The Solidarity Economy
Anyway, here's some good material from Grassroots Economic Organizing.
First, a synopsis of a speech by William Greider:
...Greider argued that the capitalist wage labor system is rooted in the feudal master-servant relationship....
The idea that worker democracy is a moral alternative to the master-servant relationship inherent in the labor market is not new. Both the 19th century union movement and the social gospel movement of the early 20th century were proponents of worker cooperatives. Worker cooperatives and employee ownership are the road not taken in capitalism. Worker democracy still has the potential to be one of the fundamental principles of a moral transformation of capitalism.
Greider argues, tentatively, that we are perhaps entering an era in which the seeds of this moral transformation of capitalism are being sewed [sic].... The instability of the global capitalism is rooted in the mismatch between excessive global production capacity and inadequate demand which in turn is based on the gross inequality inherent to the system. Most importantly, Greider points to the "pioneers" of a new economy such as successful democratic worker cooperatives and social investment funds which are quietly modeling alternative social/economic relationships. Greider contends that the moral transformation of capitalism is going to come through creating real world alternative models not through national electoral politics. The current political system in Washington is too corrupted by money to lead the transformation....
Greider argues that democratic work is not only morally appealing, it is practical. Citing a review by John Logue and colleagues at The Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC), Greider states the evidence suggest that democratic workplaces are more efficient and productive than traditional top-down businesses. Thus, there is not only a moral but a business rational for democratic work.
Guy Alperovitz on the "Pluralist Commonwealth":
a. the widespread development of community-based democracy, using a variety of strategies to support local economies, nurture local civil society associations, and increase the powers and accountability of local governments;
b. new ownership institutions such as locally-anchored worker-owned and other community-benefiting firms, along with various public institutions, such as a federal Public Trust which would oversee investments on behalf of the citizenry, and expanded state and municipal arrangements similar to current public pension plans;
c. ultimately transferring the major share of ownership of large-scale capital from today's entrenched forms of elite and corporate ownership to the arrangements in (a) and (b); so that, among other things, these new arrangements could help support a reduction in the typical workweek, providing citizens with more free time, genuine individual liberty, and opportunities for democratic participation.
d. a fundamental reorganization over time of the national political system into a regional and decentralized federation, thus strengthening democracy, increasing liberty, and enabling the democratic management of ecological issues.
(I'm not keen on the federal Public Trust, by the way). On how to get there from here, Alperovitz says:
As in all movements of historical change, moving forward will inevitably require developing a division of labor within our ranks. Some of us will need to concentrate primarily on building and maintaining the pioneering enterprises that supply goods and services. Others will need to assess and refine our invented enterprise models, adapting them to better address issues encountered along the way; e. g., how to raise external sources of capital without losing control; identifying fresh and important role s for labor unions; clarifying how to remain solvent when a generation of founders decides to retire en masse.
Yet a third cohort will have to take on the crucial tasks of political education and alliance building: reaching out to both the general public and to specific groups of potential stakeholders in the Pluralist Commonwealth vision. There are many allies out there, and the aim here is to build cross-sector bridges and a larger and more cohesive constituency. This is beginning to happen, but we need to discover how to do more of it and do it much more effectively.
He's got a new website aimed at building such an alliance: Community-Wealth.Org.
Finally, Ethan Miller has a great article on the "Solidarity Economy":
I believe that the concept of "solidarity economy" offers our movements here in the U.S. a powerful, connective tool with which to link together—horizontally and autonomously—many of the alternative practices of cooperation, mutual aid, reciprocity, and generosity that already exist in our midst. Such ongoing connections can form the basis for larger, long-term movements that cultivate spaces of hope and freedom and de-link our lives and communities from the Economy of Empire....
Many of these non-capitalist microeconomies are familiar to us, though rarely acknowledged as legitimate economies. While it is crucial to note that not all of these non-capitalist economies are necessarily liberatory, I will highlight here some of the most positive and inspiring formsiv:
Householding economies—meeting basic needs with our own skills and work at home and on or with the land: raising children, offering advice or comfort, resolving relational conflicts, teaching basic life skills (such as how to talk!), cooking, sewing, cleaning the house, building the house, balancing the checkbook, fixing the car, gardening, farming, raising animals. Many types of work that have often been rendered invisible or devalued by patriarchy as "women’s work."
Barter economies—trading services with our friends or neighbors, swapping one useful thing for another: "Returning a favor", exchanging plants or seeds, time-based local currencies.
Collective economies—in their simple form these economies are about pooling our resources together (sharing): bringing food to a potluck supper, carpooling, lending and borrowing, consumer co-ops; in their most "radical" form, collective economies are based on common ownership and/or control of resources: collective communities, health care collectives, community land trusts, and more.
Scavenging Economies—living on the abundance of Earth’s own gift economy: hunting, fishing, and foraging. Also living on the abundance of human wastefulness— "one person’s trash is another one’s treasure": salvaging from demolition sites, using old car parts, dumpster-diving, the "swap-shop" at the local dump.
Gift economies—giving some of our resources to other people and to our communities: volunteer fire companies, community food banks, giving rides to hitch-hikers, having neighbors over for dinner.
Worker-controlled economies—workers deciding the terms and conditions of their own work: self-employment, family farms, worker-owned companies and cooperatives.
"Pirate" economies—various activities that might be labeled "theft" by those in power, but would be called "rightful re-appropriation" by those who have been robbed of power: re-incarnations of Robin Hood or Pretty Boy Floyd, squatters.
Subsistence market economies—thousands of very small businesses survive (and sometimes thrive) with little or no imperative to grow and accumulate wealth. These are subsistence-based businesses, created and run for the purpose of providing healthy livelihood to the owners (who are often the workers) and providing a basic service to the larger community (sometimes in the indirect form of creating a community gathering space)....
In fact, the dominant economy would fall apart if the people’s economy—these basic forms of cooperation and solidarity—did not exist "below the surface." These are the things that keep us alive when the factories close down, when the ice storm comes, when our houses burn down, or when the paycheck is just not enough. These are, indeed, the relationships that hold the very fabric of our society together, the relationships that make us human and that meet our most basic needs of love, care, and mutual support. It sure isn’t capitalism that’s providing these things for us!
Solidarity Economics begins here, with the realization that alternative economies already exist; that we as creative and skilled people have already created different kinds of economic relationships in the very belly of the capitalist system. We have our own forms of wealth and value that are not defined by money. Instead of prioritizing competition and profit-making, these economies place human needs and relationships at the center. They are the already-planted seeds of a new economy, an economy of cooperation, equality, diversity, and self-determination: a "solidarity economy"....
This process of coming together to make creative, concrete connections between initiatives is at the core of a solidarity economy strategy. By linking together previously-isolated and disconnected efforts, we can begin to construct the skeleton of a new economy within the body of the old. These connections are not just about "getting to know each other." On one hand, they are about building real economic relationships of exchange and support—connecting producers and consumers, marketers and distributors, investors and organizers....