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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

Pitfalls of Buy Black/Black Capitalism

During recent Kwanzaa celebrations there was a call for collective economics. “Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.” This was explained by many as a call to “Buy Black” with others accepting that it was a call for supporting “Black Capitalism.” I want to offer a critique of this understanding from the standpoint of what would be progressive and beneficial in a transformative way to the black community.

Marginal businesses tend to be small, hence more democratic, since the individual owners of the business are closer to and likely to have relationships with both the employees and the customers. As a business’s size and profits increase (often by increases in the number of employees and customers) the likelihood for greater wage disparity (loss of wage solidarity) and a more contemptuous relationship with the customer base (where customers are only seen as instruments to be utilized for increasing profits) increases.

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