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Animal Farm and the Social Economy

In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, when the take over of Manor Farm is achieved and Mr. Jones the farmer driven out, the animals adopt the Seven Commandments of Animalism, the most important of which is, “all animals are equal”.

Manor Farm is renamed Animal Farm.

Animalism – the ideological manifesto developed by the new pig order to ensure a ‘complete system of thought’ was in place – marked out how the new Animal Farm political economy would work. Above all else the goal was to eradicate all human systems of thought and replace them with new socially innovative approaches encapsulated in such dictates as:

  • Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
  • No animal shall wear clothes.
  • No animal shall sleep in a bed.
  • No animal shall drink alcohol.
  • No animal shall kill any other animal.

New ways of doing business were developed on the farm, and over time without too many animals noticing (critical reflection was not encouraged on the farm – more a just do it approach really) these new ways of doing business, and indeed how farm society was shaped and developed, were more and more based on the original ideas of the humans that were eradicated from farm society in the first place.

The pigs became the established ruling class on the farm – the CEOs and senior executives – and quickly asserted themselves eventually competing with each other for power. The pig Napoleon gets rid of this rival pig Snowball, and promotes the pig Squealer to Deputy CEO, and they take their new innovative approach to farming, politics, the economy and society, well in hand.

Without giving it too much thought, and more often than not driven by their own egos and acting in their own interests than the interests of the farm, Napoleon and Squealer reshape their approach to the farm economy, its culture and how things were to be done to achieve their socially innovative goals.

Old Animalism began to become more and more like New Animalism and the original ideological manifesto shaped more and more by the persistent older ideological position of the humans. Eventually the manifesto was rewritten in the name of progress to encapsulate new dictates like:

  • Four legs good, two legs better.
  • No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.
  • No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.
  • No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.

Years pass, and the pigs start to resemble humans, as they walk upright, carry whips, and wear clothes. Systemic social innovation is achieved and the social economy of the farm consolidated by the abridgment of the original manifesto into a single phrase: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others“. Napoleon holds a dinner party for the pigs and local farmers, with whom he celebrates a new alliance. He abolishes the practice of the revolutionary traditions and restores the name “The Manor Farm”. As the animals look from pigs to humans, they realise they can no longer distinguish between the two.

Across the span of years that frames the movement of Manor Farm to Animal Farm and back to Manor Farm again is the compelling description of how the new and the different became more and more a mirror image of the old that it originally was designed to replace. The very inequalities Animalism was designed to change were eventually replicated by Animalism itself. The very ideological positions Animalism was designed to change were eventually adopted and replicated unthinkingly by Animalism itself.

Hang on a minute . . . what’s Animal Farm got to do with the social economy?

You’re not suggesting that what was originally a new way of achieving a more just and equitable society by combining selected approaches from the business sector with a social mission to take on major social challenges has been high-jacked by some form of Animalism are you?

You’re not suggesting that the social economy has been reshaped from its original intentions – just like original Animalism was – to become more and more a tool for an ideological position that perhaps could be called Neo-Animalism are you?

You’re not suggesting that the social economy has been or could be coopted by the dominant political economy to somehow uncritically reflect all its basic ideological commitments and so replicate the very thing it was designed to eradicate are you?

You’re not suggesting that the very system that creates vast challenges for both people and planet and grinds the wheels of inequality, also promotes the social economy as the solution to the very problems it creates are you?

That’s as fanciful rubbish as George Orwell’s Animal Farm was in the first place.

I’ll take these ideas back to 1945 and stay there.

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