R. Building Alternatives

In this Chapter:

The most persuasive argument is often a good example: a positive, viable alternative approach, relationship, or institution.

Study Questions

  1. What promising new efforts are moving us towards more and better cooperative enterprises?
  2. Which are more effective in helping workers and transforming society: labor unions or employee cooperatives?
  3. What promising new efforts are moving us towards better democratic decision-making?

Overview Article R

13 pages total

“Economies For Life,” by David Korten, Yes! Magazine, Fall 2002, 13 p.

While the ruling elites occupy themselves with seeking to restore faith in the pathological institutions on which their power and privilege were built, the rest of us can embrace this moment of economic failure as an historic opportunity. Through our individual and collective choices, we can grow into being the economic institutions, relationships, and culture of a just, sustainable, and compassionate world of living economies that work for all.

Reading Set R1: Cooperatives, Associations

41 pages total

“Cooperative Economics: An Interview with Jaroslav Vanek,” by Albert Perkins, New Renaissance, Volume 5, Number 1, 1995, 10 p.

One of the main reasons why the western world is so schizophrenic is that we have political democracy and economic autocracy. Reflections on varieties of economic democracy.

“A Market Without Capitalists,” by Frances Moore Lappé, AlterNet, June 23, 2006, 4 p.

In a region of northern Italy, the author of Diet For a Small Planet discovered a cooperative approach to living that actually enhances human dignity.

“A World Without Bosses?,” by Traci Hukill, Common Ground, July 2, 2005, 7 p.

A handful of Northern California collectives take cues from an innovative Basque cooperative in Northern Spain. But can they really make a difference?

“Co-ops: Changing Employment in the Green Mountains,” by David Van Deusen, Z Magazine, Volume 19, Number 6, June 2006, 9 p.

Co-operatives in Vermont include both worker cooperatives and Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs).

“Building Cooperative Businesses,” by Maryalice Guilford, Dollars & Sense, September/October 2002, 3 p.

For immigrant women in Boston, worker cooperatives provide an alternative to welfare.

“Venezuela’s Co-op Boom,” by Michael Fox, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2007, 8 p.

To end poverty, put poor people in charge of their livelihood. A co-op boom turns the jobless into worker/owners.

Reading Set R2: Worker-, Community-, or Government-Owned and -Controlled Businesses

62 pages total

“Solidarity Economics; Strategies for Building New Economies From the Bottom-Up and the Inside-Out,” by Ethan Miller, Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) Collective, February 2004 (revised June 2005), 30 p.

What kinds of broadly connective, yet visionary, strategies can we enact to move us towards significant, wide-spread projects of alternative creation? How can we build powerful alternative visions, practices, and strategies without resorting to top-down models?

“D.I.Y. Argentina,” by Zack Fields, WireTap, October 11, 2005, 8 p.

One student spends the Argentine winter with workers who are restarting a stalled economy by taking over abandoned businesses and becoming their own boss.

“Creating Real Prosperity,” by Frances Moore Lappé, Yes! Magazine, Winter 2007, 6 p.

Critics of “go local” movements warn that buying local deprives people in the Global South of jobs that could lift them out of poverty. But are multinationals really helping?

“Worker-Owners and Unions: Why Can’t We Just Get Along?” by Dan Bell, Dollars & Sense, September/October 2006, 18 p.

Ideally, collaborations between worker-owners and unions will turn out to strengthen and invigorate both, as they work together toward a common goal of empowering workers.

Reading Set R3: Non-Profit Businesses, Locally-Owned and -Controlled Businesses

37 pages total

“Small Purchases Make a Big Difference,” by Hunter Jackson, WireTap, May 13, 2005, 3 p.

May 14th is World Fair Trade Day. Increasingly, consumers in the Global North concerned about where their food and crafts come from are willing to pay a little more for Fair Trade goods.

“Home Shopping Networks,” by Stacy Mitchell, AlterNet, March 17, 2004, 4 p.

People looking for an alternative to Wal-Mart may need look no further than their own community, to the growing number of successful community-owned retail enterprises operating around the country.

