Co-Founder, The Democracy Collaborative
What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution
New book from political economist and historian Gar Alperovitz, the co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative, outlines how we can democratize wealth and build a community sustaining economy from the ground up.
Never before have so many Americans been more frustrated with our economic system, more fearful that it is failing, or more open to fresh ideas about a new one. The seeds of a new movement demanding change are forming.
But just what is this thing called a new economy, and how might it take shape in America? In What Then Must We Do?, Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz speaks directly to the reader about where we find ourselves in history, why the time is right for a new-economy movement to coalesce, what it means to build a new system to replace the crumbling one, and how we might begin. He also suggests what the next system might look like—and where we can see its outlines, like an image slowly emerging in the developing trays of a photographer’s darkroom, already taking shape.
Alperovitz calls for an evolution, not a revolution, out of the old system and into the new. That new system would democratize the ownership of wealth, strengthen communities in diverse ways, and be governed by policies and institutions sophisticated enough to manage a large-scale, powerful economy.
For the growing group of Americans pacing at the edge of confidence in the old system, or already among its detractors, What Then Must We Do? offers an elegant solution for moving from anger to strategy.
Praise for What Then Must We Do?
“In this important new book, Gar Alperovitz is telling us there’s something happening here in corporate-driven America, be it social enterprise, community land trusts, worker-owned businesses, or employee stock ownership plans. We all know that the free-market economic system no longer works for the vast majority of citizens and Alperovitz is showing us that there is a better, equally American way, to spread the wealth and put more people to work, while making the nation a safer and healthier place to live. This is not an utopian fantasy or a call for social engineering, but a plain-spoken and easy-to-absorb analysis by one of our leading economists of what’s gone wrong and how to make it better.”
—Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker
“Gar Alperovitz is the rare economist who begins with the idea that economic activity should reflect the social aspirations of the community rather than merely the utilitarian interest of global enterprises. He has devoted his professional career to asking the critical question of how best to ensure a more democratic and participatory economy for everyone. What Then Must We Do? provides a much needed, hopeful vision of how each community can take hold of its economic future and build a sustainable society.”
—Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Third Industrial Revolution
“Gar Alperovitz continues to challenge us to recognize and assume responsibility for creating an America beyond capitalism.”
—Grace Lee Boggs, author of The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century
“As Gar Alperovitz reaches an ever-larger audience, the cooperative and community based economy he is encouraging will attract increasing numbers of consumers away from big business and its corporate state. What Then Must We Do? offers a powerful argument, written in a conversational style to prod you into the kind of meaningful discussions that lead to more equality and accountability in our political economy.”
—Ralph Nader, author of The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future
“There can be neither peace, nor democracy, nor social justice until we change the system that underpins the American empire and policy-crippling maldistribution of wealth. For decades, Gar Alperovitz has been at the forefront of attempts to understand what could lie beyond our increasingly-broken system of corporate capitalism. This book offers by far the most serious, intellectually grounded strategy for system-changing yet to appear. It could be the most important movement-building book of the new century — and, thereby, one of the most important political books as well.”
—Daniel Ellsberg, author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and The Pentagon Papers, and co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation
“The move to broadly participatory, locally rooted, cooperative ownership is essential to America’s future. Gar Alperovitz presents a brilliant, accessible, and practical plan of action to make it happen.”
—David Korten, board chair of YES! Magazine and author of Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth
“If you’re ready for hard-headed hope, here you go! Alperovitz’s power is that he’s no ‛mere’ theorist of democratic change. He is also a creator—practically engaged in demonstrating democratic economic solutions that work. What Then Must We Do? is packed with mind-boggling facts, thoughtful insights, and practical steps. Thank you, Gar Alperovitz, for condensing so much into this provocative gem.”
—Frances Moore Lappé, author of EcoMind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want
“If ever there was ever a time to consider new directions for our faltering economy, it is now! Gar Alperovitz’ new book provides a comprehensive survey of the explosion of new cooperatives, worker-owned firms, city and state investment efforts and dozens of other ‛new economy’ development strategies—and fashions them into a coherent strategy. Absolutely essential reading for anyone concerned with building the next Progressive Era.”
