Bourgeois society stands at the crossroads, either transition to Socialism or regression into Barbarism.
- Rosa Luxemburg, "Junius Pamphlet" 1916

Thursday, May 17, 2012

An economy that works -- without "jobs"

Cleveland, Ohio, home of the Evergreen Cooperatives.
.From Wikimedia Commons

From Frank Joyce, President of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, an argument that widespread, permanent unemployment in America is creating a new underground economy based on new forms of labor and production.

Examples are to be found, Joyce points out, in old Rust Belt cities like Detroit.
The stark reality is that the problems are structural and cumulative. The old job system isn’t coming back to Detroit. Ever. The stark reality is that Detroit is not some one-off fluke. Detroit is just the canary in the coal mine. Virtually every dynamic that was in play in Detroit over the last several decades is now at work planet wide. Paralyzed “leadership”; persistent racism; and growing inequalities of wealth, income and power and shrinking democracy aren’t just features of Detroit. They apply to the nation and many other places throughout the world.  
Help from the system that is failing is definitely not on the way. All the superficial debates about high taxes or low taxes, individual mandates or no individual mandates, big government or small government, contraception or no contraception will not put Humpty Dumpty together again.  
For many this is understandably both depressing and disorienting. But for others it is liberating. “Solutionaries” are creating a different kind of economy. There may be no jobs, but there's plenty of work to be done. Victimology is not welcome here.  
Since a Reimagining Work conference held in Detroit last fall, new economy energy and enthusiasm have intensified. There are growing efforts in food production and distribution, education, media, supporting the formerly incarcerated, transportation, community policing and manufacturing. 
Wright describes the emergence of worker-owned cooperatives as a key response to poverty and the disintegration of the conventional economy. Wright points to Cleveland's Evergreen Cooperatives as a notable example. They're a pilot project launched by universities, hospitals, and non-profits in Cleveland, with help from the city. Only a few dozen people work there for now, but the participants hope the project will offer a model for future work programs that can be scaled up. 

Since there is likely never going to be a second New Deal, or anything close, people have to help themselves locally. Models for how to do that exist. They will be needed as the corporate-dominated mainstream economy continues to leave more and more Americans behind.  

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