Skip to:

Gar Alperovitz

Co-Founder, The Democracy Collaborative and Co-Chair, Next System Project

Gar Alperovitz has had a distinguished career as a historian, political economist, activist, writer, and government official. For fifteen years, he was the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, and is a former Fellow of Kings College, Cambridge University; Harvard’s Institute of Politics; the Institute for Policy Studies; and a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution.

Gar is the author of critically acclaimed books on the atomic bomb and atomic diplomacy. As a well known policy expert, he has testified before numerous Congressional committees and lectures widely around the country.

Among his many achievements is having been the architect of the first modern steel industry attempt at worker ownership in Youngstown, Ohio.  In addition, Gar was nominated to be a member of the Council of Economic Advisers by leading national consumer, labor, and environmental organizations.

He is also the president of the National Center for Economic and Security Alternatives and is a founding principal of the Democracy Collaborative, a research institution developing practical, policy-focused, and systematic paths towards ecologically sustainable, community-oriented change and the democratization of wealth.

Gar lives in Washington, DC.

If you’d like to talk to Gar about a speaking engagement or media appearance, please email jduda -at- democracycollaborative.org.

Selected Publications: 

The Pluralist Commonwealth

Gar Alperovitz

The Pluralist Commonwealth is a systemic model, developed and refined over the last forty years by political economist and historian Gar Alperovitz, which attempts to resolve theoretical and practical problems associated with both traditional corporate capitalism and traditional state socialism. A central emphasis is the reconstruction of communities—and the nation as a community—from the ground up. Hence, it might also be called a Community-Sustaining System.  The term “Pluralist Commonwealth,” however, is offered to stress the inevitability—for functional as well as scale reasons—of different (plural) institutional forms of wealth democratization.

Worker-Owners of America, Unite!

Gar Alperovitz
The New York Times

THE Occupy Wall Street protests have come and mostly gone, and whether they continue to have an impact or not, they have brought an astounding fact to the public’s attention: a mere 1 percent of Americans own just under half of the country’s financial assets and other investments. America, it would seem, is less equitable than ever, thanks to our no-holds-barred capitalist system.

But at another level, something different has been quietly brewing in recent decades: more and more Americans are involved in co-ops, worker-owned companies and other alternatives to the traditional capitalist model. We may, in fact, be moving toward a hybrid system, something different from both traditional capitalism and socialism, without anyone even noticing.

Beyond Corporate Capitalism: Not So Wild a Dream

Gar Alperovitz and Thomas Hanna
The Nation

Hey, look it over—public ownership is the most effective way to fix America’s economy.

It’s time to put the taboo subject of public ownership back on the progressive agenda. It is the only way to solve some of the most serious problems facing the nation. We contend that it is possible not only to talk about this once forbidden subject but to begin to build a serious politics that can do what needs to be done in key sectors.

Proposals for public ownership will of course be attacked as “socialism,” but conservatives call any progressive program—to say nothing of the modest economic policies of the Obama administration—“socialist.” However, many Americans are increasingly skeptical about the claims made for the corporate-dominated “free” enterprise system by its propagandists. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that a majority of Americans have an unfavorable view of corporations—a significant shift from only twelve years ago, when nearly three-quarters held a favorable view. At the same time, two recent Rasmussen surveys found Americans under 30—the people who will build the next politics—almost equally divided as to whether capitalism or socialism is preferable. Another Pew survey found that 18- to 29-year-olds have a favorable reaction to the term “socialism” by a margin of 49 to 43 percent.

 

The New Alliance: Organizing for Economic Justice, Building a New Economy

Clearly, community and labor union activists organizing for economic justice face many tactical problems in our current economic and political environment. Economic hardship and Republican strategy have increasingly redefined basic elements of the social safety net—welfare, Social Security, Medicare, and other programs—as “entitlements” to be challenged and cut. Tax policy has become more regressive. The pressures of fiscal austerity mean that essential public services that help equalize opportunity for all Americans—especially schools—are increasingly underfunded, to say nothing of the risk of outright privatization. Economic inequality is at extreme levels not seen since the Gilded Age. The position of economic justice organizers here is essentially defensive; fighting a rearguard action for the survival of underserved communities, on terrain which is becoming less and less favorable. The following argument is based on the judgment that it is necessary ultimately to be in a position that goes on the offensive—and that there are powerful ways to do this.