—Van Jones, author of Rebuild the Dream
“Rigged by generations of bankers and politicians to enrich Wall Street at the expense of Main Street, the current economic system makes American workers and communities expendable by providing few alternatives to layoffs, bankruptcies and plant closures during hard times. Gar Alperovitz knows that we must look for new ways to create and sustain good jobs. In What Then Must We Do?, he has outlined a practical, common sense strategy to improve our economy by making it more democratic. As the USW has shown in its innovative partnership with Mondragon, combining employee equity with a progressive collective bargaining process results in higher accountability, productivity and efficiency because all workers have an equal stake in the company. Instead of measuring the value of a corporation only in profits, losses and shareholder dividends, we must take into account how the enterprise serves its community.”
—Leo Gerard, International President, United Steelworkers Union
“Gar Alperovitz’s new book is so plain-spoken and accessible that it takes a moment to appreciate the magnitude of his accomplishment. After examining new patterns of positive change emerging in America today—including many undernoticed changes that involve democratizing the ownership of wealth—he develops a brilliant strategy for the type of transformative change that can lead America from decline to rebirth. In giving a sense of strategic direction and honest possibility to the call for a new economy, Alperovitz has made an enormous contribution exactly where it is most needed.”
—James Gustave Speth, author of America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy
“As the world moves from breakdown to breakthrough, in What Then Must We Do? Gar Alperovitz brings some of the most lucid insight, deepest practical experience and most compelling vision to the convergent transformation of politics and economy. Given radical climate disruption combined with arguably the greatest wealth inequity in the history of civilization, transforming the economy away from the concentration of wealth and the distribution of poverty requires a thoughtful and highly practical system change. At the core are the democratization of wealth and the transition to a green economy. Alperovitz has produced a glimmering map guided by a compass of conscience. A must-read.”
—Kenny Ausubel, founder and co-executive director of Bioneers
“Alperovitz’s latest is distinguished by clear, accessible, straightforward writing that dares to raise thesystemic nature of today’s problems in the United States and to show why system change is therefore the necessary solution. This call for the long-overdue ‛next American revolution’ will move system change forward on the agendas of many.”
—Richard D. Wolff, author of Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism
“Gar Alperovitz has produced a very thought-provoking work that challenges the imagination. Rather than restricting himself to delineating the various evils of neo-liberal capitalism, Alperovitz offers an approach to a movement for genuine structural reforms that may lay the foundation for deeper transformation. What is proposed are steps that can be taken in the here and now rather than pie in the sky. These proposals stand in opposition to the inequities and injustices of neo-liberal capitalism and offer the prospect for a progressive direction.”
—Bill Fletcher, Jr., activist and author of ‛They’re Bankrupting Us’ - And Twenty Other Myths about Unions
“Alperovitz revives the tradition of political economy and spells out the institutional requirements and historical likelihood of moving the US in the direction of a democratic community. An insightful and accessible book.”
—Herman E. Daly, Professor Emeritus, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland
“In this cooperative and democratic manifesto, Gar Alperovitz delivers his designs for a more harmonious society—a goal long dreamed of on these shores. May his ideas and ideals flourish.”
—James Galbraith, author of The Predator State
“With his latest book, Gar Alperovitz only adds to his status as one of the most creative and important thinkers of our time. Grappling with his arguments—scholarly to a fault but always crystal clear, and always extremely provocative (even when we disagree) about our most pressing problems—has been one of the chief intellectual plesures of my reading life. For YOU, the immediate answer to ‛What Then Must We Do?’ is clear—‛READ THIS BOOK’.”
—Bertell Ollman, Professor of Politics, New York University
“A fresh take on how to reinvigorate democracy and civic life. An analysis that transcends labels and has a real blueprint for action.”
—Naomi Wolf, author of The End of America
“In this slender book, Gar Alperovitz does more than pack a tremendous amount of passion and wisdom about the structural ills of our society. He proposes a common-sense strategy for fixing them as well—grounded in local institutions that can construct a truly democratic economy. Every progressive should read this book and then start practicing what its author preaches.”
—Michael Kazin, author of American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation and editor of Dissent
“Gar Alperovitz, the intellectual leader of the economic democracy movement, has produced the most compelling account yet of how we can move beyond the piecemeal, project-by-project transformation of our political economy to truly systemic change. A must-read for anyone who cares about the future of the United States and the world.”
—Juliet Schor, author of True Wealth: How and Why Millions of Americans are Creating a Time-Rich, Ecologically Light, Small-scale, High-Satisfaction Economy