What is Economic Democracy?
When critics of capitalism are challenged to name an alternative, a frequent reply is “economic democracy.” But, what would it mean to democratize our processes of production and consumption? And why, conversely, is capitalism arguably anti-democratic? In this course, we will explore the possible meanings of economic democracy, its apparent incompatibility with capitalism, and actual movements and projects to democratize the U.S. and global economy. We will begin by considering the role of capitalism and markets in organizing what and how we produce, what we consume, and how we distribute goods and wealth. To what extent can workers and consumers be said to be free, even those living in formal democracies? Next, we will examine theoretical and historical discussions of economic democracy, as well as explore examples of alternative forms of production, including worker-run factories, solidarity economies, and feminist alternatives for production and consumption. Lastly, we will direct our attention to European eco-villages and their collective and democratic way of living, as well as discuss social movements centered on housing occupation. Throughout, we will ask: Where and how are alternative, democratic forms of production possible? What roles do planning, practice, and leadership play in organizing alternative production systems? What is the role of class? What does economic democracy mean in the global north and in the global south—are they necessarily similar or different? What lessons can we learn from actual struggles to challenge, either by necessity or by choice, the rule of the market?
Readings will be drawn from works by David Harvey, Anibal Quijano, Paul Singer, and Christine Bauhardt, among others.
Course ScheduleMonday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
November 22 — December 13, 2021