Underlining the drawbacks of the capitalist system and looking into alternative economic solutions started with a number of initiatives that began in the 19th century. These included the Paris Commune in 1871 and before it farmers’ revolts against feudalism, the Russian Revolution in 1917, the revolutionary waves of the 1920s and 1930s, and the alternative economic models initiated by workers and professionals in the late 20th century and the early 21st century. All these uprisings, initiatives, and efforts revolved around the possibility of establishing a humane system in which the well-being of people takes precedence over profit and the accumulation of wealth.
For the past 150 years, alternative economy featured prominently in different initiatives on participatory democracy, self-administration, cooperatives, and the role of the community in municipalities. In some cases, alternative constitutions and legislations were drafted. All such initiatives underlined the possibility of devising a new approach to the social, economic, and political management of society and which prioritizes public interests. The emergence of alternative solutions is directly linked to the destructive impact of capitalism on the social, political, and economic levels and the subsequent urgency of seeking a different route in which people can overcome impoverishment and marginalization and counter the intervention of institutions, governments, and different forms of authority even if this needs to materialize through radical revolutionary action.
The Arab region was, like many parts of the world, affected by the neoliberal ideology that is marketed as the only economic solution. This ideology was dealt a strong below upon the eruption of the 2011 revolutions. True, those revolutions did not achieve their goals and neoliberal policies made a brutal comeback following a short interruption, yet seeking alternative patterns never lost its urgency as the repercussions of neoliberalism become more visible and more detrimental. It also became clear that traditional dualities—the state versus companies, the technocratic versus the ideological, the pragmatic versus the idealistic—are no longer valid since they all support the “there is no alternative” discourse.
The book examines the different types of alternatives offered by social movements in the Arab region throughout the few past years and looks into different international trends that focus on formulating an alternative economic theory that tackles the issues of ownership, accountability, communal participation, decision-making, and the environment. Papers and articles in the book focus specifically on the relationship between alternative economy and social justice and the different frameworks of alternative economies in the Arab region. The book also examines the actual experiences of several Arab countries especially in relation to cooperatives and self-administration. These countries are Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, and Lebanon. Experiences from other countries will be tackled in more general terms such as Algeria.
The book is divided into an introductory chapter, which deals with basic ideas about alternative economy and its relationship to the concept of social justice and it is wrote by the leftist writer and thinker Salameh Kaileh. The book then delves into a series of case studies on countries of the region and they are Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. In which researchers presented important experiences on self-administration, NUBA-SEED for seed production in Egypt, and the Djemna oasis experience in Tunisia and from Morocco, the researcher presents the case of the collective lands, and from Lebanon Srifa Atelier Women Cooperative.
Then these case studies also presents important experiences on cooperatives, for instance in Lebanon it tackles the experience of Union Coordination Committee and from Morocco, the case of COPAC (the cooperative for milk production), and from Tunisia the experience of MAMOTEX textiles, and finally from Egypt the experience of the National Initiative to Support Cooperatives in Fayoum.
Then AFA through its research team present a concluding analytical chapter that tackled the most important problems, patterns and strategies for alternative economy in the region.
Moreover, as a trial for widening margins for participation with different opinions and ideas on that issue, the book adds as an appendix a group of articles that was presented during the conference that was held on the same issue in Tunisia in September 2016.