participatory economics

Today, man is still, or more than ever, man's enemy, not only because he continues as much as ever to give himself over to massacres of his fellow kind, but also because he is sawing off the branch on which he is sitting: the environment.
Cornelius Castoriadis 1

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[Editor's note: this spring, Boston will play host to the 4th International Conference on Participatory Budgeting In North America. This article from our archives (originally published in 2004) looks at the history of participatory budgeting in Brazil, and considers it's potential in the US, where the practice in now thriving in cities across the country.]

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In Ferguson and St. Louis, solidarity economy activists are coming together with social justice advocates to create innovative ways of fighting for justice in their communities. Keywords: MORE, Decarcerate St. Louis, cooperatives, poverty, #BlackLivesMatter
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– Keynote Address, Good Economy Conference, Zagreb 2015

I want to speak today about a crisis that has gripped Europe, and the western democracies, over the last 30 years.

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The Social Solidarity Economy is an alternative to capitalism and other authoritarian, state-dominated economic systems. In SSE, ordinary people play an active role in shaping all of the dimensions of human life: economic, social, cultural, political, and environmental. SSE exists in all sectors of the economy—production, finance, distribution, exchange, consumption and governance. SSE has the ability to take the best practices that exist in our present system (such as efficiency, use of technology and knowledge) and transform them to serve the welfare of the community based on different values and goals.
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In this inspiring talk from TEDxDouglas (Isle of Man), Valerie Miller discusses the founding of Mother T—a community center whose objective is to rebuild community, facilitate connection and tackle problems such as loneliness and isolation.  She also highlights how time banks, unlike traditional social service providers, enrolls the help of the people it supports, and focuses on the assets and abilities of community members, rather than their deficits.  Miller argues that this empowering approach has the potential to revitalize community spirit and improve people's lives and relationships.

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Tall luxury condominiums, new restaurants, coffee shops, and health food stores now punctuate most of the neighborhoods in the District of Columbia, bringing (what some consider) prosperity the likes of which the one-time "Chocolate City" has never before witnessed.

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[Editor's note: Below is an interview with Robin Hahnel about the Participatory Economics movement or "Parecon."   Parecon is a theoretical economic system based on participatory decision making as the primary economic mechanism for the allocation goods, services, resources and the guidance of production.  In this interview, author and political economist Hahnel talks about his book Of the People, By the People: The Case for a Participatory Ec

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A Hidden Disease

If there's one thing we American's love, it's a health fad. Whether it's the paleo diet, cross-fit, vitamin supplements or hot-yoga, we gravitate towards just about anything that promises us improved health and well-being. And why shouldn't we? Health is wealth, after all.

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Editor's note: This excellent documentary by Ric Sternberg details the "re-cooperativisation" of the Pedernales Electric Cooperative in central Texas as well as the steps towards environmental sustainability that some other electric co-ops are taking.  You can find more from Ric on his Youtube channel,  and be sure to check out his latest project:

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The Park Slope Food Co-op (PSFC) earned $39.4 million in its last fiscal year, reports Fortune, which translates into a per-square-foot average of over $6,500.  By comparison Trader Joe's leads its competitors with an average  per-square-foot earning of $1,750, while one estimate has Whole Foods's doing less than $850. 

The Fortue story examines how PSFC does it.

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We are not going to become the solution any time soon, but I believe that we have the opportunity to achieve a lot, like laying down a foundational strategy and infrastructure open to diverse approaches for the generation to come.

David Roach is doing incredibly important work in Oakland with Mo' Better Food, schools, intergenerational learning, farmer's markets, and other things.  He was our incredible improvisational tour guide of Oakland.

By Robin Hahnel

Worker-owned cooperatives are wonderful alternatives to privately owned, capitalist firms. Workers can decide what they want to produce and how they want to produce it instead of having all that decided by their employers. In other words, workers can take control of their laboring capacities and use them as they see fit. Moreover, whatever benefits come from their efforts belong to them, not to an absentee owner who did none of the work.

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