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Forum Post: America Beyond Capitalism: An "Evolutionary Reconstruction" of the System Is Necessary and Possible

Posted 8 years ago on July 13, 2012, 9:42 a.m. EST by PeterKropotkin (1050) from Oakland, CA
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By Gar Alperovitz

The first edition of "America Beyond Capitalism" was published a few years too early. Although it argued that the nation already faced a systemic crisis in 2005 (not simply a political or economic crisis), the financial break-down and Great Recession that began in late 2007 had not yet occurred—to say nothing of the political outbreaks that began with the Wall Street "occupation" in late 2011. The book's message seemed distant to many readers. To some, its argument that fundamental institutional rebuilding was necessary—and, on the basis of the evidence, possible—seemed odd. Nor did large numbers take seriously the conclusion's prediction concerning emerging political-economic realities:

The first decades of the twenty-first century are likely to open the way to a serious debate about these and other systemic questions... The prospects for near-term change are obviously not great–especially when such change is conceived in traditional terms. Indeed, although there may be an occasional progressive electoral win, there is every reason to believe that the underlying trends will continue their decaying downward course...

On the other hand, fundamental to the analysis presented in the preceding pages is the observation that for precisely such reasons, there is likely to be an intensified process of much deeper probing, much more serious political analysis, and much more fundamental institutional exploration and development...

And only a few readers were willing to accept the book's central judgment that "beneath the surface level of politics-as-usual, it is by no means clear that the public is or will remain quiescent forever—especially if social and economic pain continues, if political elites continue to overreach, and if new directions begin to be clearly defined." Although such an understanding of the emerging historical era no longer seems unusual, the primary theoretical and strategic argument of "America Beyond Capitalism" has yet to be widely confronted—nor its conclusion, that an "evolutionary reconstruction" of the system is not only necessary but well within the range of long run possibility. The argument rests on three challenging assessments: The first and foundational judgment is that (quite apart from other considerations) with the radical decline of organized labor as an institution from 35 percent of the labor force to 6.9 percent in the private sector (11.9 percent overall, and falling), a new progressive politics must ultimately build new institutional foundations to undergird its fundamental approach, or it will continue to remain in an essentially defensive and ultimately declining posture.

The second judgment is that a new longer term institution-building effort—one that at its core is based on the democratization of capital, beginning first at the community and state level and then moving to larger scale as time goes on—is both essential, and also that it is possible.

Read the rest at the link


Alperovitz video below

Capitalism is incompatible with Christianity


part 2




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[-] 2 points by TitusMoans (2451) from Boulder City, NV 8 years ago

I no longer believe "evolutionary reconstruction" is possible. The 1% will not surrender power without violence; look at the money many of them are pumping into the Romney campaign, and that's only because Obama is a little less favorable to them than Romney. Look at the right-wingers that post on this forum still believing that America's might makes right regardless of the morality or affect on workers. Look at the people hiding from Muslim boogey men as if they could cause more harm than our own ruling elite have.

This decline will go to the point of no more options, and then look out.

[-] 1 points by PeterKropotkin (1050) from Oakland, CA 8 years ago

I think you are probably right but I won't shut the door to the possiblity of it happening gradually. Also sometimes revolutions don't work out the way you want we could end up with the worst elements of the tea party or some other proto faciscit movement.

[-] 1 points by TitusMoans (2451) from Boulder City, NV 8 years ago

Oh, I don't want violent upheaval, since-as you say-the outcome is unpredictable, but if worker conditions continue to deteriorate, I don't see any other course.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 8 years ago

labor was easier to organize when everyone lived close to work

[-] 1 points by HempTwister (667) from Little Rock, AR 8 years ago

Just picked up a book that Naomi Klein published in 1999 that predicts the Occupy movement. Damn, she is cute!

[-] 1 points by JPB950 (2254) 8 years ago

I think the key element for change is the level of social and/or economic pain. There is a certain emotional security in a system you have and know, regardless of how unfair it may be in general. Add to that an aversion Americans seem to have for anything with a socialist label on it. This makes the prospect for change unlikely without an economic disaster greater then the Great Depression to force the majority to look at new ideas.

[-] 1 points by struggleforfreedom80 (6584) 8 years ago

Alperovitz is great! Also check this one out: America Beyond Capitalism lecture: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3l4PtC7iTA

[-] -1 points by JPB950 (2254) 8 years ago

Your video points out the problem, it looks like it's taking place in a small basement, bad sound system, with a small audience of maybe a couple dozen college radicals. His movement is so far from mainstream acceptance that it's a joke, no matter how valid his ideas may be.

Alperovitz talks about us running out of options. My point is there will be no change until there are NO options left at all. It isn't logic, debate, or education that will bring change, it's going to take a loss of all other options. A slight improvement in the economy and many of the educated occupiers will happily be going off to work for the same corporations they are currently protesting. Any major change requires a total collapse, with no options left at all for not just 20 or 30%, but a majority of the population.

If and when a total collapse happens, the system we emerge with will most likely depend on who has the best organization and the most guns. Face it, even the questionable success of Catalonian anarchism in the 1930's only happened because the anarchists enforced their will with guns.

[-] 1 points by PeterKropotkin (1050) from Oakland, CA 8 years ago

This movement isnt that small in fact I'm betting it will grow because people have no choice.




If you feel that way about occupiers and occupy why are you here? I'm sure moveon.org has a forum somewhere you can rant. As far as what happened in Spain you obviously have no idea what you are talking about.

[-] 0 points by JPB950 (2254) 8 years ago

If people truly feel they have no options left then you are right, and that is my point. There is a certain inertia that society has, as long as a majority believe they are doing okay (whatever that means to them, not to you or to me) they will tend to resist change.

The links you give show that change is possible, but it requires groups like the steel workers taking positive action. No one handed them anything simply because someone had a good idea. I don't see Occupy as doing anything positive right now. Protest and civil disobedience are often necessary, but that alone isn't enough. Civil Rights groups, environmental groups, the anti-war movement all went beyond mere protest. They used the system to force change.

I saw Occupy as originally having a great deal of potential as an agent of change. They chose to stay outside the political system rather then try to change things through it. In my view, it's limited their effectiveness. They seem more to me now as a rent-a-mob group for any number of unfocused protests. I'm still here because in my vision Occupy could still become a more effective agent for change and like anyone else fell I have a right to express that opinion.

Do you think anarchism came into power in Spain peacefully? The anarchists were well organized and armed. There were strikes followed by reprisals by the military. Eventually the trade unions seized more weapons, until they were the most powerful and best organized group in the area. They were not voted in, they took control by force. There were reports of atrocities, killings of thousands based on assumed political allegiance, church burnings. Certainly enough violence to intimidate and opposition.

The reports of mass killing may have been exaggerated, but they certainly didn't have a democratic transfer of power. I'm not casting judgement on them, just stating that in their view they were out of options and used violence to change things. It didn't happen because it was a good idea, the trade unions forced the change.

The anarchists I see today seem to want the impossible. They talk of change but won't actually commit to a path to get it. Get involved with the process and elect people from your own ranks, or take the legal risks and commit to eventual revolution. Now they seem more like a group of guys having a few beers talking about how to fix the world. Good ideas that go no where because they won't take any political action.