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Accepted Paper:

Surviving in the market, subverting the market: alter-political cooperativism in Greece in critical times  
Theodoros Karyotis (Ghent University) Alexandros Kioupkiolis (Aristotle University)

Paper short abstract:

Based on fieldwork with four radical cooperatives, we examine the extent to which market-oriented alter-economic endeavours can balance economic viability with the establishment of new modes of decision-making, production and consumption informed by solidarity and egalitarianism.

Paper long abstract:

Starting in 2010, austerity policies in Greece upended social life and ushered in a prolonged period of political effervescence and social experimentation. A loose network of endeavours in the intentional economy emerged thus as an integral part of a grassroots cycle of contention. Animated by self-management and solidarity, they perceive their activity not only as a means of ensuring a livelihood but also as a hands-on critique of capitalist relations and a proposal for an ethico-political alternative.

While many such endeavours exist outside the bounds of the formal economy, others operate in various fields of industry, commerce and services. Our focus in this presentation is on value-driven cooperatives, where the egalitarian and transformative ethos guiding daily practice is being constantly tested against the imperatives of market competition and economic viability. Being subjected to regulatory pressures and market dynamics, radical cooperatives have been both celebrated for prefiguring alternative modes of production, consumption and decision-making, and criticised for subjecting politics to the laws of the economy and reproducing the entrepreneurial assumptions of neoliberalism.

Are cooperatives successfully promoting equality and inclusion in economic decision making? Can the imperative of economic viability divert them from their original aims and values? Can they fight alienation and enact different everyday relationships? Importantly, what is their conception of politics and how do they pursue social transformation? Based on fieldwork with four radical cooperatives, we survey the recent tide of grassroots economic endeavours in Greece, providing a critical snapshot of actually existing intentional economies and their alter-political potentials.

Panel P056
Social and economic imaginaries from below: alternative production and consumption initiatives as democratic challenges
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -