By Christos Giovanopoulos
Infra-demos was in the ISCTE-IUL 2018 conference titled 'Envisioning sustainable and post-capitalist futures' that was held n Lisbon, between 21 and 23 of November, with the paper “From grassroots solidarity structures to infrastructures of commons” presented by the infra-demos PhD researcher Christos Giovanopoulos.
The conference was dedicated to “Social Solidarity Economy and the Commons”, as the frame to imagine and develop post-capitalist forms of sharing, working and living. Among its objectives was to document the diverse “alternatives to the socio-economic status quo” developed through the crisis “by mobilizing endogenous practices, institutions and resources and networking among grassroots initiatives”. It also aimed “to respond to challenges that have arisen from recent research on forms of shared governance between the state, the market and the third sector”.
Thus, it hosted contributions by various actors, from academics and researchers to activists and institutional representatives, in order to facilitate interdisciplinary dialogue and debates on cross-national level. Fitting with this framing it welcomed experiences and theoretical contributions “guided by an action research strategy” for movements and policy design on Social Solidarity Economy (SSE) and the Commons. Particular attention was given to issues of community building and the deepening of democratic practices, of shared governance strategies and the management of commons, of participatory governance schemes and grassroots socioeconomic dynamics.
The over 60 papers that composed the conference program reflected the wide range of movements, organizing methods, infrastructures, solidarity practices, cooperative economies and institutional formats that have emerged in the recent period. In addition, important networks of the cooperative and social solidarity economies shared their experiences and knowledge produced on the ground in round tables. Among those who provided insights and raised issues and questions regarding the direction of SSE and the Commons, were representatives from the Associaciao Mutualista Montepio, from the Global Ecovillage Network, from Cooperativa Integral Catalana, from P2P Foundation, from the global network RIPESS and from the Catalan cooperative network Coop 57.
If anything Infra-demos felt like home in this environment. The novel socio-technical relations, challenges and tensions among various agencies (movements, communities, state and the market) constitute the core field of infra-demos’ interrogation in regard with the participatory infrastructural capacities fostered in such emerging terrain. The input of infrademos in the conference resonated and discussed with other takes on the matter that were focusing on the transfigurative role and potential for sustainability of such post-capitalist alternartives.
More precisely the paper of Christos Giovanopoulos focused on the experience of the medicine (collection-redistribution and) re-use campaign of the solidarity clinics in Greece. Based on findings from pilot research on the pharmacy of the Metropolitan Social Clinic of Hellinikon, the paper attempted to outline a. the ways in which solidarity structures constitute alternative social infrastructure and b. the process of commoning fostered by such redistributive practice of medicine.
The latter axis touched on the ability of such cooperative practice of medicine sharing as a process of transition from perceiving medicine as a “public good” to understanding it as “common good”. Regarding the former, emphasis was given to the “right to infrastructure” (Corsín Jiménez, 2014) that the solidarity collectives exercise, in combination with their ability to constitute their autonomous subjectivities, spaces and (importantly) mediums (Kioupkiolis, 2016) that enable the development of post-capitalist solidarity economies and processes of commoning. Moreover, by outlining the variety of actors and scales involved in the medicine re-use campaign, which span from individuals and grassroots collectives to institutional entities and from local to national to cross-national levels, the issue of their infrastructural capacity was explored.
In this framework the socio-technical relations involved in such infrastructuring endeavor, were examined. One of the findings presented is the correspondence between organizational models (e.g. network society – Castells, 2000) and distributive practices (e.g. P2P, Bauwens-Kostakis, 2017) that have emerged on the digital domain of ICT and the cooperative practices developed by low-fi movements, such as the self-organised solidarity clinics, in the physical realm. This co-relation and synchronicity opens up new avenues of research of transformative practices that develop their own transfigurative social paradigm beyond the transition from corporate capitalism and centralized models to platform capitalism and the “sharing economy”.
Bauwens M. & Kostakis V. (2014). From the Communism of Capital to Capital for the Commons: Towards an Open Co-operativism. TripleC 12(1): 356-361.
Castells M. (2000) The Rise of the Network Society. Second Edition. Oxford, Blackwell Publishing
Corsín Jiménez, A. (2014) The right to infrastructure: a prototype for open source urbanism. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 32, 342–362
Kioupkiolis A. (2016) The Commons and Hegemony: Alternative Politics at the Onset of the 21st Century, In: Kotionis Z. & Barkouta Y. (eds). Practices of Urban Solidarity. Volos, University of Thessaly Press, pp. 20-35.