UNMAKING: a research programme on the disruption of capitalism in societal transformation to sustainability


Giuseppe Feola presents at Institute of Geography, University of Münster

On 29 June Giuseppe Feola presented the talk ‘Sustainability transformation beyond capitalism: theorizing negation and affirmation in prefigurative grassroots initiatives’ at the Chair of Economic Geography and Globalization Studies (Prof. Sarah Ruth Sippel) of the Institute of Geography, University of Münster, Germany.


Abstract. Prefigurative grassroots initiatives are hopeful spaces of sustainability transformation beyond capitalism. Community supported agriculture, complementary currencies, repair cafes, ecovillages, and renewable energy cooperatives, among other types of initiatives, create alternative systems of provision in the present, while aligning means such as horizontality, deep democracy, and inclusion, and ends such as social justice, ecological sustainability, autonomy, dignity and sovereignty. Existing accounts of prefigurative grassroots initiatives have usefully attended to the emergence of novelty in these spaces of transformation, but have undertheorized the disabling and disarticulation of existing socioecological configurations, with the risk of reproducing an affirmationist bias (Dekeyser and Jellis, 2021), as well as an innovation bias (Davidson, 2017). These biases are problematic because they obscure ‘negative’ but generative processes involved in the emergence and consolidation of prefigurative grassroots initiatives. If, as argued by Fraser “we cannot save the planet without disabling some core, defining features of our [capitalist] social order” (Fraser, 2021:102, emphasis added), then a critical analysis of how capitalism is concretely disabled, or not, in prefigurative grassroots initiatives has much to offer in view of theorizing sustainability transformation beyond capitalism. In this talk I contend that, when they transform capitalist socio-material configurations, prefigurative grassroots initiatives involve conscious self-determination by differentiation through a range of socio-cognitive and socio-political processes such as unlearning, refusal, and decolonization of the imaginary. I call this the unmaking of capitalist socio-material configurations: a ‘negative’, but generative moment that co-constitutes and is entangled with the hopeful creation of alternatives to capitalism (Feola, 2019; Feola et al., 2021). The argument is supported by empirical evidence gathered through research on community supported agriculture and other grassroots agri-food initiatives in Europe and Latin America.