A Parallel Grassroots Political Economy

At a seminar held in the Schumacher Center Library this fall, Gar Alperovitz provocatively posed the question: “If you don’t like Capitalism and you don’t like Socialism, what do you want?”

The responses he received indicated both a confidence in solutions initiated by citizens working in their local economies and a distrust of purely political solutions.  They also indicated that issues of appropriate scale need to be addressed, though not feared.  Joanna Arnow’s short video with excerpts from the seminar can be seen below.

Gar’s question is also raised by Lew Solomon in his recently published book Detroit: Three Pathways to Revitalization from  Transaction Publishers.  Solomon sees the potential of an alternative political economy as a response to a failed public sector and ineffective private sector. He explains that:

. . . a bottom-up development strategy oriented around grassroots groups could not only empower people but also open opportunities based on using vacant land and unskilled labor.  Recognizing that significant levels of local self-reliance, beginning with food, are possible, urban agriculture could serve as a major engine for Detroit’s revitalization.  Building a community-based food system could enable residents to achieve broader goals, such as increased employment and, ultimately, a more sustainable, more self-sufficient, parallel political economy sector serving basic human needs.  Residents would use local resources to meet most of their needs while strengthening neighborhoods.

Lew Solomon included community land trusts, local currencies, and a focus on greater food self-reliance as tools in a bottom up development strategy. His earlier research included the landmark book Decentralizing Our Centralized Monetary System: the Case for a System of Local Currencies.

The seminar was a part of what will be an on-going conversation on these issues and questions. Our thanks to the students and young professionals who participated.  Coming from Montreal, St Petersburg, Belgium, Philadelphia, Cambridge, Middlebury, Washington, DC, Brooklyn, upstate New York,  and other parts of the Northeast, all are actively engaged with shaping an economics for a better future.

The gathering followed Gar Alperovitz’ sold out public talk at Searles Castle in Great Barrington the evening before.  See that talk in its entirety here.

We imagine similar conversations occurring all around the country. A groundswell for an alternative political economy is growing.  Join in!