Bubbles, Turbulence and Utopias – research on new economic movements

The purpose of our study Bubbles, Turbulence and Utopias (“Kuplia, kuohuntaa ja utopioita”) is to introduce some of the arguably most notable schools of economic thought and economy-related movements outside and beyond the mainstream, with the aim to shed analytical light on the interconnections in this varied and somewhat scattered field. The intention is to describe the current universe of available alternative forms of economic activity and thinking born through present-day efforts to build more sustainable systems. As such, the study aims to serve as an impetus and inspiration for discussions at the Sustainable Economy Forum starting in October 2012 at SITRA, the Finnish Innovation Fund. It also constitutes a brief introduction to the topic for a broader audience.

karttaWe have tried to focus on economic movements and schools of thought that in our opinion merit their place in the study by being new, well researched, otherwise interesting or particularly relevant or visible during the ongoing financial crisis. Our chosen approach to the concept of ‘economy’ comprises an overview of economic theories, alternative economic models and emerging innovative forms of economic activity, focusing on the phenomena of the developed world. The Finnish perspective, movements and thinkers have been intentionally emphasised, which is also reflected on the selection of interviews conducted for the study.

A key common factor for the schools and movements presented is that they can be seen as reactions to certain societal circumstances, challenges or changes; the study discusses seven of these central developments in more detail. While none of the nascent movements to date have provided clear and viable alternatives to the prevailing economic and political systems due to their plurality and horizontal, less coordinated structures, the study covers broader protest groups such as Occupy and Indignados that have gained global visibility and following. The study also presents alternative economic theories that challenge the assumptions of neoclassical economics and its rational protagonist, the profit-maximising ‘homo economicus’.

Following the theoretical discussion, alternative ways to organise economic activity are described. Policy scenarios and proposals are presented for discussion, however respecting the spirit of the study as a descriptive rather than prescriptive account. Policy institutes and think tanks are briefly introduced as potential new fora and incubators for ground-breaking economic modus operandi, ambitious analysis, system-building and even activism. In the last chapter, examples of innovative (bottom-up) economic activity by citizens are presented, giving a glimpse of what is already happening and being done along the new economic frontiers.

The study was conducted and compiled by Mikko Forss and Ohto Kanninen of Tänk, with contributions by Markus Kanerva, Noora Laitio and Tiina Likki.

The picture is a view on study by artist Karolina Kucia. Klick the picture to see a larger version.

You may download the research here (in Finnish).
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