The Worker Self-Directed Enterprise: A "Cure" for Capitalism?
The Worker Self-Directed Enterprise: A "Cure" for Capitalism?
By Jerry Ashton / rdwolff.com

Dr. Richard Wolff is no shy flower when it comes to provoking thought; more "Thorny Rose" than "Sweet William."

The New York Times Magazine has named him "America's most prominent Marxist Economist" and he continues to embellish this vitae by pointing out egregious examples of U.S.-style capitalism going horribly wrong and then making the case for returning labor to its former and power.

The professor's latest campaign is to educate us all as to the value of "Worker's Self-Directed Enterprises" (WSDE) and why this business model is not just simply an alternative to traditional top-down authoritarian capitalist enterprises, but its replacement.

Convincing Americans who have been instructed early on that socialism is a nasty word and -- worse -- even un-American, this could be a tall order even for someone who is a Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, a recipient of a BA magna cum laude in history from Harvard and an MA in economics at Stanford.

But, I listen intently and skeptically to his take on this trainwreck of an economy and came away with a sober realization that U.S.-style capitalism does not intend to deliver us the house with the picket fence or an upward mobility path. Based on our experience of these last few years, the 1 percent is more likely to set up the game so that you and I of the 99 percent will lose the house and the job.

So, if it doesn't pay to work for "The Man," what hope do we have? As described by Professor Wolff, the subject and promise of WSDE is beyond compelling. With any luck, it may one day soon be taught in business school.

The working premise of the WSDE is that it can, and should, be owned by the workers and can, and should, be run democratically. Everyone -- the workers on the line, sales agents, those who clean the bathrooms or work on the loading dock -- collectively run the operation. They determine what to do, what to build, how to follow, how to lead, each other's responsibility, and what to do with profits generated.

If it is that good, what's the "stopper?" It's too democratic. For a country that prides itself on exporting this grand ideal, it can scarcely be found in the workplace. True to the model of "Makers and Takers" into which we have been born and raised, we are told what to do, when to show up, how we are to be paid, and what is done with the profits. (Don't count on trickle-down.)

"Fundamentally, anti-democratic," Wolff points out.

Perhaps undemocratic and essentially one-sided, but it's hard to imagine either GE or Citibank being run by its employees. Is it even possible for a WSDE to compete with cash-rich and savvy MBAs?

Decidedly so, Wolff responds, providing two financially successful examples of the workplace being a social activity governed by the norms of community, one in Spain and one in California.

Wolff offers as his first example, the Mondragon Cooperative in the North of Spain.

This co-op took its name from the Mondragan University founded by a local Catholic priest by the name of "Father Arizmendi" as a mechanism to enable the poor in that community to learn how to cooperatively run their own business.

Beginning with six workers producing agrarian goods, some 55 years later it now employs 120,000 people employed in some 100 worker-owned enterprises and affiliated organizations. It is the 10th largest cooperative in Spain and a bulwark against that country's steep (elsewhere) unemployment rate of 22 percent.

"This is a 'a family of cooperatives' in which the first commitment is to preserve jobs -- not satisfy stockholders." Wolff points out.

That same philosophy infuses the Arizmendi Bakery comprising five "sister cooperatives" in the San Francisco Bay Area. Proudly assuming the name of the famous Basque Priest, this group gets rave reviews for its pastries and thin-crust pizza and handily outperforms its more traditional bakery competitors in both revenue and employee satisfaction.

As their website proudly states, "We are a cooperative -- a worker-owned and operated business. We make decisions democratically, sharing all of the tasks, responsibilities, benefits and risks."

Why haven't we heard more about these enterprises, this model? Hmm, methinks that mainstream media has once again allowed something very, very important to go unreported.

That will not continue to be the case, if Professor Wolff has his say. And, if you learn to shed preconceptions and conditioning.

A good start will be to learn more about Dr. Wolff and worker co-ops by visiting his website www.rdwolff.com and about the new workplace at www.democracyatwork.info.

