RESHORE #3 – Commoning Industry

“Successful industry at its best is but a phase of successful living.”

Arthur E Morgan

In this edition, I wanted to send along some links and inspiring initiatives which have kept my mind on the economic and social possibility held within the term reshoring.

The global supply chain crisis has been back in the news, for instance with this article in the Guardian. As noted there:

“while predictions about the easing of bottlenecks have come and gone without any improvement, it has become clear the disruptions of the past two years or more are spurring fundamental changes to the world economy that could have yet more profound impacts on our lives.”

The direction we go in from there, of course, is highly contested. My own sense of possibility has been inspired in recent months by a couple of initiatives:

  • The Industrial Commons is doing phenomenal work in North Carolina, changing how manufacturing is done in the rural United States. Inspired by the cooperative ecosystems of Mondragon and Emilia Romagna, it “founds and scales employee owned social enterprises and industrial cooperatives, and supports frontline workers to build a new southern working class that erases the inequities of generational poverty and builds an economy and future for all.”
  • I also caught up on work by the Earth Worker Energy Manufacturing Cooperative in Australia, a cooperative producing the materials for low-carbon energy supply in the Latrobe Valley. In accordance with cooperative principles, 15% of their surplus profits go towards helping other worker co-ops grow, and they are supported by, among others, electrical and construction unions. Economic democracy in action.
  • And here is a great example of economic imagination and worker-led Just Transition in action. A group of miners from Nitra, Slovakia, after the closure of mines, using old munitions bunkers for mushroom production, supplied to their local community. They produce about 15 tonnes of oyster mushrooms per year.

Also of note is the new book Local, Slow and Sustainable Fashion: Wool as a Fabric for Change. There is some really radical and culturally rooted thinking in the book around local production of fabrics. You can watch the launch event for it here, including ecological economist and degrowth activist Tone Smith critiquing conventional narratives of circular economy, easy solutionism and discussing energy limits and limits to growth (skip to 1 hour 10 minutes for that).

Finally, Peter Ryan, who I interviewed for a recent edition of this newsletter has published a piece of analysis called The Rise and Fall of the Celtic Tiger, which argues, among other things, “that the Celtic Tiger was caused by: 1.) manufacturing 2.) manufacturing in the right industrial sectors and 3.) manufacturing done by indigenous Irish firms.” Of course, things fell apart when the economy shifted to speculation and “intangible growth”, and the malaise continues to this day:
“Today, many Irish people feel like the society is being hollowed out. There is a housing crisis, an energy crisis, a transportation crisis, a jobs crisis, etc. You name it, there is a crisis. The cause is that a minority of Irish elites sacrificed the broad Irish economy in order to make outsized profits for themselves. These elites could really be that selfishly corrupt but perhaps a more likely rationale is that fueled by neoliberal quasi-religious economic axioms these elites figured that one day their profits would trickle down to the rest of the Irish economy. Whether intentional or negligent, it is imperative that the Irish nation either constrain the selfish behavior of these elites or dispel the ideological haze they inhabit.”

I think that is plenty of reading and inspiration for one edition! Catch you next time.

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