Originally published in installments in the Biodynamics journal, Robert Karp's essay looks at the remarkable growth of the sustainable food and farming movement in recent years and how associative economic principles might help us meet the demand for local, sustainable, biodynamic/organic products. Karp suggests that a whole new approach to economic life is trying to emerge in the sustainable food and farming movement — "an approach based on a fundamentally different set of principles than those which most of us have been raised to think of as the driving forces behind economic life." The principles of associative economics, part of Rudolf Steiner's overarching philosophy of anthroposophy, provide the foundations for this transition. In this truly inspiring essay, Karp does not simply set forth an idealized vision for a new way of operating in economic life, but provides concrete and practical examples of associative economics in action.


"[I]t could well be argued that what creates a movement, in the first place, is not agreed upon visions or leaders, but rather deep, underlying constellations of values and ideals, such as, in this case: sustainability, community, healthy food, social justice, organic farming, etc. These underlying values and ideals—they could even be called spiritual longings—are the real forces that, I believe, create a sense of community and commonality among those involved in such widely disparate efforts. Though less academic, it is this more instinctive definition of a movement that seems to be widely shared by the people actually working in this field of endeavor."

"Steiner suggested that it is an urgent task of our time to make conscious or explicit the inherent altruism of economic life so that it can be strengthened and become an actual guiding impulse and principle of organization within the economy. He went so far as to suggest that self-interest or egoism, which we have come to consider as the guiding principle of economic life, is actually that which must be continually overcome for the sake of the health of the economy, especially a global economy based on the division of labor, which necessarily puts all people, communities and nations into an inter-dependent relationship with one another...."

"From my own perspective, our task is not to eradicate capitalism, industrialization, globalization or even corporations for that matter, but rather to transform these realities from within, to learn how to bring them to a point where they serve human ends rather than human beings serving their ends. Accomplishing this task, however, is going to take a more profound level of cooperation among the various players in our movement and a deeper rethinking of economic assumptions than we have yet to practice. Only in this way can we meet the challenges posed by the increased cooperation and economic integration among those in our society who do not, or do not yet, share a set of altruistic social, ecological and economic values."

This is a staff favorite: "Comprehensive and inspiring. Not only did this essay completely change my way of thinking about our current economic situation, but it made me believe that positive change could truly happen." (Rebecca Briggs, BDA Communications Director)

Author bio: Robert Karp is the Executive Director of the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association. He has been a leader in the local food and sustainable agriculture movement for over fifteen years and has been a student and practitioner of Rudolf Steiner's spiritual scientific research methods for almost three decades. To read more about his background, please see his full bio.

Author: Robert Karp
Paperback booklet: 57 pages
Publisher: New Spirit Ventures (2007)