces of social innovators – the real lived spaces of experimentation. This
conception of Thirdspace extends and interprets Soja’s concepts in a particular
way, noting that as he himself acknowledges, Lefevbre’s original work is open to
multiple interpretations (Soja 1996). In particular it seeks to broaden the notion
of Secondspace to encompass what is known or believed about a place. Such
spatial imaginaries are a significant part of the lived experience of many
innovators. The data suggest that the there is an ongoing interplay between First,
Second and Thirdspace in which their manifestations of each ‘kind’ of space
creates and reshapes the other forms.

8.2.1 Firstspaces

Within this thesis, Firstspace is being used to refer to ‘materialised, empirical’
space that can be perceived (Soja 1996, 66). This thesis has highlighted a number
of ways in which the existence of such physical Firstspace has supported the
development of Countercultural practices and social innovation. The thesis has
illustrated how the existence of both Dartington and Sharpham has (and
continues) to play an important role in providing sites and buildings for
Countercultural practice. Furthermore, the wealth of the Elmhirsts and other
Dartington families has supported the development of other sites.
66
The
provision of other Firstspaces has depended on the social capital generated by the
Countercultural millieu. For example, the early Permaculture training took place
on land at Venton Mill that was leased on a peppercorn rent from a local
supporter [7, 12b]. The Totnes Women’s Centre also obtained premises from a

66
For example Birdwood House and the Totnes Natural Health Centre have both been important
spaces of social innovation.
260
supporter [40]. Similarly, The Watson brothers were able to start their businesses
on land already rented by the family [9, 22, 42].

Local entrepreneurs have also benefited from ‘marginal’ economic Firstspaces. A
number of the interviewed businesses started trading on the Totnes markets
before moving into premises or expanding. Both Hood Faire and the market at
the Cider Press provided a similar outlet for small businesses in the late 1970s.
Conker sold their first products at these, as did the early co-operative of local
organic growers. The availability of inexpensive retail premises was also an
important factor in the development of the ‘first wave’ of Countercultural
businesses such as Conker, Sacks and Green Shoes. Indeed Conker and Sacks
both began in the Narrows, as noted in Chapter 7, an area of particularly small
(and at that time cheap) retail premises. A second advantage of the availability of
small premises is that businesses have been able to relocate locally as their space
requirements have changed. Several interviewed retail businesses have occupied
different premises during their existence in Totnes. Indeed a particularly small
premises, 10 High Street, was at different point occupied by Paperworks
(recycled paper goods), Nutshell Paints (ecological paint) and by Green Shoes
who then all moved onto larger premises.

These low cost sites and spaces could be considered as the kind of economic
margin that is sometimes portrayed as the locus of ‘alternative’ economic
experimentation (Hardy 1986). It is therefore evident that the economic
tendencies which have shaped Totnes during the last twenty years (and its
evolution into an ‘alternative centre’) have to some degree led to the
undermining of such economic spaces, such as the increase in rates and rents.
The role of economic margins in providing cheap creative space is of course
implicated of consumption side theories of gentrification (e.g. Jacobs [1961]
1993). However, these wider economic tendencies have also created new sites of
experimentation. The breaking up of farms and the selling off of land and
property has enabled the purchasing of sites for Community Supported Farming
discussed in Chapter Seven. However, rising land prices over recent years have
made such purchases increasingly difficult [46].

261
8.2.2 Secondspaces

In Soja’s (1996, 79) trialectic of spatiality the concept of Secondspace is

…entirely ideatational, made up of projections into the empirical from
conceived or imagined geographies.

This thesis has sought to stretch the idea of Secondspace in two ways. Firstly it
has highlighted the way in which “starchitects”, poets and artists are not the only
source of Secondspaces imaginaries. In exploring the emergence of “Alternative”
Totnes it has highlighted the way in which ‘lay’ place images that contradict and
dominate other ‘official’ Secondspace imaginaries can emerge. The role of the
media in constructing and reproducing these Secondspace imaginaries has also
been highlighted. This thesis has also argued that in themselves these semiotic
representations of place can have a material impact: That Secondspace
imaginaries reflect ‘place images’ which have a tangible effect on both the
‘material’ (Firstspace) and the ‘lived’ (Thirdspace).

As noted above, here the concept of Secondspace is being extended to
encompass not just what one conceives but also what one knows about a given
space. This would encompass how one ‘reads’ the materiality and practices of
the Totnes area. Thus Secondspace can also be conceived of as reflecting the
spatial imaginaries of places (Wolford 2004). Therefore a subject who is
embroiled in different Countercultural networks and aware of aspects of the
Countercultural milieu will – through their own imaginative Secondspace – live
in a unique ‘alternative’ Thirdspace within the Totnes locality. A subject who
does not read certain symbolic meanings into the locality will therefore occupy a
different, subjective ‘interpretive locale’ (Soja 1996) and therefore a very
different lived Thirdspace. One important set of imaginaries are utopian
conceptions of the landscape and Totnes townscape. Chapter 6 highlighted the
way in which the landscape has acted as a significant migratory driver. However,
it has also acted as an inspiration. For example, Bob Jelfs [55] felt that people
were ‘inspired’ by the countryside whilst Alison Hastie [8] suggested that their
work was connected to the local landscape:
262

I feel our work has bedded into the local area, it comes from it as we do,
so now after 30 years there is an almost seamless link between Green
Shoes and Devon in all its facets….where else is work like this
happening?

Norman Duncan, a social innovator from the mid 1980s puts it another way,
echoing Leonard Elmhirst:

Then in the environment, it’s such a lovely environment. You know, it’s
like living in a fairytale. Just the landscape, Dartington, the Dart, its just
its ‘Ow, the world can be better!’ The landscape gives you that kind of
feeling, a breath of fresh air, it can be contained…Totnes is a nice
contained little package, but with open views of the Dart and Dartmoor
and all these lovely things, so there’s that.

Norman Duncan [31]

As well as the importance of the inspirational ‘readings’ of the natural landscape,
interpretations of the ‘beauty’ of Totnes were also seen as important by some,
having its own utopian aesthetic. Several interviewees mentioned this, for
example describing Totnes as a ‘beautiful mediaeval hill town’ [8] or that it is

…beautiful and manageable size and… I mean the setting is
inspiring…the surrounding country the fact that you can see something
green just about anywhere

Bob Mann [26]

Similarly, Rob Hopkins, after discussing the inspiring nature of the ‘urban fabric’
goes to suggest

It’s a beautiful place you know…and it’s a town that actually…there’s
not that many towns where you can stand in the high street and you can
see the fields around the town’.


It seems that the natural beauty acts as a form of utopian inspiration for those
who have been involved in social innovation. In part this appears to be because
people find the landscapes uplifting in a spiritual sense. However, it is also the
263
case that to some extent the area is also imagined and interpreted as site of
possibility and utopianism. Some element of this imaginary seems to relate to
utopian readings of the local landscape. For example it is interesting to contrast
Satish Kumar’s interpretation of Dartmoor as a deserted ‘spiritual’ and ‘natural’
place (BBC 2008) with others that highlight the longstanding influence of
industry and human activity, including the impact of 10 million day visitors per
year (Griffiths 1996).


Figure 8.3: View from Natures Round small holding

Certain Secondspace imaginaries are rooted in countercultural epistemologies,
such as those based on geomancy. Here, it is believed that the presence of
particular earth energies is the reason that certain practices have flourished in the
area. Richard Smith, a key figure in the local anthroposophical community until
his recent death was an important figure in articulating such discourses. They are,
he suggested, the reason that the reason that the Totnes / Dartington area has
fostered a

264
wealth of activities; healers and therapists, artists, craftsmen, educators
and musicians abound…One can begin to see how the Totnes –
Dartington area is fed by the pure waters off the hills as well as the
mighty surges from the sea. In this area that we call the heart sphere of
the landscape much has already arisen and much can still arise.

Smith and Cooper (2006, 8)

Smith builds his case on the legend of Brutus of Troy who, according to
Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Britonum landed at Totnes to found Great
Britain, a popular local myth which is used to reinforce the idea that it is a
‘special’ place.
67
He also challenges the conventional etymology of Totnes:
suggesting that it does not mean fort or look (Tot-) out on a ridge of land (-naess,
see for example Mann 2007) but relates to the fact that ‘Tot’ can also mean
‘sacred mound’, thus arguing that there are druidic roots within the area (Smith
and Cooper 2006). Such lay narratives therefore shape local Secondspace
imaginaries. For example, Ruth and Toby Chadwick discuss the way in which
‘elementals’ may have played a role in the development of the Steiner School
and Riverford in the Dart Valley:

Ruth: People say the river, the elementals are very alive along the river
don’t they? ‘Cause Riverford as well…its amazing that Riverford and the
[Steiner] School…you know are close together I mean whatever kind of a
business Riverford has become it is organic

Toby: It’s certainly been a very powerful force for putting on the agenda
hasn’t it?

Ruth: Yeah…It [shows it] can work

Ruth and Toby Chadwick [13]

The argument being made here is that these lay narratives should be taken
seriously because, for some people, they contribute towards the lived
Thirdspaces that the Totnes area is a ‘special’ place where things can happen.
Toby and Ruth’s discussion also highlights a third important strand of

67
Interviews [4] and [7] which both mention Brutus
265
experimental Secondspace: the visibility of practices, as also highlighted by
Norman Duncan:

And then there’s everywhere around, there’s alternative things actually
happening as well. Dartington is there and happens. Sharpham is there
and happens. The Totnes Natural Health Centre…the other one in the
High Street, you know?…Conker Shoes, all these things…There are
these businesses. There are alternative projects, ‘alternative’ in inverted
commas, but there are projects happening, so the social infrastructure also
gives that message, as something can happen here…something and there
are…you see all these people. You take your kids to the school and
people are discussing projects and futures and different social,
environmental, economic infrastructure. So one is getting those ideas
reinforced which if you are in the middle of a big city, it’s much harder to
find that, all those elements supporting the internal vision. It’s like “Ah, I
can do something”

Norman Duncan [31]

This impact was noted in the conclusion of Chapter Seven, and Guy Watson also
makes reference to the importance of this visibility in terms of the inspiration
that his organic farm and vegetable box scheme has had in inspiring other people.

I think that we have been so successful, visibly successful, that lot’s of
people have started up in our wake

Guy Watson [22]

For example, Rob Hopkins explained why he chose Totnes as the site to develop
his Transition Town model:

You know I could have gone to Hull and spent 15 years trying to get it
working or actually here in the sense there are certain towns like Stroud,
Lewes, Totnes all the places that actually became transition places first
that have a long history of being kind of laboratory towns, laboratory
places for innovative ideas…my wife had lived here some years
previously so she new some people here and yeah so it felt like it was
somewhere where the transition idea could embed fasters than it could in
other places

Rob Hopkins [5]

266
Rob’s perception of Totnes as place he could launch his Transition model was
therefore based on his own knowledge of previous experimental and alternative
practices. It was also based on his own Secondspace imaginaries of other places,
such as Hull. It was his imagination of Totnes, as much as any ‘real’ knowledge
that led him to believe it was a good place to launch the Transition movement.
This is not to say that everyone who has experimented in the area have
necessarily drawn on such Secondspace notions, but that in some cases they
appear to play an important role.

8.2.3 Space for ideas

The thesis has illustrated how since the arrival of the Elmhirsts, intellectual and
discursive space had been created for the circulation of ‘subaltern’ or
countercultural discourse within the locality. Recalling that Goffman and Joy
(2005) suggest that the history of countercultures is also history of ‘free thinking’
several pioneers spoke of the way in which their particular area of practice was
perceived to be ‘cranky’ when they first started out [28, 32, 36]. However, it was
a recurrent theme of the research that there was an openness to such ideas within
the locality. This openness was regarded as an important factor as to why Totnes
has become a site of experimentation across a range of different areas:

…it is because there is a large proportion of the population here that have
been exposed to....have tried and are interested in a lot of
“alternatives”...and so that’s a kind of seed bed really that just happens to
exist here
Interview with Jonathan Parker [32]

Similarly, according to one local businessman it is a place that is

willing to give slightly alternative, slightly off the wall kind of ideas an
opportunity or chance…the community has a history of trying new things
out

Interview with William Lana [11]


267
Mark Burton, a Schumacher College student (who subsequently settled in the
area) who was trying to develop a UK version of the Swedish interest free JAK
bank, put it like this:

there are people listening to new ideas all the time so as a banking model
its quite different, people don’t immediately get it people here are willing
to listen to the ideas and see, and give it a chance rather than dismissing
it as something weird and strange.

When asked whether it was easier to launch projects like TILT or LETS in
Totnes, Norman Duncan replied:

I mean there’s a concentration of people who open at one level again to
proposals of this nature where do you find easily bankers, estate agents
and accountants who would be interested in these things? People come
for the Steiner School or they come to Dartington or they come for
whatever and as they sort of sit in Totnes, they become influenced if they
are in some of those environments, they become influenced by others and
they are open. So at the first level, people will come along to a meeting
and they will join in, so its easier in Totnes to launch some of these
things.

Interview with Norman Duncan [31]

Sarah Strong, involved in the second iteration of LETS in the town in the early
1990s, agreed that it was the ‘alternativeness’ of Totnes that meant ‘that there
were people who were open to new ways of doing things’ and that

there was a bit of a community of people like that obviously it gave space
for people to explore their ideas and talk about things with people be it a
lot people being unemployed in the early nineties it meant that people did
sit and talk a lot and that was a good thing

Finally Guy Watson talks about how the open-mindedness has rubbed off on
farming community:

I think you do find it even in a farming community. I think that some of
that broad mindedness has actually rubbed off… I do think there is a sort
of tolerance and broad mindedness in the sort of…which is, which is
great actually and that’s when you go away and come back to Totnes that
what I…you know that’s the good bit of it.

The openness to ‘cranky’ ideas is therefore often attributed to the fact that such
ideas have circulated locally for some time, a factor that breeds tolerance
268
amongst the wider community. However, as noted above with reference to
Secondspace imaginaries, many strands of the Counterculture actively reject
‘pure’ scientific rationalism and are open to alternative ways of knowing. As
Reich (1971, 280) puts those who engage with the Counterculture are encouraged
to

…respect and obey the body, the pay heed to the instincts, to obey the
rhythms and music of nature, to be guided by the irrational, by folklore
and the spiritual, and by the imagination.

Indeed it is this anti-scientific tendency that is often the focus of negative
depictions of Countercultural activities and places:

The south-west is the undisputed capital of British credulousness. In
Totnes, Glastonbury and numerous other mumbo jumbo-drenched towns
throughout the region, pseudo-druids and new agers shamble between
homeopathic “clinics” and crystal emporia, seeking to cure their manifest
problems with treatments so magical that their effects are scientifically
undetectable. Totnes, in particular, has a distinguished history of mass
charlatanry, largely thanks to its Leechwell springs, which were reputed
in the middle ages to banish leprosy. Even in 2003, “a rare triangular
healing pool” was reportedly discovered behind Leechwell Lane.

Benedictus (2007, 4)

However, here it is being argued that ‘credulousness’ is an important aspect of
the countercultural milieu that makes experimentation possible. In other words, it
creates the cognitive space for experiments to emerge by stretching the socially
accepted (and constructed) boundaries of possibility. The fact that people are
willing to believe all sorts of things are possible underpins social
experimentation. Thus, despite the fact that the thesis does not particularly
support Gibson-Graham’s economic ontology, it does concur that alternative
epistemologies are a significant aspect of opening up new possibilities (Starr
2000, 154).

The data suggest that there are two different ways in which this space for ideas is
created. At a most basic level the existence of multiple worldviews means that
there is space for new ideas that fit within the purview of those particular
269
realities. For example, Rob Hopkins suggested that by picking Totnes to develop
his Transition Town community initiative he was

delivering a message about peak oil and climate change and a need to
respond to people who are already more open to those kind of ideas.

It is therefore perhaps more accurate to consider Totnes as a site of multiple
‘bounded rationalities’ (Wilk 1996) as opposed to simply a site of ‘irrationality’.
Understood this way, an individual’s behaviour is not necessarily irrational but is
actually ‘rational’ from their perspective of their own subjective worldview.
Thus, those who believe that we are on the brink of global ‘resource depletion’
are more likely to find ideas of localisation posited by the Transition movement
as a potentially ‘rational’ response, what Pepper (1991, 49) calls ‘situational
logic’. Following this, it could be argued that to some extent the area might be
considered as a geographic ‘green niche’ a site of ecological innovation in which
shared cultural green values create the space for innovation (Seyfang and Smith
2007). Theorised in this way it is overlapping communities of practice who share
similar cultural values and cognitive frames create the innovation space.
However, such an assignation should be made with two caveats. Firstly, as noted
above, in many cases the area has not been the site green innovation, but instead
a site of ‘early adoption’. This has strong correlations with the argument that
value homophily is an important factor in the spread of innovation (Rogers
2003). Secondly, it is too simplistic to impute a single form of ‘green’ values to
the localised milieu. As a member of Landmatters put it the ‘caring for the land’
ethic is held in a number of different ways within the locality [60].

Furthermore, as has been argued throughout this thesis, it is misleading to assign
too much homogeneity to the countercultural milieu. As Rob Hopkins explained
in relation to his experiences with Transition Town Totnes:

There’s lots of different kind of alternatives… there’s lots of different
species of alternative. I mean there’s your spiritual alternative. There’s
your kind of mind, body, spirity sort spiritual improvement alternative,
there’s your kind of sort of Glastonbury sort of conspiratorial kind of Ian
Crane type Glastonbury alternativey type…there there’s your arty
alternative. You’ve got your sort of political left wing sort of Guardian
270
reading alternative, you’ve probably also got your alternative in terms of
just older people who’ve retired and who just like to do what they want to
do. They can sort of consider themselves rather radical and racy and a bit
different from everybody and you’ve got your hands on environmentally
permacutlurey people…you’ve got your kind of artistic, you’ve got
writers and poets and those kind of people…I mean there’s lots of
different ones… actually within TTT its very interesting how different
events draw in different elements of that alternative community
so…when we had Marinanne Williamson down here speaking we drew in
all the, a lot of really way out kind of new agey lot who, you know, who
haven’t really engaged with TTT that much because you know some of
them think well actually we don’t have actually need to do anything
practical because 2012 we’ll all just somehow transcend to another level.

