Towards an Understanding of the Economies of Neighbourhoods and Communities
Edited by Maarten van Ham, Darja Reuschke, Reinout Kleinhans, Colin Mason and Stephen Syrett
Chapter 9: On economic democracy in community development
In the United States, the decades-long shift in focus of Community Development Corporations (CDCs) from organizing to confront political and economic elites to affordable housing development and service provision has been well documented. In the critical urban studies literature, this trend towards a particular kind of conflict-free community development is met with dismay at the increasing prevalence of capitalist market-based logics into ‘excluded’ urban neighbourhoods, and even to the scale of individual subjectivities. We argue that this binary rubric – pro-market or anti-market – for evaluating CDCs is, however, insufficiently nuanced. We aim to further expand our understanding of entrepreneurial CDCs and their approach towards, and use of, market logics. In this chapter we use the case of the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative (BCDI), to argue that the use of markets in community development is more complex than the usual neoliberal critique. BCDI is a multi-stakeholder community economic development initiative that seeks to build community wealth among low- and middle-income residents of the Bronx by enlarging the scope of local economic actors and policy. BCDI's vision is for entrepreneurialism in which the local businesses are embedded in networks that support community organizing and what they call ‘economic democracy’. In their pursuit of organizing a platform of economic democracy for the Bronx, BCDI shows that it may indeed be possible to construct local political-economic institutions that make use of markets that are accountable to, and operate in the service of, more just cities.
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