The Resilience Imperative: Cooperative Transitions to a Steady-state Economy


We find ourselves between a rock and a hot place—compelled by the intertwined forces of peak oil and climate change to reinvent our economic life at a much more local and regional scale. The Resilience Imperative argues for a major SEE (social, ecological, economic) change as a prerequisite for replacing the paradigm of limitless economic growth with a more decentralized, cooperative, steady-state economy.


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The Resilience Imperative: Cooperative Transitions to a Steady-state Economy

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We find ourselves between a rock and a hot place—compelled by the intertwined forces of peak oil and climate change to reinvent our economic life at a much more local and regional scale. The Resilience Imperative argues for a major SEE (social, ecological, economic) change as a prerequisite for replacing the paradigm of limitless economic growth with a more decentralized, cooperative, steady-state economy.

The authors present a comprehensive series of strategic questions within the broad areas of:

  • Energy sufficiency
  • Local food systems
  • Interest-free financing
  • Affordable housing and land reform
  • Sustainable community development

Each section is complemented by case studies of pioneering community initiatives rounded out by a discussion of transition factors and resilience reflections.

With a focus on securing and sustaining change, this provocative book challenges deeply embedded cultural assumptions. Profoundly hopeful and inspiring, The Resilience Imperative affirms the possibilities of positive change as it is shaped by individuals, communities, and institutions learning to live within our ecological limits.

Michael Lewis is the executive director of the Center for Community Enterprise and is well-known internationally as a practitioner, author, educator, and leader in the field of community economic development.

Patrick Conaty is an honorary research fellow at the University of Birmingham and a director of Common Futures. Since 1999 he has worked for the new economics foundation (nef), where he has produced a wide range of publications about predatory lending, financial inclusion, community land trusts, and social venture finance.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Review, Resurgence Magazine, Ed Mayo

The two authors have an outstanding track record of social innovation for a more just and sustainable economy. What they describe is therefore born out of practice rather than ideas. The Resilience Imperative tells us that it is OK to dream in the daytime. The authors are practical pioneers with an unrivalled track record of cooperative innovation.

Review, E Magazine July 2012 K.B.

How can we get our economy back on track while simultaneously making it more socially, environmentally and financially sustainable?

The Resilience Imperative: Cooperative Transitions to a Steady-State Economy addresses this question through a series of warnings and historical examples. Authors Michael Lewis and Pat Conaty, who specialize in integrative economic systems, advocate for the U.S. moving away from a large economy reliant on fossil fuels to small, local economies.

Lewis and Conaty warn readers about the current “era of volatility” caused by human impact on the environment and climate change and walk them through the links between fossil fuel consumption, climate change, the global economy and financial recessions. “In part, what impedes our breaking out of the box is the conviction that economic growth and prosperity are synonymous—too many believe that we can’t have one without the other,” they write. They stress that prosperity is determined by quality of life and that the economy should be stabilized, not continue to grow.

The authors offer as examples Sweden’s JAK, an interest-free lending system, and Community Land Trusts such as the Gramdan movement in India. The cooperation between individuals and policymakers is vital to create a country that can sustain itself and its practices, they posit. “Without engagement, dialogue, and sometime fractious debate to determine what is most important, it is not possible to set strategy effectively or to learn from what works and what does not.” They argue that with more integration and cooperation between businesses, governments and communities, a more sustainable economy is possible.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780865717077
  • Publisher: New Society Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/12/2012
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,401,159
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael  Lewis

Michael Lewis is Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Community Renewal He is well-known internationally as a practitioner, author, educator, and leader in the field of Community Economic Development. Michael has worked with a wide range of businesses, organizations, communities and governments on initiatives related to transition, community resource management, development finance and the social economy. Until recently he also led the B.C. – Alberta Social Economy Research Alliance, a university/ practitioner platform for applied research.

Patrick Conaty is a Californian working in England and Wales. He is a Fellow of new economics foundation and a research associate of Community Finance Solutions at the University of Salford. Pat specializes in developmental research on cooperative and mutual enterprise and is a national expert in the fields of community development finance and community land trusts.


Twenty-four year-old Princeton graduate Michael Lewis had recently received his master's degree from the London School of Economics when Salomon Brothers hired him as a bond salesman in 1985. He moved to New York for training and witnessed firsthand the cutthroat, scruple-free culture that was Wall Street in the 1980s. Several months later, armed only with what he'd learned in training, Lewis returned to London and spent the next three years dispensing investment advice to Salomon's well-heeled clientele. He earned hundreds of thousands of dollars and survived a 1987 hostile takeover attempt at the firm. Nonetheless, he grew disillusioned with his job and left Salomon to write an account of his experiences in the industry. Published in 1989, Liar's Poker remains one of the best written and most perceptive chronicles of investment banking and the appalling excesses of an era.

Since then, Lewis has found great success as a financial journalist and bestselling author. His nonfiction ranges over a variety of topics, including U.S./Japanese business relations (Pacific Rift), the 1996 presidential campaign (Trail Fever), Silicon Valley (The New New Thing), and the Internet boom (Next: The Future Just Happened). He investigated the economics of professional sports in Moneyball (2003) and The Blind Side (2006); and, in 2008, he edited Panic, an anthology of essays about the major financial crises of 1990s and early "oughts."