Interview with Rob Hopkins [5]

Totnes can therefore be considered as a particularly localised and specific site of
multiplicity understood here to mean that

we are no longer living in the modern world, located within a single
episteme. Instead, we discover that we are living in different worlds.
These are not worlds - that great trope of modernity - that belong on the
one hand to the past and on the other to the present. Instead, we discover
that we are living in two or more neighbouring worlds, worlds that
overlap and coexist.

Law and Mol (2006, 8)

It seems plausible that the existence of this multiplicity in itself also creates the
intellectual social space for other radical or unusual ideas. A diversity of beliefs
and belief systems creates the space for new beliefs to be articulated. Andy
Langford certainly felt this was significant, relating it back to the initial impact of
Dartington:

and so that’s sort of opened a space for that sort of thinking in Totnes. So,
you know, there was always…somebody like me…I can be
thinking…radical things and I wasn’t considered too weird because there
were a lot more weirder people than me hanging around because of
Dartington Hall, you know.

Interview with Andy Langford [12a]

271
As discussed in Chapter Four, some theorists have linked the Foucauldian
concept of heterotopia with Countercultural space (St John 1999; Hetherington
2000). Soja (1996) also points to the parallels between his concept of Thirdpace
and heterotopia. St John (1999) suggests four defining characteristics of
heterotopias:

• They are primarily spaces of otherness (‘countersites’)
• They are heterogeneous spaces
• They are contested spaces
• As event spaces they are liminal realms

This multiplicity of epistemes provides a space in which insurgent architects feel
comfortable articulating unconventional ideas. It is perhaps in this sense that the
locality does create a form of heterotopic space. However what is being argued
here is that this heterotopic space is a significant feature of the context that
allows unusual ideas or beliefs to be articulated. Some of these ideas can be
considered as ‘uninvited’ forms of public engagement (Wynne 2007). This term,
from Science and Technology Studies, reflects the way in which engagement
with science controversies emerge from outside the conventional boundaries of
public discourse. There are a number of examples of uninvited dialogue
emerging from the Totnes locality, not least the anti-GM protests of 1998 that
catalysed a strong local presence in the national campaign networks.
Furthermore, the attempts of the Transition Town movement to put ‘peak oil’ on
the political agenda also reflects a form on ‘uninvited dialogue’ which until
relatively recently had been officially ignored by the UK government.
68
This
also highlights the ways in which social movements can act as cognitive actors,
something that has generally been overlooked in the literature (Jamison 1996).

8.2.4 Liminal space

Chapter Three observed that the concept of liminality has been associated with
some countercultural practices and sites (e.g. Shields 1991). Liminality is related
to processes of individual change, of openness to new ideas and of ‘seeing’ the

68
It was only in March 2010 that the UK government began a dialogue about the possibility of
Peak Oil see http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/mar/21/peak-oil-summit last accessed
20/06/2010
272
world in different ways. Indeed, Gibson-Graham also point to parallels between
their post-structural approach and the Eastern spiritualities, such as Buddhism,
which encourage practices that underpin the transformation of the self (Gibson-
Graham 2006b, 130). Chapter Six illustrated how the Totnes area has developed
a reputation as a liminal site: a ‘node’ on the global ‘spiritual trail’. This is due to
the geographical propinquity of a number of different spiritual and educational
institutions that deal with different ‘technologies’ and systems of personal
transformation. Furthermore, many of the Countercultural strands discussed in
Chapter Six feature processes of ‘shifting’ or ‘raising’ of consciousness (e.g.
feminist / ecological / spiritual). Therefore there is a density of people within the
local milieu who are themselves open not only to ‘alternative’ ideas but also to
the processes of personal transformation that enables them to ‘see’ the world
differently.
69
This is reflected in the term ‘seekers’, which is often associated
with the ‘New Age’ (Button and Bloom 1992). Norman Duncan describes how
Totnes creates a supportive environment for such transformations:

…just a supportive symbol in a sense for “Yes, I’m changing, I can
change”. I don’t know what it is, but it’s to do with all of these things
and lots of people come here and their relationships change, their work
changes, um whatever. It’s a supportive environment to enable them to
look at themselves a bit in whichever area. So those are the kind of belief
systems and then there are the resources around to facilitate those kinds
of changes.

Indeed many of the economic activities discussed in Chapter Seven are also
closely linked to alternative epistemologies or processes of ‘consciousness
raising’. As Guy Watson noted ‘what we are competing for is a space in people’s
minds’. Furthermore, it is notable that many of the economic experimenters were
also involved in other ‘self-transforming’ practices, emphasising the way in
which the economic experimentation was entwined with other forms of
Countercultural experimentation.
70
This re-emphasises that not only are some of

69
Indeed one longstanding resident of the area told me that Totnes had a reputation as ‘the
graveyard of marriages’ reflecting the way in which people changed when they came to the area.
[Research Diary 03/07/2008]
70
Examples include Andy Langford who engaged in co-counselling [12c]. When I visited
Landmatters they were in the middle of a ceremony to bless the land for a new yurt [60]
273
these economic practices culturally embedded, but that economic liminality itself
is also embedded within a wider liminal socio-cultural context.

As noted in Chapter Two, Gibson-Graham (2005c) discovered the importance of
collective practice in the formation of new subjectivities. Such social groups and
networks appear to reinforce the ‘ontological security’ of members by providing
a shared sense of self-identity and cognitive framing. It also relates to the
previously discussed concept of value homophily. The very reason that this can
act as a driver of migration is that it reflects the way in which individuals feel
more psychologically secure about their beliefs when they are surrounded by
others who share the same beliefs (McPherson et al. 2001). Similarly, it also
relates to the notion of ‘intellectual support’ that was important for the survival
for marginal grassroots projects discussed in Chapter 7. The existence of shared
cognitive frames (‘like-mindedness’) is essential for determining what makes a
given behaviour ‘appropriate’ or ‘acceptable’ Giddens (1991, 36). For example,
the Totnes Women’s Centre created space for radical feminist discourses and the
development of radical feminist worldviews that found expression in a number of
different ways including support for the Greenham Peace Camp from the Totnes
Women for Peace group [21]. The way in which social networks reinforce
ontological security can itself be an important factor in supporting
experimentation by expanding the boundaries of what is ‘acceptable’ or
appropriate. For example speaking of their decision to live ‘illegally’ on their
land Ruth Chadwick said:

…round here people think it is cool so it’s easier, it’s easier to sort of
think ‘Yeah we’re OK’ you know? We’re not mad!

Interview with Ruth and Toby Chadwick [13]

Thus ontological security also contributes to the normalisation of certain
practices and behaviours such as living outside the conventional housing system.
Thus the fact that Totnes is a site of liminal practices appears also to make it a
suitable site for social experimentation.



274
8.2.5 Summary of this section

Drawing in part on Soja’s (1996) trialectics of spatiality this section has sought
to explore the spaces that have underpinned social experimentation within the
Totnes area. It has been argued that both Firstspaces and Secondspaces have
been an important factor in underpinning such experiments. However, it is also
important to recognise the way in which such spaces fold in on each other and
are, to some extent, mutually reinforcing as tentatively illustrated by Figure 8.4.
This illustrates some of the ways in which the different spaces work to recreate
each other in an ongoing iterative process, creating the space for further social
innovation.



Figure 8.4: Trialectics of social experimentation

Moreover, such experimentation takes place within a broader socio-cultural
context that it also helps to constitute. Thus the ontological and epistemological
multiplicity of the milieu creates space both for ideas and for processes of
personal transformation that enable new subjectivities to emerge. Relating these
phenomena back to the innovation literature the analogy of a ‘skunkworks’ is
useful in helping to explain the way in which countercultural sites are conducive
for social innovation. Skunkworks are
275

small and often subversive units within a larger organization that are
created in order to pioneer the development of a technological innovation.

Rogers (2003, 149)


They create space for innovation because the members are able to escape
routinised, organisational procedures and social norms. Thus there are obvious
parallels with the way in which countercultural sites can create the space for
individuals to escape the dominant, ‘taken for granted’ norms and cognitive
frames. Furthermore, those who are within countercultural networks are often
also able to occupy ‘free space’ because they are less structured by work
relations and lifestyle constraints (Cox 1995). However, whilst such sites might
be productive for new ideas to emerge, in the case of Totnes it seems that they
are also prone to conflict, as discussed in the next section.

8.3 A conflictive community

This part of the chapter explores some dimensions of conflict that have arisen in
Totnes. It is suggests that whilst the preceding section has identified aspects of
the Totnes area which make it a productive site of social experimentation, some
of the selfsame factors that support such experimentation also prevent the
development of collective entities. It seems feasible and likely that such conflicts
hinder the expansion of collective, community economies of the type envisaged
by Gibson-Graham (2006b; 2008). The section focuses on two particular
dimensions of conflict: socio-cultural and ethical. The final section then assesses
the implications in terms of building collective community economic forms.

8.3.1 Socio-cultural conflict

Most interviewees were asked about their views regarding the existence of a
‘cultural divide’ between the ‘alternative’ community and other local residents.
As might be expected, there was a range of views as one respondent predicted:

276
I think it’s very difficult to judge because I think that you are going to get
a different answer in a way from everyone you ask

Interview with Sarah Strong [17]

Whilst there was a range of different perceptions it was rare that interviewees did
not perceive the existence of any kind of cultural conflict. It was the perceptions
of the extent, form and intensity of such divides that varied. Martin Stott, whose
role in the emergence of the ‘alternative’ Totnes place image was discussed in
chapter Six, said that he only became aware of a divide sometime after he had
written Spilling the Beans and characterised it, in simplistic terms, as being
between ‘farmers and healers’ [44]. When Martin Stott was back in the town in
2005 to make a programme for the BBC he was approached by people hoping
that he wasn’t making another programme about ‘alternative’ Totnes [44]. As
another interviewee put it

There’s a sort of local population that feels a bit invaded in a sense, by
lots of this alternative stuff

Interview with Norman Duncan [31]

This sense of invasion seems to have a number of dimensions. Most obviously it
is a physical invasion. Indeed, it should be acknowledged that the existence of
cultural conflict within any given rural community is hardly unexpected,
particularly one which has experienced significant counter-urbanisation as the
South Hams has (Murdoch et al. 2003). What is particularly of relevance here is
the way in innovation promoted by incomers might be resisted. For example:

There have been occasional examples of resentments from the 'Old
Guard' whose families have lived here for generations toward
newcomers. But that sometimes happens elsewhere in the country with
small inward looking communities who resent change.

In Devon the newer residents are called " 'Blow Ins'", who purportedly
"Always want to alter things." An example of this happened when a large
group of Totnes residents, including me, campaigned for and finally
secured land for allotments, on a meadow below Totnes Castle, which
had previously been used for grazing sheep.
277

There followed a series of angry complaints to the council from the
neighbours on the opposite side of the road about the allotment holders,
who were perceived as newcomers although some were in fact locals too.
They said that "They are up there at all hours of the day and night! "
Actually as there is no lighting at the allotments we go home at dusk at
the latest. It was clear that the pleasant rustic views from their houses of
flocks quietly grazing had changed to a landscape of grubby gardeners,
compost bins, sheds and sometimes untidy vegetable plots. They were
incensed. To placate them, some of us quietly placed beans and sweet
peas on their doorsteps and most of the complaints died down in time.

Interview with Jan Innes [53]

Therefore people who associate the localised alternative cultures with incomers
or ‘blow-ins’ are likely also to connect them to the wider deleterious effects of
counter-urbanisation discussed in this thesis such as house price inflation and
gentrification of the area. The migration by those drawn by alternative cultures is
only one element of this wider migratory trend and difficult to quantify, but it
still contributes to the overall effect. Therefore, whilst Alan Langmaid feels
relations with incomers are generally good he does detect a

…a degree of resentment, I feel a degree of resentment when it comes to
house prices because they come in….I’ll be a ‘typical’ local now [puts on
Devon accent] ‘They bloody come in here and tidy up our town’

Interview with Alan Langmaid [10]

Secondly, there is also a sense of cognitive invasion. Some of this is reflected in
conflict over the place images of Totnes. The above quotes highlights the
existence of localised resistance to the way in which the ‘alternative’ cultures in
the area are responsible for the development of the ‘alternative’ place images of
Totnes. Indeed the pronunciation of Totnes itself has to some slight extent
become a cultural battleground.
71
Ironically, groups that are in many ways
championing progressive causes and emancipatory causes (see for example
Figure 8.5) and who are proud of Totnes’ reputation are themselves perceived as
agents of localised cultural imperialism:

71
The traditional Devonian way of pronouncing Totnes is Tot!n"s. However many people (often
perceived as incomers) pronounce it as Totn#s (see interview 26)
278

I think that some people get fed up with all the attention given to Totnes
being alternative and they just want to emphasise it’s an ordinary town
you know. I hate to be simplistic but I think you know some of it could
be a class thing you know. I mean alternative is very kind of middle class
sort of you know, Guardian, Independent reading sort of stuff and you
know if you’re local and you can’t…your children aren’t able to afford to
ever live here its easy to target those who are moving in

Interview with Bob Mann [26]



Figure 8.5: Amnesty March through Totnes (June 2008)

For example, when William Lana opened Green Fibres he suggested that there
was

a little bit of animosity from some locals who think it is just 'green wacko
strangeness’ and it isn't the true Totnes

Interview with William Lana [11]
279

Another example of this ongoing tension was an attempt was made in 1993 to
‘modernise’ the Totnes Carnival and embrace some aspects of ‘alternative’
culture, led by people associated with the ‘Green’ Community Office and with
the support of some Travellers. However this innovation was not widely
welcomed and the event returned to its traditional 1950s theme for subsequent
carnivals.

Shields (1991, 61) suggests that conflict over ‘place myths’ can be rooted in
cultural and class divisions and Mann’s quote above also suggests that class
might be a reason for the rejection of some ‘alternative’ ideas. Certainly some
interviewees mentioned the need for their projects to reach beyond the ‘middle
classes’ [60, 5].
72
Sarah Strong’s suggestion that those involved in the vibrant
1990s LETS scheme were ‘probably middle class but broke’ [17] concurs with
Williams’ (1995, 238) research which suggested that the Totnes LETS scheme
appealed to the ‘disenfranchised middle classes’. This concurs with the
observation made in Chapter 3 that many of the Countercultural movements
themselves are rooted in the middle classes (e.g. for environmentalism see
Cotgrove 1982). This is not to argue against the merits of middle-class activism,
indeed some have argued that it is the most effective form of activism.
73

However the data suggest the need to recognise the social, economic and cultural
situatedness of such activism, and how this may prevent broader coalitions from
being constructed particularly at a very ‘local’ geographic scale.

So whilst the socio-cultural divisions within the area are complex and should not
be simply reduced to an ‘indigenous’ versus ‘incomers’ dichotomy, there are a
number of wider socio-cultural reasons why people might feel a general
resentment towards ideas that are perceived as being generated from within the
countercultural milieu. Furthermore, there are also reasons that people may reject
such ideas because of their countercultural origins. For example, the Chair of the

72
O’Rourke’s (2009) research on Transition Towns describes the Transition Town steering
groups he researched as ‘post-materialist middle classes’
73
See for example interview with pioneering US social activist Saul Alinsky who after decades
of community activism had decided to focus his efforts on the middle classes shortly before his
death in 1972 http://www.progress.org/2003/alinsky3.htm last accessed 26/01/2010
280
Chamber of Commerce, discussing how he was in the process of rolling out a
‘plastic bag free’ campaign, suggested that:

…it’s a really tricky number you know, I don’t want people turning round
and saying ‘I’m not going along with this hippy crap’ They will do. I
guarantee they’ll be some people say ‘What’s this fucking hippy crap? I
ain’t doing this.’ And that’s the fault lies not with them, the fault lies with
the degree to which I’ve communicated with them.

Interview with Paul Wesley [6]

A perceived association with ‘hippy’ culture is therefore one reason that some
people might reject certain initiatives. For example, this comment on a BBC
Internet message board about the Totnes Pound:

It doesn't work in Totnes, Ally [previous discussant], well or otherwise!
One has to remember that Totnes is the UK's "Alternative Capital #2", the
leader being Glastonbury which has even more post-hippy wackos. Odd
unworkable ideas flourish here, briefly, before their inevitable demise in
the face of economic reality. The "Totnes Pound" is the latest incarnation
of alternative trading schemes got up by the soya beans & wigwams
brigade, whose economic nous could be written on the back of a fag
packet. Similar things were tried here decades ago. They tried to pay the
(Totnes based) printing company that printed the Totnes Pounds IN
Totnes Pounds, and were told to p**s off, unsurprisingly! Mainly,
this Mickey Mouse currency gets traded by believers: I'll give you X TPs
for my brown rice, and you can spend them with Charmaine for your
astral healing sessions...

‘Malcolm’ BBC Countryfile website accessed 17/05/2008


Posted by someone asserting to be a Totnes resident, it again illustrates how
socio-cultural differences can be a significant barrier to building alternative
economic projects. ‘Malcolm’ clearly does not consider himself as a ‘post-hippy
wacko’ or part of the ‘soya beans and wigwam brigade.’ It also illustrates the
way in which humour can be used to denigrate cultures that are considered to be
deviant and which break social rules (Powell 1988). Secondly, it illustrates how
the perception of a homogenous ‘alternative’ culture affects the credibility of the
Totnes Pound currency. The diversity of subcultural practices are represented as
a singular phenomenon (‘the soyabean and wigwam brigade’) and then dismissed
281
in its entirety. Thus it is evident that the density of practices and ‘realities’ that
helps to supports the development of such projects is actually a drawback. In
addition to creating heterotopic space for experimentation it also means that
countercultural practices become co-associated and stereotyped. Most
importantly, the quote emphasises again how important credibility is to the
functioning of such experiments and how disbelief functions as a barrier to
participation. Unlike the ‘believers’ in the Totnes Pound, Malcolm is unwilling
to participate because he does not find the idea a credible proposition in the face
of ‘economic reality’. This reflects the way in which conflict between different
socio-culturally embedded cognitive frames acts as a barrier to the development
of alternative economic projects. The construction of economic alternatives can
face conflict in the face of other people’s ‘realities’.

However, the data suggest that conflict arises not only between ‘mainstream’ and
‘alternative’ cultures but also between ‘alternative’ cultures. This conflict creates
a further potential barrier to the development of collaborative projects. One
respondent perceived these divisions as a form of factionalism:

I also think there’s a lot of factionalism here. I’m sure its true in Hebden
Bridge, Stroud and Glastonbury and Brighton and Machynlleth of people
who think ‘Oh no I’m green, I’m dark green, oh I’m olive, oh I’m so
green its black’.


