Pluralist Commonwealth

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= A vision of Solidarity Economics described in the book by Gar Alperovitz. America beyond Capitalism. John Wiley, 2005.



Employee-owned firms, co-ops, neighborhood-owned corporations, and a wide range of municipal and social enterprises, along with municipal and state investing agencies, are among the key locally-based institutions of the "Pluralist Commonwealth" articulated in ABC. [1]


"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. This is something not commonly recognized in discussions of alternative systemic models which often tend to focus narrowly on the simple polarity of state ownership versus worker-ownership, or state versus self-managed firms.

In general, community and democracy, the model holds, require changing and democratizing the way in which wealth is owned and managed. Although worker-owned and self-managed firms play a role in the design, much broader structural strategies based on community-based variations of the Mondragón model are utilized in key areas, and in connection with significant intermediate scale enterprise. Larger public firms (and joint public/worker firms) are brought into focus for very large scale industry. High tech start-ups and small private local firms are included in the model. The approach also accepts the utility of certain forms of markets in some areas along with participatory economic planning in others. Attention is paid at all levels to the de facto political power and cultural implications of alternative institutional approaches.

An evolving mix of wealth-holding institutions is projected. Over time a fundamental shift in the ownership of wealth would slowly move the nation as a whole toward greater equality. Among other things the changes would also help finance a reduction in the workweek so as to permit greater amounts of free time, thereby bolstering both individual liberty and democratic participation. As population continues to grow, the model also moves in the direction of, and ultimately projects, a long-term devolution of the national system to a form of regional reorganization and decentralization—a strategic move important not only to democracy and liberty, but to the successful democratic management of ecological and other pressing issues. Along with the strong affirmation of community, the concept of ‘subsidiarity’—that as a rule functions should be kept at the lowest level possible, moving only to higher levels when absolutely necessary—is a guiding principle throughout. Although the primary focus is on U.S. problems and possibilities, the central features of the model suggest applications for countries other than the United States." (


From the review by Len Krimerman"

"According to its publisher’s publicity release, America Beyond Capitalism “offers hope for the future.” The evidence offered for this hopeful scenario is two-fold: first, that a vast array of diverse micro-level economic alternatives, consistently ignored by the mass media, is developing throughout every region of this beleaguered land; and second, that these neighborhood-, community- and state-based alternatives are heading us towards a “radical restructuring," a new homegrown all-american macro-system―beyond capitalism, beyond socialism, neither liberal, conservative, red, or blue―which Alperowitz calls a Pluralist Commonwealth (PC).

The priorities of this emerging PC vision are straightforwardly progressive; they include:

• Developing institutions that hold wealth and make investments on behalf of the public, e.g., on the model of state-wide pension funds;

• Maximizing opportunities, especially for those now excluded, to gain control over their own wealth, and that of the enterprises in which they work, e.g., through worker owned cooperatives, democratic ESOPs, and community-based economic enterprises;

• Decentralizing “continental-scale” government by transferring political power to regions, states, and municipalities;

• Increasing opportunities for democratic participation through increasing economic security and subsidizing free time for all; e.g., by cutting back the work week, while keeping income constant.

The author is at his best when he either describes the emerging panoply of micro-level economic alternatives, from worker-owned firms to state-run pension funds to municipally-owned utilities to community development corporations (Chapters 8-10), or provides a clarifying philosophical account of the basic ideals of his macro-system (Chapter 6 and Conclusion). But he leaves this reader, at least, with a strong sense of disconnect between these two levels of analysis and practice." (


  1. Worker-Owned Firms
  2. Municipal Enterprises

Other examples via

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Quite critical review at