Cooperatives are member-owned and democratically controlled businesses that distribute profits based on an equitable patronage system.1
In addition to ownership, control, and patronage-based profit sharing, most cooperatives adhere to the seven internationally-recognized cooperative principles: (1) voluntary membership, (2) democratic member control, (3) member economic participation, (4) autonomy and independence, (5) education, training and information, (6) cooperation among cooperatives, and (7) concern for the community.2
Another economic reality is possible — one that values community, sustainability and resiliency instead of profit by any means necessary. Niki Okuk shares her case for cooperative economics and a vision for how working-class people can organize and own the businesses they work for, making decisions for themselves and enjoying the fruits of their labor.
A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice
Jessica Gordon Nembhard
“The word ‘pathbreaking’ should not be used casually, but this is, in fact, a pathbreaking book. There is nothing like it. Jessica Gordon Nembhard’s study of Black cooperatives opens a door on a critical aspect of Black history in general and cooperative history in particular—a door very hard to open, given the challenges and difficulties with records and sources. What she has found behind the door is subjected to inspiring yet tough-minded analysis. The long trajectory of development Gordon Nembhard describes and the direction she illuminates offer profoundly important guidance as we enter an era of increasingly difficult economic and political challenges.” —Gar Alperovitz, Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy, University of Maryland, author of What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution
This week on the Laura Flanders Show: What role did economic cooperation play in the civil rights movement? As it turns out, a huge one. This forgotten history is the focus of Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard’s recent book Collective Courage: A History of African-American Economic Thought and Practice, out in bookstores in May.
Cooperation Jackson is a workers’ cooperative
Cooperation Jackson is a workers’ cooperative, started in 2013, that is striving to be a one-stop-shop for activism and economic development in the city. So far the co-op is small: a farm, a couple-dozen plots of land, a little over 100 dues-paying members, and a community center. But it’s aiming to be much more. The organization’s mission isn’t to just help Jackson residents, but to give them an entirely new, supportive economy in which to operate. The idea is essentially this: Since Jackson’s current economy isn’t working for its residents, and its current political system isn’t doing much to help, why not create a new economic and political system right alongside the old one? “We want to become the dominant feature of our local economy,” Akuno told me over the phone. “It’s really about a localization of the economy, about maximum control in the community’s hands. These are the things we can do that protect us from the ravages of global capitalism.” https://www.thenation.com/article/meet-the-radical-workers-cooperative-growing-in-the-heart-of-the-deep-south/
This paper by David Schweickart, published alongside three others, is one of many proposals for a systemic alternative we have published or will be publishing here at the Next System Project. You can read it below, or download the PDF. We have commissioned these papers in order to facilitate an informed and comprehensive discussion of “new systems,” and as part of this effort we have also created a comparative framework which provides a basis for evaluating system proposals according to a common set of criteria.
A brief elaboration of each of these key institutions:
Overview and basic model
The big challenges that capitalism now faces in the contemporary world include issues of inequality (especially that of grinding poverty in a world of unprecedented prosperity) and of “public goods” (that is, goods people share together, like the environment). The solution to these problems will almost certainly call for institutions that take us beyond the capitalist market economy.
So wrote Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen, sixteen years ago. Needless to say the intervening years have only strengthened his thesis—inequality and environmental degradation have gotten much worse and grinding poverty persists. But does there exist a viable alternative that might take us beyond the capitalist market economy, a new system that would preserve the strengths of competitive capitalism while at the same time eliminating, or at least mitigating, its worst features?
It is important to be clear and unequivocal: the answer is “Yes.” And it is simple enough to state. What we need to do is extend democracy to the economy itself. To formulate the project in terms of slogans, we need to