My essay looks at some of the activities undertaken by civil society and illustrates how these may be gradually co-opted by business practices. It considers this kaleidoscope of activities - including the work of community and voluntary organisations – as representing a ‘social commons’ that is under threat. At times civil society can offer resistance and alternatives to the current political orthodoxy, known as neo-liberalism, which is becoming pervasive around the world. This is an economic, political and cultural project that seeks to privatise public goods and common land, outsource welfare services and introduce competitiveness deeper into every aspect of our lives. It is operated by trade agreements, structures and terms of trade and governance. Citizenship and rights become challenged and conditional.
Even civil society activities are affected by neo-liberal mechanisms. The activities within civil society can resist but the spaces are becoming smaller. This essay argues that ‘resistance is not futile’ and provides examples of different activities in the UK. Activist practices including: community organising, reciprocal working, commoning and conviviality can build spaces for relationships and learning. They offer ways of doing and thinking differently. This essay points out that even here there are attempts at colonisation by the dominant regime and argues for a strong defence of the social commons.
You can read my essay on the TransNational Institute’s site here.
This article is part of the LocalismWatch series.
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