CIRHU International Seminars
According to its Charter, Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity. To fulfil its mandate of harmony and progress through the integration of all dimensions of life, material, social and spiritual, individual and collective, the economic sphere becomes one of its primary challenges. It is especially pertinent since convention dictates that there is a contradiction between economic and spiritual fulfilment.
Auroville's economic functioning is essentially experimental and is always being modified as continuous endeavours are made to bring pragmatic reality ever more in line with our ideals and goals. The bases of these endeavours are the principles laid down by the Mother. Auroville wants to be a self-supporting township where there will be no exchange of money. "For in this ideal place money would be no more the sovereign lord. Work would not be the means of gaining one's livelihood, it would be the means whereby one expresses oneself, developing one's capacities and possibilities, while doing at the same time service to the whole group, which on its side would provide for each one's subsistence and for his field of work."
On this basis every Aurovilian is expected to contribute to the collective welfare through work, in kind and/or with money - according to their possibilities. This principle of willing, voluntary contribution to the building and the maintenance of the township is the keystone of the Auroville economy through all its changing faces.
Broadly speaking, three economies may be identified in the Auroville of today:
1. A collective economy, the units of which provide mainly goods and services for the maintenance and development of the township either on the basis of a budget from the Central Fund or as non-profit cost covering activities or a combination of both. These units cover a wide range of activities including forestry, farming, food preparation and distribution, the provision of electricity, conventional and alternative, and water as well as telephone, roads and personal services such as healthcare, clothing and hairdressing. This economy also includes a wide range of educational and cultural opportunities both for Aurovilians, young and older, and the surrounding villages. The planning, development and administration of the township also operate within this economy.
2. A commercial economy with its own organisation based on the principle of trusteeship instead of ownership. The objectives of the units vary with their size and market. The larger units are generally orientated towards export sales and make substantial contributions of unspecified funds to the Central Fund. The smaller units are often more concerned with producing beautiful things for the local market and their contributions tend to be more specified towards the development and maintenance of their immediate surroundings with a smaller proportion being contributed to the Central Fund. The commercial economy is based largely on the production of a wide range of handicrafts each with a unique touch of the spirit of originality and perfection in works which is the hallmark of Auroville, where each one takes up a work as a karma yoga. As the largest of our units, Maroma expresses in their web site, at Auroville "business is not done as usual but with an increasing awareness and sensitivity towards the local and global environment and towards the needs of Auroville."
3. An 'in kind' economy, consisting of an enormous amount of work and money contributed by Aurovilians, in addition to their specific activities or formal financial contributions, resulting in the development and maintenance of the communities where they live in the form of houses and infrastructure as well as household benefits. This is an important but informal economy, making a significant impact on the progress of the township but one that has so far never been accurately quantified.
All this is happening within the context of the local economy of the surrounding villages and the regional Indian economy with its concentration in Pondicherry. The local economy provides raw materials, food produce and, very significantly, the work of, at present, about 4,000 local people engaged in Auroville in the construction of buildings and infrastructure and in agriculture, forestry, households, gardens and commercial handicrafts.
For a more detailed functioning of Auroville's economic functioning, see the linked pages.
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