“It Takes a City — How Better Rules and Regulations Promote Local Self-reliance,” by David Morris, In Character, February 2007, 10 p.

Many, perhaps most, of our global and national problems can most effectively be resolved at the local level. The most effective and enduring decisions occur when those who make the decisions are those who feel the impact of the decisions, where costs and benefits fall on the same community.

“Going Local: Creating Self Reliant Communities Now: An Interview with Michael Shuman,” HopeDance Magazine, January/February 2006, 7 p.

The author of Going Local: Creating Self Reliant Communities in a Global Age discusses the benefits of supporting locally-owned businesses and offers some examples.

“Local Businesses Counter Corporate Rule,” by Merrian Fuller, Yes! Magazine, Spring 2006, 1 p.

The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) helps small business stay local and human.

“Go Local Resource Guide,” Yes! Magazine, Winter 2007, 12 p.

Resources to get involved with the “Go Local” movement.

Reading Set R4: Participatory Democracy/Consensus Decision-Making

48 pages total

“Democracy and Its Roots of Grass,” by Richard Flacks, AlterNet, April 25, 2003, 6 p.

Francesca Polletta’s Freedom Is an Endless Meeting is a deep portrayal of the ways in which activists in the ’60s tried to achieve participatory democracy; Making a Place for Community argues for its use in the making of public policy.

“Candidates Who Shun Corporate Cash Are Winning,” by Jim Hightower, Hightower Lowdown, Volume 9, Number 2, February 2007, 11 p.

Electoral reform isn’t just starry-eyed theory: Clean elections are taking place in states from Arizona to North Carolina, reversing the big-money corruption that rampages throughout our political system.

“Citizen Panels,” by Tom Atlee, Yes! Magazine, Winter 2003, 3 p.

Examples of the promise of convening a cross section of the population in high-quality dialogue with full access to information, helping them find common ground, then publicizing their work.

“Experiments in Empowered Deliberative Democracy: Introduction,” by Archon Fung, JFK School, Harvard University and Erik Olin Wright, Sociology Department, University of Wisconsin, May 30, 1999, 42 p.

Five models of deliberative democracy.

“Horizontalidad: Where Everyone Leads,” by Marina Sitrin, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2007, 8 p.

Argentina’s workers took over factories, citizens took over the streets — no one seemed to miss having a boss.

Reading Set R5: Cultural Alternatives

56 pages total

“A Conversation with Dennis O’Hearn: Reflections of Prefigurative Politics, the IRA and the Zapatistas,” by Andrej Grubacic and Marina Sitrin, ZNet, March 5, 2007, 15 p.

Reflection on the possibilities and limitations of autonomous struggles today, how revolutionary groups are creating their future ideal society in the present, something many call prefigurative politics.

“Cuba’s Cure,” by Sarah van Gelder, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2007, 9 p.

Why is Cuba exporting its health care miracle to the world’s poor?

“The Politics of Happiness,” by Enrique Peñalosa and Susan Ives, Yes! Magazine, Summer 2003, 5 p.

The name Bogota conjures images of kidnapping, murder, and drug wars. But today’s Bogota is safer than Washington, D.C., or Baltimore. A visionary mayor discovered the secret to making his city safe.

“Of, By and For Seniors: Japanese Seniors Co-operatives,” by Robert Marshall, Yes! Magazine, Fall 2005, 5 p.

Japanese families are getting smaller while the ranks of the aged are growing. A co-operative has stepped into this vacuum, connecting thousands of elders who have something to give and something to receive.

“Community Land Trusts: An Introduction,” by Tom Peterson, Planning Commissioners Journal, Issue 23, Summer 1996, 10 p.

Just what are community land trusts and what has fueled their proliferation? What have they done for the communities they serve? More importantly, can they help your community?

“New Progress for Progressive Media,” by Don Hazen, AlterNet, April 18, 2006, 12 p.

Progressives are beginning to flex some media muscle, finding ways to counterbalance the right wing’s powerful spin machine. But there’s still much to be done.

Additional Resources


Next Reading Set Collection: S. Challenging Existing Structures