Quietly Building Momentum for a New Economy

In June 2011 Gar Alperovitz wrote: “as citizen uprisings from Tunisia to Madison remind us, judgments that serious change cannot take place often miss the quiet buildup of potentially explosive underlying currents…there are reasons to think that new economy efforts have the capacity to gather momentum as time goes on.”

As Occupy Wall Street enters its fifth week, inspiring protests from Charlotte to London and captivating audiences across the world, the protestors in Zuccotti Park are demonstrating just how much momentum the idea of a new economy has.

Alperovitz, who will be joining a panel of speakers representing Occupy Wall Street and Youth for a New Economy at the Thirty-First Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures on Saturday, November 5th in New York City, argued in his June 13th piece in “The Nation” and his upcoming piece in “Dissent” that new economic institutions are not only possible, but necessary, and in fact already growing out of the grassroots of communities across America.

Alperovitz says that instead of feeling confined to the binary paths of reforming the broken economic system or revolting to overthrow it, citizens are opting to create something new that will replace the current economic regime, making the old system obsolete in the process. He calls this third way “evolutionary reconstruction.”

What are some examples of “evolutionary reconstruction?” Workers co-operatives like the Evergreen Cooperative in Cleveland, alternative ownership structures like Market Creek Plaza in San Diego, and enlightened businesses like Gore-Tex and King Arthur Flour, which are owned partially or wholly by their workers through Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs). Benefit Corporations, or “B Corps,” whose charters allow them to weigh social and environmental goals equally or above profits. Lobbying groups like the American Sustainable Business Council (ASCB), which stood with union organizers, not against them; and brain trusts like the New Economy Working Group, which is helping state and local banks transition to a new economy model of development.

Alperovitz draws on a deep knowledge of local activism to paint a picture of a rich network of new economy initiatives. “At the heart of the spectrum of emerging institutional change,” he says, “is the traditional radical principal that ownership of capital should be subject to democratic control.”

We hope you’ll join us, Gar Alperovitz, consumer activist Juliet Schor, and our youth panel from Occupy Wall Street and Youth for a New Economy, on November 5th for the Thirty-First Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures, celebrating the Centennial of Fritz Schumacher’s birth.