In different cities around the world, one can find a lot of citizen initiatives that propose alternatives to the main consumerist and capitalist logic of production and consumption (Pleyers, 2011). They defend other conceptions of society through cooperative, networks for exchanging goods and services, collective vegetable gardens, “repair cafés”, local currencies, etc.
This communication is centred on a field research based on a small city in Belgium, Gembloux (24,000 inhabitants) located in the French-speaking part of the country. In this city, about fifteen initiatives of “transition”, “voluntary simplicity” or “degrowth” started for a few years now. This case study, by using information collected through participant observations and interviews, explores different questions about theses grassroots practices from a bottom-up perspective.
Firstly, we will engage a discussion about the identity of the participants by using the concept of “career” (Becker). Beyond socioeconomics characteristics, we can study the “transition makers” through their past experiences of engagement to understand what authorises/constraints their implication in these different movements. Secondly, we will focus on their political position, as individuals and as movements. In a context described as post-political (Swyngedouw, 2007), the participants have ambivalent position to the political very often reduce to “politics” that some want to avoid. If some observers of these transition initiatives are indeed very critical about their a-political vision, we rather found a more nuanced picture, a continuum from activists to non activists, from politicized to depoliticized organisations
This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Transition movements on the ground: activist’s career and relationship to the political“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.