Similarly

You tend to get groups coming together to do something and then find
after a couple of meetings they can’t work together so they go down the
road and start another group doing the same thing you know. You get half
a dozen groups all reinventing the same wheel.

Interview with Bob Mann [26]

The data also suggest that different temporal waves of in-migration tended to
associate with different ‘causes’: Thus it was LETS in the early 1990s, GM
activism in the late 1990s and, most recently, TTT. In these ways the community
activities provide a way into social networks, certainly something that was
282
observed of the LETS (Williams 1995) and was the way in which I ‘used’ the
Transition Towns process. Indeed the volunteer co-ordinator at TTT noted that
most of the TTT volunteers were recent arrivals.
74
This also seems to limit the
development of wider networks and collaborations, perhaps because of the
diversity of different groups or because activists experience forms of ‘burn out’.
Certainly one interviewee noted that that previous generations of activists in the
town had not engaged with the Transition Town process [27].

Transition Town Totnes gives a further empirical example of the way in which
such conflict can unfold between sub-countercultures. Here, another local activist
has challenged the Transition Town movement’s Peak Oil discourse:

Is there more to 'Transition Town' than is currently being disclosed ... or
is it simply a case of well-meaning ecologists dreaming of sustainable
community while being oblivious to the geo-political realities. Only time
... and a greater regard for intellectual transparency ... will tell.

In 2005, I attended a presentation by Naresh Giangrande on 'Peak Oil'.
The presentation incorporated the standard Campbell/Simmons/Ruppert
hypothesis on 'Peak Oil' but was presented as FACT. During the Q&A
session, it became apparent that Naresh possessed limited oilfield
knowledge. At the end of the evening, I approached Naresh and
suggested that perhaps the issue of 'Peak Oil' should be opened up for
debate. He declined the invitation. Subsequent suggestion, to both Naresh
Giangrande & Rob Hopkins, that the issue be debated publicly were
rejected.

Extract from http://transitiontownwatch.blogspot.com/
dated 27/11/07 emphasis in original

Ian Crane is involved in other countercultural groups around Totnes, including
organising a conference in 2008 called ‘The Alternative View’. Thus the milieu
creates social space in which two competing discourses of Peak Oil can be
articulated, which in 2007 was in itself a fairly radical and marginal discourse.
The data contain several other examples of conflict between different strands of
counterculture within in the area. For example the spiritual leader Andrew Cohen
was a controversial figure [21, 64]. The appearance of David Icke at the above

74
Totnes Pound Ethnographic Diary 17/09/08
283
Alternative View conference also created conflict.
75
This therefore reflects
hostility to those who are trying to shift ontologies and the influence they might
have. Indeed Smith (forthcoming) has noted the importance of Rob Hopkins in
the process of ‘claims making’ within the Transition movement, as well as the
fact that some participants have found it a little ‘cult’ like.
76


Charismatic authority is a feature of a range of alternative spiritualities (Bird
1978) but, as this chapter has argued, is also arguably important within other
forms of ontological reframing. Opposition to such ‘leaders’ within Totnes
therefore perhaps not only reflects a diversity of worldviews, but a concern that
such processes of change can also be manipulative and ‘violent’. Indeed, this is
something that, within the context of Peak Oil is acknowledged by Hopkins
(2008, chapter 5) as ‘post-petroleum stress disorder’. There is therefore not only
a clash of worldviews but also a potential resistance to those who seek to change
them. Particularly, as it has been argued that those with ‘new age’ views are
more susceptible to manipulation (Höllinger 2004).

8.3.2 Ethical conflict

The second significant dimension of conflict that emerges from the data was
ethical conflict. This is theoretically significant because Gibson-Graham (2006b)
conceptualise their community economy as an ethical space of decision-making,
where collective decisions can be made. Here, the data suggest that the
exploration of ethics can create significant debate and disagreement. Ethical
conflict hindered a number of the community economic experiments such as the
second generation of LETS currency, where there was an ongoing debate about
the value of the Totnes Acorn.
77
As one organiser observed:


75
David Icke is a controversial figure associated with ‘New Age conspiricism’ and who has been
accused of anti-Semitism (see Ronson 2001). His appearance in Totnes lead to some protests
outside the Civic Hall on the night that he was present (research diary 29/04/2008)
76
Rob Hopkins has publicly defend the Transition model against accusations that it is cult like.
See http://forum.rickross.com/read.php?12,83474,page=1 last accessed 11/03/2011).
77
See for example ‘Acorns or Peanuts’, Totnes Small Ads Magazine 28/2/1992, p. 5. Such
debates were not uncommon amongst the organisers of LETS currencies see Thorne (1996)
284
the biggest controversies were about pricing and you know sort of, was it
really fair for like someone who was a complementary therapist on the
LETS system to be charging so much more that someone who was doing
cleaning on the LETS system

Interview with Sarah Strong [17]

Prem Ash reported similar debates within TILT about the loans that they were
giving to local businesses:

And the wonderful thing is you’ve got to think what your ethics are. You
know what is an ethical loan? And how far do you stretch this word
ethical you know if somebody’s buying a blooming van for instance? We
had to really think about this because our duty was to people who had
invested. They were wanting to invest in ethical businesses and…its very
interesting going through that process of what is actually ethical, because
clearly a van isn’t very ethical but he was taking puppetry to children in
schools and things teaching them behavioural ways through this medium
which was clearly a good thing.

Interview with Prem Ash [37]

One respondent suggested that such conflict was rooted in competing idealisms:

In so many of the projects, internal conflicts between people about their
idealisms, about whether or not in the community there should be black
tea, because black tea is made in such or such a place whatever, so
conflicts over where people project their own inner stories onto whatever
the alternative community was and end up battling over stupid ideals
which have meaning, but the real meaning is people need to learn how to
live together with themselves and live together with each other and I
didn’t have all the skills for that.

Interview with Norman Duncan [31]

Certainly many respondents reported such battles. It was an ethical dispute over
the use of sewing machines that led to the split of Green Shoes from Conker
Shoe in the early 1980s:

…the sewing machine question became identified as a feminist issue and
it became, you know, sewing machines are used world over in
sweatshops to oppress women who are locked in, paid minimal wages
and work long hours and blah, blah, blah, all of which is true, and so
285
therefore sewing machines are clear evidence of the patriarchy, you
know, when really it is capitalism itself that is at fault. In our group the
young women chose to make sewing machines symbols of the great male
oppression-of-women conspiracy. So, of course, we had endless argy
bargy and name calling about whether we should have sewing machines
or not and I, you know, at one point, two years into this deadlock, I got to
the place where I was just so fed up with ripping my fingers to bits
sewing soles on shoes and barely making a living that, in desperation, I
just went and bought one without prior agreement you know? So that was
just more evidence of my overbearing macho style you know [laughs]?

Interview with Andy Langford (12c]

Here we can see how the ethical dispute is rooted in the conflict between Andy’s
‘worldview’ the emerging feminist consciousness of his female businesses
partners. It also points to the conflict between idealism and the day-to-day
pragmatic struggles of running a small business. Greenlife gave a similar
example of such conflict:

We have staff who feel uncomfortable about it and we just said you ‘If
you feel that uncomfortable about it no-one’s forcing you to work at
Greenlife.’ I mean I don’t think that anybody has ever left for that reason
but I think they’ve not liked it, yeah. Its not only been about what we sell
…one chap we had working for us he was quite rude to customers for
saying they wanted bag and things you know: ‘You don’t need a bag.’
Well you know, I don’t think it’s for us to say, or you can just set an
example. We do an incredible amount of recycling, we recycle everything
and we really do our best to do all those kinds of things and I think that’s
important but I certainly wouldn’t tell somebody else what they should or
shouldn’t be doing.

Interview with Jamie Sermon [41]

This tension between ethical idealism and pragmatism also applied to community
based projects:

M: Well I think TILT eventually filtered out anybody who wasn’t
prepared to be pragmatic.

P: That’s true, that’s true.

M: You know it was, there were a lot of people dropped out

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P: [looking at meeting notes] Early on here I can see other peoples names
on the [minutes]

M: And they became disillusioned with our lack of being completely
ethical, our lack of ambition.

Interview with Prem Ash and Mark Beeson [37]

TILT also received ethical critiques from its supporters about where it kept the
money that it was lending out:

…another thing that ethical, ethically came up all the time was people
said was ‘Where are you keeping this money?’ We had it in the HSBC
you know because we didn’t even have a Co-operative here [in Totnes]
and in those days there wasn’t Internet baking so you couldn’t access the
money from Totnes. I never understood why we didn’t have a Co-
operative Bank in this town of all places, but we didn’t and so we had to
put the money in the HSBC and that put a few people off.

Interview with Prem Ash [37]

Finally several of the alternative businesses have experienced conflict in their
failure to meet the ethical ideals of their customers. Jamie Sermon from
Greenlife again:

I mean we don’t have customers coming in weekly and challenging us but
we’ve had some customers, if we are talking ethical and non-ethical who
are specific, or particularly ethical, I would say. But that’s fine I’m happy
for them to have those beliefs but I want them to start their own shop and
see how well they could run it. If they have to get rid of almost everything
that they had, which is what people…one guy came in once and I mean we
would literally have had to get rid of about fifty percent because
somewhere somebody was obscurely connected with a slaughterhouse or
something you know?

William Lana from Green Fibres:

we get customeis calling us all kinus of names because we have, I uon't
know, a silk hanging chiluien's mobiles anu silk can come fiom woims who
aie boileu anu that's you know. Not a veiy nice thing which is why we tiy
to caiiy a type of soit of peace silk which is haivesteu fiom cocoons which
have been left by the, the moth anu so no insects have uieu in that but you
know What I mean to say by that is you can't make 1uu% of the people
|happy] 1uu% of the time
287

And Barry and Helen Pope from Seeds, health food shop:

Helen: I think there were a lot of pressures on us in those early years to be
like that. I mean I had a big fracas with somebody because we sold
Rooibos tea

Barry: Oh yes because of the Apartheid


The data therefore suggest that ethical ‘space’ is contested and conflictive. By
making their ethics ‘visible’ these businesses and projects appear to have opened
up a wider space of ethical contestation which itself can undermine collaboration
and a sense of community. The idea that ‘ethical space’ is inherently contested
has implications for collective attempts to build community economies around
notions of shared ethics and suggests that the detailed processes by which such
ethics are distilled are of critical importance to the sustainability of any given
collective endeavour.


8.4: Heterotopia and ‘community’

This chapter suggests that researchers take seriously the idea that countercultural
places are sites of social innovation and experimentation. It has highlighted the
importance of social entrepreneurs in undertaking such experiments and
suggested some ways in which this experimental social space might be
understood. The chapter highlights a central paradox: Whilst the Totnes area is
that a space that is productive for innovative and unorthodox ideas to emerge and
circulate is also a space in which they can struggle for support. Understanding
both the processes that shape such places, and the formation of ‘heterotopic’
forms of social space are both useful in explaining this paradox. Within this
heterotopic space people attempt to create and live their lives according to
different orderings or rationalities. Thus heterotopia creates the space for new
ideas and forms of innovation. However, the ability for these innovations to
diffuse locally is limited by not only socio-economic conditions that have led to
the creation of the milieu but also by its very heterotopic nature. The fact that a
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multiplicity of realities is able to exist can prevent the ontological cohesion
necessary to build collective institutions. Thus whilst the heterotopic social space
creates the possibility for individual and collective experimentation it seems to
hinder wider collaboration. This would resonate with the argument that both
heterotopia (Pepper 2005) and certain aspects of the ‘new age’ (Heelas 1995)
reflect the politics of ‘utopian’ liberal individualism. Contrastingly, those
collective economies that are valourised as exemplars - such as Mondragón and
the Emilia Romagne co-operatives - appear to be underpinned by a much greater
degree of cultural (and therefore ontological) homogeneity.
78


For those endeavouring to build grassroots initiatives what this perhaps points
toward is the need for a more sophisticated understanding of community that
moves beyond simplistic notions of community based on common geography,
values or association. Gibson-Graham have attempted to do this with their notion
of ‘being in common’, but arguably this is still an idealistic form of community
and one based on notions of geographic commonality. Furthermore, as illustrated
in Chapter Four much of the literature on various postcapitalist forms appeals to
the idea that community based institutions are inherently unproblematic and
reflect a form of ‘resource’ that can be mobilised as part of postcapitalist
development strategies (e.g. Kretzmann and McKnight 1993). A more
sophisticated notion of community would recognise that these discourses of
community are themselves situated. In some circumstances, appeals to
community based activism can actually reflect a form of localised ‘top down’
oppression by a confident and vocal local ‘elite’, rather than being ‘bottom up’
activism.

Certainly, it is interesting to note that within this case study, there was, in the
underground press, some discussion on the contested nature of ‘community’ and
‘who’ such press was speaking for.
79
The question of community was something

78
The question of the extent to which the Mondragón Co-operative model is transferable to other
places often questions the significance of the Basque nationalism and Catholicism from which it
emerged (see Whyte and Whyte 1991). Similarly the co-operative movement in Emilia Romanga
is split into three federations: Catholic, Communist / Socialist and the much smaller Social
Democratic (Logue 2006).
79
Issue 12 of the Dart (July – Aug 1982) says that the idea it is a ‘community’ magazine has
bought many ‘indignant responses’ and goes on to discuss what community means.
289
that was also much debated at Dartington in the 1970s. In the present era, not
everyone was unaware of the problem of the way in which ‘community’ can
often be appropriated as illustrated by this quote from a business owner:

I remember someone coming to me and selling a community paper and I
said sure ‘no problem’ and I looked at it and I went over to them and said
‘this is disgusting. Even the language you are using is incomprehensive to
ninety percent of the population. This isn’t a community paper. This is
your special interest paper’

Perhaps then what this points to is the need for much less bounded, static and
utopian conception of community, and instead conceptualise it as an ongoing
process of managing and reconciling conflict. Gibson-Graham (2006b, 86)
recognise that normative discourses of the community economy often privilege
geographic commonality. However, their own notion of community economy
and ‘being in common’ still appears to be excessively optimistic with little
reference within in the work to the necessity of managing conflict to hold
communities together. This thesis suggests that both the process of creating
ethical spaces of decision-making, and their ongoing maintenance are (contra
Luc-Nancy) processes that require active management. This concurs with Marion
Young’s (1990) critique of the way in which ‘community’ is associated with
ideas of homogeneity. She suggests that:

…the ideal of community denies, devalues or represses the ontological
difference of subjects, and seeks to dissolve social inexhaustibility into
the comfort of a self-enclosed whole.
Young 1990, 230

Therefore it is not just the community economy as a ‘space’ that needs constant
construction, as Gibson-Graham (2006b xxviii) themselves recognise, but the
very community itself. There may therefore be much to learn from experiments
that have attempted to build ‘intentional’ forms of community. For example,
exploring the way in which communes construct reality Ogilvy and Ogilvy
(1972) distinguish between religious / political communities which are led by a
charismatic leader and pluralistic ones. They argue that the latter are much more
prone to conflict and collapse over conflicting ‘reality determinants’, suggesting
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that specific models of conflict management are therefore necessary for such
communities. (see also Whyte and Whyte 1991). Understanding the construction
of community economies as an ontological project emphasises the way in which
perceptions of different economic possibilities are rooted in different ‘realities’.
Reflexive awareness of this is an important factor for those who seek to develop
collective economic forms, but it does not necessarily make the task any easier,
particularly for those who might try in countercultural places like Totnes. Indeed,
thinking about community economies in this way suggests that reflexivity and
processes of reconciliation need to be at the heart of any serious endeavour that
seeks to build common ground between multiple and competing realities.


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Chapter 9: Conclusions and future research

This thesis has sought to bring together two different areas of enquiry. Firstly it
has sought to deepen the theoretical understanding of ‘countercultural’ places. In
doing so it has sought to shed light both on the complexity of such places and the
inter-related and overlapping processes that ‘construct’ them. Secondly, it has
sought to empirically explore Gibson-Graham’s theoretical approach to
capitalism which argues that postcapitalism is proliferative and offers the
potential for alternative economic development strategies. In bringing these two
areas of enquiry together it has revealed not only why postcapitalist institutions
might often emerge in countercultural places, but why they may also falter. This
final chapter therefore brings together the overall conclusions and arguments that
have emerged from the research. Part One recaps the three research questions,
answering each in turn based on the data discussed in the preceding chapters,
highlighting some key theoretical implications. Part Two reflects on the
limitations of the research. Part Three then points to some potential areas of
future research.

9.1 Summary of the research questions and findings

This section recaps the research questions and the contribution that the thesis has
made to addressing both the empirical and wider theoretical component.

Question 1: What are the processes that have led to the emergence of Totnes as
a countercultural place? What implications does this have for how such places
are understood?

Chapter Six described the processes that led to the evolution of Totnes as a
countercultural place. It showed how the density of countercultural practices and
institutions in the Totnes area had their roots in a local milieu that was initially
created by, and centred upon, the Dartington utopian community. Dartington
acted as an institutional node which created both proximate and networked forms
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of countercultural social space. The thesis has shown how a ‘collision’ between
Dartington and the Counterculture underpinned the emergence of various
‘counter-subcultures’ during the 1970s, despite conflict over Dartington’s
institutional engagement with the Counterculture. The emergence of these
subcultures underpinned the discursive, institutional and material impacts on the
locality. These processes contributed to the development of a localised
countercultural milieu. The chapter described the processes by which this
emerged including, in the 1980s, the emergence of the place image of Totnes as
an ‘alternative’ or ‘new age’ capital.

However, the thesis argues that Totnes’ emergence as a recognised site of
countercultural activity is the result of a number of overlapping processes that
belie the idea that ‘reputation’ is the only or primary driver of place making.
Indeed the thesis has sought tentatively to explore some of the ways in which the
various tendencies and processes interact. The concepts of the countercultural
milieu and its ‘institutional thickness’ have been suggested to reflect the way in
which ‘fixed’ sites of countercultural practice can connect places to wider
networks and flows of people, ideas and practices. Indeed the thesis argued that it
was the growing ‘thickness’ of institutions in the 1980s that led to the emergence
of the identity of the Totnes area as a site of ‘Alternative’ cultures. This
recognition itself led to the emergence of the discursive ‘place myths’ about
Totnes which – whilst simplifications – had a material effect on the area and
which did play some role in attracting institutions, businesses and people to the
area.

