Foundational Economy

The infrastructure of everyday life

By The Foundational Economy Collective

Foundational Economy
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  • Price: £11.99
  • ISBN: 9781526133984
  • Publish Date: Sep 2018
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Privatisation, market choice, outsourcing: these are the watchwords that have shaped policy in numerous democratic states in the last generation. The end result is the degradation of the foundational economy. The foundational economy encompasses the material infrastructure at the foundation of civilised life - things like water pipes and sewers - and the providential services like education, health care and care for the old which are at the base of any civilised life. This book shows how these services were built up in the century between 1880 and 1980 so that they were collectively paid for, collectively delivered and collectively consumed. This system of provision has been undermined in the age of privatisation and outsourcing. The book describes the principles that should guide renewal of the foundational economy and the initiatives which could begin to put these principles into practice.


    'A compelling counter-project against neoliberalism: restoring the collective foundations of everyday life.'
    Wolfgang Streeck, Max Planck Institute

    'This is an interesting and important contribution to the economic debates going on today. It underlines the centrality of collectivism and universalism as pillars of a decent society, as well as asking searching questions about the kind of solutions we need to the economic problems of our age.'
    John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer (2015-20)

    'There is now a widespread and growing view that the UK economy has ceased to work effectively for ordinary people. This original and challenging book sets out a compelling argument for why this is happening. You do not have to sign up to every individual point made in the book to recognise the power of the overall argument. At the heart of the book is the idea of the 'foundational economy', its rise in the municipal era, its fall in the neo liberal era and how it might be renewed again. The term foundational may not be in everyday use but what it describes represents the essential fabric of our lives - the essential infrastructure of energy, water, and transport and the essential services of education, health and care. These are distinguished by being essentially collective goods. They cannot simply be 'bought' by an individual but must be decided by society as a whole. For the last 30 or so years, it has been the accepted wisdom of many politicians and policy makers that these services are best enabled publicly but delivered privately. The book provides a robust challenge to this view. Those looking to find individual policy solutions in this book will be disappointed. It is much more about changing the way we think about economics and society. But is does contain a message of hope in some pretty challenging times. Recommended reading lists for civil servants are quite a common occurrence at Christmas time. This book deserves to be on those lists.'
    Lord Bob Kerslake, Head of the UK Civil Service (2011-14)

    'In the honourable tradition of provincial radicalism, the Foundational Economy Collective open new horizons for social, economic and political renewal with their provocative and yet practical proposals for reconstructing everyday economies. This is not the time for incremental tinkering with the status quo, nor critique solely for its own sake. Instead, the Foundational Economy delivers an arresting and imaginative manifesto for rebuilding our communities from the ground up. Founded on a political economy of hope, not despair, this approach is radical in all of the best senses of the word: it cuts to the root of wicked problems, rethinking from first principles; it steadfastly refuses to be cowed or constrained by stale orthodoxies; and it illuminates an alternative pathway, guided by the principles of inclusive citizenship, social innovation, ethical investment, and progressive political renewal. This is a book that is sure to change some minds, and maybe even the future.'
    Jamie Peck, University of British Columbia, Canada

    'Read this book if you want to understand why the NHS is not funded through taxes raised from the private sector; if you want to know why our children will not be mostly employed in 'high tech' industry in future (and cannot be); or why the welfare state was a good protection racket; why British privatized rail companies lie so much about their 'greatness'; why care homes are so badly run at such great private profit by 'entrepreneurs'; and how those who rob us so often claim a defense of 'diminished responsibility' for their acts of great harm. All that is in just the first two dozen pages of the 'Foundational Economy'. The collective that produced this book of wonders deserves to be warmly congratulated on producing such a clear explanation of, amongst so much else, how 'the British and Americans led the way to a new kind of rentier capitalism.' And what now to do about it - in a way that cannot be as easily extinguished as radical politics in the recent past has been.'
    Danny Dorling, University of Oxford

    'A dedicated group of scholars across a broad range of disciplines at Manchester University have long led the way in detailing and analysing what the late Michael Moran, one of the foremost among them, identified as the "financial services revolution" at the root of the transformation of public policy into the handmaiden of privatization and marketization. This new book, perfectly timed to coincide with the growing populist disgust with what they call "a generation of failure to make the market work", concentrates on penetrating the fog currently generated by all the talk across the political spectrum about the importance of investment in infrastructure. Brilliantly conceiving and concisely explaining in historical and comparative perspective the social and moral basis of "foundational" goods and services, this book is essential reading for all concerned to escape the predations of financial engineering and bring the "everyday infrastructure of civilized life" into the public domain under democratic control.'
    Leo Panitch, Former Editor of The Socialist Register, York University, Canada

    'In this book, the authors present an innovative and creative account of economic development - one driven by the need to preserve our 'Foundational Economy' in Europe. To do this the authors convincingly make the case that Europe's foundational economy is a significant driver of social not simply individual market driven consumption. The distinctive primary role of public policy is about how experimentation, at a local level, can be directed to help secure the continuity of basic foundational services upon which Europe's citizens depend and need - to flourish.'
    Theodor Dumitru Stolojan, Prime Minister of Romania (1991-2), Member of the European Parliament (2007-19)