In particular, new strategies of worker ownership within a community framework can function as the linchpin of an approach capable of uniting economic justice organizers, progressives, labor, and environmental activists while at the same time presenting an attractive economic development option to municipal policymakers. Moreover, such an approach can help build economic power in communities struggling against concentrated poverty. More generally, a position that offers an alternative vision of the municipal and regional economy, oriented towards local multipliers at all possible scales, can provide a robust platform for a range of organizing work that points towards larger transformations in the economic system...

The Legacy of the Boomer Boss

Gar Alperovitz
The New York Times

OVER the next decade millions of business owners born during the baby boom will retire. Many, with no obvious succession strategy, will simply sell their companies, the backbone of Main Street economies across the country, to large corporations. All too often the result will be consolidations, plant closures and lost jobs for the people who helped build and sustain their companies for decades.

The boomers should think again: selling to their employees is often a far better way to go — for both moral and economic reasons.

Take New Belgium Brewing, based in Fort Collins, Colo., which its chief executive and co-founder, Kim Jordan, sold late last year to its 400-plus employees through what’s called an employee stock ownership plan. “There are few times in life where you get to make choices that will have multigenerational impact,” she said. “This is one of those times.”

How to Democratize the US Economy

Gar Alperovitz
The Nation

As real income levels have stagnated and traditional politics remains deadlocked, communities are looking for new avenues to educate and employ themselves, from social enterprises and cooperatives to community development corporations and credit unions. Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz reviews the impact of these community wealth building organizations in “How to Democratize the US Economy,” a new article published in the Nation. This article presents the challenges of supporting these organizations and structuring new local and national institutions that foster efficient, effective, stable, and equitable local economies.

Making a Place for Community: Local Democracy in a Global Era

Thad Williamson, David Imbroscio and Gar Alperovitz

Making a Place for Community argues that misguided politics at the local, state and national level have damaged local community life in the United State and weaken the basis of local democracy. Through a combination of community wealth building strategies, from land trusts to municipal and employee ownership, Thad Williamson, David Imbroscio, and Gar Alperovitz show how people can act to limit sprawl and build economic stability by anchoring jobs in local communites.

Wall Street Is Too Big to Regulate

Gar Alperovitz
The New York Times

THE Barclays interest-rate scandal, HSBC’s openness to money laundering by Mexican drug traffickers, the epic blunders at JPMorgan Chase — at this point, four years after Wall Street wrecked the global economy, does anyone really believe we can regulate the big banks? And if we broke them up, would they really stay broken up?

Most liberals in Washington — President Obama included — keep hoping the banks can be more tightly controlled but otherwise left as is. That’s the theory behind the two-year-old Dodd-Frank law, which Republicans and Wall Street are still working to eviscerate.

The New-Economy Movement

Gar Alperovitz
The Nation

The idea that we need a “new economy”—that the entire economic system must be radically restructured if critical social and environmental goals are to be met—runs directly counter to the American creed that capitalism as we know it is the best, and only possible, option. Over the past few decades, however, a deepening sense of the profound ecological challenges facing the planet and growing despair at the inability of traditional politics to address economic failings have fueled an extraordinary amount of experimentation by activists, economists and socially minded business leaders. Most of the projects, ideas and research efforts have gained traction slowly and with little notice. But in the wake of the financial crisis, they have proliferated and earned a surprising amount of support—and not only among the usual suspects on the left. As the threat of a global climate crisis grows increasingly dire and the nation sinks deeper into an economic slump for which conventional wisdom offers no adequate remedies, more and more Americans are coming to realize that it is time to begin defining, demanding and organizing to build a new-economy movement.

The Cleveland Model

Gar Alperovitz, Ted Howard and Thad Williamson
The Nation

Something important is happening in Cleveland: a new model of large-scale worker- and community-benefiting enterprises is beginning to build serious momentum in one of the cities most dramatically impacted by the nation's decaying economy. The Evergreen Cooperative Laundry (ECL)--a worker-owned, industrial-size, thoroughly "green" operation--opened its doors late last fall in Glenville, a neighborhood with a median income hovering around $18,000. It's the first of ten major enterprises in the works in Cleveland, where the poverty rate is more than 30 percent and the population has declined from 900,000 to less than 450,000 since 1950.

Recent blog posts:

Pages