Consumer and citizen are often opposing figures in contemporary societal analysis. The latter points at the individualization of modern capitalist subjects (Clarke et al., 2007, Bauman, 2007): the profit-driven, calculating consumer is opposed to the citizen who should act in the name of public good. Yet many contemporary social movements speak to the consumer precisely to leverage societal change and environmental sustainability. Some try to move beyond critical consumption as a form of merely individual responsibility (Micheletti, 2009) to develop fully-fledged, citizenship-driven alternative styles of provisioning. Italy’s Solidarity Purchase Groups (GAS, Grasseni 2013) are a particularly interesting case study to unveil the collective processes through which groups mobilize not only to exercise ethical or critical consumption but to co-produce common good, intervening in local food provisioning chains and reintroducing issues of social and environmental sustainability in regional economies, sometimes with explicit ambition to participate in the governance of the territory. The chapter will present and analyze qualitative and quantitative results from CORES LAB’s research “Inside Relational Capital” to contextualize such dynamics in the theoretical framework of sustainable citizenship and social practice, highlighting how sustainable consumption may be not only the objective, but likely the result of engaged practices of direct democracy. Firstly, we reflect on the recent sudden rise of socalled "ethical consumption" in crisis-ridden Italy. Rather than investigating this from a microeconomic point of view, considering consumers as individual actors in a value-neutral market, we analyze this growth by connecting it with the rise of social movements and by identifying it as a form or collective action. Political consumption is best represented in Italy by Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale (Solidarity Purchase Groups), though these are not the only form of radical rethinking of provisioning as a. a collective action; b. a lifestyle changing practice; c. a political statement. Thanks to their numbers, gasistas offer a fruitful sample to clarify the decisional processes and the organizational practices through which provisioning is being critically reinvented, in the name of the commons, sustainability, and a critique of commonly held conceptions of "growth" as development. In the light of both ethnographic and quantitative data, we argue that alternative provisioning moves beyond "ethical consumption" as it gathers collectives and helps them develop strategies of territorial and economic intervention – often to counteract or subsistute inefficient governance in terms of environmental stewardship and labor protection. Finally, we illustrate GAS as social innovators capable of suggesting grounded solutions to sustainability problems through agro-ecology and distributed logistics (Brunori, Rossi e Malandrin, 2011; Schifani e Migliore, 2011; Cembalo, Migliore e Schifani, 2013). Through family aggregation for instance, GAS work as collectives who pool to provision together (not only for food) from trusted providers whose demonstrated criteria of sustainability must include environmental stewardship and solidarity with workers (Fonte et al., 2011). Thus compared with other "alternative food networks" such as the French AMAP (Associations pour le Maintien d’une Agriculture Paysanne) or American CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), GAS require higher level of personal engagement to meet the challenge of lifestyle change in provisioning and consumption strategies. Furthermore, when they achieve and organizational critical mass and network together in Districts of Solidarity Economy, GAS activists have explicit governance objectives (Grasseni, 2013).

Italy’s Solidarity Purchase Groups as ‘citizenship labs’ / Forno, Francesca; Grasseni, Cristina; Signori, Silvana. - (2015), pp. 67-88.

Italy’s Solidarity Purchase Groups as ‘citizenship labs’

Forno, Francesca;Signori, Silvana
2015

Abstract

Consumer and citizen are often opposing figures in contemporary societal analysis. The latter points at the individualization of modern capitalist subjects (Clarke et al., 2007, Bauman, 2007): the profit-driven, calculating consumer is opposed to the citizen who should act in the name of public good. Yet many contemporary social movements speak to the consumer precisely to leverage societal change and environmental sustainability. Some try to move beyond critical consumption as a form of merely individual responsibility (Micheletti, 2009) to develop fully-fledged, citizenship-driven alternative styles of provisioning. Italy’s Solidarity Purchase Groups (GAS, Grasseni 2013) are a particularly interesting case study to unveil the collective processes through which groups mobilize not only to exercise ethical or critical consumption but to co-produce common good, intervening in local food provisioning chains and reintroducing issues of social and environmental sustainability in regional economies, sometimes with explicit ambition to participate in the governance of the territory. The chapter will present and analyze qualitative and quantitative results from CORES LAB’s research “Inside Relational Capital” to contextualize such dynamics in the theoretical framework of sustainable citizenship and social practice, highlighting how sustainable consumption may be not only the objective, but likely the result of engaged practices of direct democracy. Firstly, we reflect on the recent sudden rise of socalled "ethical consumption" in crisis-ridden Italy. Rather than investigating this from a microeconomic point of view, considering consumers as individual actors in a value-neutral market, we analyze this growth by connecting it with the rise of social movements and by identifying it as a form or collective action. Political consumption is best represented in Italy by Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale (Solidarity Purchase Groups), though these are not the only form of radical rethinking of provisioning as a. a collective action; b. a lifestyle changing practice; c. a political statement. Thanks to their numbers, gasistas offer a fruitful sample to clarify the decisional processes and the organizational practices through which provisioning is being critically reinvented, in the name of the commons, sustainability, and a critique of commonly held conceptions of "growth" as development. In the light of both ethnographic and quantitative data, we argue that alternative provisioning moves beyond "ethical consumption" as it gathers collectives and helps them develop strategies of territorial and economic intervention – often to counteract or subsistute inefficient governance in terms of environmental stewardship and labor protection. Finally, we illustrate GAS as social innovators capable of suggesting grounded solutions to sustainability problems through agro-ecology and distributed logistics (Brunori, Rossi e Malandrin, 2011; Schifani e Migliore, 2011; Cembalo, Migliore e Schifani, 2013). Through family aggregation for instance, GAS work as collectives who pool to provision together (not only for food) from trusted providers whose demonstrated criteria of sustainability must include environmental stewardship and solidarity with workers (Fonte et al., 2011). Thus compared with other "alternative food networks" such as the French AMAP (Associations pour le Maintien d’une Agriculture Paysanne) or American CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), GAS require higher level of personal engagement to meet the challenge of lifestyle change in provisioning and consumption strategies. Furthermore, when they achieve and organizational critical mass and network together in Districts of Solidarity Economy, GAS activists have explicit governance objectives (Grasseni, 2013).
Backhaus J.;Barr S.;Bateman T.;Forno F.;Gismondi M.;Grasseni C.;Jaeger-Erben M.;Kasper D.;Kemp R.;Marois J.;Rückert-John J.;Sahakian M.;Schelly C.;Signori S.;Straith D.;Wieser H.
Putting Sustainability into Practice. Applications and Advances in Research on Sustainable Consumption
CHELTENHAM
Edward Elgar
9781784710590
Forno, Francesca; Grasseni, Cristina; Signori, Silvana
Italy’s Solidarity Purchase Groups as ‘citizenship labs’ / Forno, Francesca; Grasseni, Cristina; Signori, Silvana. - (2015), pp. 67-88.
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