Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Next System Project

Bloggers far more skilled and knowledgeable that I have written extensively about how our societal systems are broken. Whether we look at the current model of rapacious capitalism, environmental non-regulation, fraying medical and social support programs, it is obvious that almost everything is largely rigged in favour of the few, not the many, with the profit motive being one of the few arbiters of 'the public good.' One quick example is the record profits that corporations are enjoying, while the standard of living of the average person continues its downward trajectory.

A new initiative has arisen to begin to address these massive inequities. Called The Next System Project, it seeks to disrupt or replace our traditional institutions for creating progressive change.

Brentin Mock writes that historian and political economist Gar Alperovitz
is hoping to shepherd discussions around what new systems and institutions can be created to help heal what political and corporate systems have desecrated. He also seeks to elevate the new systems that are already in place but could use some scaling up.

One major focus of the project is on expanding business models that grant company ownership to workers. It’s actually similar to the kind of thinking behind what Jay-Z is seeking for Tidal: granting musical artists the opportunity to help generate more wealth for themselves, rather than companies, when we stream their music online. It’s a sign that people aren’t only waking up, but are also trying to do something about the fact that current business models aren’t empowering laborers.

If millionaires like Jay-Z are the wrong example for this, then consider instead what Cesar Chavez sought to achieve for farmworkers: more rights, better compensation, ownership. These are the kinds of discussions Alperovitz wants to build upon through the Next System.

The Next System Project has signed on some impressive individuals and organizations. The following video will give you a sense of what they are about:

Although this is an American-based initiative, we would be indeed naive not to realize it seeks to address world-wide issues. Time for a revolution in thinking and doing, perhaps?


  1. The American economist Richard Wolfe talks about democratizing the workplace, Lorne. This sounds like a similar initiative -- and it seems to counter events and public policies of the last forty-five years.

    1. There is no doubt that new ideas are needed to pierce the propaganda we are constantly fed about the dangers of tampering with the current capitalist model, Owen. I remember seeing a documentary a few years ago by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis that dealt with worker ownership of a company in Argentina that had gone bankrupt. Despite much resistance, it turned out to be a very successful venture.

  2. Alperovitz has been a tireless champion of worker-owned enterprise. His book, "What Then Must We Do?: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution," deals with this and is a great read even if he did filch the title from Tolstoy.

    In his book Alperovitz chronicles industries that were failing and about to be shuttered when they were taken over and bought out by the workers. Most fascinating is how the community, especially small banks, credit unions and local churches provide incredible support for these takeovers because they see the successful continuation of the enterprise and the salvation of those jobs as fundamental to the health of the community itself, their community. What's also interesting is now Congressional Republicans and Democrats alike joined forces to pass legislation assisting these sort of worker takeovers.

    His research shows the other side - how businesses fall into the hands of absentee owners, third-generation heirs or vulture capitalists - who destroy the profitability of these businesses through greed, incompetence or even simple indifference. A workers' committee, by contrast, knows the business, how it operates, what makes it work successfully and, of course, have genuine self-interest in both keeping it working and investing in it.

    The whole business can sound awfully Bolshie but mainly just to those predisposed to see things in that light.

    1. Thanks for this very useful information, Mound. I must confess to not having heard of Alpervotz, but it sounds like I need to start educating myself.