    'In Foundational economy, we are presented with an alternative and refreshing view of social policy. The innovative argument presented by this Europe-wide collective group of authors is that the primary role of public policy should be re-aligned towards promoting the 'Foundational Economy'. These foundational activities are often overlooked and, to a significant extent, taken for granted. But they should not be overlooked because these activities generate social consumption upon which all citizens across Europe depend for our collective welfare, household employment and general well-being.'
    Eva Kaili MEP, Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament

    'For decades economic policy has been done to people and not with and by them. It has not for the most part focused on the sectors of the economy that matter to people every day or on the communities that most need to benefit. The foundational economy approach represents a move away from grand industrial projects and the unaccountable power of neo-classical economics. In a world of falling livings standards, wellbeing in reverse gear, enormous wealth inequality and urgent environmental crises, it is an approach whose time has come.'
    Andrew Pendleton, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the New Economics Foundation (2017-20)

    'The rise in economic, social and recognition inequalities and the correlated authoritarian dynamic are not the result of unavoidable system changes, but of policy choices and a change in both balance of power and common sense. The research team launching the 'Foundational Economy' project addresses this issue by forcefully outlining a reversal of policy making, where people's capabilities, substantial freedom and social consumption regain center stage. A welcomed contribution to the urgent rethinking of economics and politics'.
    Fabrizio Barca, Italian Minister for Territorial Cohesion (2011-13)

    'Something has gone very wrong with the British economy. Investment and growth is poor and the proceeds are not fairly shared. Pay is unequal and stagnating for the majority. Too many people are trapped in insecure, low-paid and zero hours work. Outsourcing giants make a killing extracting value from our public services. And affordable housing remains a distant dream, especially for young families. This is the everyday reality that working people face and The Foundational Economy sets out a razor sharp analysis of the reasons why. But, more importantly, it delivers practical proposals for change. A smart and dynamic state at a national and local level, democratisation of our communities and workplaces, investment in public services - and those parts of our economy that most people depend on and where most people earn their living. This agenda poses big challenges for policy makers, politicians and civil society alike. But they must be met if we are to have an intelligent industrial policy for economic justice and 21st century public services that meet the needs of every community across the UK. Doing more of the same is not an option. The Foundational Economy provides a springboard for the new deal working people need.'
    Frances O'Grady, General Secretary, Trades Union Congress

    'Citizens have rights to basic services because their public provision underpins capacities and capabilities for all. This inspirational reformulation of the Foundational Economy explains why we need to stop wrecking our public services in Europe and start refashioning their future in the 21st century. It is not enough to claim that the Foundation Economy is a moral enterprise and the authors lay out new directions for social innovation enabling us to reinvent both our political practice and the world we hope for.'
    Henrietta L. Moore, Director of the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity

    'This fascinating book, Foundational Economy, can be seen as a contribution to the debate about measuring, understanding and, ultimately, reshaping economic systems. More than that, it is a critique of existing custom and practice when measuring, understanding and shaping the economy. This critique is as foundational as the book's title. We are some way short of a well-defined and widely-agreed set of new weights and measures for the economy. And we are a long way short of knowing which policy tools best deliver the private and collective goods society needs to flourish. This book tackles head-on some of those big questions about the economy. It also begins the process of providing answers. As in the natural sciences, as an approach I think this offers hope for societal, as well as scientific, advance.'
    Andy Haldane, former Chief Economist, Bank of England

    'Since 1988, Barcelona has developed five strategic plans, all of them having "business friendly" postulates as their basis. When a year ago the new team in charge of the future metropolitan strategy decided to place five basic elements for life (air, water, food, energy and housing) as the core elements for that strategy, we did not know a word about the proposal of the Foundational Economy. Now that we have had the opportunity to read this inspiring book, we not only consider our vision strengthened, but we also have the elements to more solidly support it and even reinforce it, incorporating some of the valuable insights that the authors provide. A must-read for all of us who are committed to improve wellbeing in our cities and our society in general.'
    Oriol Estela Barnet, General Co-ordinator of PEMB, Barcelona


    Foreword by Colin Crouch
    1 Introduction: foundational matters
    2 (Re)discovering the foundational
    3 Wrecking the foundational
    4 The constitution of the foundational
    5 Renewing the foundational
    Afterword by Andy Haldane


    The members of the Foundational Economy collective are: Davide Arcidiacono, Filippo Barbera, Andrew Bowman, John Buchanan, Sandro Busso, Joselle Dagnes, Joe Earle, Ewald Engelen, Peter Folkman, Julie Froud, Colin Haslam, Sukhdev Johal, Ian Jones, Dario Minervini, Mick Moran, Fabio Mostaccio, Gabriella Pauli, Leonhard Plank, Angelo Salento, Ferdinando Spina, Nick Tsitsianis, Karel Williams.

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