The latest in I4P’s ‘Good Society’ public seminar series took place on 30th April 2019 where guest speaker Neil McInroy led an inspirational conversation on ‘What Makes an Economy Good?’
Neil is the CEO of the independent think tank, CLES, and one of I4P’s Visiting Fellows. Neil was a speaker at the Good Society event that launched this seminar series so it was a pleasure to be able to welcome him back to Edge Hill University. The seminar was well attended by a range of local councillors and residents as well as by academic staff from the university.
The seminar was built around Antonio Gramsci’s words which seem more relevant than ever in this era of global crisis: ‘…the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.’ We are living in the interregnum, Neil argued, in a world where 10 people own the same wealth as 50% of the rest of the population. Such incredible inequality is accompanied by environmental uncertainty and fears for the future of the planet.
Despite this dire state of affairs, the evening had a very optimistic tone as Neil set out the ways that power is shifting back to the people through social movements such as Extinction Rebellion and the new municipalism (which is also embraced by the Labour government). He also stressed that an economy is a social construct, not a science, and this means that we can shape it in any way that we choose. This led us to think about the possibilities for a more just economy that could quite possibly soon be born.
The community wealth building work that CLES has been involved in for some years is currently gaining a lot of traction. This gives consideration to our purchasing powers: we can make – and indeed are making – more relational choices about how we spend our money. Whilst this is important on an individual level, it becomes yet more potentially transformative if anchor institutions such as universities and hospitals re-think their strategies for purchasing goods and services. The local community needs to be prioritised in these decisions in order that wealth is directed back into the local economy. We also need to concentrate on building co-operatives and mutually owned businesses to achieve a more plural ownership of this economy.
Dr Victoria Foster is a Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences and I4P Associate Director (External Networking) here at Edge Hill University.