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Doing Business as if People Mattered

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/10/06-6 Wednesday, October 6, 2010 by
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 7, 2010
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      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      Wednesday, October 6, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
      Economics: Doing Business As If People Mattered
      by Robert Jensen

      When politicians talk economics these days, they argue a lot about the
      budget deficit. That's crucial to our economic future, but in the
      contemporary workplace there's an equally threatening problem -- the
      democracy deficit.

      In an economy dominated by corporations, most people spend their work
      lives in hierarchical settings in which they have no chance to
      participate in the decisions that most affect their lives. The typical
      business structure is, in fact, authoritarian -- owners and managers
      give orders, and workers follow them. Those in charge would like us to
      believe that's the only way to organize an economy, but the cooperative
      movement has a different vision.

      Cooperative businesses that are owned and operated by workers offer an
      exciting alternative to the top-down organization of most businesses. In
      a time of crisis, when we desperately need new ways of thinking about
      how to organize our economic activity, cooperatives deserve more attention.

      First, the many successful cooperatives remind us that we ordinary
      people are quite capable of running our own lives. While we endorse
      democracy in the political arena, many assume it's impossible at work.
      Cooperatives prove that wrong, not only by producing goods and services
      but by enriching the lives of the workers through a commitment to shared
      decision-making and responsibility.

      Second, cooperatives think not only about profits but about the health
      of the community and natural world; they're more socially and
      ecologically responsible. This is reflected in cooperatives' concern for
      the "triple bottom line" -- not only profits, but people and the planet.

      The U.S. government's response to the financial meltdown has included
      some disastrous decisions (bailing out banks to protect wealthy
      shareholders instead of nationalizing banks to protect ordinary people)
      and some policies that have helped but are inadequate (the stimulus
      program). But the underlying problem is that policymakers assume that
      there is no alternative to a corporate-dominated system, leading to
      "solutions" that leave us stuck with failed business-as-usual approaches.

      It's crazy to trust in economic structures that have brought us to brink
      of economic collapse. But even in more "prosperous" times, modern
      corporations undermine democracy, weaken real community, and degrade the
      ecosystem. New thinking is urgently needed. Politicians who talk about
      an "ownership society" typically promote individual ownership of a tiny
      sliver of an economy still dominated by authoritarian corporate giants.
      An ownership society defined by cooperative institutions would be a

      None of this is hypothetical -- there are hundreds of flourishing
      cooperative businesses in the United States. The United States
      Federation of Worker Cooperatives, http://www.usworker.coop/ , provides
      excellent information and inspiring stories. In Austin, a
      cooperative-incubator group, Third Coast Workers for Cooperation,
      http://thirdcoastworkers.coop/ , offers training and support for people
      interested in creating democratic workplaces.

      Putting our faith in institutions that have become too big to fail has
      failed. Institutions that are too greedy to defend can't be defended.
      Cooperative businesses aren't a magical solution to the critical
      economic problems we face, but a national economic policy that used
      fiscal and tax policies to support cooperatives would be an important
      step on a different path.

      Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at
      Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in
      Austin. He is the author of All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive
      Path to the Prophetic Voice, (Soft Skull Press, 2009); Getting Off:
      Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The
      Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City
      Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our
      Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas
      from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen is also
      co-producer of the documentary film "Abe Osheroff: One Foot in the
      Grave, the Other Still Dancing," which chronicles the life and
      philosophy of the longtime radical activist. Information about the film,
      distributed by the Media Education Foundation, and an extended interview
      Jensen conducted with Osheroff are online at

      Jensen can be reached at rjensen@... and his articles can
      be found online at
      http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/index.html . To join an email list to
      receive articles by Jensen, go to

      Dan Clore

      New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
      My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      Lord We├┐rdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      "From the point of view of the defense of our society,
      there only exists one danger -- that workers succeed in
      speaking to each other about their condition and their
      aspirations _without intermediaries_."
      --Censor (Gianfranco Sanguinetti), _The Real Report on
      the Last Chance to Save Capitalism in Italy_
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