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New Systems Series: Volume 5
FEBRUARY 28, 2017

Four new models for political-economic alternatives

The fifth volume of papers in our “New Systems: Possibilities and Proposals” series offers visions ranging from an Economy for the Common Good and Earthland to a decentralized United States in Million Utopias and Community Economies.

In The Economy for the Common Good – A Workable, Transformative Ethics-Based Alternative, http://thenextsystem.org/the-economy-for-the-common-good/ Christian Felber and Gus Hagelberg describe their proposed Economy for the Common Good (ECG), an economic model that aims to establish an “ethical market economy.” By focusing on increasing the quality of life for everyone, promoting values such as human dignity and rights, ecological responsibility, and ensuring social justice, the economy can be finally controlled by the citizens to serve the public good. But the ECG is not only limited to the economic system. Felber and Hagelberg clarify that to fully achieve an ECG major changes are required in institutions and practices across all areas of life. For example, the authors advocate that ECG only works in tandem with a participatory sovereign democracy led by the people through the creation of “sovereign assemblies” at all levels. The ECG movement has made great progress over its five-year history. Over 400 companies have completed Common Good Balance Sheets, dozens of city and state governments have committed to promoting the idea and over 100 local citizen groups are actively involved. In this paper, Felber and Hagelberg suggest policy changes, mandates, and new legislation that would allow for the vision to be fully realized.

In Earthland: Scenes From a Civilized Future, http://thenextsystem.org/earthland-scenes-civilized-future/ the founding president of Tellus Institute, Paul Raskin, explains his vision of a next system – Earthland – through a “dispatch from the future.” Set in 2084, following a period of crises and the development of a strong “Global Citizens Movement”, the world managed to move toward a radically different system where “resilient economies channel and constrain markets to function within more compassionate social norms and well-established environmental limits.” Politically, Earthland is organized through “constrained pluralism,” based on the principle of subsidiarity. Socially, vast inequality and discrimination have been nearly eradicated and “consumerism, individualism, and anthropocentrism” have been replaced by a global society rooted in “quality of life, human solidarity, and ecocentrism.” Earthland balances a focus on the global aspect of the system (“One world”) with a parallel focus on local diversity (“Many places”) as regions adopt different models in accordance with their cultural and political leanings that cluster around three models: Agoria, Ecodemia, and Arcadia. Raskin’s creative approach not only offers his vision of a better world, but also gives contemporary readers hope that “Another world was possible!”.

In The Promise of a Million Utopias, http://www.thenextsystem.org/promise-million-utopias/ Michael Shuman advocates for a decentralized United States with states acting as more autonomous regions. In his vision, communities enact their own, small-scale systems, testing out concepts and self-organization, managing resources, and relying minimally on the market or the state. Pointing to the economic, social, and environmental achievements of Switzerland, the most decentralized country in the world, Shuman argues that a decentralized system can catalyze action and participatory democracy at the local level – a system of “genuine deliberation and action.” In this proposed system, local communities are also given economic freedom; “an open marketplace, where entrepreneurs and small businesses flourish.” According to Shuman, the adoption of a radically decentralized model will maximize “economic well-being in all kinds of communities” and provide “the best possible shot at solving various social challenges.” As Shuman concludes, the only productive option we have is to “offer everyone the opportunity to experiment at the local level… Let a thousand flowers of innovation bloom in our fifty ‘laboratories of democracy.’”

In Volume 5’s final paper, Cultivating Community Economies: Tools for Building a Liveable World, http://thenextsystem.org/cultivating-community-economies/ J.K. Gibson-Graham and Community Economies Collective (CEC) members present their vision of “Community Economies” as an “ongoing process of negotiating our interdependence.” In order to cultivate these economies and mobilize social transformation, the CEC focuses on ethical economic practices that already exist and propose two strategies. The first aims to develop a new language of the diverse economy and activate ethical economic subjects by looking into five identifiers: work, surplus distributions, market and non-market transactions, property relationships, and finance. The second strategy focuses on “imagining and enacting collective actions that diversify the economy,” in order to broaden the horizon of economic politics. The authors provide a number of examples of collective actions – such as action research and collaborative mapping – along with more than a dozen related projects developed by the CEC to illustrate how these collective actions work in practice, including the creation of a Community Supported Fisheries in Maine and the diverse economic practices of cooperation implemented in post-Soviet Russia.

The Next System Project’s “New Systems: Possibilities and Proposals” paper series seeks to publicize comprehensive alternative political-economic system models and approaches that are different in fundamental ways from the failed systems of the past and present, and capable of delivering superior social, economic, and ecological outcomes. The introduction to the series and a full list of New Systems papers published to date can be found here.

