The great British economist the late Joan Robinson once observed that the only thing worse than being exploited by capitalism is not being exploited by capitalism. This truth is felt acutely by anyone who is unemployed and looking for work. As the pain of the economic crisis continues and millions struggle to find employment there is an obvious imperative to create jobs—any jobs. But we shouldn’t stop there. In Back to Full Employment, Robert Pollin makes the essential point that “a workable definition of full employment should refer to an abundance of decent jobs.” Poor jobs that keep workers minimally employed but leave them in precarious circumstances and unable to participate fully in civic and political life are better than no jobs at all. But in terms of public policy we can and should aim higher—especially as decent jobs not only benefit the workers that hold them but also the communities in which they live. Absent a stable economic base, community itself is compromised. Read More »
Most activists tend to approach progressive change from one of two perspectives: First, there’s the “reform” tradition that assumes corporate control is a constant and that “politics” acts to modify practices within that constraint. Liberalism in the United States is representative of this tradition. Then there’s the “revolutionary” tradition, which assumes change can come about only if the major institutions are largely eliminated or transcended, often by violence.
But what if neither revolution nor reform is viable?
Paradoxically, we believe the current stalemating of progressive reform may open up some unique strategic possibilities to transform institutions of the political economy over time. We call this third option evolutionary reconstruction. Like reform, evolutionary reconstruction involves step-by-step nonviolent change. But like revolution, evolutionary reconstruction changes the basic institutions of ownership of the economy, so that the broad public, rather than a narrow band of individuals (i.e., the “one percent”) owns more and more of the nation’s productive assets.
1. A People’s Bank
One area where this logic can be seen at work is in the financial industry. At the height of the financial crisis in early 2009, some kind of nationalization of the banks seemed possible. It was a moment, President Obama told banking CEOs, when his administration was “the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” The president opted for a soft bailout, but that was not the only possible decision. Read More »
The Democracy Collaborative website Community-Wealth.org tracks the state of the art in the field of “community wealth building”: all the practical ways we can begin to democratize wealth and stabilize communities, right now.
All across the country, communities are building towards the new society whose outlines are explored inWhat Then Must Be Done? One of the most advanced and inspiring efforts is the “Cleveland Model,” where large non-profit “anchor institutions” are using their purchasing power to launch a network of worker-owned cooperatives in low-income neighborhoods.
Find out more at: http://evergreencooperatives.com
President Obama is Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” – the first Democratic president to receive two consecutive popular-vote majorities since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Yet these are clearly tough times for progressives. Everything progressives have fought for is seemingly on the chopping block nationally, and in many states and cities. Programs are being cut; public assets are being sold off; school teachers are losing their jobs; unions are being attacked; pension and health care benefits are being slashed – even Social Security is being challenged.
Progressives, in short, remain on the defensive.
No one would deny that defense is important. But even as every effort must be made to hold the line, how, specifically, might it be possible to regain the political initiative?
History suggests one powerful strategy – one that begins by getting clear about the checkerboard of power, and its possibilities.
"This book offers by far the most serious, intellectually grounded strategy for system-changing yet to appear. It could be the most important movement-building book of the new century..."
—Daniel Ellsberg, author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
"Concrete and feasible ways to reverse the ominous course of the past several decades and to open the way to a vibrant democracy with a sustainable economy…
A marvelous book…I recommend it all the time"
"Highly readable; excellent for students…. A tonic and eye-opener for anyone who wants a politics that works."
—Jane Mansbridge, President-Elect, American Political Science Association, Adams Professor, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University