 

4.0 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
Have You Heard of The Great Forgetting? It Happened 10,000 Years Ago & Completely Affects Your Life
Daniel Quinn · 17,438 views today · (Excerpted from the book, The Story of B) With every audience and every individual, I have to begin by making them see that the cultural self-awareness we inherit from our...
The Myth of Positivity: Why Your Pain Holds a Mighty Purpose
umair haque · 13,447 views today · Of all the great myths of contemporary life, one of the most toxic is positivity. It says: there are negative and positive emotions, and only the positive ones are worth...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 11,130 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
10 Stunning Images from the Wildlife Photographer of the Year People's Choice Award
Natural History Museum · 10,152 views today · These incredible images are a selection from of the 25 shortlisted by The Natural History Museum for the People's Choice Award from this year's Wildlife Photographer of the...
Seven Must-Have Skills for the 21st Century
Tommy Lehe · 6,176 views today · We live in a world that moves faster than we do. Trying to keep up can be an overwhelming task that at times feels hopeless, like we are falling further and further behind—but...
Forget Air Force One, Pentagon Wastes Billions and Billions Every Month
Nadia Prupis · 5,131 views today · President-elect Donald Trump's focus on single Boeing contract ignores enormous waste of bloated Pentagon budget
Stunning Summary of US Imperialism and Native Resistance... on MSNBC!
4 min · 3,299 views today · On The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, Lawrence explains why a protest by Native Americans in North Dakota reminds us of the history American always tries to forget.
The Most Powerful Algorithm in the World
Joe Brewer · 2,206 views today · After the insanity of the U.S. election, a lot of people are blaming Facebook for its algorithms that parse us into ideological bubbles and spread “fake news” and other kinds...
DREAM: A Spoken Word Meditation For When Life Is Kicking Your Ass
4 min · 2,098 views today · If life is kicking your ass and the general un-coolness of everybody on planet erf is making you want to off yourself, TALK to someone: 800-273-8255 (national suicide...
Amanda Abbington Introduces iAnimal - 42 Days in the Life of Chickens
4 min · 1,686 views today · Shot undercover in British factory farms and slaughterhouses, this immersive 360° video gives you a birds-eye view of what happens to chicken from farm to plate.
Standing Rock Wisdom: How Sacred, Nonviolent Activism Has the Power to Succeed
Charles Eisenstein · 1,675 views today · I am told by Native American friends active at Standing Rock that the elders are counseling the Water Protectors to undertake each action prayerfully and to stay off the...
The Other Way of Knowing
Lilian Na’ia Alessa · 1,646 views today · Western science and Indigenous worldviews are often seen as incompatible, with the Indigenous view usually being far less valued by society at large. But an inside look at...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 1,408 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
How a White Supremacist Became a Civil Rights Activist
Araz Hachadourian · 1,361 views today · The story of a KKK leader’s transformation shows us that we need not live forever with the kind of violence we saw in Charleston this month.
Veterans at Standing Rock Ask Forgiveness for War Crimes Against Tribal Nations
Jen Hayden · 1,219 views today · Jon Eagle Sr., Tribal Historic Preservation Officer at Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has reported something wholly unexpected happened at the Standing Rock Reservation today. The...
Dear Activists, Maybe It's Time to Admit That We've Got It All Wrong
Mickey Z. · 1,198 views today · “The first step in the revolution is eye contact.” - Alicen Grey
Sean Carroll - The Meaning of Life
7 min · 1,162 views today · The world keeps happening in accordance with its rules; it's up to us to make sense of it and give it value. Sean Carroll Music: Moby - God Moving Over the Face of the Waters
Solar is Already Producing More Energy Than Oil, Says Major Scientific Review
Nafeez Ahmed · 1,055 views today · And is twice as powerful than previously thought
The 24-Hour Emergency Hotline for Syrian Refugees
7 min · 986 views today · Mohammed Abu Amar runs a makeshift 24-hour helpline from his flat in Hamburg, guiding scared refugees fleeing the violence in Syria across the water to Europe.  Despite losing...
Why People Cling to Old Beliefs
1 min · 905 views today · Cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist at McGill University, Daniel Levitin, explains why people can be so stubborn when it comes to false beliefs. This behavior is...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
The Worker Self-Directed Enterprise: A "Cure" for Capitalism?