The research also highlighted the importance of other factors in the construction
of countercultural places. Most significantly, the geographical manifestation of
homophily was identified as a key factor. On the one hand this reflected in-
migration that was stimulated by familial and personal networks. On the other it
reflected a desire to be amongst ‘people like us’, amongst those of similar
countercultural beliefs. Finally, the ‘uplifting’ aesthetics of the rural landscape
and the townscape of Totnes itself also played a role, not only in attracting
people, but in underpinning spatial imaginaries (Secondspaces) which
contributed to the construction of countercultural senses of place. This
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relationship – between ‘utopian’ aesthetics and the formation of countercultural
places – does have some resonance with other research (Lees 1999; Smith and
Phillips 2001, Kopp 2004).

In highlighting the central importance of the ‘Dartington effect’ this thesis
suggests that ‘utopian’ or intentional communities should not only be considered
as ‘bounded’ subject of enquiry as has generally been the case (e.g. Rigby 1974a;
1974b; Pepper 1991). Their relational impact, both on their immediate locality
and beyond, is also an important aspect of their existence. Indeed the thesis has
illustrated how such connections and networks shape the communities
themselves. It has illustrated how adopting a ‘wider’ understanding of the
Counterculture can reveal a diversity of subcultures and practices that are often
overlooked. The thesis has argued that recognising this diversity is important
because it is an important facet of the sometimes heterotopic nature of
countercultural places that is obscured when overly reductive categories are
ascribed. Indeed, it is this wider countercultural milieu that provides the ‘cultural
embeddeness’ from which specific postcapitalist initiatives have emerged.
Taking ‘slices’ of (counter)culture therefore provides an impoverished
understanding of how such institutions and practices emerge.

Question 2: What kind of postcapitalist institutions have emerged in and
around Totnes? To what extent do these support Gibson-Graham’s theory of
proliferative postcapitalism?

Chapter Seven explored the different types of postcapitalist institution that have
evolved in the area with a particular focus on the fragmented marketscape of
organic food, one of the most significant areas of postcapitalist activity in the
area. It highlighted three particular facets of this postcapitalist marketscape that
could be regarded as potentially significant. First, it highlighted the enduring
presence of ‘non-capitalist’ independent retail businesses in Totnes. Secondly,
the emergence and success of Riverford Organic Vegetables, one of the largest
organic box delivery schemes in the UK. Thirdly, it revealed how there had been
a history of Community Supported Farming experimentation in the locality. In
the case of the latter, it concluded that these have, to date, struggled to have a
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discernable economic impact in the sense that they did not make a significant
contribution to the construction of livelihoods, nor did they reflect established
alternative ‘system of provision’. Similarly, other community based economic
initiatives struggled with the same problems with capacity and resources that
they often encounter in other places (Davison 2006).

As discussed in Chapter Two, any given conception of postcapitalism hinges on
a given framing of ‘capitalism’. What is at stake therefore are the different
ontologies of capitalism – From Gibson-Graham’s (2006a; 2006b) optimistic
‘minimalistic’ capitalism to the ‘systemic’ notions of capitalism whereby
alternatives are always undermined or co-opted by the dynamics of capitalist
accumulation (e.g. Albo 2006). Any given ontology of capitalism legitimises a
number of strategies for those wishing to address some of the problems of
capitalist development. A key purpose of this thesis was to ‘test’ Gibson-
Graham’s theory of proliferative postcapitalism through an empirical case study
of postcapitalist institutions. One clear conclusion that emerged from the data is
that those postcapitalist institutions that appeared to have greater economic
significance – i.e. the localised organic food retail market and Riverford
Organics – seemed more closely ‘entwined’ with capitalist processes and
institutions. Thus it becomes more difficult to argue that they reflected distinct
spaces that are ‘outside’ capitalism. Indeed, for many of the interview
respondents, their emic conception was that they were ‘within’ capitalism, albeit
sometimes reluctantly.

Furthermore, the existence of a number of economic tendencies was revealed.
Whether or not these are theorised as ‘capitalist’ tendencies, it does not diminish
the fact that they had the impact of undermining economic viability of the actors
on which they acted. This leads to the argument that if such practices are to be
considered to be ‘outside’ capitalism then proponents of a diverse economic
ontology need more clearly to elucidate the boundaries of capitalism. For
example, a clearer distinction between capitalistic and non-capitalist markets
needs to be made. Businesses participating in the organic food retail market
clearly felt the impact of increasing competition driven by profit seeking which is
sometimes described as a ‘logic’ of market capitalism (Went 2000). Therefore if
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‘embedded’ or ‘social’ markets are to be considered a challenge to capitalism
(e.g. Wall 2005; Ekins 1992; Jacobs 2003; Henderson 2006) a clearer conception
of the distinction with ‘capitalist’ market is required. If this cannot be done, then
getting out of capitalism requires getting out of ‘the market’, which from an
institutional (as opposed to a lifestyle) point of view is clearly problematic.

Fournier (2002) (amongst others) suggests that institutions such as Community
Supported Agriculture and LETS schemes are potential ways to ‘get outside’ the
market. However this research suggests that whilst the Totnes area was a fertile
site for such experiments, none had succeeded in building circuits of value that
could sustain livelihoods or guarantee their ongoing reproduction. These
institutions remain undercapitalised themselves and whilst there was evidence
that the milieu provided other forms of non-monetary support it is difficult to
argue that these acted as suitable forms of non-monetary surplus that could act as
a substitute for financial surplus. Whilst many businesses were not solely profit
motivated, the necessity of making a financial surplus was clear priority. This
research therefore concurred with the criticism that the lack of attention to
financial dimensions of capitalism is a significant lacuna in Gibson-Graham’s
work (Tonkiss 2008) particularly with reference to the development of
postcapitalist institutions.

If financial surplus is necessary to sustain postcapitalist institutions then further
theoretical work needs to be done on the theorising of how such surplus can be
created outside the ‘circuitous mechanisms of capitalist industrialisation’
(Gibson-Graham 2005a, 16). However, the research illustrates that not only are
postcapitalist institutions dependent on financial surplus but that they are
sometimes sustained by ‘capitalist’ surplus that is redistributed through
philanthropy (e.g. the importance of the Elmhirsts) or consumer markets.
Interestingly, Gunn and Gunn (1991), from whom Gibson-Graham borrow the
term social surplus, theorise it primarily in financial terms and advocate the
importance of ‘alternative institutions of accumulation’ to develop new financial
circuits. Leyshon and Thrift (1995) argue that such institutions are sparse within
in the UK, yet this research suggests that they could be significant for the
development of a wider postcapitalist economy. The lack of significance placed
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on such institutions within Gibson-Graham’s work is perhaps because their
hybridised ‘anticapitalocentric’ economic ontology seeks in part to emphasise the
economic spaces beyond the monetary economy.
The importance of financial capital also points to another argument that emerged
from the research: that institutional embeddedness is more significant than the
localised cultural embeddedness of the milieu. As such it points to the
importance of theorising the state and understanding the way in which regulatory
regimes support or undermine postcapitalist experiments. As discussed below,
this may not be compatible with a ‘weak’ theoretical approach such as that of
Gibson-Graham.

Question 3: Does being a site of countercultural activity make it more possible
to build postcapitalist institutions? What are the implications for theories of
interstitial postcapitalism?

Chapter Eight explored a central paradox that emerged from the research: That
the same factors which make the Totnes area a productive site for the emergence
of social and ecological innovation are also implicated in hindering the
expansion of collective, community based institutions. Indeed it could be argued
that the economic ‘success’ of the local organic food economy, independent
retail and Riverford were all ultimately driven by individualised personal
consumption and as such reflect a weaker form of economic ‘alternative’ (Watt
et al. 2005). The research appears to highlight an inherent tension in Gibson-
Graham’s (2006b) theorisation of proliferative postcapitalism: that the conditions
that support processes of ontological reframing and building collective action
may conflict with each other. Thus a site where there is openness to ‘ontological
reframing’ and epistemic multiplicity is not necessarily a place that is conducive
to the building of collective community economies. Furthermore, the research
highlights the extent to which ‘ethical’ space is conflictive and thus requires
mechanisms of reconciliation if ‘ethical’ communities are to be held together.

The empirical research highlighted how the Totnes area has been a site of ‘early
adoption’ of certain countercultural and postcapitalist practices, rather than
necessarily the site of original innovation. It highlighted the different ways in
297
which space was created for such experiments to take place. As such it argued
that the heterotopic nature of countercultural places might explain why it is
possible for social innovation to take place in such sites. In this sense the thesis
has argued that the role that such places play in social and ecological innovation
needs further exploration. Thus, the data suggest that to some extent the Totnes
locality could be theorised as a form of geographic ‘green niche’ (Seyfang and
Smith 2007) that is conducive to ecologically focused radical innovation.
However it is again worth noting that such ‘niches’ are not simply bounded
localities. Whilst there are locality-specific factors that are significant in
supporting innovation, networks and connections are also vital in connecting the
area to other places of countercultural innovation. It is across such space that
people, practices, ideas and even institutions travel. Similarly, it is evident how
innovations that have been pioneered in Totnes have spread to other places, most
recently through the emergence of the ‘global’ Transition Towns movement
(Bailey et al. 2009). In this sense the research also supports Nicholls’ (2007,
2009) recent attempts to reconcile the importance of both ‘place’ and ‘networks’
in the complex geography of social movements.

Chapter Eight did reveal some aspects of locality that were supportive to the
development of postcapitalist institutions. Many of these were to do with the
material and social impact of the countercultural milieu. Various forms of
Secondspace imaginary were also important. Yet it is also clear that some factors
that have ‘produced’ Totnes as a countercultural place can also undermine the
development of postcapitalist practices. For example, the processes that have
produced the localised countercultural milieu have also contributed to processes
of gentrification. Whilst such economic tendencies do play a role in sustaining
some of the ‘alternative’ businesses interviewed, they have also accelerated the
decline of ‘quotidian’ businesses in the town, along with the low-cost economic
‘margins’ that are vital for social experimentation. Furthermore, multiple social
and cultural cleavages appear to prevent coalition building. Ultimately what
emerged was a picture of fragmentation rather than something that reflected the
idealised ‘community economy’ that often appears in the literature (e.g.
Douthwaite 1995; Curtis 2003).

298
Indeed the research highlights that the community economy is not something that
is waiting to be ‘revealed’ but is something that is itself discursively and
culturally produced by particular sections of society. Discourses of community
economics have their own normative assumptions and socio-cultural
‘embeddedness’. That is not to say that such ideas do not have merit, but that
advocates often overlook their situatedness (e.g. Gorringe 1999). It was
suggested that those who seek to build community economic institutions need to
see it as an active process of managing difference and conflict rather than tapping
into some pre-existing resource of geographic commonality. Indeed for those
attempting such projects it was suggested that there might be much to learn from
the literature on intentional communities (e.g. see also Sargisson and Tower
Sargent 2004, chapter 8).

9.2: Limitations and Reflections

The most obvious limitation of this thesis is that this is a single case study and
therefore caution must be taken in drawing too many wider conclusions.
However, it does point to a number of interesting theoretical avenues that can be
pursued and enriched with further empirical enquiry, as discussed below. One
obvious weakness is a consequence of the breadth that it attempts to cover: both
by exploring the two ‘sides’ of enquiry and by having broad conceptions of both
the Counterculture and postcapitalist institutions. The strength of this approach
has been that it has shown the connections and linkages that exist at a given site
that are often overlooked when a narrow conceptual framing is used. The
weakness is that it does not allow the depth of enquiry that would otherwise often
be the case in a thesis that adopted a narrower focus. For example, any one strand
of countercultural activity or postcapitalism could have been the focus of a more
detailed enquiry. Certainly the breadth made it a more difficult exercise and I
have to hope that the reader agrees that it was worth the effort. However, many
aspects of the research could be explored in much greater depth.

The second important critique is that the research is in many ways a starting
point rather than an end point. Not only because it is attempting to promote both
299
countercultural place and interstitial postcapitalism as worthwhile subjects of
research but because also there is still much more to learn about what happened
around Totnes. Whilst I am confident that the meta-narrative and analysis are
reliable and confirmable, there are gaps to be filled and aspects of countercultural
practice to be explored in more depth. I plan to continue to maintain the project
blog that will provide a focus for the work to continue as an ongoing
collaborative piece of research. I also intend to publish a non-academic version
of the narrative, which might flush out new informants and material. However,
whilst I am aware that there is public interest in this story I am also conscious
that in doing so I am playing a role in the processes described in Chapter Six. By
creating and circulating new reputations and Secondspace imaginaries of the area
I am not only influencing individual’s spatial experience but potentially also
contributing to the ongoing construction of the milieu. This is perhaps an
example of the performative nature of academic work.

A final point is one that has already been mentioned previously: a focus on
lifestyles rather than institutions would have revealed different kinds of
postcapitalist activity, and perhaps more evidence of how certain individuals are
able to get ‘outside’ capitalism through informal or mutual economic activity.
Certainly there was some evidence of this, such as people who shared land to
grow food or lived ‘outside’ the housing market. Such an approach might have
found other such examples of ‘prosuming’ (Frankel 1987). However, such
lifestyles often seem limited by the ‘biographical availability’ (McAdams 1986)
of the individuals and their ability to resist what Jackson (2009) calls the ‘social
logic of consumerism’ that prevents postcapitalist lifestyles from being pursued.
79
Thus Chatterton and Pickerill (2010, 10) note how it was the ‘dole autonomy’
that enabled the punk and squatter scenes to thrive in the 1970s. Chapter Two
argued that Gibson-Graham’s diverse economy schematic can be regarded as a
hybrid of a number of different non-capitalist spaces and theories, encompassing
a mixture of ‘individual’ and ‘institutional’ economies. One question this
research raises is the extent to which the institutional aspects of this framework

79
See for example Gross’ (2009) work on Freegans in Oregon who state that they would not be
able to live in the “cracks of society” if they had children or jobs.
300
can be said to be ‘outside’ capitalism and thus how well the hybrid ‘diverse’
economy actually ‘holds together’ as a single analytical frame.

There is no doubt that a different theoretical framework would have led to a
different reading, and one which perhaps ‘found’ more examples of defensibly
postcapitalist spaces. Similarly if different metrics of evaluation had been used
the findings would have been different. For example, it seems plausible that if
the research had sought to measure ‘social capital’ it might have found high
levels amongst certain ‘sub-cultures’ of the milieu, as Onxy et al. (2005) did in
Maleney, Australia. Indeed a social capital lens might also shed further light on
the divisions between different cultures and groups, by highlighting its potential
‘dark side’ (Edwards and Onxy 2007). Whilst many of the postcapitalist
institutions might not support livelihoods directly it seems highly possible that
they contribute to participants’ well being. Understanding such processes would
have also portrayed them in a different light. However, this particular thesis is
premised on the argument that if we are to consider these institutions as
economic they have to make a meaningful contribution to livelihoods.

9.3: Future areas of research

This section seeks to address the questions of why this research matters. In doing
so it also outlines future possibilities in terms of research direction for both
research on countercultural places and interstitial postcapitalism.

9.3.1 Countercultural places

An overarching argument of this thesis is that the geographies of the
Counterculture, and countercultural places more generally, both deserve to be
taken more seriously and are worthy of academic scholarship. This research has
shown how such places are more complex than many accounts would suggest.
Indeed it has highlighted the existence of a form of countercultural place
(locality?) that has generally been absent from the academic literature. Thus I
would argue that there is the scope to explore other such countercultural places
301
with the same broad lens, exploring the similarities and differences with the
processes that have created, and continue to sustain ‘Alternative’ Totnes.
Numerous examples exist: for example Stroud or Lewes in the UK. North
American cities such as Boulder, Portland and Eugene would be interesting case
studies. Similarly, the town of Orgiva in Southern Spain would be interesting,
not least because a number of Totnes residents moved there during the 1990s and
it has now developed its own reputation as an ‘alternative’ centre. Indeed, the
flows and connections that link various sites of countercultural practice is
another area of enquiry. Similarly, the way that such places change over time is
also a relevant strand of research. This would not only provide further linkages to
the theories of gentrification but also the extent to which such sites remain
‘countercultural’ over a longer period of time.

Further academic research in this area would hopefully lend credibility and
substance to the study of countercultural places and countercultural migration as
legitimate research interests. There is much that could be done to develop further
the work that has been started here about how such places should be understood
and how they come about, inevitably drawing on other explanatory theories that
have not featured within this thesis. In particular, further explorations of the
processes of homophily and its relevance in other case studies would be
enlightening, as would more exploration of the nature of different countercultural
milieus. Not least, there is the opportunity to explore more thoroughly the way in
which the Counterculture has (and continues) to shape place formation in the UK
and beyond. There is also much work to be done in exploring how the concept of
countercultural places ‘fits’ with other existing fields of geographic enquiry such
as migration studies (e.g. see Longhurst 2010b). There is also a small German
literature on alternative places (See Cox 1996) that although beyond my
language capabilities would no doubt provide some further useful insights.

As this research has illustrated, countercultural sites can function as sites of
grassroots social and ecological experimentation. The research illustrated how
countercultural social space creates the possibility for Foucauldian (1993)
‘subjugated knowledges’ to be expressed and developed. As has been illustrated,
such thinking is often driven by unconventional epistemologies and bounded
302
rationalities. An argument that emerges from the thesis is that it is the overall
density and variety of ‘irrational’ knowledges is an important factor in creating a
space for such dialogue and ‘free-thinking’. In other words it is not possible to
create a space for ‘free-thinking’ without also having some ideas that are ‘wacky’
or ‘cranky’. As Fournier (2002, 194) has argued

The opening up of the conceptual space within which alternatives can be
imagined relies on establishing a sense of estrangement, on making the
‘normal’ the currently possible, look strange, absurd, grotesque

Therefore, the fact that outlandish ideas exist within such places doesn’t mean
that all the ideas or indeed the place itself should be entirely dismissed as
irrelevant. Such ‘margins’ are significant because they are often the source of
radical ideas (Worpole 1999). However, it is argued here that many professional
knowledge producers, including scholars, steer clear, afraid of being infected or
tainted with the ridicule that might come with taking such knowledges
‘seriously’. This is not to argue that all such knowledges should be accepted at
face value, but nor should they all equally be dismissed out of hand. Many areas
of countercultural practice and discourse detailed in this thesis have since
become much more widely accepted despite initial hostility from established
networks of knowledge production. Some work has partly recognised a
relationship between counterculturalism and innovation (e.g. Florida 2000) but
there is therefore much more scope to research how such places function as sites
of social innovation and ‘uninvited dialogue’ and to understand such processes in
more detail. Such work would contribute to the relatively un-researched uneven
geography of social innovation (Amin et al. 2002; Mulgan et al. 2007).

