The phrase alternative society may have been in usage[verification needed] since the 19th century when Karl Marx and Proudhon represented two factions for alternative visions of social change. The term Alternative Society has been coined in the writings and discussions of anarchists, pacifists, libertarian socialists, occultists, ... throughout the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950's. Most of the present-day movements have been influenced and have offsprung off the hippie/new age Alternative Society-idealogy in the 1960s, 1970s. In all cases, the background of societies based on alternative systems/thinking has stemmed largely from the history of utopianism and Deep ecology.

History[edit | edit source]

Philosophers who suggested alternative models for society included: Charles Fourier (1772-1837), Robert Owen (1771-1858), Louis Blanc (1811-1882), Louis-Auguste Blanqui (1805-1881), Wilhelm Weitling (1808-1871). The phrase and variations of it appear throughout the progressive political and social writings of the 20th century.

In the 1960's, there was a very active anarchist group in the Netherlands, known as the Kabouters, (translated as dwarves or trolls)[1]. When the Kabouters advocated the Provos' white bicycle plan as a free community resource (painting some bicycles white and leaving them around the city where anybody could use them for free and then abandon them again until the next user would find them) the underground press in Britain passed the news on in hopes of getting a similar thing going. In these days, the underground press in Britain, as well as Situationist International attempted to keep everyone in touch with everyone else, publishing news of what other groups in different countries are doing. The underground press of the 1960s and 70s printed articles about various alternative societies and societies of alternatives. Some of the publications had particular areas of special interest. Oz magazine leaned toward sex, drugs, rock'n'roll. Country Bizarre was more concerned with radical environmental philosophy and practical information for organic gardening. "Some of the earliest 1960s underground papers were the East Village Other, San Francisco Oracle, Los Angeles Free Press, Berkeley Barb, and The Paper, of East Lansing, Michigan." [2] Examples of Alternative Information Centres in the seventies include bit (which was named after the binary information transfer in computers) in London, England and Manchester Alternative General Information Centre (M.A.G.I.C.) in the north. Bit was founded by John Hopkins (Hoppy) who also founded International Times and distributed a contact list which put UK Underground activists in touch with each other. The style of these information centres varied according to location. The style of the ones in London reflected urban social concerns while the one in Glastonbury was mostly concerned with introducing travellers to the local legends and mysticism.It is clear that there was -and is still- always a strong theatrical element to the alternative society.

Other groups which developed from the Provo-movement were the Merry Pranksters, Diggers, and Yippies[3]. The Diggers in Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco (which were named after the 17th century English Diggers ) had a significant role in the development of the alternative society.

From the late seventies onward there was less fervour and less organisation and the energy took other forms such as the New age movement, punk and the Green party. The legacy of the 60s and 70s can be seen in the continued usage of the word "alternative" in all three of these.

Practical set-up[edit | edit source]

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) and his followers such as E.F. Schumacher (1911-1977), Buckminster Fuller, William Moyer (1933-2002), Amy B. Smith,Amory Lovins, Sanoussi Diakité, Victor Papanek, Satish Kumar (1936-present), M K Ghosh, Chaman Lal Gupta, Sen Kapadia, B.V. Doshi, and Arne Næss (1912-2009) advocate, as an alternative to violent revolution, the creation of alternative social services, alternative transportation systems, alternative food and clothing production, alternative housing, alternative medicine, alternative arts and alternative communications media including an alternative press. To do so, William Moyer as well as Satish Kumar, and Arne Naess created practical documents/approaches to do so. More precisely, the documents include respectively the Movement Action Plan, the Resource Manual for a Living Revolution, Small_Is_Beautiful, ... Approaches include Ecosophy, Simple_living, Deep ecology, and Intermediate_Technology. By recreating every facet of society and providing better services than the official ones the plan is that the people will flock to the alternative society and desert the common establishment. Then the leaders of the establishment would follow. Thus change would be accomplished without violence.

In order to decrease the financial costs for delivering services such as the supply of green energy and for building the required services, source material from the mainstream society can be gathered (in addition to local available free materials as wood, adobe, ...). This can be done through the collection of the "waste" -or rather what which they consider waste-. This waste includes:

  • recyclable plastics such as PE, PP, PVC, PS, SB; PSE, ABS PMMA, PTFE, PA, PC, PUR, EP, UP and PET. ISF has made 2 documents on how respectively discarded plastics and aluminum can be salvaged and reused in developing countries.[4]
  • ferrous waste materials (eg cans, ...)
  • sewage sludge (for use as a fertiliser)

The waste materials can be gathered by waste pickers, or -if possible- with more sophisticated machines such as materials recovery facilities (MRFs),and solid waste processing facilities. The latter may allow better separation of the different metals, plastics, ... resulting in a higher -and more efficient- yield. Also, waste pickers -besides usually not being equipped to disassemble the materials- risk being exposed to various poisonings.

