Accepted paper:

Within and beyond market allocation systems: cooperative and reciprocal forms of provisioning in present-day Catalonia


Patricia Homs (University of Barcelona and Aresta Cooperative.)
Susana Narotzky (Universitat de Barcelona)
Silvia Gomez (Autonomous University of Barcelona)

Paper short abstract:

Market exchange and capitalist production have become hegemonic forms of cooperation. The ongoing crisis has enhanced other forms of cooperation that are re-embedded within social discourses. This proposal analyzes these cooperative practices in food coops and local exchange communities.

Paper long abstract:

Market exchange and capitalist production have become hegemonic forms of cooperation in Western democracies, supported by a model of optimal allocation of resources through individual transactions. This supposes a disembedded model of social action, where social and cultural meaning will only operate through the psychological drive of utility maximization. The ongoing environmental and economic crisis have enhanced other forms of cooperation that are increasingly thriving in the cracks of the system, sometimes as a result of an ideological positioning, at other times as a pragmatic practice to ensure livelihood resources. These new-old forms are predicated in a strong re-embedding of cooperation within social and cultural discourses. We aim to address these issues through two ethnographic cases in the region of Catalonia, Spain. The first case analyzes discourses and practices that emerge in proximity food provisioning networks composed of consumers' food coops and small organic food producers where different forms of cooperation and reciprocity articulate socioeconomic exchanges. The second case analyzes personal networks of reciprocity and cooperation that organize local exchange communities (LETS) in the context of the current financial crisis and the failure of the welfare state to provide needed services. New information technologies (IT) have led to their spread, making them more visible and institutionalized. These networks emerge as new spheres of provisioning of goods and services. Both cases point to reconfigured reciprocity and cooperation networks. At the same time they underline the articulation of these embedded forms of cooperation with the allegedly disembedded system of market allocation.

panel P01
Enlightenment's third pillar: solidarity and solidarity economies