What is the foundational economy?

If you want a short, accessible guide, here is a 10 page document Introducing the Foundational Economy which explains the basics for an European audience and should be intelligible to any broadsheet newspaper reader. If that text is too academic, try the  Foundational Economy and Foundational Politics slides which were prepared for a symposium at Celtic Manor in April 2018. These introductions were drafted in late 2017 and early 2018 so that they give an up to date view of ideas which have developed considerably through recent internal discission. They are consolidated in the new Foundational Economy book which will appear in English in September 2018 and in German and Italian additions in early 2019.

These introductions make two basic points:

  • The foundational economy is about collective consumption through networks and branches which are the infrastructure of civilised everyday life. The foundational includes the material infrastructure of pipes and cables which connect households and providential services like health and care which citizens rely on; outside the foundational, there is a mundane overlooked economy of haircuts and takeaways.
  • The foundational economy is about universal basic services which are a citizen entitlement and it is therefore about politics as much as economics. From a foundational view point, the distinctive role of public policy is not to boost private consumption by delivering economic growth but to ensure the quantity and quality of foundational services.

All this grows out of earlier, simpler statements of position. The foundational concept was originally presented in the 2013 CRESC Manifesto for the foundational economy. This came out of dissatisfaction with generic industrial and regional policy focused on next generation industries and attracting mobile inward investment through competitivity; against this we argued that there was a large, neglected and sheltered economy with around 40% of the workforce engaged in providing households with basic goods and services. In the past five years we have been thinking through how and why this matters

Several team authored books – The End of The Experiment (2014), What a Waste (2015) and Il Capitale Quotidiano (2016) – and public interest reports then developed our argument about how foundational provision was compromised when privatisation and outsourcing introduced financialised providers with targets of double digit returns on capital and expectations of growth. Recent work has been concerned to move beyond critique to thinking through alternatives through local action on the working assumption that the state is not always or usually benign and competent.

Our emphasis is on engaging specifics and any overview needs to be complemented by national and regional analysis and sectoral study. So readers may find it useful to turn to a recent regional report What Wales Can Do (2017) or the sectoral study of adult residential care  Where Does The Money Go (2017)

Website developed and maintained by Cynog Williams.