9.3.2 Interstitial postcapitalism

This thesis used the poststructural theoretical work of J.K. Gibson-Graham as a
starting point for an empirical exploration of interstitial postcapitalism. Their
work has been advocated as a mechanism for exploring the potential of
grassroots ‘alternative’ economic activity (Leyshon and Lee 2003; Leyshon
2005; Amin 2009) and continues to provide the theoretical inspiration for
303
academic work that seeks to ‘rethink’ the economy (Harris 2009; Gross 2009;
Gall 2009).

Overall, this thesis supports some of the main theoretical thrusts of their work:
To define the economy as a homogenous ‘capitalist’ totality is to ignore the
diversity of practices and institutions that exist, and that could be part of some as
yet to be undefined future. An important contribution of their work is the way in
which it ‘opens up’ the economy (and ‘capitalism’) highlighting that
postcapitalism can exist across a range of economic ‘dimensions’ as illustrated
by their diverse economy schematic. Indeed the empirical work within this thesis
highlights the way in which ‘capitalist’ processes both support and undermine
postcapitalist possibility. Breaking down a monolithic capitalist system and
understanding it as a range of processes / institutions / tendencies / relationships /
ethics is certainly a productive way of recognising and exploring new economic
possibilities. Capitalocentric economic discourses often obscure this diversity,
and the economic possibilities that may exist outside conventional ‘readings’ of
the economy. The research supports their assertion of the importance of counter-
discourses, reflected in the way that postcapitalist institutions have emerged from
countercultural ‘discourse-fields’. Indeed, the research highlighted how and why
countercultural places can engender (but also limit) postcapitalist development.
Their recognition of the micro-political processes necessary to build
postcapitalist possibilities is perhaps their most original contribution to this area
of work, and the research highlights some of the issues surrounding such micro-
political work.

However, the thesis also supports some of the critiques of Gibson-Graham and
more widely, of interstitial postcapitalism. Not least, that the articulation of new
economic discourses and ontologies may be a necessary precursor for opening up
postcapitalist possibility but it is, in many ways, not sufficient. Extending this
argument further there is the danger that discourse that ‘reveals’ the existence of
such practices and institutions exceeds their economic significance. This is
certainly a criticism that has been made of LETS community currencies (Stott
1996; Aldridge and Patterson 2002) and also organic agriculture (Smith 2006).
Ironically, this is the same problem that Gibson-Graham first sought to address in
304
their critique of structural Marxist ‘Capitalism’: that dominant discourses can
obscure or distort economic ‘reality’. Therefore this research suggests a need for
reflexivity about the way in which ‘progressive’ discourses can also obscure,
distort or even ‘oppress’. Indeed, it also provides an explanation of why they
distort – because those who build alternative economic institutions are not just
engaged in a process of technocratic administration, they are also attempting to
expand shared ontologies. Such projects are cognitive projects. They are battles
for belief.

Gibson-Graham note that many of their interlocutors want them to provide
lasting outcomes, visible effects and durability (Community Economies
Collective 2001, 31) framed within this thesis as the existence of ‘coherence’.
Unfortunately this thesis does not support their argument that postcapitalism is
‘out there’, coherent and proliferative. It suggests that a localised countercultural
milieu does not enable community-based initiatives to transcend the problematic
economics of small-scale postcapitalist activity. It argued that certain aspects of
institutional embeddedness were more significant than the cultural embeddedness
of the milieu. Place does matter, but not always in the ways that the literature
suggests. As previously discussed the failure of many of the postcapitalist
institutions to support livelihoods in this case study fundamentally relates to their
inability to create economic surplus either within or outside the market. The
general necessity to obtain financial capital to sustain livelihoods does raise
questions about the suitability of Gibson-Graham’s work in extensively
monetised economies of the global North. As Amin et al. (2002, 125) have
argued:

The pervasive reach of exchange-value society makes it increasingly
difficult to imagine and legitimate non-market forms of organisation and
provision.

It may be that their theoretical work has more relevance within the post-
development context of the global South within which some of their action
research has been conducted and which have a greater extent of residual use-
value orientated and mutual economic activity (e.g. Gibson-Graham 2005;
McKay et al. 2007; The Communities Economies Collective and Katherine
305
Gibson 2009). Therefore, as has already been argued above, if Gibson-Graham’s
work is to be used as a foundation for exploring postcapitalist possibility within a
Northern context then their (or other) theories of interstitial capitalism need to be
extended to understand the context in which grassroots experiments take place.
Acknowledging the relevance of institutional structures and tendencies that
undermine the viability of postcapitalist institutions and practices does not
necessarily mean believing that such tendencies cannot be resisted or that
‘systems’ cannot be changed. Whether or not such an approach is compatible
with Gibson-Graham’s weak theoretical approach is debatable, but it concurs
with Mittelman’s (2005, 21) suggestion that both utopian visions and critical
realist analysis are necessary to develop what he calls ‘grounded utopia’: ‘an
imagined alternative that has never existed, yet with a future or futures rooted in
real historical tendencies and embodied practices’. Indeed, post-structuralism
points to the way in which such seemingly solid structures are actually socially
and discursively created, foregrounding their potential impermanence. In other
words, it is only by theorising and understanding such dynamics that strategies
can be developed to resist and change ‘systemic’ tendencies. The sections below
suggest three areas of further work that would strengthen interstitial postcapitalist
theories.

(i) Theorising financial postcapitalism

This thesis argues that Gibson-Graham overlook the importance of financial
capital. It therefore offers some support to ontologies of capitalism which stress
the significance of the financial system and ‘capitalist’ credit money (e.g. Mellor
2005, 2009; Magnusson 2008; Ingham 2004), This was a critique of their work
that was highlighted in Chapter Two and many of the collective postcapitalist
institutions in this case study struggled to generate significant financial surplus to
sustain themselves. Therefore if postcapitalist space is to exist within the realms
of financial circuits of value then clearer distinction needs to be made between
those circuits of financial capital which are ‘capitalist’, and those which are in
some sense postcapitalist or non-capitalist. The latter might include circuits of
value that are created by complementary currencies, community finance or social
markets. Such work would enable the refutation of the argument (partly upheld
306
by this research) that much postcapitalist possibility is actually underpinned by
‘capitalist’ financial circuits and surplus. For postcapitalist spaces to expand this
thesis argues that there is a need for such circuits to cohere and expand rather
than reflect isolated instances of postcapitalist practice. There is a body of work
that already engages with such questions drawing on the New Economics (e.g.
Espen Stoknes 2009) and the work of people such as Silvio Gesell, who proposed
a ‘market economy without capitalism’ (Onken 2000).
80
Theorists who are
interested in developing interstitial approaches to postcapitalism need to draw on
such work to develop a more comprehensive theorisation of how postcapitalist
institutions can generate the necessary surplus without depending on ‘capitalist’
flows.

(ii) Theorising the state and maximising academic ‘leverage’

Gibson-Graham’s diverse economy schematic is a useful heuristic for showing
the existence of economic activity that exists outside the conventional discourses
of economy. As such it is another ‘voice’ that raises questions about how we
conceptualise and ‘do’ the economy. For example, applying the diverse
economies schematic would provide a productive insight into the way in which
communities such as Landmatters are attempting to develop ecologically benign
neo-subsistence lifestyles. Whilst this particular research project has found that
some of these ‘non-capitalist’ institutions struggle to meet material needs and
sustain livelihoods it does not mean that they do not necessarily have the
potential to be more effective. However, if Gibson-Graham (2008) aim to make
such postcapitalist practices more ‘credible’ then this research therefore points to
the need to theorise and demonstrate more thoroughly the real way in which non-
market and use-value focused practices can make a meaningful contribution to
individuals’ livelihoods. Ultimately, as this thesis has argued, such ‘autonomous’
postcapitalist practices need to make meaningful contributions to individual’s
livelihoods (Chatterton and Pickerill 2010). Such analysis requires the
development of more empirically grounded case studies and successful action
research interventions.

80
Gesell has been an important intellectual influence in the German Complementary Currency
movement see Theil (forthcoming).
307

However, as argued in Chapter Seven, it may be that institutional embeddedness
undermines the potentiality of such experiments. Therefore academic theory
needs to be extended to how ‘structural’ factors (taxation, planning systems,
legal reforms etc) could be reworked to support such postcapitalist practices.
This involves a more thorough understanding of the state and its relationship to
interstitial postcapitalism, something that is generally lacking (Wright 2010).
Indeed, the state plays a critical role in the functioning of the monetary system,
and, some argue, in the maintenance of the social economy (Mendell 2009). Its
role as an enabler or barrier to interstitial postcapitalism therefore needs much
further exploration. Many theories of capitalism implicate the state as a key
institution (e.g. Harvey 2010; Ingham 2008). An analysis that suggests that many
democracies are actually plutocracies would therefore suggest that democratic
reform might be a precursor to interstitial postcapitalism (e.g. Gorringe 1999,
102 – 104). An alternative line of academic enquiry and activism – which would
perhaps be compatible with Gibson-Graham’s – approach would be to try and
begin thinking about the state as a hybrid, rather than a monolithic actor.
Perhaps, one starting point would be to begin thinking about the state (and its
functions) as a set of commons. Rebuilding and rethinking the commons has
become a key strand of postcapitalist thought and activism (e.g. Donahue 1999;
Tomales Bay Institute 2006; Barnes 2006). Conceptualising the state in this way
might have a number of advantages: It provides a way of breaking down the state
from being a uniform and singular actor. It puts focus on how the commons are
managed (i.e. processes of democratic control) and what kinds of commons are
provided. It also provides a way of theorising the state that does not assume that
it is a consistent ‘capitalist’ actor and could lead to engagement with the
literature on how commons can be successfully managed (e.g. Ostrom 1990).
Devolution of political power and improvement of the democratic process could
be important aspects of allowing postcapitalist institutions to prosper (Fairlie
2009).

Furthermore, conceptualising and engaging with the state is surely an
opportunity to exercise the performative power of academic discourse in the way
that Gibson-Graham (2008) advocate. Whilst it may lack the romance of
308
engaging directly with grassroots practices, it might be that the ‘expert’ voices of
academics can have a greater impact on constructing postcapitalist futures, by
engaging with the intricate and often frustrating mechanisms of the policy
process. Thus academics might play a role in supporting the development of
counter-hegemonic ‘discourse coalitions’ which allow certain forms of social
innovation to gain purchase (Moulaert et al. 2007). It maybe that ‘small
victories’ in such arenas have a far greater effect on the proliferation of
postcapitalist practices than an action research intervention. Therefore
understanding how best to maximise academic impact and ‘leverage’ in support
of grassroots projects is an important part of any interstitial strategy that is being
led by academics.

(iii) Understanding the diffusion of social and ecological innovation

As noted in Chapter Two, Gibson-Graham draw inspiration from the global
diffusion of feminist thought. This research suggests that theories of interstitial
postcapitalism could greatly benefit from understanding of how ideas, social
innovations, institutions and practices actually proliferate. Whilst the margins
and grassroots are often romanticised (Samers 2005) it is also true that a great
deal of ‘taken for granted’ social practice started as a novel or marginal activity
(Mulgan 2006; Ward 1986). Understanding the factors that support or undermine
such diffusion therefore seems to be a useful line of enquiry that would enhance
theories of interstitial postcapitalism. It offers a different lens through which to
view social change from that which anti-capitalism has normally been viewed,
e.g. social movement theories or Marxist analysis. For example, with reference to
the type of institution examined by this thesis – the spread of Farmer’s Markets
would be an example of a ‘grassroots’ institution which could be explored
through an diffusion lens. Not only did these spread rapidly in the late 1990s but
have also been theorised as ‘alternative’ economic spaces (see Holloway and
Kneafsey 2002).

Furthermore, the diffusion of innovation literature also might explain how and
why certain innovations don’t diffuse. For example, the concept of homophily is
a factor in the diffusion of innovation (Rogers 2003). Certainly, Chapter Eight
309
provided a localised example of why there were homophilic barriers to the
adoption of certain practices or ideas. Finally, linking postcapitalism and
innovation also opens up avenues where new technology is being used to open
up new possibilities such as cyberspace (Escobar 2004). Indeed the Internet is a
site whereby some of the tenets of capitalist accumulation are being challenged
by the Open Source movement and ‘disruptive’ innovation such as file sharing
and downloading. Analysing these trends and activities would provide rich data
on the way in which potentially postcapitalist practices spread and attempts to
regulate them out of existence.

More work in all three of these areas would strengthen the theorising and
practical development of an interstitial postcapitalism. Such lessons could then
be usefully applied to an area of postcapitalist research and activism that is
currently relevant within a UK context: the theorising of a steady state or
‘degrowth’ economy (Jackson 2009; Fournier 2008; Sustainable Development
Commission 2009; New Economics Foundation 2010). In his analysis of the
problems of capitalist growth Jackson (2009, 130) touches on possibilities of the
‘Cinderella economy’ that has some similarities common with the economic
activities valorised by interstitial postcapitalists:

…the seeds for such an economy may already exist in local or community
based social enterprises: community energy projects, local farmers’
markets, slow food co-operatives, sports clubs, libraries, community
health and fitness centres, local repair and maintenance services, craft
workshops, writing centres, water sports, community music and drama,
local training and skills.

Ultimately Jackson’s (2009) approach is of ‘top down’ systemic change,
reminiscent of some other approaches to postcapitalism (e.g. Korten 1999; Hines
2000). As Fournier (2002) has argued there are several reasons to be sceptical
about the likelihood of such ‘top down’ strategies for change succeeding.
However, this thesis also questions the potential of interstitial strategies that
focus only on grassroots activism. It therefore suggests the need for some kind of
middle ground between the ‘utopian’ grassroots postcapitalist possibility
represented by Gibson-Graham micro-political approach and the similarly
‘utopian’ top-down macro-systemic approaches. Such a ‘meso’ approach needs
310
to recognise that grassroots initiatives offer ‘spaces of possibility’ (Fournier
2002) whist also seeking to understand and overcome the barriers, tendencies and
dynamics that undermine such spaces. Such an approach also needs to recognise
and acknowledge the existence and possibilities of non-market economic activity
whilst also acknowledging the ongoing significance of financial capital in many
spheres of life. This thesis has illustrated how a plural approach to capitalism
can provide a foundation for exploring different economic possibilities. However
those who are seeking to theorise and develop interstitial approaches to
postcapitalism also need to ‘pluralise’ their strategic repertoire. One consequence
of the way in which this thesis ‘opens up’ the Counterculture was to highlight the
range of political strategies that were pursued. Similarly, theorists of interstitial
postcapitalist need to expand their repertoire of intervention beyond grassroots
and oppositional political activism. Whilst activism is a recognised strategy of
challenging the capitalist ‘system’ it is not the only lever of social change.
Indeed, the question of how grassroots postcapitalism might engender wider
systemic change is a question that interstitial postcapitalist theorists have yet to
answer but one that they cannot afford to ignore.



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Appendix A: Interview Topic Guides
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Interviews with pioneering businesses
These interviews are aimed at businesses which seem to be experimental or
pioneering. The purpose of the interviews is to explore their relationship with the
area, and the factors that help and hinder their ability to experiment.

Preamble

! Introduce purpose of research
! Get consent form signed
! Talk about confidentiality
! Check if they are happy to be taped
! Give overview of what interview will cover and timescale

Ice Breaker: Can you start by telling me a bit about yourself and how you
came to be in the Totnes area?

Section 1: Background and history of business

1. When was the business started?
2. Why was the business started?
3. Why did you believe the business would work?
4. Can you describe what the business does in your own word?
5. What is the legal structure?
6. How many employees?
7. Does the business have an internet presence / mail order?
8. (If yes to 6) What is the split proportion of business through the shop and
through the website?
9. Are there other branches of the business?
10. (If yes to 8) What is the difference between the Totnes branch and the
other branches?
11. Are you a member of any kind of business networks? Why are these
important?
12. [If retail]…How do you select which products to sell?
13. What are your views on certification (e.g. Soil Association)? Does it matter
to you when you are choosing products?

Section 2: Local economic and social context

14. Why is the business based in Totnes?
15. What are the benefits of being based in Totnes?
16. And what are the disadvantages?
17. In what ways has Totnes changed since you have been trading here?
18. Who do you regard as your competitors?
19. Which other local businesses do you do business with?
20. How important is the tourist industry to the financial health of your
business?
21. What are your views on the Totnes economy, especially the town centre?
22. How has Totnes influenced your own beliefs and values?
23. What impact do you think the business has had on the area?
24. Has the business had any relationship with the Dartington Trust?

(2a) For consumer focused businesses:

! "#"!
25. Do you have an idea of the geographical market in which you operate (e.g.
how far a field do your customers come from?)
26. Who are your customers? [prompt for discussion – incomers? the affluent?
New Age? Students? Devonians?]
27. Why do your customers use your business as opposed to a rival?
28. How diverse is your customer base?
29. How wealthy do you think your customers are?
30. What do you know about their values or beliefs?

(2b) For non-consumer businesses:

31. Can you describe the geographical market in which you operate (e.g. how
far a field do your customers come from?)
32. What do you know about your customer base?
33. What do you think motivates your customers to use your business?

Section 4: Business ethics

34. Does the business have any specific ethical values or values?
35. How are these put into practice?
36. Does the business ever encounter tensions between the need to make a
profit and its ethical values?
37. How do you manage these tensions?
38. Does being in this area make it easier to manage this tension?
39. Would you describe the business as capitalist?
40. Do you believe it is necessary to grow your business?

Section 5: Community economic practices

41. Does the business, or has it in the past, engaged in any co-operative
economic activity? [If yes, then explore…]
42. Does the business, or has it in the past, engaged in any non-market activity
(e.g. barter)?
43. Does the business, or has it in the past, engaged in any community
economic activity? [use examples, - if so use questions from Research
Theme three]
44. Why did / didn’t the business participate in the Totnes Pound initiative?
45. What do you think about the potential of the Totnes Pound project?
46. What do you think the significance of the Totnes Pound is?
47. Why do you think that something like the Totnes Pound can exist here?