Good To Know

Michael Lewis attended Isidore Newman School in his native New Orleans, LA -- a private college prep school that counts among its more distinguished alumni historian Walter Isaacson, children's book author Mo Willems, singer Harry Connick, Jr., and famous pro-football siblings Peyton and Eli Manning.
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    1. Date of Birth:
      October 15, 1960
    2. Place of Birth:
      New Orleans, LA
    1. Education:
      Princeton University, B.A. in Art History, 1982; London School of Economics, 1985

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Chapter 1 Resilience: The 21st-Century Imperative 1

Navigating the SEE Change: The Pedagogy of Transition 2

Unprecedented Volatility: A Sign of the Times 3

Progress and Growth: Navigating through the Rearview Mirror 14

Another Way? Five Exit Ramps 18

Navigating the Transition to a Steady-State Economy 35

Chapter 2 Wealth versus Commonwealth .39

The Demise of Moral Economy: The Great Transformation 40

Evolution of the Big "M" Market I: The Struggle for Land Reform 44

Evolution of the Big "M" Market II: The Ascendency of the Corporation 49

Evolution of the Big "M" Market III: Banking Masters and Debtor Slaves 54

The Economics of Sufficiency: Living within the Planetary Commons 66

The 21st Century: A Chapter the Living Must Write 69

Chapter 3 A Path beyond Debt: Interest-Free Lending at Work 71

Interest-Free Lending at Work: The JAK Cooperative Bank -.74

Impacts on the Household Economy: The Hartwick Family 80

Transition Factors 82

Resilience Reflections 83

Chapter 4 Uniting the "I" and the "We": Affordable Housing in Perpetuity 85

The Community Land Trust Model in the United States 87

Community Land Trusts in Britain: Rekindling Land Reform in the 21st Century 97

The Mutual Homeownership Model: Scaling up Urban Affordability 101

The Household Economy: Land Trust Impacts on Transition 107

Transition Factors 107

Resilience Reflections 109

Chapter 5 Seeking Strategic Pathways to Energy Sufficiency 111

YES to Conserving Energy: Yorkshire Energy Services at Work 114

Fossil-Fuel-Free Kristianstad 118

The Impact on the Household and Community Economy 124

Transition Factors 125

Resilience Reflections 125

Chapter 6 Seeking Pathways to Sustainable Food 127

Cheap Food and Its Price 128

Seikatsu: "Living People" Transforming their Relationship to Food and Each Other 134

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) 141

Who Will Grow Our Food? The Problem of Succession 142

Solidarity and Succession: Securing Local Food 145

Restoring Salmon: Restoring the Commons in Alaska 148

Impacts on the Household Economy: The Hartwick Family 155

Chapter 7 Reweaving Our Economies Close to Home 157

The Core Economic and Social Functions 160

RESO: Transforming Montreal's Poorest Neighborhoods 168

Coastal Enterprises Inc. - Community Development Finance in Rural Maine 175

Transition Factors 180

Resilience Reflections 183

Chapter 8 Convivial Banking Innovations: Seeds for Transition 185

Linking Money and Debt Advice to Finance: Community Banking Partnerships 187

US Credit Union Innovations: Federating Solutions 192

Beyond Microcredit: Integrated Approaches that Work 194

Equity Angels Grounded in Community 197

Cooperative Capital in the UK - Withdrawable and Transferable Shares 198

Relationship Banking from a Distance 201

Low-Interest, High-Impact Lending for Vulnerable Homeowners 203

Revolving Loan Funds for Affordable Housing: Risk Pooling 205

Social and Ecological Banks: Investing in the Unconventional 206

Transition Factors 208

Resilience Reflections 211

Chapter 9 Federating the Change Agents: Securing the Gains 213

Reinventing the Guilds: A Way Forward? 216

Constructing the Social Solidarity Economy in Quebec 221

Transition Factors 227

Resilience Reflections 229

La Via Campesina: Building a Global Movement for Food Sovereignty 230

Transition Factors 238

Resilience Reflections 239

Federating to Advance Fair-Trade Finance: A Transition Challenge; 240

Chapter 10 Economic Democracy and Cooperative Capital 245

Outwitting Enclosure: The Mondragon Formula to Equity 246

Democratizing Social Care in Italy 251

Cooperative Energy Services: Mobilizing Green Economic Actors 257

Transition Factors 260

Resilience Reflections 262

Chapter 11 Ownership Transfer: Accelerating Transition 265

Structural Dysfunction of the Global Investment Industry 266

Trusteeship: A Way out of the Enclosure 275

Evolution of the Trusteeship Model: Toward a Framework for Ownership Transfer 283

Transforming Property Rights: A Solution in Search of a Home 289

Establishing a Cooperative Land Bank 293

Implications for Reweaving Local Economies and Navigating Transition 296

Transition Factors 298

Resilience Reflections 298

Chapter 12 From Cultural Captivity to Focused Intention 301

Beyond Eden: Our Disconnect from Nature 303

Transition: An Inner and Outer Journey 305

Breaking the Armor of our Cultural Captivity 310

The "Price" of Transition: Are We Willing to Pay Our Way? 314

Weaving the Strands into a Resilient Fabric: Possible? 320

Rescuing Main Street from Wall Street 321

The Crucible of Home: Revisiting Household Economics 325

Epilogue: The Great Transition 331

Notes 342

Bibliography 364

Index 374

About the Authors 389

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