March 26, 2007 11:04 AM   Subscribe

When the fascists embargo, when the boss pollutes, when the economy collapses, when the club plans to close, heck, when you're too high-tech for hierarchy, perhaps it's time you considered launching a worker-owned cooperative (pdfs). Or at least getting to know one near you.
posted by ioesf (20 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I'm pretty gung ho in favour of this.
posted by Abiezer at 11:19 AM on March 26, 2007

*shrieks, rolls*

C-c-communists! Duck and cover!
posted by Drexen at 11:45 AM on March 26, 2007

lol communism could totally work, it just hasn't been implemented right.
posted by keswick at 12:10 PM on March 26, 2007

ps: lol
posted by keswick at 12:10 PM on March 26, 2007

C-c-communists! Duck and cover!

Are you suggesting the owners of the Lusty Lady are commies? That's even more titillating!

But of course, democratic workplaces 8800; communism.
posted by ioesf at 12:14 PM on March 26, 2007

But of course, democratic workplaces 8800; communism.
(where's my not equal sign? drat.)
posted by ioesf at 12:17 PM on March 26, 2007

Sorry, I busy using it.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:50 PM on March 26, 2007

Thanks. My comments are not the same without it.
posted by ioesf at 12:54 PM on March 26, 2007

Interesting post. I saw The Take when it was released - an amazing film.

Just in case keswick is not being a troll, but acctually believes that communism nonsense:

From what I've seen, the worker-cooperative movement is radically (no pun intended) different than communism. It is about creating small-scale, democratic workplaces, in which every participant has a say. No enormous statues of Stalin, no iron fist, no gloomy lack of individual liberties. And in these global-economy days, there is something refreshing (dare I say empowering) about truly on-the-ground, community-building entrepeneurship, in which all the workers actually get to - gasp - make important decisions!
posted by marlys at 1:20 PM on March 26, 2007

Also, for communities facing lean times, co-operatives can offer local, low-risk business opportunities where there might otherwise be nothing. This project in the South Bronx is a good example of that phenomenon...
posted by marlys at 1:20 PM on March 26, 2007

Moosewood Collective. (as in those well-known vegetarian cookbooks).
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:04 PM on March 26, 2007

It's funny that this should come up. I'm not an economist but recently I've been wondering if it would be possible to create a system with the benefits of communism in the absence of a command economy using coops, worker-owned corporations and credit unions.
The means of production could be placed in the hands of the workers (or customers depending on the model) without power being concentrated in government hands.

Any economists out there?
Is this possible?
posted by Octaviuz at 3:01 PM on March 26, 2007

a system with the benefits of communism in the absence of a command economy

though i'm also not an economist, the term i have seen used is a "labor-managed market economy," such as that of post-Soviet Yugoslavia.
posted by ioesf at 3:32 PM on March 26, 2007

Abiezer, the Gung Ho movement looks pretty interesting - I never knew the origin of that phrase. The wikipedia article on Rewi Alley suggests a context not unlike Mondragon: lack of import access and so a need to jumpstart home production. And while Alley was a Party member, the "revived" Gung Ho site emphasizes the transition to a market economy, quoting former-Premier Zhu Rongji: While developing the state-owned economy, we also encourage the development of various other economic sectors.
posted by ioesf at 4:03 PM on March 26, 2007

A 1970 copyright, and to think I believed I had come up with a revolutionary idea.
Actually thanks, it looks really informative.
posted by Octaviuz at 4:28 PM on March 26, 2007

such as that of post-Soviet Yugoslavia.

and how can a system that gave us THE YUGO be wrong?!?!1
posted by keswick at 4:36 PM on March 26, 2007

Here's a recent bit of news about the ICPCIC, iosef. As it says there, the legal environment is not at all clear for co-ops here (not that the laws on much anything are that well framed as yet). I've visited rural producer co-ops but the state is still very wary of the kind of empowerment that comes with them.
I've heard of a few independent initiatives elsewhere, but can't seem to Google them up right now.
posted by Abiezer at 5:21 PM on March 26, 2007

Gung Ho has also been active in trying to promote an enabling legal environment for China’s cooperatives, with support from the Canadian Cooperative Association. China and North Korea, says Liu, are the only two Asian countries that have not passed a law on cooperatives

interesting, thanks.
posted by ioesf at 5:46 PM on March 26, 2007

Any economists out there?
Is this possible?