Postscript

1. Anything that you were expecting me to cover that I didn’t?
2. Which other businesses do you think have been pioneering?
3. Which other people that you think I should speak to?

! Thank them for their time and assistance
! "#$!
!
!
Interviews with Community Economic experiments

These are interviews with people who have been involved in community economic
experiments and initiatives. These interviews are likely to be less structured and
follow lines of discussion around the main issues. Not all the questions will be
relevant to all initiatives.

Section 1: Background and history of initiative

4. When was the initiative started?
5. Why was it started?
6. What is the legal structure?
7. Who are/were the key people involved?
8. How many people are involved? [staff? volunteers? members?]
9. What are/were the aims of the initiative?
10. What success has it had?
11. What problems has it encountered? [possible discussion point: resources /
size / suspicion from wider community]
12. How is the enterprise resourced (money / volunteers)?
13. If volunteers: How do they find the time to be involved?
14. Has it had sufficient resources? If not, why?
15. How important was individual leadership to the project?
16. What do you think the economic significance of the initiative is?
17. What about other types of significance?
18. What kinds of economic activity does the initiative engage in?
19. Is there any paperwork or reports on the activities of the project?
20. What made you believe that the initiative would work?
21. How did the people involved create the personal space to do the project?

Section 2: Importance of Totnes and the locality

22. Why is the initiative based in Totnes?
23. What geographical area does it cover?
24. Do you know where the idea came from?
25. What are the advantages of being in this area? [Possible suggestions:
likeminded people? critical mass?]
26. What are the disadvantages of being in this area? [Possible suggestions:
divided community? too much going on? transient population? lack of
commitment? self actualisation v co-operative action?]
27. In what ways has Totnes changed since the initiatives started?
28. What impact do you think the initiative has had on the area?
29. Have they received help from other businesses or other projects?
30. Has their been any support from local authorities?
31. Has the initiative had any support or relationship with the Dartington Trust?
32. Are they part of any important networks?
33. Does the initiative get support from any other local projects or local
businesses?
34. Have any local sources of information been important or useful?
35. How has Totnes influenced your own beliefs and values?


! "#$!
Section 3: Ethics and economic activity

36. Does the enterprise have any specific ethical values?
37. Is there any conflict over these?
38. Where did these come from?
39. How are these put into practice?
40. Does the enterprise ever encounter tensions between the need to
generate an income and other ethical values?
41. How are these tensions resolved?

Postscript

42. Anything that you were expecting me to cover that I didn’t?
43. What other experiments are you aware of?
44. Which other people that you think I should speak to?

! Thank them for their time and assistance
! Explain what will happen next

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Context Interviews: The making of an alternative place

These are interviews which are on a specific aspect of the different factors which
provide the context for some of the alternative practices that have emerged in the
area. The purpose of these interviews is to try and understand the evolution of the
different strands and their relationship to each other. In particular, to explore the
relationship with the Dartington Hall utopian experiment.

Preamble

! Introduce purpose of research
! Get consent form signed
! Talk about confidentiality
! Check if they are happy to be taped
! Give overview of what interview will cover and timescale

Ice Breaker: Can you start by telling me a bit about yourself and how you
came to be in the Totnes area?

These interviews are likely to be about one exploring or more of the following
topics:

- The roots and development of ‘new age’ culture
- The diversity of spiritual practices
- The growth of the complementary health sector
- History of alternative ways of living (e.g. shared / low impact / etc)
- Progressive education
- The evolution of the Dartington Experiment
- History political activism
- The history of community activism
- The history of environmental politics and activism
- The history of arts and crafts and artisan culture
- Role of local authorities
- The development of local agriculture
- The physical development of the town
- The development of the local economy and tourism

These interviews will be relatively unstructured and will focus on the particular topic
relevant to the person in question. Some generic questions may also be asked such
as these:

1. What do you think is ‘alternative’ about Totnes?
2. How would you describe the Totnes economy?
3. What relationship do you think there is between the alternativeness and
the economy?
4. What connections and networks do you think are important to Totnes?
5. How would you describe the community of Totnes?
6. How has Totnes changed over time since you have known it?
7. What factors do you think are the most important in shaping Totnes?
8. How has Totnes influenced your own beliefs and values?
Postscript

45. Anything that you were expecting me to cover that I didn’t?
! "#$!
46. Which other people that you think I should speak to?

! Thank them for their time and assistance
! Explain what will happen next
!
! "#$!
Appendix B: Extract from master matrix !
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Bibliography

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Twinned with Narnia? The postcapitalist possibilities of a countercultural place Noel Longhurst Abstract In recent years there has been increasing academic interest in theorising and exploring the postcapitalist, interstitial economic spaces that exist within or beyond capitalism, typified by the work of J. K. Gibson-Graham. Such spaces, it is argued, represent not only sites of resistance but are spaces from which ‘alternative’ economic development strategies can proliferate. This thesis seeks to explore the conditions under which such ‘grassroots’ postcapitalist institutions might flourish. Some of the existing literature on postcapitalist institutions indicates that places with a reputation for countercultural activity might be productive sites for the emergence of grassroots postcapitalism. However, this thesis argues that such countercultural places are themselves an underresearched and under-theorised phenomenon. To address these deficits this thesis develops a broader conception of the countercultural and explores the tendencies that have led to the case study area (Totnes, Devon) ‘becoming’ a ‘New Age’ or ‘Alternative’ centre. It describes the processes that led to the formation of a self-sustaining localised countercultural milieu within the area. In particular, it identifies homophily, the desire to be amongst similar people, to be significant, previously unrecognised factor. It then explores the significance of postcapitalist institutions within the locality. Whilst the density of activity supports the hypothesis that such places are sites of postcapitalist activity, little evidence is found that the locality increases their economic viability. This argument is made through an exploration of the local organic marketscape. The thesis also explores a paradox that emerged through the research: That those places which are productive for the emergence of new ideas and the shifting of ontological frames might not be the best places in which to also build collective community based entities. Thus it argues that there is a generally unrecognised relationship between some countercultural places and processes of social innovation, and it explores the spaces that support such innovation as well as the factors that

undermine collective projects. Ultimately, the research did not find substantive evidence to support interstitial postcapitalist strategies or theories. However, it concludes with some reflections on how approaches to interstitial postcapitalism might be theoretically and practically strengthened.

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Table of Contents
Table of Contents List of figures List of tables Acknowledgements Preface ! " # $ % & "" "' "% '( '# ') '& ** *) +* +$ +& #( #' ## #$ #) $( $' $' $' $$ $& %( %" %# %$ %$ %) %& %& %& )( )* )+ )# )$
1

Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 Theorising postcapitalism 1.2 Clarifying concepts: the problem of the ‘alternative’ 1.3 The case study area: Totnes, Devon

1.4 The structure of the thesis

Chapter 2: Theorising postcapitalist possibility
2.1 Theorising interstitial postcapitalism 2.1.1 A poststructural approach to ‘Capitalism’ (i) Performing anti-capitalocentric discourse (ii) Processes of economic resubjectification (iii) Building ‘community economies’ 2.1.2 Summary of Part One 2.2. Challenges to proliferative postcapitalism 2.2.1 Economic significance 2.2.2 Transcending the institutional context 2.2.3 Resisting systemic tendencies 2.2.4 Postcapitalist coherence 2.3 Concluding remarks

Chapter 3: Exploring Countercultural Places
3.1 Opening up the Counterculture 3.1.1 ‘The Counterculture’ and countercultures 3.1.2 Unpacking the Counterculture (i) Radical politics (ii) New Social Movements (iii) Alternative Pathways (iv) Alternative Spiritualities (v) Alternative Lifestyles 3.1.3 Summary of Part One 3.2 Placing the Counterculture 3.2.1 Geographies of Countercultural place (i) Communes (ii) Back to the land migration (iii) Urban enclaves and scenes (iv) ‘New Age’ Networks (v) Other research focusing on the UK (vi) Summary 3.2.2 Processes of constructing Countercultural places

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(ii) Institutions (iii) Rural landscape (iv) Economic margins (v) Networks 3.3 Summary of Chapter

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Chapter 4: Countercultural place and postcapitalism
4.1 Exploring Postcapitalist Institutions 4.1.1 Introduction 4.1.2 Postcapitalist businesses (i) Workers’ co-operatives (ii) Independent businesses (iii) Ethical businesses 4.1.3 Community Enterprises 4.1.4 Alternative Food Initiatives 4.1.5 Community Currencies 4.1.6 Social markets 4.1.7 Summary of Part One 4.2 Countercultural place and postcapitalism 4.2.1 Embeddedness 4.2.2 Heterotopia Part 3: Conclusions and Research Questions

Chapter 5: Research Methodology
5.1 Methodological Framework 5.1.1 A Critical Realist research philosophy 5.1.2 Case studies 5.1.3 An ethnographic approach 5.1.4 Research positionality 5.1.5 Multi-method research 5.2 Developing the Research Focus 5.2.1 Selection of the case study location 5.2.2 Developing the research focus 5.3 Research Methods 5.3.1 Participatory research through community activism (i) Combining activism and academic research (ii) Community activism as a form of ‘giving back’ (iii) Community activism with Transition Town Totnes 5.3.2 Qualitative interviewing (i) Strengths and weaknesses of qualitative interviewing (ii) Sampling and development of topic guides (iii) Interview access, practice and confidentiality 5.3.3 Research Diary and ethnographic notes 5.3.4 Archival Research 5.3.5 Other secondary data 5.4 Data analysis and verification 5.4.1 Establishing Rigour 5.4.2 Data analysis and verification

5.5 Concluding Reflections

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Chapter 6: The emergence of a Countercultural place
6.1 The emergence of a Countercultural place 6.1.1 A countercultural milieu 6.1.2 The emergence of a countercultural milieu (a) The ‘Dartington experiment’ (i) Background to the Dartington experiment (ii) Dartington as a driver of in-migration (iii) Dartington as a countercultural node (iv) Summary of this section (b) Landscape aesthetics and imaginaries (i) Dartmoor (ii) The Totnes townscape (c) Other local influences (d) Homophily (i) Value homophily (ii) Familial homophily (iii) Summary of this section (e) Proliferation of practices and institutions (f) Discursive impact (i) Institutional reputations (ii) Place images (iii) Mystical reputations (iv) Circulation of discourses (v) Summary of this section (g) Material impact 6.2 Summary of Chapter

Chapter 7: The Postcapitalist institutional landscape of South Devon
7.1 An overview of postcapitalism institutions in the Totnes area 7.2 The organic food ‘marketscape’ 7.2.1 Independent organic retailers (i) Origins of organic retail in Totnes (ii) A (Counter)cultural ‘enclave’ economy (iii) The preservation of independent retail (iv) The gentrification of the retail centre (v) Competition within the organic marketscape (vi) Summary 7.2.2 Riverford Organic Vegetables (i) Emergence of Riverford Organic Vegetables (ii) Transcending the locality (iii) Organic conventionalism (iv) Summary 7.2.3 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) (i) Origins of CSA in the Totnes area (ii) The economics of CSA in the Totnes area 7.2.4 Summary: A fragmented marketscape 7.3 Conclusions – the limits of proliferative postcapitalism

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Chapter 8: Spaces of Social Innovation
8.1 Social innovation and the role of ‘Insurgent architects’

1 Socio-cultural conflict 8.1 Firstspaces 8. Extract from Interview Matrix )%% )%( )%# )!* Bibliography 4 .1 Summary of research questions and findings 9.3.2.2 Limitations and reflections 9.3.1 Countercultural places 9.2 Ethical conflict 8.2.5 Summary of this section 8.4 Heterotopia and ‘community’ !"# !"# !$% !$$ !&% !&' !&" !&" !() !(& !#% !#% !#% !** !** )*! )*" )*$ )%* Chapter 9: Conclusions 9.2 Spaces of experimentation 8.2 Interstitial postcapitalism (i) Theorising financial capital and social surplus (ii) Theorising the state and maximising academic leverage (iii) Understanding the diffusion of social and ecological innovation Appendices A.3 Space for ideas 8.3.2. Interview Topic Guides B.2 Secondspaces 8.2.3 Future areas of research 9. Extract from Master Matrix C.2.3.8.3 A conflictive community 8.4 Liminal space 8.

6 1.3: 3.2: 2.List of Figures 1.2: 4.5 1.3: 6.1: 2. ! "! .6: 8.7 2.3: 7.1: 6.4: 8.2: 8.1: 5.4: 7.1: 3.5: 6.2: 6.3 1.4 1.1 1.4: 6.5: Criticisms of capitalism Research questions Conceptual diagrams of the research process Location of Totnes in the UK The East gate in Totnes Totnes ‘twinned with Narnia’ sign Summer 2005 Structure of thesis The diverse economy Hazel Henderson’s cake showing economic ‘diversity’ Three system approach to conceptualising the economy Characteristics of the ‘Alternative Society’ Strands of the Counterculture Recap of Research Questions Two phases of research Sampling strategy Screenshot from Alternative Totnes blog The construction of a countercultural milieu around Totnes Map of Dartington and Totnes View towards Totnes Proliferation of practices and institutions in the late 1970s around Totnes The Leechwell in Totnes Posters in a Totnes cornershop window Dimensions of the organic food marketscape Independent organic retail specialists in Totnes town centre Small retail units in The Narrows.1: 8.5: 7. Totnes ‘Little chicken area’ at Beenleigh Meadows CSF site Landmatters permaculture community The fragmentations of the local organic food marketscape The translation and diffusion of the Totnes Pound currency Influences of Andy Langford View from Natures Round small holding Trialectics of social experimentation Amnesty march through Totnes 13 16 17 21 22 24 25 39 41 42 74 77 111 127 140 151 161 164 176 187 193 197 207 211 216 235 240 241 253 255 263 274 278 All photographs by the author unless otherwise stated.2: 7.1: 5.3: 6.2 1.6: 7.3: 8.1: 7.2: 5.

2: 6.1: 7.2: 4.1: 6.1: 4.1: Varieties of Postcapitalism Examples of Community Enterprise Summary of postcapitalist institutions Different views of embeddedness based on Hess (2005) Interviewees Criteria for evaluating qualitative research Significant dimensions of Countercultural activity around Totnes 1970s onwards Dartington’s direct engagement with the Counterculture during the 1970s Media coverage of the Totnes Pound involving project team members Feb 2008 – Sept 2008 Propositions relating to the formation of countercultural places Postcapitalist institutions in the Totnes area Examples of Community Supported Farming initiatives around Totnes area Social innovation and experimentation around the Totnes area 29 98 103 106 142 148 158 173 190 199 204 232 251 ! "! .2: 8.3: 6.3: 5.List of Tables 2.1: 4.1: 5.2: 6.4: 7.

Gill Seyfang. I thank them for their perseverance. Previous supervisors Dave Featherstone and Benedict Korf also helped to shape the thesis. Thanks must first go to my wife Heidi who has endured the prolonged gestation of this thesis with unbelievable patience. sympathy and gossip. My supervisors Pete North and Jennifer Johns have done their best to support a sometimes confused and stubborn student. the ! "! . Colleagues at the University of East Anglia have also provided invaluable advice during the latter stages. where I worked whilst doing the research. I owe her a great debt of gratitude that I hope I can repay. Tom Hargreaves and Alex Haxeltine in particular have gone beyond the call of duty and I thank them deeply for that. Sarah Hall.Acknowledgements It is an irony of sorts that a PhD that is in some ways concerned with seeing ‘hidden’ aspects of the economy is itself founded on the unseen support of so many others. Mike Brandon and Ashley McCormick. Colleagues at Community Enterprise Unit in Exeter. grace and fortitude. I thank my wider family for their regular interest and encouragement. My postgraduate contemporaries at Liverpool University have provided moral support and a friendly welcome whenever I blew in to town. I also owe thanks to my daughters Ayla and Esme for tolerating many absences. tea. were also supportive in many different ways. both physical and mental. Thanks to Steph Petrie for the board. I enjoyed my work with both the local food directory group and the Totnes Pound teams and I hope that I made a useful contribution. There are too many to mention by name but many appear within the thesis. support and critical advice. both formally and informally. Thanks in particular to Becky Ryland. Staff at the Exeter Local Studies Centre. A great deal of thanks must also go to the people of Totnes and surrounds who were generous with their time and support for the research. Sandra Mather helped produce the wonderful maps. Without her unstinting support there is no doubt that it would never have been completed. I endeavoured to make the research as a whole a reciprocal project but discovered that this itself is an uneven process.

Throughout the development of this thesis he has had to endure many bouts of distracted ball throwing and walks where he acted as a patient but mute sounding board for my half-formed ideas. Finally. thanks must go to my loyal dog Paddy.Dartington Archive. Any ! "! . inaccuracies or errors are therefore clearly his fault. the British Library and the Women’s Library were helpful in finding research material.