Gus Speth
Co-Chair, Next System Project


Discussion 12 Comments

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 2nd Mar 2017

    Thanks again for posting, Batman, interesting.

    Maybe centralising all these left-of-centre, economics-focussed, alternative visions somewhere at IOPS would be a good idea? There's 'Resources' and there's Rod's suggestion for a new Wiki and there's your own alternatives List on the home page and there's the new (empty) Book Shelf at the Forum....

    How to best centralise at one easy-to-find spot?

  • Bat Chainpuller 3rd Mar 2017

    Unless there is some method of collating all the info in these visions, sorting through the similarities and differences, seeing where they may diverge in language only, not institutionally, I really don't see the point of just offering up more and more of these things. Particularly when only few are reading them and it is difficult for average punters (who actually aren't probably reading them) to assess the pros and cons as there is almost no on going discussion or debate that enables world citizens to participate.

    There needs to be a site, a real website, for these things to be debated and discussed. A site where all the authors of these things are participatory members, regularly contributing with updates or with responses to questions and queries from regular punters who can also particpate on the website. And it needs to be participatory in order that those who develop these things, some of whom may have strong ideological biases don't become the new movers and shakers for a new society at the expense of those perhaps less confident and intellectually inclined. All those in nice business like threads, neat and tidy well groomed folk, who seem to run everything.

    It needs to be developed/built to bust through any ideological leanings, sectarianism of whatever sort. It needs regular serious participation from the main players, maybe even quarterly revisions of things, discussions, symposiums and with strong media outreach. The NSP is close but not close...

    Just dumping more visions on everyone, or a few, isn't doing much, and teach ins in various regions of the US is far to limited in scope.

    I mean why not have a place where one can actually discuss visionary shit with Zapatistas and pareconistas and voluntary simplicity folk together, just because they happen to be on the net at same moment or because the site allows people to set conversations up. Where one could directly contact Fotopoulos, Wayne Price, Albert, Hahnel, Samuel Alexander, Ted Trainer, David Schwieckart, Christian Siefkes and Michel Bauwens, Erik Olin Wright and all those other peeps who wrote all those other "visions" for the NSP and tell them directly they are a bunch of idiots and don't know shit. Constructive stuff like that!!

    Like a visionary union. A place with a virtual lounge for nerdy visionaries and those interested, for just hanging out and saying hello, with more serious places for more serious get togethers. A place where Price, Alperovitz and Albert can sort out their differences in the open, regularly, and not just here and there, that one can access only when someone just happens to hear about it, or see the flyer on some marginal website, or stumble across it accidentally or hears about some pending book publication.

    Or perhaps a visionary collective rather than union. Like a musicians collective. Like the one they had in England somewhere that had a sign on the door just above a collection box that read, "it's just the price of freedom".

    Probably because it's a stupid idea.

  • Dave Jones 4th Mar 2017

    The "debate" aspect is the hardest nut to crack. This was essentially what the World Social Forum was supposed to be about. I'm sure NSP wants to be such a forum, or symposium. Albert envisioned "IOPS Internationals" as a space for this back and forth and there is a Left Forum (formerly socialist scholars conference) every year in NY. All have a tendency to veer into academic discourse that "the average punter" will often struggle with at first.

    In an attempt to localize the process (as opposed to consolidation) we are trying to promote "critical thinking communities", small salons where people gather regularly.But to enter the big league of theory you have to publish, it seems. I could spend a few hours analyzing and critiquing these proposals from an ecosocialist perspective, but would I get any feedback for my efforts?

    Hey, we could have our own debate right here. Should we promote/try to rehabilitate social democracy, where the invisible hand shares jurisdiction with the demos (even though it has mostly failed) OR should we promote public ownership, demos controls/plans all (even though it has failed till now)?

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 5th Mar 2017

    Your vision of a website is pretty similar to our own failed Common Website attempt 2014, Bat, except we were probably emphasizing the practical, already engaged activist scene. We discussed this for a long time and here's what we finally agreed to sending out to lots and lots of global activist orgs and got basically 3 (three) non-committal responses:

    Creating Another Website...
    ...for Creating Another World

    Dear reader,

    Many people all over the world are coming to the realization that the world is critically endangered. That we are at a turning point in human evolution. That what we do or don’t do now will decide the future for better or (much) worse. That another world is possible.

