Capitalism with a human face?
By Nadia Johanisova
How do rural social enterprises survive in a harsh economic environment?
What are their ideals and what makes them tick?
What do they see as their greatest problems and how do they tackle them?
These are some of the questions addressed in this report by Czech environmentalist Nadia Johanisova based on 71 face-to- face interviews in Britain and the Czech Republic.
The full report (Word format, 637KB) is here : [FILE2 capitalism_with_human_face.doc, Capitalism with a human face?]
(Hard copies are also available for £8 to cover costs; contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
From the introduction to the report:
I was born in the Czech Republic, or Czechoslovakia as it was then, and have lived there for most of my life. This will naturally colour my narrative, as will the fact that I have worked as a biologist and environmental activist as well as university lecturer, and have for the last ten years lived in a small Czech village, which has to some degree retained its links to land and tradition. The iron curtain came down in 1989 when I was in my early thirties, giving my generation a chance to gain ample personal experience with both the Communist and Capitalist systems. Trying to view both from a combined social and green perspective, I concluded that they are disconcertingly similar in many ways: While the power in one system was held by an unaccountable and unshakeable Party and nomenclature, in the other it is increasingly grabbed by equally unaccountable and unshakeable large financial players linked with politicians. Both systems use people as a means, not an end: in the old system the people had to bow to an all-powerful and anonymous state, in the new both people and state must bow to even more powerful and anonymous markets. While the first system was scandalously inefficient in production, the one we have now has monstrously inflated consumption, with Nature – the fields, forests, waters, climate which we depend upon for our survival – taking a back seat in both.
This report then is primarily a quest for economic alternatives – the green shoots emerging between the cracks in the pavement of latter-day Capitalism. Initially, I wanted to learn as much as I could about British local bottom-up initiatives such as box schemes, community-supported agriculture, land trusts, credit unions, local transport schemes, ethical banking, community businesses, etc., etc., and see how applicable they were in my country, especially in a rural setting. Looking more closely, I found that what can be termed rural social enterprises exist in my own country as well, and in the end a more balanced report emerged, looking at both countries through the lens of social enterprise.