Building Sites of Deep Mutuality: Intentional Communities and Solidarity Economics

An introduction to the GEO Fall Theme
Michael Johnson

Solidarity Economics is a powerful framework for thinking about alternative and grassroots economics. GEO’s Ethan Miller showed this in his 7-part series on solidarity economics and Occupy. It is also a global movement for which the United Nations convened an international conference  in May of this year. “Another world is possible” can make a strong claim to being its mantra.

Over the last 40 years intentional communities have become a major alternative economic institution in the United States. They are much more than that, however. First, they are solid, ongoing experiments in evolving cultures of cooperation. Second, they are small “other worlds” already realized. Finally, the ICs in the US are a fully developed movement, and growing.

Laird Schaub of the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC), describes all of this in detail in his introduction to this Theme. Chris Roth’s  introduction tells the story  that Communities magazine has played in building their movement.

This GEO Theme has a particular mission: to deepen awareness and understanding of the strong connections between SE activists and IC members through the common work they are doing . Onlookers may well ask, “Why all this agitation for alternative ways of living and earning livelihoods”? Our answer is quite complex, but can be roughly summarized. To a large extent he dominant way our culture thinks about and does “economics” envisions human beings only as “consumers” and Earth as a “storehouse of resources” to be used for private gain.

That doesn’t work. Look around. Really look around. Think, “the Congo.”

Humans are people filled with passions and desires markets cannot begin to fulfill or even begin to relate to. Earth is our mother and our lifeline, our habitat in the universe. We need to unlearn so much of what we have received so that we can learn a lot about creating much more powerful ways for living with ourselves, with our bodies, with each other, and with all life in Earth.

1.8 million years ago—can you grasp the magnitude of that; I can’t—a new primate species began to emerge in Africa: homo erectus. Slowly—and that’s slower than anything we can imagine—they evolved a way of life that kept putting greater and greater demands on cooperation in order to survive. They met these demands—slowly—by evolving a capacity for empathy and social awareness unequaled by any other species. Evolving this extraordinary emotional capacity required, in part, the anatomical development of larger brains and the behavioral development of language. Eventually, some 200,000 years ago, our species began emerging out of this long, long development.

Today survival is putting enormous demands on us to make a quantum leap to keep this line of development going. Our movements for more cooperative ways of living and livelihoods are playing a significant role in this. We seem to be reaching a tipping point after millennia of over-reliance on aggression for gratification and fulfillment. It seems that a tectonic shift must happen and is happening, slowly.

Who knows how long this transition will take? Maybe another 200,000 years, maybe just 2,000. We can’t know. But we can know that right now we need to help in moving our species forward in this direction of greater mutuality, forward at least to the next generation and onward to the following 100 years. Hopefully this theme will show how intentional communities and solidarity economic networks can play an increasingly important role in our portion of this long, long journey.

Welcome to GEO’s Fall 2013 Theme!

We are launching our Theme by posting articles and pictures along with audio and video podcasts that fall into three sections:

  • the solidarity economics of intentional communities
  • community and transformational learning, and
  • book reviews.

We are planning to add more articles, audio and video podcasts, artwork, pictures, etc. to the Theme over the next 6 to 9 months. You are invited to submit articles, audio and video podcasts, artwork, pictures, etc. You can contact me at michaelj.geo@gmail.com

 

About the author: 

Michael Johnson: Entered a Kansas monastery in '63, left in '66; entered law school in NYC in fall of '67 and left in winter of '67; became an 'outside agitator' at Columbia in April of '68 and discovered that the far left can be as top/down as the middle and right...deeply involved in group dynamics and community organizing in NYC '68-'73...bottomed out in Phoenix '73-'76. A member of the desegregation unit of Austin school system '76-'80.

Co-founded an intentional community in Staten Island, NY in '80, in part an experiential research center in democratic culture...still there 33 years later...immersed in the worker co-op and solidarity economy movements since 2007 with the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives (New England), GEO, and the Community Economies Collective. Right now he is focusing on developing a network of groups committed to exploring personal and cultural transformation--the Becoming the Change project.

Citations: 
When citing this article, please use the following format: Michael Johnson (2013). Building Sites of Deep Mutuality: Intentional Communities and Solidarity Economics. Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) Newsletter, Volume 2, Issue 16.
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