In a time of disintegrating certainties, many of us have big questions: “How should we live?” “What work should we do?” “How can we resource ourselves and each other?” Our esteemed panel will discuss the impact David Fleming’s writing has had on them, and how we can use that inspiration in engaging with the wider context of our times.
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Already a key influence on thinkers and activists in Europe, David Fleming’s entertaining vision of a post-growth economy built on the play, humor, rootedness and reciprocal obligations of a rich culture has long inspired optimism and action. Fleming’s work takes us back to bedrock, highlighting that “most of human history was bred, fed and watered by another sort of economy. But the market has replaced, as far as possible, the social capital of reciprocal obligation, loyalties, culture and traditions with exchange, price and the impersonal principles of economics.”
As the market economy continues to crumble under the weight of its own impossible need for perpetual growth, we should admit that for all its destructiveness, we will miss its essential simplicity, the comforts it delivers to many and the freedoms it underwrites. And as capitalism’s former largesse continues to shrink away, that future is becoming daily reality for ever more of us.
Such a time brings fear and uncertainty, but also great possibility. The forces that have cocooned us are failing, but these are also the forces that constrained us. This is a time of loss and freedom, if we can minimise our dependence on the market and find sustenance with deeper roots. Fleming’s economic vision is based not in the mathematical abstractions of GDP growth, but in music, culture, love, conviviality, humor and play.
Now is the time to repair and restore the atrophied social and ecological structures on which most human cultures were built. Not only because we miss them dearly but also as an absolute practical priority, for they are the only basis for a nourishing, cohesive society that might survive the turbulent times to come. This work must become the story of our times, and living it imbues our days with joy and meaning.
The books of David Fleming (1940-2010) are an inspiration to all our speakers. He was a visionary thinker and writer who played significant roles in the genesis of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement, and the New Economics Foundation, as well as chairing the Soil Association. As one of the early whistle-blowers on oil depletion, he also designed the influential TEQs carbon/energy rationing system. After reading Modern History at Trinity College, Oxford, he later earned an MBA and then an MSc and PhD in economics (in 1988). These enabled him to better engage with and confound the mainstream, in support of his true passion and genius: understanding that diverse and mysterious thing “community.” His Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive It was the work of over thirty years, and the basis of the posthumous paperback Surviving the Future: Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy selected and edited by Shaun Chamberlin.
Shaun Chamberlin is the managing director of The Fleming Policy Centre and editor of his late mentor David Fleming’s posthumous Lean Logic and Surviving the Future. In February he led Schumacher College’s “Community, Place and Play: A Post-Market Economics” course, based around the books. Shaun was a co-founder of Transition Town Kingston and author of the movement’s second book, The Transition Timeline (2009), and has since contributed to more than ten other books. He has also served as chair of the Ecological Land Co-operative and a director of the campaigning organization Global Justice Now, and is currently Chelsea Green Publishing’s commissioning editor for the UK/Europe. He was a key organiser for this event, but having sworn off flying in 2002 due to its environmental impacts will be an interested spectator on the livestream! His website is www.darkoptimism.org