The ‘foundational economy’ encompasses those goods and services, together with the economic and social relationships that underpin them, that provide the everyday infrastructure of civilized life. A nonexhaustive list includes gas and electricity, water, waste and sewerage, retail food supply, telecommunications, health and social care, housing, education and public transport. Since the 1990s, many of these goods and services have been increasingly incorporated within market logics by policies that promote commodification, privatization and financialization. The failure of these policies and their impact on the daily lives of citizens have been documented in a body of work that has applied foundational thinking to a number of substantive areas of social and economic relations and geographic regions (see Bentham et al, 2013; Barbera et al, 2017, 2018; Foundational Economy Collective, 2018).
This edited collection takes this scholarship further using comparative perspectives on the foundational economy in relation to governance, urban life, welfare critical goods and food systems. We extend theoretical and empirical work on the foundational economy to explore its relevance to key policy areas and to civil society. Addressing a range of substantive areas of concern, individual chapters use case studies at different national and regional levels to illustrate the arguments being developed. In so doing we provide a unique perspective on the relationship between civil society, democracy and the foundational economy.
Our aim is to advance foundational thinking in three key areas. First, we set out detailed evidence on the impact of growth-based and financialized solutions on local democracy, citizenship and civil society and explore alternative approaches to citizenship and social justice that are rooted in the foundational economy. Second, for the first time we provide important comparative perspectives on the development of foundational thinking. And third, we document detailed and critical case studies in core areas of economic and social life.
Each chapter addresses different aspects of the foundational economy from a comparative perspective, illustrating key points with case studies. Areas that are considered in detail include the rise of platform capitalism and the so-called sharing economy that extend commodification and value extraction into mundane activities. In contrast, foundational economy thinking can utilize the same technological developments to offer potential alternative forms of social and economic organization through platform cooperativism.