This paper presents the essential features of the foundational economy approach, proposed by an international research network established in 2013 at the University of Manchester. Overcoming the mythology of hi-tech and advanced manufacturing, foundational economics scholars focus on the economic sectors decisive for well-being and social cohesion (for example, the production and distribution of food, the distribution of water and energy, health, education, transport). Such economic activities are strongly rooted in the territories, albeit often transcending their borders. The foundational economy has been weakened by the developments of the neo-liberal turn in the last thirty-five years. The search for extra-profits and rents, and the maximization of the return on capital, are today common practices in this economic area as well. The foundational economy research network aims to analyze these drifts and to cooperate with economic actors, political actors and collective actors of civil society to develop alternative instruments of action and regulation. The aim is not rejecting market coordination as such, but preventing the foundational economy from being subjected to short-term accumulation claims. In this perspective, forms of grassroots economic self-organisation are extremely important, but the need for innovative regulatory instruments at a national and international scale should not be underestimated.
foundational economy, self-organisation, public action, regulation, territory