Thursday, November 29, 2007

January 3, 2008 Presentations

On January 3, 2008 – the first class back from the winter break – we are going to do two things: review in detail the Fall 2007 semester and hear your preliminary ideas as to how the alternative organization you’ve been thinking about for your Winter 2008 term project is informed by the theory and history we’ve been studying thus far. Basically, this means that YOU will be collaborating with your classmates in the review by directly mapping it, albeit in a preliminary sketch, to your forthcoming projects. Don’t worry, you don’t have to have a firm organization in place yet. Just base this exercise on one of the ideas you communicated to me in our meeting that we had late in Fall 2007. And, in light of the fact we did not have a mid-term exam in December, I believe this task is warranted. It’s worth 4% of your final project mark, so take it seriously but don’t sweat over it. Have fun with it. Use it as an opportunity to re-read the texts – or, if you haven’t read certain texts yet, to actually DO the readings. Believe me, you will thank me come March when you have a zillion projects on the go and you need to prepare for your in-class presentation and your final Contemporary Research Paper. Plus, your Alternative Firm Analysis and especially your Contemporary Research Paper will be drawing extensively from the Fall 2007 theory and history, so you’ll doubly thank me come March when you won’t have to pull several all-nighters making sense of last semester.

So, the review/presentation for Jan. 3 will be as follows:

You are all to give a five to seven minute presentation of preliminary ideas concerning the theoretical grounding for your Alternative Firm Analysis and Contemporary Research Paper. I want to underscore the “preliminary” aspect of this. Don’t worry if you’re absolutely right or not, just do it. You are to also hand in to me a ONE-page bullet-point synopsis of your presentation from which you will speak from at the beginning of the class.

You will be drawing your theoretical materials ONLY from the course materials we’ve engaged with (texts, films, the blog, etc.). If you don’t have an actual firm or organization in mind yet, no worries. Just use the loose idea you communicated to me in our meetings to situate an imaginary organization that might fit your idea. For example, if you want to do a workers’ coop, or an alternative power organization, or a housing coop, or perhaps a woman’s rights collective, just go with this idea for the project. You have enough materials from the course to begin to draw a preliminary concept of what, for example, a workers’ coop might be. There are plenty of these organizations to choose from in Toronto. Just do a Google search on your idea and “Toronto” or “Ontario” and you’ll see what I mean. If you want, you can choose as a prototype one of the organizations you discover in your web search. Again, the resources I’ve made available for you on the blog – and that I will continue to update throughout the break, so check back often – will serve you well, so go there first.

Once you’ve selected your organization or your loose idea of an alternative organization, you are to answer the following things to frame your presentation:

1. What is this organization an alternative to? You can’t just say “capitalism” or “private property”, be more specific (see point 3)? What community does it serve/service?

2. Where does it fit into Fontan & Shragge’s “social economy”? Is it mostly reform-minded or utopian?

3. How does it seem to be organized to you at this early stage of your investigation? As a loose collective of autonomous individuals (eg, Anarchist Free University)? As a cooperative (eg, the various examples in Melnyk)? As a not-for-profit (eg, the United Way, any local community centre, etc.)? As a traditional business but with some form of alternative business model that follows some aspect of mutuality (eg, examples in Kropotkin)?

4. Where does it fit into Cavanagh & Mander’s “Alternative Operating Systems” and which of their “Ten Principles for Sustainable Societies” applies to it? You might also want to look at where the organization fits into the alternative “what can be done” model in Cavanagh & Mander’s Chapter 11.

5. Even if your organization isn’t a cooperative, where would it fall along Melnyk’s four traditions of cooperatives (all of his principles could apply to any form of alternative organization)? Why do you think so? You must support your claim here by showing some evidence from the actual organization or the social-political-economic sector it operates within.

6. How is your organization an example of an alternative economic firm that tries to reclaim some aspect of the commons? What aspect of the commons is it reclaiming? Again, not only Cavanagh & Mander is useful here, but also Kropotkin, Thompson, and Hill and any of the readings from Week 8 (Oct. 25)?

NOTE: I’ll be impressed if you also draw on insights from the historical and theoretical essays we’ve considered to show how this organization is a continuation of longer and historically linked, bottom-up worker and peasant revolts.

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