The Possibility of a Pluralist Commonwealth and a Community-Sustaining Economy
the good society, vol. 22, no. 1, 2013
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It is increasingly obvious that the United States faces systemic economic and political challenges.1 Income and wealth disparities have become severe and corrosive of democratic possibilities. Ecological decay deepens day by day. A record number of Americans are in poverty and full employment is nowhere on the horizon. Corporate power now dominates decision-making through lobbying, uncontrolled political contributions, and political advertising. The planet itself is threatened by global warming. The lives of millions are compromised by economic and social pain. Many of our communities are in decay.
Is there any way forward?
For the most part, serious scholars and activists have addressed the possibility of progressive change in capitalist systems from one of two perspectives.
The “reform” tradition assumes that corporate institutions remain central to the design and structure of the system and that “politics” in support of various “policies” (e.g. taxation, spending, incentives, regulation) will contain, modify and control the inherent dynamic of a corporate dominated system. Liberalism in the United States and social democracy in many countries are representative of this tradition.2 The “revolutionary” tradition assumes that change can come about only if the major corporate institutions are largely eliminated or transcended, usually but not always by violence. This is often precipitated by a crisis collapse of the system, leading to one or another form of revolution. But what happens if a system neither “reforms” nor collapses in “crisis”?
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