This worldview theme is descriptively
titled using key components of what its adherents would like society to
ultimately be based on: community, co-operative based economics and
local, decentralized control. Those
who value it disdain big
government and big business centralized social organization, and the
"top down" elitist approach to problem solving that typically
accompanies it (Figure #20a). They
prefer their living and working arrangements structured on
smaller, more human scales.
They typically choose cooperating with people over competing with
them. They are more
comfortable solving related problems in "bottom up" fashion.
The sociological distinction between "community vs.
society" was originally made by Ferdinand
his 1887 book Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft.
According to Tönnies, the former group is built around the
personal, family, neighborhood relationships and feelings of
togetherness that one expects in a place where people have direct, face
to face contact. In
contrast, the latter group is one of self interest motivated individuals
held together by formal regulation and legal framework. There,
relationships between people are more impersonal with less cohesion and
less dependence on each other.
"Co-operative, Decentralized Society Advocates" are
saddened that, since the Industrial Revolution, generally speaking,
Western countries have steadily had less community and more society.
They would like to reverse this trend.
They like the subsidiarity
principle, believing societal matters should be handled by competent
authorities at the lowest practical level—which they feel is usually
the community level. This
worldview theme could be alternately titled: "Economics for
Democracy." Just as
"Education for Democracy" (theme #31) emphasizes that
well-educated people are needed for democracy to work, this alternative
name implies that economically empowered people are also needed for it
The argument here, as advanced by those
possessing some "Cynicism" (theme #36A) and disliking
corporate power goes like this. "People
vote their pocketbooks. If their corporate masters can convince them
that their jobs & livelihoods are at stake, they will subserviently
vote as directed. That direction is provided by the corporate controlled
media. Their preferred candidates are given massive campaign
contributions and are essentially bought and pay for by corporations.
Since people lack economic power, they have no real political
power. Until they do,
democracy is a sham!"
The economic democracy movement promotes
restructuring society so economic
decision making is transferred: from the (corporate elite) few to the
majority, through worker management and ownership of productive
small, this movement sees itself as a core around which a new society
can rise as the old fades. It
consists of co-operatives, collectives, community supported agriculture
groups, ecovillages, credit unions, other alternative financial
Democratic, for profit
co-operatives can be classed as worker owned, with workers investing
when they start work, or consumer co-ops. The latter are customer-owned businesses that aim to
provide customers with low cost, high quality products and services.
Many adhere to principles (Figure #48) formulated in the 1840s in
The advantages of economic democracy—both ethical and
economic—have long been recognized.
In their 1986 Economic Justice for All pastoral letter,
the U.S. Catholic bishops recalled words from their 1919 Program for
Social Reconstruction: "The full possibilities of increased
production will not be realized so long as the majority of workers
remain mere wage earners. The
majority must somehow become owners...of the instruments of
Conceptions of economic democracy vary—
from no government ownership and/or interference in markets, preferred
by left anarchists (theme #50B), to governments
levying taxes that allow social control of investment and abolishing
private ownership of productive resources, preferred by socialists (theme #49B). While some battle corporate power at the local or regional
level, other activists rally behind "Ethical Globalization"
(theme #51) and fight corporate imperialism globally.
Many enthusiastic about making economic democracy work at
the community level around the world are excited about the
ability of the Internet to bring people together (buyers & sellers,
etc.) They are also excited about appropriate technology.
This is technology selected, designed and implemented with the special environmental, cultural,
social and economic aspects of the community it is intended for in mind.
typically has little or no significant environmental impact and is well
suited to an area since it makes use of what is relatively abundant
(e.g. labor in places where people need jobs).
Typically it involves devices that are small, relatively simple,
inexpensive, and decentralized. It
often creates meaningful work for people, especially in poor countries.
Many in affluent countries seek an alternative to corporate
capitalism, viewing the consumerism (theme #26A) they associate it with
as spiritually and environmentally lacking. Influenced by the small is
beautiful philosophy of enoughness (theme #23B), beginning in the 1970s
some have turned to both co-operative economics and voluntary
simplicity. Alarmed by
global climate change, many today view economic democracy as a better
route to "Sustainability" (theme #23A) than business as usual.
A motivated few live in ecovillages—off
centralized power girds, off city water
and sewage systems. They're
committed to (what they feel is) a more meaningful sustainable living
Rochdale Co-operative Principles
Voluntary and Open Membership
Democratic Member Control
Members' Economic Participation
Autonomy and Independence
Concern for Community
back to worldview theme #48