For the next couple of years I worked on projects predominately around South Yorkshire and the East Midlands trying to ‘fix’ various social and economic problems. On the other hand. March 11 2009. p. and that there is much more to be learnt about them. However. born in the town while he and his wife were here. Hopefully it does make a strong case as to why places such as Totnes are important as objects of serious scholarship. 8 The above editorial arose after I contacted the newspaper to publicise the website through which I have been publishing emerging research findings. others might say a lifetime still wouldn’t scratch the surface. Perhaps in these days when you can study surfing or The Beatles for a university degree. who would have thought that it could have become a legitimate subject for university degree study? One student has spent two years living in Totnes. The editorial complemented an article (‘Noel takes alternative route towards a degree’) alongside a photograph of my family (‘Wacky Research’). I began to become somewhat disillusioned with the transient nature of consultancy work and the fundamentally economic imperatives that drive it (which is why professionals working in regeneration are sometimes referred to as ‘poverty 9 . But fascinating and complex though Totnes is. it is old fashioned to go on about what some might perceive as the ‘dumbing down’ of our education services. the basis for a book about his experiences. grant funded. With a growing interest in local and community economic development I became employed as a Regeneration Consultant at a small consultancy firm in Sheffield. Its origins can probably be traced back to 2000 when I finished my Masters Degree in European Political Economy at the University of Sheffield. He leaves now with a substantial body of work. In Totnes a classic Devon community exists side by side with people who practise some of the most offthe-wall lifestyle trends imaginable. This preface therefore provides the background story on how I came to study Totnes. to examine the town and its quirky ways in detail. At this point I discovered the ‘regeneration’ industry that was burgeoning under the New Labour government. But do you really need to live in Totnes for two years at our expense to get a handle on the place? Some might say that a fortnight is long enough. ‘Alternative studies’ editorial in the Herald Express. There are few places in the country so adept at mixing the traditional with the alternative.Preface You’ve got to love Totnes. and a new daughter. As will become clear. the issue of ‘credibility’ is a thread that is woven throughout this thesis.

whilst also trying to deliver a range of programmes to address the immediate social and economic problems of Thetford (a ‘London overspill’ town) and its rural hinterland. Secondly. whilst simultaneously attempting to build community confidence and esteem. particularly the intersection between postcapitalism and innovation. I moved back to Norfolk (where I grew up) and entered employment in the ‘social economy’. as professionals we were constantly required to articulate discourses of disadvantage and oppression to win funding. We succeeded. but over this period a new cloud of disillusionment began to appear. Yet as a busy and overstretched professional with a young family I had neither the time nor the energy to consider what the alternative approaches might be. Thus I applied to undertake a PhD in ‘Alternative Economic Spaces’ advertised at the University of Liverpool. Rather than answering my questions. It has certainly led me in directions that I never even knew existed and improved the sophistication with which I think about these issues. I understand that this is often the case. a growing awareness of the potential ecological and energy problems facing the UK left me concluding that the conventional approaches to economic development were increasingly inadequate.’) So in 2002. It was this frustration that led me to consider returning to academia. In the immediate future I am lucky to be employed as a Senior Research Associate at the University of East Anglia on a project that is allowing me to develop some of the themes that emerged from the research. Norwich August 2010 10 .pimps. in order to explore such alternatives in more detail. N.L. Over the next four years my colleagues and I worked hard to establish an organisation (Keystone Development Trust) that could outlive the generous tranches of public funding that it had received. Where this journey is taking me in the longer term is anybody’s guess. for a mixture of family and professional reasons. A frustrating contradiction. the process of researching this PhD has instead opened up a lot more. One aspect of this was related to the fact that as Worpole (1999) has noted.

post-Marxist writers J. To date. From their post-structural perspective the economy is actually ‘diverse’. describe and perform capitalism can itself be a barrier to alternative possibilities emerging. The question of how capitalism might be changed therefore remains a key question and is one of the overarching themes of this thesis. The global financial crisis of 2008 spread panic amongst those at the nexus of financial capitalism and economic hardship amongst a much wider constituency upon whom the waves of the crisis crashed. They argue that the discursive portrayal of capitalism as systemic and oppressive prevents ‘alternative’ economic forms from emerging. Since that time much has changed. And whilst the tenets of economic neoliberalism and neo-classical economics have been somewhat shattered by the financial crisis there is little consensus on what might take their place. The film An Inconvenient Truth and the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change (Stern 2006) pushed global warming up the political agenda in the UK.K. or indeed what ‘systemic’ changes are necessary to guarantee the future of human civilisation. There remains little public discourse about the potential necessity of reducing societal dependence on products derived from oil. It is a question that continues to vex scholars and theorists of the ‘left’ (Harvey 2010). This is the contention has been made by the feminist. little has changed.K. This thesis critically engages with the argument that how we think. Jule Graham sadly passed away in April 2010. 1 11 . ‘capitalism’ appears to have emerged from another periodic crisis relatively unscathed and unchanged.Chapter 1: Introduction The research process that culminated in this thesis began in the autumn of 2006. despite the rhetoric of policymakers and the anger of the public. Yet. The price of crude oil reached an unprecedented $147 per barrel in July 2008 raising questions about ‘peak oil’ and the vulnerability of industrialised societies to volatility in supply and price (Bridge 2010). Gibson-Graham is the collaborative pen name of Katherine Gibson and Julie Graham. J. at the same time. GibsonGraham (2006a)1. The United Nations led COP15 conference of December 2009 ended with little tangible progress on agreeing concrete measures to reduce global carbon emissions.

This thesis takes such arguments seriously. and sets out to explore them empirically.consisting of a hybrid of non-capitalist and capitalist processes. partial and fragmented. 12 . 1. Indeed. It argues that only by understanding the evolution of such places can the emergence and potential of grassroots postcapitalism be fully comprehended. whether sites that are reputed to be centres of ‘alternative’ culture are sites at which postcapitalist institutions can emerge and prosper. This thesis therefore also makes a contribution to the theorising of countercultural places. However as the research process unfolded it became clear that there was no existing historical account (academic or otherwise) of how Totnes ‘became’ a ‘countercultural’ place. Wall (2005) and Callinicos (2003) provide useful descriptions of the various strands of contemporary anti-capitalism. They argue that by recognising and nurturing such possibilities new forms of ‘postcapitalist’ economic possibility can emerge from the grassroots. relationships and institutions (Gibson-Graham 2006b). In particular the thesis attempts to explore the uneven geography of postcapitalism. offering a richer and more complex understanding of them than has hitherto often been the case.1 below. many of which have deep intellectual roots and histories. as detailed in Chapter Four. As such. Certainly. This list highlights the various analytical justifications on which different strands of ‘anti-capitalism’ are grounded. reproduced as Figure 1. It explores these questions through an ethnographic and participatory case study of a site which has a reputation for being a vibrant site of such grassroots experimentation: the town of Totnes in the south-west of the UK. the theory on the nature and formation of such places was sparse. there is some evidence of a relationship between forms of postcapitalism and certain strands of countercultural activity. the academic literature does not widely acknowledge the existence of ‘alternative’ places.1 Theorising postcapitalism Erik Olin Wright (2010) sets out eleven principles that neatly summarise the critique of capitalism.

Capitalism violates liberal egalitarian principles of social justice 5. capitalism has also delivered rising standards of living and material wellbeing over the last century (Smil 2006). It is in this sense that the term postcapitalism is used within this 13 . Capitalist commodification threatens important broadly held values 9. there is no doubt that for many sections of the population. led to an intellectual and strategic crisis for the left (Derber 1996). Capitalism corrodes community 11.1. Capitalism limits democracy Fig 1. Certainly some ‘systemic’ alternatives have been articulated such as Michael Albert’s (2006) ‘participatory economics’. particularly in ‘Western’ countries. even if one acknowledges that capitalism has provided some material benefits (albeit distributed unevenly) there are serious questions about its ability to keep doing so without undermining the biophysical conditions which underpin complex industrial society (Jackson 2009). This is perhaps a harsh analysis. Capitalism has a systemic bias towards consumerism 7. Whilst Wright corroborates all the above criticisms. However. despite the recent global economic crisis some argue that there is still a lack of clearly articulated alternatives to capitalism (Lerman 2010). Capitalism in a world of nation states. Capitalism perpetuates eliminable deficits in individual freedom and autonomy 4. fuels militarism and imperialism 10. Capitalism is environmentally destructive 8. Indeed. but one that reflects the fact that those alternatives that have emerged have yet to permeate into wider public or political discourse. There has also been an increasing interest in the potential for capitalism to evolve into a different form of economic arrangement. Capitalist class relations perpetuate eliminable forms of human suffering 2. Capitalism blocks the universalisation of conditions for expansive human flourishing 3.1: Criticisms of capitalism (Wright 2010). Capitalism is inefficient in certain crucial respects 6. The perceived ability of capitalism to overcome its internal crises combined with the collapse of state communism as an alternative form of economic organisation.

Schuman 2000 and Hines 2000).’s (1999) Natural Capitalism and Porritt’s (2007) Capitalism as if the World Mattered. There are several examples of such postcapitalist literature that departs from an ecological critique of capitalism such as Hawken et al. Ideas that there was an economic space outside the state and the market first began to become popular in the 1980s and were also connected to practices of Community Economic Development (CED) and ‘local’ economic self-reliance (see Bruyn and Meehan 1987). Indeed. In recent years a number of different strands of postcapitalist literature has emerged which is interested in indentifying spaces and institutions that are ‘outside’ or ‘beyond’ capitalism (MacDonald and Ness 2010. Therefore it contains both a fundamental critique but also the possibility of change. Trainer 1995).g. it has been argued that ‘economic localisation’ is an emerging form of alternative political economy (Starr 2000. Thus whilst the terms ‘postcapitalism’ and ‘postcapitalist’ are still fairly rare they are being used with increasing regularity (e. see also Hess 2009.1.thesis: to reflect a process of ‘emergence’ as opposed to systemic rupture and disjunction. 2003). Bauhaus Dessau Foundation 1996). Scott Cato 2006. Theories of postcapitalism therefore have some affinity with the argument that there are different configurations or ‘varieties’ of capitalism (e. The anti-capitalism of the World Social Forum and the wider ‘anti-globalisation’ movement – that Another World is Possible – also reflect a similar form of ‘prefigurative’ grassroots economic activism (Frezzo and Karides 2006).g. since the 1990s there has been increasing interest in the potential of the ‘social economy’ as a transformative site (e. However. Hall and Soskice 2001). 14 . Such ideas have also fed into the strategies and practices of the ‘solidarity economy’ in North and South America that have developed in the last decade (Primavera 2010). Subsequent strands of ‘radical’ eco-localism also advocate the potential of the ‘community’ and informal economies (Douthwaite 1996. Williams 2007.g. postcapitalism goes beyond this by arguing that it is possible to change or reform key aspects of capitalism in ways that will address some of the critiques set out in Figure 1. Chatterton and Pickerill 2010). This could also be regarded as postcapitalist in the sense being used here. Thus. Leyshon et al.

Indeed. this thesis explores an overarching hypothesis that countercultural places might be productive sites for grassroots forms postcapitalism to emerge and be sustained.These different postcapitalist theories all adopt economic ontologies that attempt to reveal economy activity that is outside the ‘mainstream’ discourses and models. the belief that capitalism can be changed from the spaces that exist within or beyond it. This thesis critically engages with the work of Gibson-Graham who have offered one of the most complete theorisations of an interstitial postcapitalist approach. Gibson-Graham 2006a). The thesis also seeks to explore the uneven geography of postcapitalism.g. This is generally absent from the work of GibsonGraham (North 2007) and the geography of the ‘social economy’ (a potential postcapitalist space) is also under-researched (Muñoz 2010). It is argued that recognising the significance of these non-capitalist institutions and spaces is a precursor for their further expansion. can the relationship with postcapitalist practices be fully understood. Therefore. However. 15 . the academic literature barely recognises the existence of countercultural places and provides only limited guidance for how they should be understood. in keeping with their rejection of an overly ‘oppressive’ capitalism such approaches to postcapitalism also tend to have confidence in the potential of community organising and ‘grassroots’ institutions. The thesis therefore explores whether the case study area provides empirical support for interstitial postcapitalist theories. it is a strong argument of the thesis that only by taking such places seriously as an object of study. In doing so it seeks to explore whether the postcapitalist experiments within the case study area support both their theoretical approach and the underlying economic ontology of a hybridised and ‘fragile’ capitalism. In particular. seeking to understand the way in which different places might produce different kinds of ‘alternative economic spaces’. Such ontologies challenge conventional theories and representations of ‘capitalism’ as all powerful and inevitably oppressive (e. Following Wright (2010) this thesis adopts the term interstitial to describe such theories of postcapitalism. and seeking to understand the processes which shape them. one that combines language politics and community activism. The thesis therefore also makes a contribution to the theorising of countercultural places.

this thesis attempts to ‘read for difference’ by highlighting aspects of the culture and economy that are obscured by conventional discourses and understand how these inter-relate. and as such seeks to understand the contextual factors that gave rise to the emergence of ‘alternative’ cultures within the area and the way in which such processes support or constrain the emergence of postcapitalism. each of these links an empirical question with a wider theoretical debate.In summary then the thesis is an attempt to study the postcapitalist economic institutions that have emerged within in a particular locality that has a reputation for ‘alternative’ cultural practices and economic experimentation. proliferative postcapitalism. particularly around the concept of the ‘alternative’ as discussed in the next section. It uses the work of Gibson-Graham as a theoretical starting point to identify such institutions and explore the extent to which they are tangibly ‘outside’ capitalism. The specific research questions that it seeks to address are as detailed in Figure 1. In the terminology of Gibson-Graham. it is also sensitive to the specificities of place. However.2: Research questions As is evident. Figure 1. 16 .2 below. Bringing together these two different sides (an ‘alternative’ place and ‘alternative’ economic spaces) has created its own set of problems. Furthermore it seeks to test whether the case study supports their particular approach to interstitial postcapitalism. termed in this thesis. for reasons that will become clear in Chapter Two.

illustrated in Figure 1. one of the central arguments of the thesis is that the existence and complexity of countercultural places has generally been overlooked. Neither of these have recognised or ‘bounded’ literatures.2 Clarifying concepts: the problem of ‘alternative’ Whilst it could be argued that this research is not ‘fully’ interdisciplinary. 17 .3 below.1. Therefore much of the conceptual language and literature is not well established or recognised.3: Conceptual diagrams of the research process in (A) disciplinary and (B) interdisciplinary research from Oughton and Bracken (2009). conceptual languages or methodological tools. it does not fit easily into a recognised and well-established field of research. Certainly it does attempt to bring together two different sub-fields of research: the theorising of contemporary interstitial postcapitalism and countercultural places. Indeed. What made this a more difficult endeavour was that these two sub-fields barely exist in their own rights. Understanding this research as ‘interdisciplinary’ therefore also helps to explain some of the tensions and difficulties that have been experienced in its development. Figure 1.

hegemonic cultures. defined it as a reaction to dominant. arguing that There is a simple theoretical distinction between alternative and oppositional. In this context ‘alternative’ social 18 . this other relates to some conception of the ‘mainstream’ (Atton 2002). However as the research got underway I was soon wrestling with the conceptual problems of the ‘alternative’. Williams (1973. This section therefore explores some of the meanings of ‘alternative’ and outlines how this particular issue has been addressed within the thesis. The initial title of this PhD was Investigating Alternative Economic Spaces. A second overlapping meaning uses ‘alternative’ to reflect a form of bottom up. 11) However.The theoretical chapters of the thesis therefore focus on setting out the conceptual boundaries of the research. This section briefly explores a particular problem that arose in developing the overall framing of the research – the usage of the term alternative. inspired as it was by recent geographic interest in this area (Leyshon et al. It is intrinsically a binary concept. Thus Raymond Williams (1973). in relation to some (often undefined) ‘other’. He also made a further distinction between alternative and oppositional. that is to say between someone who simply finds a different way to live and wishes to be left alone with it and someone who finds a different way to live and wants to change the society in its light. Williams himself later blurs this distinction by suggesting that alternative culture was ‘at its best’ also oppositional culture (Williams 1983). there is a strong tradition which associates meanings of alternative with the countercultural. prefigurative approach to social change. who provided perhaps the first definition of ‘alternative’ culture. First and foremost it is argued that the idea of the ‘alternative’ exists only as a relational concept. As I progressed I came to understand that this was in part due to the fact that the thesis was dealing with multiple and competing usages of the term. 2003). as discussed in Chapter Three. whether oppositional or not. However. Quite often.

North 2007. It is has also been used in this way to define specific forms of institution. Sometimes the term is used to reflect a broader ‘radical’ theoretical approach. 2003. 2007).g. ‘Progressive’ or ‘radical’ connotations of ‘alternative’ are therefore used to describe different forms of economic theory and organisation that are in someway perceived to be ‘outside’ the mainstream. Gibson Graham (2006b) adopt the term ‘alternative’ within their diverse economy schematic (see Chapter Two) even though. This notion of alternative therefore has strong associations with utopianism and grassroots activism (Parker et al. radical or prefigurative) and led to the problematisation of the concept (Watts et al.movements are those that seek to change society by buildings new institutions within it. Indeed. 2007). Halfacree 2007. they themselves do not define a precise meaning of the term. 2005. Atton 2002). A third and related meaning has close associations with radical or progressive forms of politics (e. Leyshon 2005. such as in the work of Roberto Unger (1998). The recent interest in alternative economic spaces (Leyshon et al. In discussing the “New Age” (a term that is culturally sometimes closely linked with “Alternative” cultures.g. Hughes 2005) also adopts this particular usage reflecting academic interest in radical spaces either within. This ‘non-mainstream’ meaning of alternative often leads to debate over the extent to which such practices embody or reflect other meanings of ‘alternative’ (e. He distinguishes between scholarly definitions of the ‘New Age’ (etic) and how 19 . Williams 2007).g. for example. Holloway et al. recent interest in Alternative Food Networks or ‘alternative’ currencies both of which are often conceptualised as ‘others’ to mainstream ‘systems of provision’. or beyond capitalism (e. see Chapter Three) Kemp (2004) makes the useful distinction between emic and etic conceptions. Another example is the paradigm of Alternative Development that emerged in the 1970s as a critique of mainstream approaches to development (Pieterse 1998). rather than opposing or engaging with existing structure of power (Collom 2005). A further distinction can be made between the adoption of alternative as a theoretical concept within academic work and the way in which it is used in other arenas and day-to-day life.

the temporality of the ‘alternative’ is yet another complicating factor. Devon This thesis is a case study of a small market town in Devon. as discussed in chapter 3. Indeed. there are emic notions of ‘Alternative Culture’ and an ‘Alternative Movement’ that need to be acknowledged but which have different meanings to academic usages. Not only does its meaning change over time. although it inevitably creeps in. Totnes is in the southwest of the UK (see figure 1.229 (2004). the potential conflict between cultural meanings and economic meanings could lead to particular confusion. but also because it is also relevant to the study of ‘alternative’ that is a similarly slippery concept. Understanding this distinction is significant for this thesis.4 below) with a population of 8. The next section briefly introduces the case study area in which these questions were explored. These emic usages reflect the way that specific groups have adopted particular notions of the ‘alternative’ at specific points in time. but the nature of that difference can vary significantly.3 The case study area: Totnes. Devon County Council (2006) identify a rural hinterland of 14 parishes that combined with the town give a ‘Market Town’ population of 22. the town is part of the South 20 . Indeed. whilst having great significance to this research. not only because it touches on ‘New Age’ phenomena. The usage of the term ‘alternative’ asserts some kind of qualitative difference. England and its immediate hinterland. also has overlapping and conflictive meanings. the term countercultural is used to reflect the ‘alternative’ cultural side of research whilst postcapitalist is used to explore the ‘alternative’ economic side of the research.829. Instead. but this thesis is potted with examples of ideas and practices which started out as ‘alternative’ but became mainstream. It was for this reason that I have attempted to avoid the term altogether. The subsequent theory chapters set out more detail how both of these concepts are framed within the context of this research. Administratively.those who they study might understand it (emic). 1. Both these terms are therefore etic categories applied to phenomena and data from the field. It is clear therefore that there is a problem in using a term that. Indeed.

