Power and privilege in alternative civic practices: Examining imaginaries of change and embedded rationalities in community economies

Lucía Argüelles, Isabelle Anguelovski, Elizabeth Dinnie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 Elsevier Ltd Community economies can be considered as examples of the diverse economies growing outside common capitalist logics of private accumulation and profit, seeking to bypass or reconfigure dominant global trends of societal and economic organization. Yet, these communities seem to fit quite well under a neoliberal program in which responsibilities are shifting downwards, favoring multi-level governance over State intervention and accountability. This binary character makes imperative an open and critical discussion on the development of community initiatives, including on the motivations and visions of citizens practicing alternative ethical consumption. This article explores the neoliberal rationalities embraced by community members within the imaginaries of change they frame and examines how these rationalities contribute to (re)producing neoliberal conditions and forms of governance. Our analysis builds on semi-structured interviews conducted among the members of 11 initiatives in 5 EU countries and on participant observation. We argue here that communities articulate an “alternative imaginary” of change that appears imprinted by core neoliberal rationalities around questions of individual responsibility, the role of the State, and civic participation and equity. It is an imaginary related to the construction of CBEs to by-pass existing socio-political and economic configurations. This imaginary more often than not responds to neoliberal promises of individual freedom and autonomy and seems to undermine CBEs' more radical possibilities at the same time obscuring more diverse voices of transformation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-41
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017


  • Alternatives
  • Barter groups
  • Community bicycle shop
  • Community economy
  • Community energy
  • Environmental privilege
  • Food networks
  • Imaginaries of change
  • Land trusts
  • Neoliberalism
  • Responsibilization


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