    But how do we get there? How do we come together on this planet as concerned individuals, groups and movements for social change? Can we, together, create a website to help overcome our isolation and fragmentation? To help us make another world possible? A website that is both lively bazaar and popular assembly, a place of interchange, dialogue and decision-making?

    Imagine a website with the following properties:

    The website functions as the go-to place for people seeking to create another world, a world based on social justice, participatory democracy, ecological sustainability, and international solidarity. It appeals widely to people who believe that another world is possible and necessary and is tolerant of a wide variety of opinions on what that other world should look like and how we can hope to reach it.

    It allows its users, both groups and individuals, to find and meet like-minded people and groups in their areas of interest to work together towards this goal.

    The website offers a home to its users, while fully respecting their autonomy.

    Participating groups and individuals can use the website for working together by comparing notes, discussing ideas, sharing insights, making plans, building resources, creating projects, organizing events, planning and evaluating campaigns and actions, practising mutual aid, socializing, engaging in crowdfunding, reading and posting news, learning, and teaching.

    The website fosters a sense of inclusiveness and community, a community that is self-managed by its users. This is your website, a commons that you care for and take care of.

    We are a group of people taking the initiative to create such a website and think it is possible to build it in a collaborative effort of volunteer work — just like we have to work together to create another world.

    A shared space as proposed here can help overcome the fragmentation often connected with single-issue groups and campaigns and the isolation of concerned but non-organized individuals. It could help foster an appreciation of our diversity as a source of strength. It could also help develop that greater coherence and solidarity-in-diversity that can make the idea of Another World move from possibility to reality.

    This website can be used, for example, to build global coalitions for coordinating effective world-wide action against corporate giants like Exxon, Vale S.A. or Monsanto. It can help to form a bridge between local trade-unionists and environmental activists on demanding production methods that are safe both for the workers and the environment. Or it could help local communities find resources to organize against a local factory endangering their health.

    We start with high hopes, for this website and for the world, because we think it is possible. And so we want the best possible system that can fulfill all needs, so to speak. We will use a common free and open-source platform to build upon. We can’t do everything at once, but since we need a system like this yesterday rather than tomorrow, we’ll need to prioritize when we build an initial version. For now though, we are still defining requirements, and with the requirements, we are allowed to dream.

    We have made a list of features and requirements we have dreamt up. We need your help to assess the importance of the various items. To that end, we have set up a survey at http://goo.gl/forms/lzfbOSmBgU.

    When you look them over, think carefully about what you would want out of a website like this one. Please consider what is most essential, what is the most interesting, what should be changed, or removed, or added. Truly imagine yourself as the user, owner, creator of this website: what will you want and need? Your opinion matters. Taking the survey will require some of your time, but your input will help to shape an exciting and promising project. We believe that bringing in unique, creative and diverse opinions, like your own, will generate the best possible site for people trying to build a better world.

    Please take the Survey on Common Website Requirements.

    If the idea appeals to you, let us know if and how you think you can contribute. Certainly, no technical expertise is required. We look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, or would like to become more involved, please, let us know.


    Alex Lewis, Seattle, Washington
    Claire Bruhn, Chicago, Illinois
    Darcy McClare, Bridgewater, Nova Scotia
    Emily Corrado, Campo Bonito, Arizona
    Fred Curran, Chicago, Illinois
    Lambert Meertens, Amsterdam, Netherlands
    Peter Lach-Newinsky, Bundanoon, Australia
    Rick New, Seattle, Washington
    Tasner Curran, Jyväskylä, Finland

  • Bat Chainpuller 5th Mar 2017

    Yeah, I see what you are getting at but mine isn't quite the same. My idea, probably stupid or elitist, is one whereby the main participants are the actual authors of the visions. Like all the smart arses who think they know how to better organise this world get together, create and then become themselves like some visionary team. A vision website devoted just to discussing and debating and beating each other shitless over nothing else but, you guessed it, vision. They can have their own little virtual booths or offices, contact details, and dates and shit about where they will be and when they will actually be available, but they HAVE to make themselves available at times and participate or perhaps their vision gets dumped or something. The site would also need a forum for anyone to participate but you don't need to join like IOPS. But it's not an org so to speak. It could have an attached media arm and every two months or so a get together of main contributors or something. Of course links to all the individual sites and shit but it is the main visionary hub, to where someone like Russell Brand points people when they ask him the obvious question.

