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Grassroots economics: Meaning, project and practice in the pursuit of livelihood (GRECO)
Start date: Sep 1, 2013, End date: Aug 31, 2018 PROJECT  FINISHED 

In Southern Europe promises of wellbeing and social mobility have become increasingly elusive since 2008. Economists and policy makers have provided analyses and advised on political action to end the economic crisis, but this has often resulted in greater precarity producing social protest as well as nationalistic and xenophobic reactions. Expert’s accounts are based on mainstream economic models designed to provide monetary stability and growth through enhanced competition in open markets. These models are ‘technical’ and top-down models that largely ignore political, social and cultural dynamics on the ground. Yet social agents are embedded in multiple regimes of value and institutional frames that guide their economic behavior.Four Southern European countries –Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain— have been strategically selected as research sites due to their relevance in the current European crisis. The project investigates grassroots economics by addressing the social, cultural and political environments in which common people make everyday economic decisions. Through an interdisciplinary approach that uses ethnographic fieldwork and comparative analysis, it highlights the interaction between individuals, households and institutions from a threefold perspective 1) as creating meanings in which the value(s) of action are assessed, 2) as defining the material and ideological conditions of possibility for designing projects, and 3) as providing resources and creating various distribution patterns. It explores the relationship between authoritative models of the economy and the real economic projects and practices of those whose main objective is the pursuit of livelihood.The comparison of grassroots economics with mainstream expert economics will support a theoretically ground-breaking explanatory framework that will shed light on ongoing problems of livelihood insecurity and policy design that are currently left unaddressed by economic policies.

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