Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
The Solidarity Economy movement (SSE) in Barcelona strives for post-capitalist social transformation by constructing alternative economic structures that are cooperative, democratic, ethical, and ecologically respectful. SSE initiatives, estimated to account for 7% of Barcelona’s GDP, cover most economic sectors, including electricity production, finance, media, telecommunications, car-sharing, or healthcare. While SSE is conceived as a fundamentally practical movement, its participants demonstrate an intense commitment to sophisticated theoretical practices (Osterweil 2013) that constantly and critically reflect on the movement itself—its goals, failures, and overarching political paradigm. This theoretical reflection generates a political knowledge grounded on grassroots practices and an expertise that is increasingly recognized beyond the SSE movement, especially by the governments of Barcelona and Catalonia. Most importantly, this expertise is intended to be horizontal, participatory, open, and democratic—as opposed to technocratic expertise. However, this aspiration for radical horizontalism in knowledge-making finds itself in conflict with power dynamics such as gender, different discursive skills, or the intellectual authority garnered by some actors. How do activists deal with these power relations and contradictions? Drawing from extensive fieldwork with the SSE movement in Barcelona, I examine the cooperative knowledge-making practices that reflect on and shape the sociopolitical paradigm of SSE and the forms of expertise and authority that are enacted. In so doing, I address questions such as, what are the potentialities and pitfalls of a truly democratic expertise? What could a post-technocratic mode of political expertise look like, and how does it relate to global fears and accusations of populism?