    • Bat Chainpuller 5th Mar 2017

      An extension of what I'm getting at would be all visionary authors HAVE to read everyone else's models. They have to present their critiques. They could all, in some attempt at sifting through them all, isolate the similarities, like saying, that's the same as that, and that's the same as that one etc....then differences. They could make a chart showing this stuff as clearly as possible. Arguments and debates could/would be had over all this stuff. Why not? They could try to merge visions where the similarities are great, to reduce the number of the bloody things, or they could point out the fact that 90% of them all say the same regarding this or that institution yet seem to diverge more regarding this or that one. Why?

      It may be hard anda lot of extra work, but I say, stiff shit, these people wrote all this stuff and expect or want average punters to get on board and decipher it all so they can and SHOULD do the all main hard work deciphering, collating, comparing and clearing shit up...the average punter has every opportunity to participate directly with the authors or writing blogs, forums, and comments or asking the most stupid and silly of questions without fear of being treated like a dick. If these people don't want to get involved because they are oh so busy...I say fuck 'em.

      But this site cannot be aligned with personal political economic preferences or any one ideological persuasion, even if said ideology is kind of diverse and pluralistic looking. This is where I think the NSP falls own. I don't particular like the general nature or look of all the shit in their resource section...it smells funny...like of a certain persuasion and anyone not of that persuasion is marginalised or just doesn't get a guernsey in there...yet it paints itself as pluralistic and diverse!?

      If something like this doesn't get done, then all you've got is all those sites over there and there and there all doing their own thing hoping to capture some MARKET, with the odd debate and get together here and there and book publication every so often. A plethora of visionary shit that most just won't fucking read.


      Further, if this is done, then writers like Paul Street could put their money where the mouth is and point to his visionary preference and why. He could outline it in articles with a link to the site and particular debates that he may have been involved in. Bill Fletcher, Tom Wetzel and say Mark Evans could use the site and their preferred vision for dissemination through unions say. Unions could use it. When writers write all their anti-cap stuff they can link to this site and outline clearly what their preferred vision is, and accompanying strategy for reaching it, in the bulk of the essay, rather than just devote one or two short paragraphs at the end to the usual call for a new system which they aren't clear about themselves. Richard Smith could find what he thinks the best kind of economy with a planned allocation system rather than a market one.

    • Bat Chainpuller 5th Mar 2017

      Like imagine in a participatory society with a similar economy an artist collective. Where produces of 'art' get together or federate. That can be broken down into all sorts of subsections and sub types of creative pursuit. So there is a section there for those pursuing free improvised music. They are doing it as part of their balanced job complex and get remunerated for it. A consumer can go to some site to access info about cds, performances etc. Of course there are artists doing shit privately as part of their balanced complex or just in their leisure time which they have much more of, for which they are not remunerated..,there could be some part of this collective that lets people know of their existence as well. It's not just a word of mouth thing, or a market deciding venture whereby the more marginalised musics for instance don't get a look in. And regardless of personal tastes and hatreds towards certain musical forms, which do exist, sometime vehemently, all these pursuits are given their due and right to exist, along with help, according to a participatory planned process involving consumers who have agreed that all these musics are social valuable.

      We need a visionary collective NOW, not later or at some unspecified time in the future or to just somehow appear or evolve.

  • Kristi Doyne-Bailey 5th Mar 2017

    At the very least you'd think some grad students would be studying these alternative systems, analyzing, comparing/contrasting and making charts and stuff...

  • Lambert Meertens 5th Mar 2017

    The NSP ought really to be organizing the debate, but if they don’t and we can somehow get it going I’m all for it.

    I’m sure the various proposals are incompatible in many details, but from a cursory reading my impression is that in their broad vision they are basically compatible and mainly differ by looking at the issues from different angles and with different emphases. So an interesting exercise should be to see if they can be combined into an integrated proposal, with here and there some variant options.

  • Bat Chainpuller 7th Mar 2017

    I just finished the essau on the Economy for the Common Good. Took me a while in between work and reading other things. Then thinking about it. Trying to remember shit. I wrote notes, some were crap maybe others were ok. I went to the site and was overwhelmed with stuff. Too much stuff and I haven't readthe others yet!

    This stuff needs to be placed somewhere in the scheme of things. Is it a vision for the future or some transitional move towards a better one not quite worked out? Where are the flaws or problems? It needs to be critiqued by other visionaries and placed somewhere on some "balance sheet" alomg side other ideas of a similar natureand to see where it is comparatively. Otherwise it just sits there as one idea among many and I just forget about it.

    All the stuff re education was neither here nor there to me. A bit too fluffy for my liking buteach to their own.

    This 'vision' seems more like a starting point rather than a destination. A get the ball rolling idea.