The town itself has a long history as a settlement. and was one of the first towns to be awarded Borough status by King John in 1206. The town had its own mint in the reign of Edgar (958 – 75) and the first bank (The Totnes Bank) was established in 1798 (Russell 1963). located as it is at the lowest crossing point of the river Dart. In the middle ages the town became prosperous 21 . Much of the earliest settlement is therefore located on a steeply inclined hill which rises above the river Dart and which contains the remains of a Norman Castle at its apex.Hams District Council. whose offices are based in the town. The name Tot-ness is generally believed to be Saxon in origin and mean the fort or lookout (‘Tot’) on the nose or ridge of land (‘ness’). Figure 1. The replacement Totnes Town Council therefore has limited capabilities compared to the preceding body. having lost its Borough status (and powers) in the local government reorganisation of 1974.4: Location of Totnes in the UK As well as functioning as a market town for its immediate hinterland its location as the highest navigable point of the river Dart provided it with an important economic role as a site of trade.

Figure 1. whilst also importing goods from continental Europe. an archetypal image of the town 22 . Baltic Wharf – where timber used to be imported from Eastern Europe). Indeed the history of trade and relations with other places (including attacks from North African pirates) hints at a place that has been shaped by extensive geographical relations. The wealth generated by this function is reflected in the architecture of the merchant’s houses which were constructed during the 16th and 17th century and of which many examples are preserved (see Figure 1.on the back of this function as a trading gateway. exporting minerals and cloth from Dartmoor.5 below).g. These economic relations are also signified by some of the enduring place names around the town (e.5: The East gate in Totnes.

Like many areas of the South West. 2003). with an estimated quarter of employment linked to it (South Hams District Council 2007). Most recently. the South Hams has experienced ongoing ‘counter-urbanisation’ from urban areas (Murdoch et al. and has been recognised as a creative 23 . leading to housing becoming one of the top strategic priorities of the local authority (South Hams 2006a).The arrival of the railways led to the economic decline of Totnes as a trading port but did not bring new trade to the town (Clifton-Taylor 1978). The second half of the 20th century saw a decline in all of these industries. like the South West in general. as there was little local wealth for redevelopment during the Victorian era. It also retains a small marine industries sector. to the point whereby the South Hams is the third most popular area for second homes in the country (Savills 2008). tourism has become a significant sector in the economy within the South Hams. the Dairy Crest milk processing plant (formerly Daw’s) closed during my time in the field (2007). Reeves declined in the late 1970s whilst a supermarket replaced the Bacon Factory in the early 1990s. Ironically it was this economic decline that led to the preservation of many of the earlier buildings. From the early 20th Century tourism began to play a part in the economy. The large employers in the 1950s and 1960s were Harris’s Bacon Factory. Off the back of some of these trends. The cattle market moved out of the town centre in 1962 and later to nearby Newton Abbott. Again. Reeves Timber Yard and Daw’s Creameries all located within the town centre. In the second half of the 19th Century the population of the town fell from 3878 to 3116 and no new houses were built between 1840 and 1914. A ‘conventional’ economic reading of Totnes and its hinterland would therefore point to a number of trends in recent decades. along with the cattle-market. During this period then the economy of the town was based around its role as a ‘local’ agricultural centre with some small-scale industry. Allied to this has been a significant growth in second-home ownership. Totnes is geographically close to both the South Hams Area of Natural Beauty and Dartmoor National Park. Totnes itself has evolved into a ‘specialist’ retail centre (South Hams District Council 2006b). with ‘town guides’ for Totnes dating back to at least 1920. The town itself is also a tourist attraction. These trends within the housing market have led a localised crisis in housing affordability against a number of measures.

Understanding what. some of which might be criticised as verging the in the realms of fantasy. As is the question of the extent to which they have made a material 24 . as are benefits claimants within the town itself. how. Levels of self-employment within the area are higher than average.6: Totnes ‘twinned with Narnia’ sign Summer 2005 (photo credit: Leo Trimming) Whilst Totnes’ reputation as an ‘alternative’ centre appears within various local discourses. pictured above (Figure 1. and why such practices had emerged at this particular place is one of the central purposes of this thesis. Figure 1. is an indication of its reputation as a centre of ‘New Age’ or ‘Alternative’ cultures.industries ‘hotspot’ (Perfect Moment 2006). as will become clear the alternative cultures can be the object of derision. the extent to which its economy might be ‘alternative’ is less widely discussed.6). As detailed in Chapter Five. a year or so before this research started. the area was identified as one where there was some history of ‘alternative’ economic experimentation. The title of the thesis refers to a spoof sign that was put up for a couple of weeks in Totnes in the summer of 2005. The amended sign. Indeed.

1. It then sets out the particular challenges to the diverse economy approach that can be explored empirically. Their specific approach to ‘seeing’ and ‘building’ postcapitalist possibilities is unpacked.7: Structure of thesis Chapter Two introduces the theoretical work of Gibson-Graham and outlines its relevance to the thesis. The chapter argues that whilst many of the elements of their approach are not new.7 illustrates overall structure with the primary theoretical linkages between chapters illustrated by the colour coding. it is the way in which they have been bought together which is the novelty of the Gibson-Graham approach.impact.4 The structure of the thesis This final section of the introduction outlines the structure of the rest of the thesis providing a brief overview of each chapter. Figure 1. hence the title of the thesis. Chapter Three argues the geography of the 1960s Counterculture has generally been under-researched and where it has been acknowledged it tends to be a fairly one-dimensional notion. Figure 1. The final section details how the thesis goes about answering these questions. The chapter develops a broader concept of the Counterculture that extends its normal temporality and conceptualises it as an 25 .

Furthermore. Chapter Four highlights the type of postcapitalist institutions on which the research focuses. This first results chapter sets out to explain the formation of Totnes as a countercultural place. During this time. Drawing on existing strands of theory about the formation of such places it shows how Totnes has emerged as a centre of countercultural practice since the 1970s whilst providing some new theoretical insights into the formation of such places. Chapter six is the first of three empirical chapters that address the three research questions set out in Figure 1. Overall the research can be regarded as a multi-method case study but with a strong ethnographic core due to the fact that I lived in the field for the duration of the empirical work. as well as utilising more traditional data collection techniques I also engaged in participatory research with an experimental ‘postcapitalist’ community currency. the Totnes Pound. It also reviews two concepts which have been used in relation to both countercultural places and postcapitalism and which therefore might have some explanatory purchase: heterotopia and embeddedness.2 in turn. along with specific details of the research framework adopted. As well as providing an overview of the wider postcapitalist institutional landscape it undertakes a more in-depth exploration of the organic ‘marketscape’ within the locality and the extent to which it supports GibsonGraham’s post-structural economic ontology and arguments about proliferative postcapitalism. it argues that the notion of countercultural places is generally under-recognised and under-researched with the literature offering only partial insights into the nature and construction of such places. 26 .overlapping set of sub-countercultures. The strengths and weaknesses of the methodology are discussed in this chapter. Chapter Five sets out the methodological approach adopted for the research. Chapter Seven explores the postcapitalist institutions that were ‘discovered’ within the field. as well as the academic work which seems to point to a relationship between countercultural places and postcapitalism.

Chapter Eight. Chapter Nine recaps and summarises the research questions. It suggests that countercultural places are overlooked sites of ‘social innovation’. 27 .The last of the empirical chapters. It provides some concluding reflections on the research before highlighting some future directions for research. both in terms of further explorations of countercultural places and theorising interstitial postcapitalism. It outlines the implications this has for those who seek to build collective economic entities. explores the relationship between countercultural places and postcapitalism. It also identifies a central tension within the relationship between countercultural places and postcapitalist institutions: that the very conditions that support the emergence of postcapitalist practices (and other forms of social experimentation) are themselves responsible for undermining the development of such collective institutions.

Chapter 2: Theorising postcapitalist possibility A central objective of this thesis is to explore the theoretically disputed boundaries of capitalism and the extent to which place-based postcapitalist institutions can be developed. Through their recent work they have attempted to demonstrate the existence and significance of a wide range of non-capitalist practices and institutions that. are obscured by the dominant discourses of the ‘economy’ and ‘capitalism’. refusing to accept the necessity for whole-scale structural / systemic change. Their work makes an important contribution to the literature. profile and durability of such postcapitalist worlds is a central preoccupation of their work. or the fact that ‘capitalism’ will always co-opt or undermine non-capitalist activities. This is the central preoccupation of the work of the post-structural. these examples need to be not only economically significant but also support their particular ontological approach in the face of a range of challenges which are rooted in competing structural or systemic conceptions of capitalism. not only by raising questions about assumptions of capitalist hegemony. The first part of this chapter outlines their theoretical approach. GibsonGraham’s work is central to this thesis because of their focus on the potential of places to establish postcapitalist economic activities. they argue. post-Marxist geographers J. Part Two of the chapter argues that in order to justify their theory of proliferative postcapitalism. It highlights how their approach is based on developing a particular ‘weak theoretical’ economic ontology that informs their work and approach to building postcapitalist forms. Gibson-Graham. focusing on the ways in which they theorise the development of interstitial postcapitalist possibility. but also by opening up different dimensions of non-capitalism whilst also theorising the possibility of supporting the development of further postcapitalist economic practices. It is a core argument of their work that alternative economic worlds are not only possible. Furthermore.K. Building the credibility. more empirical examples of postcapitalism ‘in action’ are required. but that they already exist in the present (Gibson-Graham 2008). 28 .

32 Understood this way. Wright (2010. value and create non-capitalist economic practices that are already here and emerging so as to shine a light on the demonstrable construction of alternative possibilities and futures. postcapitalist institutions are ‘non-capitalist’ economic forms that emerge from within a purportedly capitalist context (see Chapter Four). see Glassman 2003).1 Theorising interstitial postcapitalism Alex Callinicos (2003) outlines a range of different types of anti-capitalist strategy. all of which share the objective of building a form of anti-capitalist economy (Table 2. 29 .1: Varieties of postcapitalism (adapted from Callinicos 2003) ‘Interstitial’ postcapitalism as used within this thesis could encompass aspects of both localist and autonomist anti-capitalism (indeed Gibson-Graham’s work has been described as a form of ‘post-structural’ localism. Williams (2007.2.1 below). Table 2. 248) therefore argues that contemporary postcapitalist theorists such as Gibson-Graham are motivated by the need to recognise. An interstitial approach to postcapitalism has its roots in anarchist thinking and describes …various kinds of processes that occur in the spaces and cracks within some dominant social structure of power.

Fournier 2002. This movement. Rebecca Solnit (2005) is someone else who has argued for the potentiality of grassroots social activism. Perhaps too the imagined scale and temporality of socialist politics could undergo a shift. if we could see them as prevalent and sustaining. Fournier 2002). the potentiality of place is central to many of these movements (Gross 2009) as are discourses of ‘community’.g. similar to Gibson-Graham. has a strong anti-capitalist ethic and advocates a range of collective. 30 . grassroots methods of organising economic activity (de Sousa Santos 2007. 3) It therefore argues that development of small-scale grassroots movements. about the importance of optimism and hope within such activities. perhaps we could find more possibilities of participating in the creation. Holloway (2005) draws inspiration from a re-reading of Marx. Hawken 2008). Often. Another explicitly ‘interstitial’ social movement is the ‘solidarity economy’ movement. Such interstitial approaches to capitalism have emerged from a number of different intellectual traditions. can be further developed. A second strand is that which finds its inspiration in grassroots activism and social movements. Community Economies Collective (2001.Interstitial postcapitalist theory suggests that postcapitalist possibility already exists and. practices and institutions is an effective mechanism for precipitating wider systemic change (e. He argues for a strategy of driving towards ‘self-determination’ that starts with a strategy of disobedience and insubordination and which explicitly avoids attempting to take power through control over the state. Thus interstitial postcapitalism have also proved popular with other strands of the ‘anti-globalisation’ or ‘global justice’ movement (Starr 2000. and. which has gained some momentum in North and South America during the last decade. It is a strategy that involves ‘leaving’ capitalism rather than ‘overthrowing’ it and is based on the central premise that If we could locate noncapitalist activities here and now. with the right kinds of interventions. Like Gibson-Graham. Miller 2004). becoming more partial and proximate.

such as the eco-village movement which Ted Trainer (2000) suggests can act as a catalyst for wider socio-economic change. Douthwaite (1996) argues that examples successful community economic initiatives would give political leaders the confidence to develop and support them further. but that they also have the potential to lead to self-exploitation. What unites these different approaches to interstitial postcapitalism is that they all put place-based grassroots development at the heart of their transformative strategies. Anti-capitalist alternatives should be assessed in terms of the ability to address present concerns but also to move society in a new direction (Wall. The End of Capitalism (first published in 1996) is primarily a deconstructive work which seeks to undermine the discursive power of ‘Capitalism’. 178). Other eco-socialists such as Gare (2000) have also argued that capitalism can also undermined by socioeconomic forms that are created within it. The eco-socialist Derek Wall (2005) agrees that projects that work ‘within’ capitalism can provide inspirational examples of possible alternatives. the End of Capitalism (As We Knew It) and A Postcapitalist Politics.Those opposing contemporary economic development trajectories from a ‘green’ perspective have also promoted interstitial strategies. For example. He also suggests that such strategies need to be ‘amphibious’ in that they are half in the dirty water of the present but seeking to move on to a new. Lee and Williams (2003) suggest that the work of Gibson-Graham has been particularly important within this strand of work. 2008). 31 . unexplored territory. Gibson-Graham’s work argues for the significance of non-capitalist economic practices and for the construction of economic discourses that recognise the existence of a wider form of economy. 2005. Their theoretical approach is set out within a number of journal articles and two books. GibsonGraham 2006a and 2006b respectively). Geographers’ interest in interstitial postcapitalism has been reflected in the conception of Alternative Economic Spaces and Leyshon. This book is addressed primarily at Marxist scholars and criticises 2 For recent journal articles see for example Gibson-Graham (2002. 2 Drawing heavily on post-structuralism and post-Marxism. 2005a. 2005b.

Leyshon 2005. The Community Economic Collective 2001. Indeed. proliferative postcapitalism (like other interstitial approaches) argues that potential exists to transform social and economic relations without the need for either political revolution or a fundamental. In other words. Cameron and Gibson 2005. This chapter argues that many aspects of their proliferative approach to postcapitalism are not new ideas. GibsonGraham’s work on diverse economies has inspired its own strand of work within economic geography and development (Leyshon et al. Samers 2005 St Martin 2005. Williams and Round 2007. Firstly. in the sense that it advocates or desires the complete removal and replacement of the capitalist ‘system’. Oberhauser 2005. What is important about Gibson-Graham’s work is the way in which they combine various strands of postcapitalist thought and strategy. 2003. For the purpose of clarity their particular theorisation of interstitial postcapitalism will be termed (using a term favoured by Gibson-Graham themselves) proliferative postcapitalism. Lee et al. Gibson-Graham argue that to portray capitalism as all powerful is not only wrong. Instead. McCarthy 2006. it is not anti-capitalist in a ‘revolutionary’ or reformist sense. Smith and Stenning 2006. but that it also closes down the opportunity for different economic forms to emerge. Martin 2007. Indeed it is important to recognise that there is a long history of interstitial postcapitalist strategies which stretch back at least to the disagreement between Marx and the Utopian Socialists about whether capitalism can be reformed by building alternatives within it (Levitas 1990). 2004. Gibson-Graham’s approach to postcapitalism is grounded in a particular strand of post-development that is concerned with discursive analyses of ‘development’ and commodification in order to expose the way in which they are created and reproduced and open up the possibility of alternative discourses (Escobar 1995. Williams 2007). systemic reorganisation of the global economy. they combine a range of different non-capitalisms that are often kept discursively and 32 . Halfacree 2010).them for their role in the portrayal of global capitalism as far-reaching and unassailable.

1 A poststructural approach to ‘Capitalism’ Gibson-Graham have suggested that one of the purposes of their first book. precluding economic diversity in the present and thus making it unlikely in the proximate future . and thus closes down the 33 . was to open up a space for thinking about ‘non-capitalism’ through the production of a discourse of economic difference that was not capitalocentric (Gibson-Graham 2006b. Secondly. which is not as powerful or all embracing as is often portrayed. Otherwise capitalist hegemony is a presumption. Central to their argument is that within Marxist discourse ‘Capitalism’ is normally portrayed as unified. I would argue that their post-structural approach contains a more explicit strategy than is usually found within the interstitial postcapitalist literature (Wright 2010). None of this is to deny the power or even the prevalence of capitalism but to question the presupposition of both. Further to this. 2. starting with the poststructuralist basis of their work. which equates ‘capitalism’ with ‘the economy’. However.. discourse. It is legitimate to theorise capitalist hegemony only if such hegemony is delineated in a theoretical field that allows for the possibility of the full co-existence of noncapitalist economic forms. the End of Capitalism.conceptually separate.1.. xxxiv). 262) Their central argument is that capitalist hegemony is a ‘discursive artefact’ (Gibson-Graham 2006a. (Gibson-Graham 2006a. the implication of the way it is ‘thought’ is that it makes it difficult for people to imagine its supersession. total and singular – a situation that has closed down the possibility of thinking about and instigating alternative economic strategies: Calling the economy "capitalist" denies the existence of … diverse economic and class processes. whilst also retaining and reworking some key Marxist concepts. most importantly post-structuralism and feminism(s). obscures the wide range of noncapitalist economic forms and practices that exist. Both of these aspects of their work are explored in more detail below. and one that is politically quite consequential. To undertake this task they draw on a number of theoretical tools. 3).

27) Approaching capitalism from this direction requires us to ‘think about the radical emptiness of every capitalist instance’ (Gibson-Graham 2006a. By denying that there is a consistent ‘internal’ essence or logic to 34 . the ultimate unfixity of every meaning. 60) which. Gibson-Graham have themselves come to call this the ‘di