Realising Associative Economics

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2016 brings with it some changes for Associate! In the first place, after over 35 years of publishing a newsletter dedicated to bringing key economic insights into an appropriate form for the modern mind, Christopher Houghton Budd is now stepping back. He leaves the journal in the hands of his co-editors, Arthur Edwards and Stephen Torr, and to mark the occasion we have dedicated this issue to the tremendous contribution that Christopher has made, not only in articulating the clear thoughts by which humanity can give expression to an associative economy but providing inspiration to thousands of people around the world.

The ‘Metamorphosis of Capitalism’ is the leitmotif of Christopher’s journey since early days in the 1960s, when he first began to address himself to the urgent necessity of rethinking economics; it is also the title of his 2003 book, which, together with its companion volume by Marc Desaules, A Human Response to Globalisation, is a primer in associative economics. The theme of this issue, ‘Realising Associative Economics’, the book’s subtitle, is a nod to this endeavour, both Christopher’s part in it and what remains to be done.

But it is not quite time to say goodbye! Christopher will continue to contribute to Associate! and has offered a Going Emeritus piece to this issue in which he gives a concise summary of his journey from NewEconomy to Associate!

There are also changes in the format and publication schedule. Associate! will now come out on a bi-monthly basis in an extended double-issue, which we hope will provide more space for in-depth analysis, punctuated by illustrations and digressive features.

The intention remains, as ever, to explore how the knots of contemporary reductionist  economic thinking can be loosened such that the many and varied challenges by which humanity is faced become tractable. This entails various aspects, in the first place a descriptive approach is needed to bring to our close attention the key features of the phenomena at hand. This finds expression in the never-ending stream of economic stories demanding our attention, in both mass media and specialist academic journals. We aim to begin with those stories, as presented, and then bring up alongside them an associative rendering of the same phenomenon, whether using archive material from Rudolf Steiner and others or current writing. Space will continue to be given for discussions among those who identify with an associative outlook, taking excerpts from the online ae-exchange and correspondence. All of this serves to give a flavour of what the issues are in    current consciousness (meaning popular, academic and from practitioners), how they are to be understood and described when seen from an associative perspective in terms of underlying ideas and then to explore how such matters might be practically managed in terms of an accounting treatment. Accounting is key and the final segment of the journal, now renamed ‘Awakening Accounts’ will reinforce the potential use of accounting as a discrete tool to help humanity to ‘do differently’ which is ultimately what is called for.

In acknowledging the story of this journal – an account, necessarily partial is offered of some of the iterations of associative economics that have appeared within its pages, at least in recent years. Of course the term ‘associative economics’ is relatively new in that whole history – a task for the future remains to complete an accessible archive of not only 35 years of the journal’s back-issues but also of related material. This is a project that the editors intend to accomplish, and hope that some of the glimpses given here will whet the appetite for a more comprehensive survey.

In part the journal’s development necessarily also tracks the metamorphosis of Christopher’s own approach and points to the nascent contemporary consciousness of ‘money as accounting’. It is arguably the emphasis on ‘economics through accounting’ that, more than anything else, gives associative economics its characteristic feature, provides it with the credentials to be taken seriously and bridges the ideal with the practical.

The name of the game however is not so much that we all end up in the same place but recognise that we inhabit the same context which can then be understood from a diversity of perspectives. It was interesting therefore to learn from Christopher that one of the original ideas he had for a journal name was Context!

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