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Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism

To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Location: Northwest Arkansas, United States

Thursday, January 05, 2006

A World Without Bosses?

A great article at Alternet by Tracy Hukull of Common Ground: "A World Without Bosses"

Thin and quick, with guileless blue eyes and Tiggerish enthusiasm, the 28-year-old father of two has good reason to be happy. He's making close to $30 an hour, gets medical benefits for his family, enjoys four to five weeks paid time off each year and believes passionately in his work. Not the work of making pizza, particularly, but the work of running, along with 38 other people, a thriving worker-owned cooperative built on the principles of democracy and economic fairness. "I have a personal mission," Perez confesses. "I want to see more cooperatives."...

It's easy to see why Perez is a tireless proselytizer who has worked to establish three spin-off coops, the Arizmendi bakeries in Oakland, San Francisco and Emeryville. To anyone who has slogged through a wage-slave job or had a domineering boss, a collectively run cooperative sounds like a workers' paradise. It has no hierarchy and no supervisors because everyone is an owner. Everyone makes the same amount of money and everyone is responsible for making the business work. Everyone does all the jobs. No one gets summarily fired. Decisions are made by consensus. At the end of the year, some money goes to charity and some is invested back into the business. The rest of the profits, instead of enriching one or two individuals, are returned to all the worker-owners -- a rising tide lifting many boats.

This level of emotional and financial investment creates a radically different attitude toward work, Perez says, one emphasizing personal responsibility and flexibility. "If we don't have a boss and I tell you to turn out the lights when you leave, you're going to do it because it means more money for all of us," Perez says. "But if someone is breathing down your neck, you might not."

He says he used to work at a big-box retailer. "Corporate America, okay? They don't treat you like human beings. They treat you like robots. Your opinion is not appreciated."

Terry Baird, 59, a member of the Arizmendi Cooperative on Oakland's Lakeshore Drive since it opened in 1997, jokes (or not) about the effect of this. "If you work here and go somewhere else, you're kind of wrecked for the traditional work environment," he says. "The first time you say to your boss, 'Let's vote on this,' they're gonna look at you funny."

There's something else about cooperatives. In an economy with a lot of coops, the number of well-paid, self-directed workers would mean a larger, wealthier middle class, and therefore a healthier community. The goal is a society in which all people, not only the fittest, enjoy economic security.


Blogger Charles Hueter said...

Kevin, does your Studies... book have material regarding the theoretical and empirical effectiveness of these kinds of businesses?

January 06, 2006 7:39 AM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

Very little in the way of detail, I'm afraid. That's the kind of stuff that would go in Chapter Nine, and I wrote that chapter in a rush.

January 06, 2006 9:19 AM  
Blogger A. B. Dada said...

In an economy with a lot of coops, the number of well-paid, self-directed workers would mean a larger, wealthier middle class, and therefore a healthier community. The goal is a society in which all people, not only the fittest, enjoy economic security.

Actually, the goal in an economy is that all people work in the way that they're most efficient and maximize their abilities. Not everyone is able to work for a middle class salary: if they understand this, work hard, and save their money, they'll be able to grant the next generation a better life.

If all we had was co-ops, we'd likely have very little ability to maximize our income. You can't equally grow everyone's income equally: someone has to suffer. If you think that the "wealthy" will take paycuts, then you'll lose a prime aspect of any market: risk taking. Those who take the biggest risks get the biggest rewards. If you remove the risk takers from an economy, the economy will become stagnant as no one will want to take risks.

When it comes to employees and employers, there is something that you're missing. An employer is the customer of the employee. If an employee is not providing a competitive product/service at a competitive price to the employer, they're not needed. An employer NEVER sets a wage or a salary -- the employee does by offering a competitive product or service and the price follows suit.

If you're in a "slave" wage position, you're likely offering no real value to your customer -- your employer.

January 06, 2006 11:15 AM  
Blogger Chris Cook said...

A market is the best way for allocating resources, I believe. But the requirement is for a market without profit to "rentiers" who "make money out of money".

The blind spot on the Left has always been a confusion between productive and rentier Capital, it being shared ground between neoCons and the Left alike that only individuals are "Productive".

That anthropocentric assumption - and that is all it is, an assumption - is, to use an Anglo Saxon technical term - complete bollocks.

Of course Capital is productive - a hydro plant produces energy which has Value in exchange, and land has a rental value in exchange.

It is the relationship between the productive individual and the productive Capital which is at the heart of "Value".

Moving on. There is no profit and loss within a partnership.

Nor is there an employer/employee reltionship. In a partnership you work WITH people not FOR people. It's what Marx meant when he talked about the Abolition of Labour (as I understood his early work)

That is why the new "Open Corporate" synthesis of the collective and the individual - of which the UK LLP is the first example, albeit with the dubious addition of "free" limitation of liability)- is IMHO going to replace the existing toxic variety of Corporate body - the Joint Stock Limited Liability Company.


has more for anyone interested.

Best Regards

Chris Cook

January 08, 2006 5:32 AM  
Blogger Sandy-LA 90034 said...

I am so excited to find your blog!

I've read a lot about the Mondragan Cooperatives, seen a documentary of it and even discussed it with a group of systems thinkers who met regularly at the offices of the Rand Corporation.

I will be reading your posts with interest and love the idea that someone is blogging on this topic.

One of the things I like about the cooperative idea is that it brings democracy to the workplace, finally!

February 04, 2006 11:50 AM  

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