Monthly Archives: July 2013

Strange days: “Capitalism in Question” at the Academy of Management

It’s hard to judge the true depth of crisis developing in the foundations of our political and economic system when you are living, day in and day out, in the middle of it.  But it is clear that something deep is fundamentally broken with capitalism, and that fixing it requires thinking seriously about what might emerge as what can probably only be called “a next system.”

This is not a radical judgment. Perhaps surprisingly, you can find this perspective resonating within the most powerful citadels of the system itself.  Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, for instance, introduced a recent Davos meeting of the global financial and political elite with these words: “Capitalism, in its current form, no longer fits the world around us […] We have failed to learn the lessons from the financial crisis of 2009 […] A global transformation is urgently needed and it must start with reinstating a global sense of social responsibility.”

Even more encouraging than Schwab’s informal comment is the consideration serious business and financial experts are giving to questions about the future of capitalism and the long term possibility of a successor system.  I have found receptive audiences for my work on this subject (and my book What Then Must We Do?) at major conferences dedicated to socially responsible investing like SOCAP and SVN.   I have also found that many people who have spent the last decades pioneering innovative projects that put their business acumen to use in the service of economic and social justice are beginning to realize that the system itself may be broken. And that, if so, we need to begin to think about alternatives that might be developed, even if over the long haul.

I admit that I was a bit taken aback, however, when I was asked to deliver a keynote address on August 11th at the annual Academy of Management meeting whose theme this year is, quite simply:  “Capitalism in Question.”  Read More »

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Alternatives to Capitalism: The Next System Project

The current issue of The Good Society, the long-running journal of the Committee on the Political Economy of the Good Society (PEGS), is devoted in its entirety to “Alternatives to Capitalism,” a symposium built around my essay (with Steve Dubb) on “The Possibility of a Pluralist Commonwealth and a Community-Sustaining Economy”.

The essay also serves as an important foundational document for a new Democracy Collaborative venture, The Next System Project, a multi-year initiative aimed at developing the carefully researched and comprehensive proposals required to deal with the systemic challenges—environmental, economic, social and political—the United States faces. It hopes thereby to help stimulate a broad national dialogue on longer term political economic directions.

The Next System Project will bring together leading thinkers, activists and practitioners and will use up-to-date research and understanding to place ‘the system question’ on the map. It will explore issues of political-economic system design with a view to generating alternative models—different from both corporate capitalism and state socialism—capable of delivering superior ecological, social and economic outcomes. The Project will stress such fundamental guiding values as participatory democracy, equality, liberty, ecological sustainability and community.

The overall effort will not seek to provide all the answers. Instead, it will focus on the development—through fellowships, research and strategic convening—of multiple system-wide proposals and as well as institutional and policy elements that can help catalyze a wide-ranging debate about the need for a radically different political-economic system. The goal is the careful articulation of a systemic vision beyond traditional corporate capitalism, and how we might move toward its construction over time.

More information on The Next System Project will be provided in due course. For now, the symposium is available free from JSTOR for a limited period—until the end of August 2013. I hope you enjoy the various contributions by Democracy Collaborative staff and others. In addition to the lead essay, there are articles on generative ownership design by Marjorie Kellystate and local policies by Joel Rogersconstitutional protections by Thad Williamsonthe crisis of European social democracy by Joe Guinan, and public ownership by Thomas Hanna.

Read and download the whole issue for free through the end of August

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Symposium on “Alternatives to Capitalism” in the new issue of “The Good Society”

The latest issue of  The Good Society is composed of a lead essay by myself and Democracy Collaborative research director Steve Dubb on the prospects for a “a community-sustaining economy”, followed by a number of pieces that explore different facets of the project of developing “alternatives to capitalism,” with articles by:

Thomas Hanna on public ownership of “too big to fail” corporations

Joe Guinan on austerity and the crisis of European social democracy

Marjorie Kelly on the shift to “generative ownership” of corporate enterprise

Thad Williamson on “property-owning democracy” and constitutional guarantees

and Joel Rogers on state and local policies for democratizing wealth

Notably, the journal is experimenting with open access; the entire issue is consequently free online via JSTOR until the end of August.


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The Legacy of the Boomer Boss

garnytThis op-ed originally appeared in the July 6th edition of The New York Times

Over the next decade millions of business owners born during the baby boom will retire. Many, with no obvious succession strategy, will simply sell their companies, the backbone of Main Street economies across the country, to large corporations. All too often the result will be consolidations, plant closures and lost jobs for the people who helped build and sustain their companies for decades.

The boomers should think again: selling to their employees is often a far better way to go — for both moral and economic reasons.

Take New Belgium Brewing, based in Fort Collins, Colo., which its chief executive and co-founder, Kim Jordan, sold late last year to its 400-plus employees through what’s called an employee stock ownership plan. “There are few times in life where you get to make choices that will have multigenerational impact,” she said. “This is one of those times.”

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