Understanding how ordinary places works is important because it can open up new possibilities of making citizen lives more worth living. Our new research report How an ordinary place works: understanding Morriston takes up this challenge by focusing on a district town with 30,000 population some 3 miles north of the centre of Swansea. The report is of broad interest because it analyses Morriston in a new framework about the collective drivers of wellbeing. Within a hard frame of local settlement and activities, wellbeing depends not just on income but on the functioning of supply side infrastructures which provide foundational services through local networks and branches. On the infrastructure of grounded local services, Morriston starts with the advantage of relatively cheap housing. The mobility
infrastructure is car based so those without cars must struggle. While citizens complain about neglected social infrastructure of parks, community hubs and high street.
Our new working paper Foundational liveability: rethinking territorial inequalities is a response to political demands in Wales and requests from academic colleagues: “If the main steam has per capita GVA and GDP, where are our simple, intelligible foundational measures” Hence this paper about household residual income and foundational liveability. This incidentally undermines the idea of a successful or failed region with a unitary character because most regions are liveable for some types of household and unliveable for others. It also makes the connection to financialised capitalism because linkages to wealth accumulation are at least as important as earned income.The empirics in the paper show how this reframes the UK regional problem because we need policies for taxing unearned income and wealth in London as much as for boosting the Welsh productive economy.
Our most recent report in August 2018 From developer regeneration to civic futures Report sets Manchester’s current choices in a historical context and argues that the city is at the end of a trajectory of developer led regeneration. And needs a new politics for foundational service provision which would once again tackle issues of collective consumption but do so in a more participative way which involves citizens. This report on the city region of Manchester is part of a broader ongoing concern with regional policy.
This new book from the foundational economy collective will be the go to source for engaged citizens, active practitioners and critical academics beyond who want to know more about the foundational economy concept and its relevance to the politics of progressive reform.
The foundational encompasses material utilities like water, gas and electricity and providential services like education, health and care. The book explains how the material and providential matter economically and politically because they are the collectively consumed infrastructure of everyday life, the basis of well being and should be citizen rights. The emphasis on citizenship is an important new development in foundational thinking.
From this point of view, the foundational economy has a history which began heroically and ends in degradation. In the century after 1880 national and local state action built up the supply of foundational services right across Europe and North America. Since 1980 their systems of provision have been undermined by state neglect. This is variably combined with privatisation, outsourcing and market choice which import the unsuitable business models of financialized public companies and private equity.
The book takes up the political challenge of thinking about how we can have a better future. It does not recommend specific policies but proposes broad principles for re-building the foundational which could mobilise old and new social actors in broad political alliances; ask the citizens what they want; reinvent taxation; lean on intermediary institutions; and do not assume the state is benign and competent.
The book is relevant to all of Europe and beyond and will be available as an accessibly priced paper back in three languages. MUP, publisher of our Manchester Capitalism series, leads in English in September 2018 with German and Italian editions to follow from Suhrkamp and Einaudi in 2019. Before you buy the book, do read our introductory chapter on this web site which explains the argument of the book here.
Mick Moran died suddenly after a heart attack on 3rd April. This was completely unexpected and it is still difficult to accept the death of a collaborator who had such energy and was already up for the next project. He had played a key role in the development of the political dimensions of foundational thinking in our collective, most recently by introducing citizenship arguments And he had shared drafting duties on much of our recent output so that Foundational Economy will be his last and our next book, when published in the autumn. Those who met Mick as a modest, wise old man often did not realise there was a remarkable back story which is summarised in our obituary. He was the child of migrants who had been born into rural Irish poverty; then had a distinguished career as a political scientist from which he retired to join us in our foundational project. Our intellectual loss is great because this was a life interrupted when Mick was still at the peak of his creative and innovative powers. But we also remember that this was a life well lived and know that the values of imagination of the Foundational Economy book are a fitting memorial.
Read our obituary here.
Swansea Bay report 2017
In June 2017 foundationaleconomy.com and CREW (Centre for Regeneration Excellence in Wales) launched What Wales Can Do a new report on policy for the Swansea Bay city region. This new report follows up the earlier 2015 report What Wales Can Be and adds new evidence, arguments and framing. The argument in this new report is for an asset based approach to developing the foundational economy in the region. The starting point is two observations about the limits of the main stream policies and policy making. The Swansea Bay City Deal which was signed off in Spring 2017 focuses on next generation industries which will never be volume employers; and more fundamentally, government (local, Welsh and national) does not know what to do in key policy areas like small business support and adult care. So what we need is a coalition of state and non- state actors to undertake scaleable experiments. These would aim to break down the barriers between economic and social policy and increase tangible welfare (not market incomes measured by GVA per capita). The report can be downloaded here. This is now being followed up with local funded experiments in Swansea Bay Blaenau Gwent.
With Article 50 triggered, British voters had to brace themselves for Brexit after a referendum campaign which had not framed the key issues or articulated the choices for our increasingly disunited kingdom. So here is an antidote, a working paper from foundationaleconomy.com researchers which explains how we could and should make Brexit work by reorganising the foundational economy which provides essential goods and services to every household. When Theresa May called an oppurtunist general election in 2017, she promised “an economy that works for everyone“ and Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the oppasition campaigned for a “ fairer society” This working paper sketches a route map for how to deliver on these objectives. The working paper is available here.
On the 8th of March 2017 the Welsh Assembly held a 60 minute debate on the foundational economy. Four Labour members proposed a motion which “Calls on the Welsh Government to develop a strategy to maximise the impact of the foundational economy across Wales as part of its work on developing a new economic strategy.” This attracted cross party support from Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives, and the Economy Minister, Ken Skates, then responded positively. Watch the debate here.
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In March 2017 we published the most recent in a series of public interest reports which have attracted considerable public attention. The new report Coming Back Capability and Precarity in UK Textiles and Apparel develops a distinctive analysis of firm capability and emphasises the importance of supportive ecological conditions. The practical implication is that a large scale reshoring of garment production is not going to happen, but, that there is much to be done in supporting small and medium firms and policing competition from firms who are not paying minimum wages.