Sewage sludge is collected not by hand, but through a sludge processing plant that automatically heats the matter and conveys it into fertiliser pellets (hereby removing possible contamination by chemical detergents, ...)[5] This approach allows to eliminate seawater pollution by conveying the water directly to the sea without treatment (a practice which is still common in developing countries, despite environmental regulation). Sludge plants are useful in areas that have already set-up a sewage-system, but not in areas without such a system, as composting toilets are more efficient and do not require sewage pipes (which break over time).

After collection, the obtained materials often need to be melted and recasted in forgeries and/or may require bending, cutting, folding, ... in a workshop. Plastics are a special case that are too melted in a workshop, using small, purpose-build hand-operated melting containers. Metalworking tools that can be used to cut, fold, ... the metal are the OpenLathe and Multimachine. Also, some CNC metalworking tools can be appropriate.

In some cases, melting and recasting is not required, as some parts can be simply cut and used as is in different devices. An example is the passive solar collector build from old refridgerator tubing.

Building alternative services[edit | edit source]

As a result of previous and modern interest, throughout the underground culture, in theories of alternative societies, several movements and intentional communities began/are beginning all over the world to provide alternative services to the own community and people outside it. Since the mid-sixties the beginnings of a free society have begun to flourish. People are searching for tools and methods to take control of their own lives and reclaim power from the establishment.

Alternative housing[edit | edit source]

Housing is provided to the community by such means as organised squatting, tipi and yurt making, house sharing and a system called, in hippy jargon, Crash pad networks. This latter involves keeping a list of participants' addresses on file at an alternative information centre and then when someone is travelling and, upon arrival in a different city, wants a place to sleep (crash) they could go to the information centre and get an address. Upon arriving at the address they can get free accommodation (maybe a bed, maybe a floor - it is potluck) and, in exchange, when they are back in their own home (pad), they can offer similar accommodation to another traveller (see also Hospitality Club and Couchsurfing for an equivalent of this, boosted by the internet). Another alternative solution to housing problems is thought by some to be possible through the construction of geodesic domes, a structure which can be built quite quickly from widely available materials such as scaffolding and tarpaulins. moladi uses plastic formwork to mould a house in a day with all services cast in-situ, reducing time and skills required.

Alternative transport services[edit | edit source]

Alternative travel services are arranged by car sharing networks or simply by hitching. The emphasis is on creating social structures from the bottom up. Examples of car sharing networks are the City_Car_Club, ...

Alternative eating services[edit | edit source]

Alternative soup kitchens and free food distributions (eg by the Hare Krishna) are also arranged.

Alternative information sharing[edit | edit source]

Free bookshops for swapping books, shops where everything is free (see also give-away shop) and free festivals have also sprang into existence. Other methods of information sharing include the free sharing of e-books and other electronic media via the internet.

Underground press services[edit | edit source]

Underground press, in this sense, is a very elastic term. It refers to everything from a nationally or internationally distributed newspaper to a small local Zine or Samizdat. The underground press has continued since those days and is now enhanced by the power of the internet to enable individuals and groups to publish blogs. News events and information may also be distributed in towns through a RSS-powered bulletin board. A current day incarnation of the underground press is Indymedia. Examples of Alternative Information Centres are less thin spread. Release, along with Resurgence are amongst the few available today. They both have been in existence since the 60's. Release is specifically a drugs information centre.

Neighborhoods and countries based on alternative social systems[edit | edit source]

Several neighborhoods and countries and have been formed based on the alternative society-models explained above (eg by Mahatma Gandhi, E.F. Schumacher, Satish Kumar , ...). These include (amongst others) the neighborhood of Christiania, the countries of Tokelau, somaliland, ...

Countries[edit | edit source]

Around 700 B.C. ,the Daoist cult of Zhengyi Dao; settled at Jiangxi (Jiangnan and especially Mount Longhu ) created one of the first regions which was based on a system considered “alternative”. This system was heavily opposed to the state and rulers, and focused on autonomy. The state the zhengyi thus created was a true Taoist state, enclosed by the (then opposing) kingdom. [6] The state made a big impression on the Chinese mindset and had been an important setpoint in the history of alternative societies. Although now Jiangxi has again integrated into China, the Zhenyi remain an important religious group and still have many temples in both Taiwan and Jiangxi.

Today, all over the world, many local communities (such as Somaliland) struggle to create viable legal/governmental alternative structures of society in the wake of collapsing previous governments. They are doing so using systems as “councils of elders”, ...

