In a time when neoliberal capitalism has been widely discredited as a tool for economic stability, with social movements across Europe challenging the economic system that brought the financial crash and recession, we are still being presented with the argument that to neoliberal economics, There Is No Alternative.
Challenging this position was the New Economics Foundation’s Copenhagen summit, which European Alternatives participated in this September. The summit aimed to lay the foundation for a transnational network in Europe dedicated to research and action to shift the debate from There Is No Alternative to explaining the real options for creating a global economic order based on solidarity and sustainability.
Why did we go there to join in a discussion about new economics? It is clear from empirical data that the neoliberal economic policies in place since the 1980s have not had the trickle-down effect its proponents always promised – the income gap has widened in all European countries, while the financial crash itself was a product, among other reasons, of economic policies that allowed bankers to play risky games with personal debt. Apart from anything else, the human cost of neoliberal economics and the climate crisis also necessitate that we think again about the economic system.
Changes to the economic system will not happen overnight, however what this summit discussed and the work the network born out of it will do is to take steps forward that both show that another economics is possible and articulate how we move towards new economies. A key principle is that we need to think of economics in its true sense of the way society organises itself to provide for the needs of the people in a transparent, participatory and sustainable way, rather than seeing it as synonymous with the ‘market’. A number of concepts that the network will be exploring to build a new economics include the future of work in a post-growth society, increasing equality within ecological limits and changing private sector growth imperatives.
This kind of thinking matters, beyond those interested in economics. We live in a time both where neo-liberal economics are omnipresent but where social movements are increasingly challenging its logics. Solidarity, equality and participation are not hallmarks of the economic system for many of us, but they could be. Already today – with the rise in precarity, lack of affordable housing and cuts to social protections, we need to engage in this debate. But as we embark on an era of unprecedented climate changes, which is threatening the human rights of billions of people across the world, those of us outside the world of mainstream economics must engage with those working on the academic side of the debate to research and articulate economic policy alternatives and to find a common language to fight for a new economics.
Read more about European social rights on our Citizen Rights platform here.
Author: Jackson Oldfield
Picture by Simon King