Category Archives: Articles

Democratic Ownership and the Pluralist Commonwealth: The Creation of an Idea Whose Time Has Come

In Charles Derber’s new book, Welcome to the Revolution: Universalizing Resistance for Social Justice and Democracy in Perilous Times, Gar Alperovitz offers a “guest interlude” discussing how “an idea whose time has come actually ‘comes.'”

On September 19, 1977 — a day remembered locally as “Black Monday” — the corporate owners of the Campbell Works in Youngstown, Ohio, abruptly shuttered the giant steel mill’s doors. Instantly, 5,000 workers lost their jobs, their livelihoods, and their futures. The mill’s closing was national news, one of the first major blows in the era of deindustrialization, offshoring, and “free trade” that has since made mass layoffs commonplace.

What was not commonplace was the response of the steelworkers and the local community. “You feel the whole area is doomed somehow,” Donna Slaven, the wife of a laid-off worker, told reporters at the time. “If this can happen to us, there is not a secure union job in the country.” Rather than leave the fate of their community in the hands of corporate executives in New York, New Orleans, and Washington DC, the workers began to organize and resist. And they joined with a new coalition of priests, ministers, and rabbis — headed by a Catholic and an Episcopal bishop — to build support for a new way forward. I was called in to head up an economic team to help.

Click here to read the entire excerpt featured on Truthout.

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Progressive Visions: The Pluralist Commonwealth

Read Dan Sisken’s review of Gar’s book, Principles of a Pluralist Commonwealth on Progressive Strategy. Sisken highlights the many successful examples of alternative forms of ownership and economic institutions across the United States that Gar features in his book:

These are just a few of the building blocks put forth as part of a pluralist commonwealth. Among the others addressed in the book are climate change, decentralization, culture, democracy, liberty, investment, markets, technology, and trade. There is a short chapter that explains how each of these plays a role in the pluralist commonwealth that may be starting to appear on the horizon.

The Principles of a Pluralist Commonwealth proposes building blocks that help progressives and others envision something different that works for everyone.

Click here to read the full review.

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The Policy Weapon Climate Activists Need

In this article published in The Nation, Gar Alperovitz, Joe Guinan, and Thomas M. Hanna, make the case for using quantitative easing as the knockout punch that shuts down the fossil fuel industry before the climate bubble pops. As window for acting on climate change, the government could use the same tool it used to save the economy from depression to save the climate from burning.

We’re running out of time on climate change. As Donald Trump and Big Oil’s other friends in Washington do their utmost to keep global temperatures climbing, our window for preserving civilization is closing fast. Yes, solar, wind, batteries, and energy efficiency are plummeting in cost and grabbing market share the world over, but this clean-energy transformation is not proceeding anywhere near fast enough to prevent catastrophic climate disruption. The science is clear on what’s most needed: We must leave the vast majority of Earth’s remaining reserves of oil, coal, and gas unburned and underground. But those reserves are the basis of the stock prices of some of the richest, most powerful companies in history. And those companies give every indication that they plan to keep burning them, science and humanity be damned.

Click here to read the full article.

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How Philanthropy Can Help Community Development Survive Trump

Trump’s presidency will likely do significant damage to community development especially for the communities that are most at risk. While philanthropy will certainly not be able to fill the massive gap left by cuts in federal spending, if used in the right way, it can help create local and regional programs and innovations that could be expanded when the political winds inevitably shift, contend Gar Alperovitz and Ted Howard in an article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Donald Trump will not be president forever, but in his time in office he can do substantial damage in many areas of American life. As one donor told us, “We risk having 40 years of progress in community development unraveled in the next 18 months.”

Principally, that’s because the new administration, along with Republican congressional leaders, is targeting federal spending on social programs and community development — a major bulwark against the consequences of generational poverty and ever-growing wealth inequality. Hundreds of billions of dollars are at risk.

Click here to read the full article.

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The Possibility of a Pluralist Commonwealth Evolutionary Reconstruction Toward a Caring and Just Political Economy

In this article published in the Winter 2017 issue of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Partnership StudiesGar Alperovitz outlines the characteristics of the “Pluralist Commonwealth” model and the step-by-step movements that are already happening toward a democratic political economy that supports caring community.

New developments at various level of the political-economic system suggest possible institutional trajectories supportive of community, and a longer term systemic design more supportive of strong democracy and a caring culture. An integration of institutional elements also offers possibilities more productive of equality and ecologically sustainable outcomes. The “Pluralist Commonwealth” is both pluralist in its institutional characteristics and supportive of such “commonwealth” institutions as co-operatives, neighborhood land trusts and community corporations, municipal utilities and a range of other larger scale ownership forms. An “evolutionary reconstructive” institutional, political, and cultural path is projected as a longer term transformative process different from both traditional reform and traditional ideas of revolution. Such a path inherently seeks to maximize the development of a caring community as it builds.

Click here to read the full article.

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