The links pointed to in the first post point to organizations that advocate against using the "invisible hand" of the market to determine price and allocation decisions, and instead advocate for incorporating more and different values into the numbers that determine price, as well as qualitative indicators of work condition, equity, and justice to influence decisions.

So, sorry, no Yugo here.

These are the economists that thought it up, and their political presentation of ParEcon.
posted by eustatic at 6:00 AM on March 27, 2007

Here's a relevant section of Chapter 4 for Octaviuz:

Until recently welfare theorists had seriously analyzed only a small number of abstract economies, or combinations of economic institutions. They combined competitive markets and private enterprise production to analyze what is commonly called Perfectly Competitive Capitalism (PCC). They combined public enterprise and central planning to analyze what many call Centrally Planned Socialism (CPS). And they combined competitive markets and employee-managed public enterprise to analyze what some call Workers' Self-managed Market Socialism (WSMS). Prior to the quiet revolution in welfare theory that has been recently unfolding in response to Hurwicz's call for theorists to think of themselves as economic mechanism designers, there were very few other well-defined, abstract, economic models. One exception was the model developed by Oskar Lange, Abba Lerner, and Frederick Taylor. By combining markets with a kind of public enterprise in which a state agency appoints managers and directs them to follow a few simple rules, Lange, Lerner, and Taylor developed a different model of what they called Market Socialism (LLTMS) in a conscious effort to refute the proposition that "socialist" economies could not be efficient. 82 But the work of Lange, Lerner, and Taylor was deemed only a footnote in the long debate about whether or not idealized models of the different major economies could achieve Pareto optimality . 83

We will avoid use of the value-laden words "socialism" and "capitalism," and employ more specific and less "politicized" labels throughout the remainder of this book. We will refer to Private Enterprise Market Economies (PrEMEs), Public Enterprise Centrally Planned Economies (PuECPEs), and Public Enterprise Market Economies (PuEMEs) of two different kinds: Public Enterprise Employee-Managed Market Economies (PuEEMMEs) and Public Enterprise State-Managed Market Economies (PuESMMEs). Regardless of the comparative merits of different definitions of "socialism" and "capitalism," something, no doubt, can be said for "defusing" the discussion.

In sum, welfare theorists have spent considerable time analyzing efficiency properties of a small number of combinations of economic institutions. Though opinion has long been divided, and practical matters are to be considered, it is our belief this "old welfare debate" is essentially over. In later chapters we demonstrate that under similarly generous assumptions, from the perspective of traditional welfare theory, all of the above abstract models are equally capable of generating efficient social outcomes. Moreover, they are all equally "flexible" regarding equity.

While this may come as a surprise to many outside the field, and a few within, it is certainly not unknown to all welfare theorists. And while we save the demonstration for later chapters, we can usefully interpret the conclusion here.

If all the above abstract economies are equally efficient and flexible from the perspective of traditional welfare theory, and if traditional theory defines welfare entirely in terms of efficiency and income flexibility, traditional welfare theory cannot distinguish between these different fundamental economic models. 84 This is not to say traditional welfare theory cannot recognize that the systems are characterized by different economic institutions. But from the perspective of traditional welfare theory the institutional differences do not affect the welfare results.

We believe this is a rather awkward position for welfare theory. It seems to us a reasonable spectator of the welfare theory research project might fail to see the "efficiency" of complicated analyses that are technically taxing, but explain only how "practical" considerations might prevent real world approximations of major economic systems from achieving the equally beneficent results that all achieve in theory.

oh, and a quote from the Metafilter-worshipped Chomsky, from the Vancouver Parecon collective:

"A great many activists and concerned people ask, quite rightly, what alternative form of social organization can be imagined that might overcome the grave flaws -- often real crimes -- of contemporary society in more far-reaching ways than short-term reform. Parecon is the most serious effort I know to provide a very detailed possible answer to some of these questions, crucial ones, based on serious thought and careful analysis."
-- Noam Chomsky
posted by eustatic at 6:15 AM on March 27, 2007

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