Present movements supporting alternative societies[edit | edit source]

The alternative society is often characterised as a society of alternatives and this includes a great interest in pseudoscientific theories and alternative religions, such as Paganism, JainismW, and Taoism,W ConfucianismW... religions and romantic mystical speculations which are generally outside the mainstream culture, at least of Western countries. Besides religious and mythical organizations as well as environmental organizations/movements also present in the group supporting alternative societies. Often, as is the case with certain religious movements and cults as Taoism, Jainism, Buddhism,[7], they can have several deviating beliefs (eg in the case of Buddhism, both their belief and their environmental care can be considered “alternative”.

Religious and pseudo-religious groups[edit | edit source]

Religious and pseudo-religious groups are on the alternative society's mental map of the world. The existence of ashrams, kibbutzim, moshavs, Buddhist monasteries, the religiously-inspired African Hebrew Israelites Kingdom Enterprises [8], Salvation Army centres, religious retreats [9] Hare Krishna free food distributions and various churches and gurus form ' meeting places around the world' which provide an existing framework upon which the alternative society can grow. The relationship is symbiotic.

Other religions as the Quakers, Rastafarians, Yogada Satsanga Society of India, Jesus_Army, Self-Realization Fellowship and certain religious sects as the Samkhya, kabirpanthi, Lingayats, Ramakrishna_Math [10] as well as some self-styled gurus (eg Swami_Kriyananda, Paramahansa_Yogananda, Satish Kumar, ...) were also seen to jump on the bandwagon and support alternative societies.

The religions and pseudo-religious cults have gained lots of new members from the alternative society scene. This has been in such degree that concerns amongst politicised travellers have arisen wary of becoming brainwashed by cults. Therefore, if the left wing of politics can be broadly said to empower the public sector and if the right wing can be broadly said to empower the private sector, then the alternative society could be considered as the political empowerment of the voluntary sector.

Environmental and survivalist organizations[edit | edit source]

Due to renewed intrest in the environment, as well as emergency preparedness [11] and fear of climate-change induced catastrophes (eg hurricane Katrina), the alternative society and its organizations are spreading rapidly,

Today, environmentalists, survivalists [12] Green anarchist groups are reshaping the relationships and bonds at the roots of society to create an alternative system of Eco-anarchism which would respect our resources, both human and elemental. Emergency retreat centres, supported by these organizations form are used to accompany the physical alternative society-framework. Various models of sustainability have been put forward and tried. Among the most successful environmentalist restructurings of social structure to date have been the Global Ecovillage Network and the permaculture movement. Besides these succesful (ongoing) projects, there are new projects being undertaken to build new societies from the bottom up (eg by creating new organizations or combining existing ones). In addition, the concept of alternative currencies is still alive and kicking (See LETS).

Other organizations[edit | edit source]

Besides the organizations/groups marked above, other organizations can be noted as well. These organizations often try to combine existing organizations or form new ones. The physical centra they have to accompany the alternative society-framework is often formed by homesteads, community farms, ... Practical examples of this are the Integral Urban House, Sandhill Farm, Zendik farm, ... Also, certain entire villages and )[13] [14] [15].

Collaboration[edit | edit source]

Organizations trying to combine other existing organizations include: Green Kibbutz Group [16] [17], The Alliance of Religion and Conservation, National Religious Partnership for the Environment, Forum on Religion and Ecology, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, National Council of Churches: The Eco-Justice Working Group [18] the Fellowship_for_Intentional_Community, NextGEN, ...

Organizations trying to make other new organizations include: World_Brotherhood_Colonies, The Change Agency, Movement_for_a_New_Society, Training for Change, Technocracy Inc., ...

Alternative society in popular culture[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Takis Fotopoulos: The Multidimensional Crisis and Inclusive Democracy [1]Athens 2005.
  • Lewis, B., Chisnall, A. and Hall, A. (1974) Unattached Youth. A study commissioned by the Joseph Rownstree Memorial Trust, London: Blond and Briggs. 171 pages. Bibliography.
  • Green, Jonathan, Heinemann (1988), Days in the Life: Voices from the English Underground, 1961-1971, ISBN 0-434-30420-4 OCLC 21592544
  • Kumar, Satish, Christian Action Publications Ltd (1969) Non-Violence or Non-Existence. ISBN 0-901500-03-8

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Discussion[View | Edit]

Split up[edit source]

This is much too broad in scope for one article, to cover the sort of detail it does. I suggest that most of the content be split into separate articles, which can each be linked from here. --Chriswaterguy 23:31, 2 May 2012 (PDT)

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