(This article first appeared in Tikkun Magazine, Winter 2011)
Workers at Ohio Cooperative Solar (left) and Evergreen Laundry take part in a strategy to capture ever-greater shares of spending in health, energy, and other key sectors for an integrated, large-scale network of worker-owned businesses. PHOTOS: JANET CENTURY.
by Gar Alperovitz
We are entering one of the greatest long-term crises in American history, one that could potentially lead to a breakdown and radical move to the right. Traditional liberalism is stalemated in many areas and limited in others to reducing the pain whenever possible. War continues. The era is unusual; economic stagnation is present, yes, but Depression-style crisis, the kind that may generate a quick response, does not appear likely. Proudhon once wrote: “Decay, decay … All the traditions are worn out, all the creeds abolished but the new program is not yet ready….This is the cruelest moment in the life of societies.”
My own work has been a long, long attempt to answer two questions: First, “If you don’t like corporate capitalism and you don’t like state socialism, what do you want?” Second, “And how can we get from here to there?” In part following Martin Buber, in part following teachers like William Appleman Williams and Joan Robinson, my answers — in books and in projects — have aimed at an “evolutionary reconstructive” approach, starting in the here and now, to rebuild and democratize in very practical ways the ownership and nature of the economy, from the bottom up. My hope is that some of these ideas, and some of these projects, may contribute to a broader movement-building politics that can take us past the dead ends we now face.