New Systems Series: Volume 2
April 28, 2016
The Second Four Papers
The second volume of papers in our “New Systems: Possibilities and Proposals” series offer visions ranging from the cooperative solidarity commonwealth and the civic economy of provisions to fresh takes on commoning and democratic eco-socialism.
In Commoning as a Transformative Social Paradigm David Bollier outlines the ways in which the commons provides a critique of neoliberal capitalism and offers critical possibilities for a new system. Bollier argues that a commons-based new system would “integrate production, governance and bottom-up participation into new sorts of institutions.” It would not be an economic system in the traditional sense, but would instead present “a blended hybrid of the social, the economic, and self-governance.” In contrast to the present regime, commoning would be a flexible system, controlled by communities and responsive to their needs. In the commons-based society that Bollier envisions, economics, governance, politics, and culture are blended, and based on de-commodification, mutualization, and the organization and control of resources outside of the market.
In Building A Cooperative Solidarity Commonwealth Jessica Gordon Nembhard describes a system that seeks to establish and strengthen economic participation from the bottom up through interlinking networks of cooperatives. “These interconnections start locally but build into regional, national, and international interlocking structures,” she argues. In the cooperative solidarity commonwealth, the economy is centered on need not profit, economic and political power are decentralized, and wealth is democratically controlled and distributed. Since “we can’t have economic democracy in a racist and sexist society,” working on anti-oppression and non-exploitation would be an imperative. This system would be built in the United States by local groups of marginalized peoples. Out of a desire to reverse oppression and exploitation, communities would start cooperatives, control resources, and combat economic exclusion. Cooperators would produce much of what they need locally, contributing to ecological and environmental health and sustainability. When necessary, they would also network and link up regionally, nationally, and internationally.
In Toward Democractic Eco-Socialism as the Next World System Hans Baer proposes a new approach to what he calls “authentic socialism.” As opposed to past experiments with socialism – associated with sudden revolutions, violence, and adverse economic contexts – democratic eco-socialism in his vision would emerge slowly through a series of “system challenging reforms” and pressures from social movements. In Baer’s system, all citizens would have the opportunity to participate in decision making, at work and in organizations that impact their lives. Baer rejects a growth-oriented economy; instead, democratic eco-socialism would take into account the fragility of the planet and its limited resources through equitable distribution mechanisms. Key features of Baer’s democratic eco-socialism include public ownership of the means of production, representative and participatory democracy, an economy oriented to meeting people’s basic needs, protecting the environment, and creating a high degree of social equality.
Finally, in A Civic Economy of Provisions Marvin Brown presents a model for the next system in which economic activity is based not solely on property ownership or the free market but on civic membership in a “global civil society.” He advocates a new approach to system change that would re-frame our social structures around civic relations. Oriented around families, communities, attachments, and mutual identities, this civic economy of provisions would ensure that all people have access to food, housing, health care, and education. “The civic,” for Brown, is centered around conversations that take on difficult social and economic issues and ask participants to “draw on their shared humanity to listen and learn from one another.” Thus, instead of specific designs, Brown proposes civic conversations that would bring together those who work in each area of provision and ask them to design new arrangements based on common needs. More than a specific formula, he offers a means by which people could collaboratively design a next system, while also setting out some of the fundamental changes that would be required to make such civic conversations possible.
The Next System Project’s “New Systems” paper series seeks to publicize comprehensive alternative political-economic system models and approaches that are different in fundamental ways from the failed systems of the past and present, and capable of delivering superior social, economic, and ecological outcomes. The introduction to the series and a full list of New Systems papers published to date can be found here.
Co-Chair, Next System Project