America Beyond Capitalism: Emerging Context and Key Issues

notes on Alperovitz, Gar. 2006. “America Beyond Capitalism: Emerging Context and Key Issues.” The Good Society 15. (3): 51-56.

Our current crisis is more than political — it’s systemic.

Truly fundamental values — equality, liberty, meaningful democracy, ecological sustainability — are all increasingly being thwarted by real world practices.

The American labor movement is in a state of serious decline.

The traditional hope of reforming capitalism following the best welfare state and corporatist precedents is simply not likely to be realized.

The system is declining with little hope of reform, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to suddenly fail. More probably, it will be

A long-term process of occasional gain, large-order stalemate and failing belief will simply mean the continuation of long-term decay.

Alperovitz wants to “develop an institutional architecture which might allow for true democratic control of the political-economy.” This democratic control would require some form of socialization of major industry. Could take the form of traditional public ownership, or be a national “trust” to own controlling interests in major corporations.

Government overseers could set larger ecological and other non-ecological criteria for investment.

Critical goals would be public accountability and transparency, and accrual of major portions of all profits to the public.

This alone won’t achieve democratic accountability, but there are several “vectors of expanding institutional change” that would help out:

  1. Systematic development of local democratic experience along with its precondition of community economic stability. Only if a strong and participatory version of democratic experience is nurtured at the local level can there ever be a strong and participatory capacity for democratic control in the nation at large.
  2. Inequality must be altered in meaningful, transformative ways. Ultimately what is required will involve changing the ownership of capital to benefit both workers and publics.
  3. Populist forms of taxation to the 1-3%, partly for redistribution, partly to sharpen issues of capital ownership.
  4. Re-allocating time fee from the pressure of long work hours — for liberty, and a citizenry that has time to engage in democracy.
  5. Economic security, smaller-scale governance, local community support, some degree of independent entrepreneurial possibility, and intermediate units of political power.

Significance of workplace democracy.

Importance of scale – is the US just too large for effective democratic participation and control?

The many employee-owned businesses, co-ops, etc — these provide a practical basis for building long-term capacities for an “expanding decentralized socially owned public and quasi-public sector.”

Can Americans achieve a practical and common-sense understanding of the traditional socialist idea that some form of public ownership of capital is both necessary and possible?

The necessary thing is to teach possibilities.

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  1. […] Legacy of the Cold War — we’re hostile to talking about cooperation and collective ownership because of our historically based distrust of socialist societies. [ed– see what Alperovitz was saying about teaching possibilities] […]

  2. […] [this was a slightly longer version of another essay, notes on which can be found here. I didn't repeat myself here, so these two posts should be read in tandem] The most progressive […]



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