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Worker Cooperatives and Revolution: History and Possibilities in the United States

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As the world descends into crisis, people are searching for alternatives to our current social system. In the framework of a revised Marxism, this book shows how a more cooperative and democratic economy is already emerging, and how we can build on its successes. Society may be on the cusp of the greatest revolutionary movement in history.


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As the world descends into crisis, people are searching for alternatives to our current social system. In the framework of a revised Marxism, this book shows how a more cooperative and democratic economy is already emerging, and how we can build on its successes. Society may be on the cusp of the greatest revolutionary movement in history.

30 review for Worker Cooperatives and Revolution: History and Possibilities in the United States

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chris Wright

    I suppose it's silly for the author to review his own book, but I have a couple of caveats to make about it. (I also want to plug my website, www.wrightswriting.com, which has a lot of related material. And here's a free copy of the book: https://libcom.org/library/worker-coo...) In retrospect, I think I may have been a little too optimistic about the socially transformative potential of worker cooperatives. In my defense, I was using cooperatives as symbols of the whole solidarity economy, whic I suppose it's silly for the author to review his own book, but I have a couple of caveats to make about it. (I also want to plug my website, www.wrightswriting.com, which has a lot of related material. And here's a free copy of the book: https://libcom.org/library/worker-coo...) In retrospect, I think I may have been a little too optimistic about the socially transformative potential of worker cooperatives. In my defense, I was using cooperatives as symbols of the whole solidarity economy, which I continue to think will, of necessity, emerge on an ever-wider scale in the coming decades, as society slowly collapses into dysfunction. The state will retain enormous power, of course, and may even grow in power, but at the same time there will be more and more decentralization and fragmentation of the social order. The catastrophes of climate change and economic stagnation and depression, for instance, may herald the end of the centralized corporatist nation-state in the long run. New economic and political structures will emerge first in its interstices and eventually in the mainstream. Corporate capitalism, along with the nation-state, will succumb to its internal contradictions and catastrophic environmental consequences (and the popular resistance they'll engender). In my opinion, the most interesting parts of the book are the 'theoretical' parts in the fourth and sixth chapters, where I deploy a revised Marxism to explain what this epochal transition may look like. (I consciously avoided academic jargon, but hopefully that doesn't detract from whatever merit the ideas themselves might have.) I argue against Leninism and for a more commonsense 'gradualist' model of revolution, which I also try to show is far more faithful to the inner logic of Marxism than a top-down, totally "ruptural," WILL-based "revolution" (or coup or insurrection) can be. The majority of contemporary Marxists are unaware of the conceptualization of revolution to which they're committed by the basic premises of historical materialism. Not that the state plays no role in a transition out of capitalism. Of course it does. A very significant role. But the transition will happen over many generations and will be punctuated by innumerable political victories and defeats; it won't consist of a sudden seizure of the state by "the working class" (which isn't a unitary entity but contains divisions) to be FOLLOWED BY the social revolution, as leftists often think. This is a very idealistic, unrealistic, and therefore un-Marxist notion. In short, it's time Marxists stopped worshiping formulations from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, conceived in contexts quite different from our own. We should be willing to engage in some creative rethinking of old dogmas. (Here's an article on the revisions to Marxism: https://bit.ly/3h1ZDTg.)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Grady

    The Marxist theory of revolution purified Author Chris Wright earned his PhD in US history and has published many articles in both academic and popular outlets such as New Politics, the Independent, ROAR Magazine, the Washington Post, Truthout etc. He has also published poetry and fiction as well as his three major volumes – FINDING OUR COMPASS, NOTES OF AN UNDERGROUND HUMANIST, and WORKER COOPERATIVES AND REVOLUTION. On his website he shares, ‘My major preoccupation now is concern over the fate The Marxist theory of revolution purified Author Chris Wright earned his PhD in US history and has published many articles in both academic and popular outlets such as New Politics, the Independent, ROAR Magazine, the Washington Post, Truthout etc. He has also published poetry and fiction as well as his three major volumes – FINDING OUR COMPASS, NOTES OF AN UNDERGROUND HUMANIST, and WORKER COOPERATIVES AND REVOLUTION. On his website he shares, ‘My major preoccupation now is concern over the fate of humanity, which is headed into a perfect storm of crises…I can only plead that, for some perverse reason unknown to me, I feel compelled to tell uncomfortable truths, which means flouting orthodoxies on the political right, center, and left. Society is upside-down: hypocrisy, stupidity, snobbery, cruelty, and general absurdity tend to define our world. We might as well be honest.’ His writing is grounded in Marxist humanism, the philosophy that offers the world some hope. One of the many aspects that makes such an impact in reading this book is Chris Wright’s unapologetic stance in presenting his convictions. Even as the book opens his presentation is clearly stated: ‘The capitalist mode of production does not permit a socially efficient allocation of resources. Resource allocation is determined by the twin structural imperatives of having purchasing power (on the demand side) and of chasing profit (on the supply side). If one has a need but lacks the money to back up that need, as for example the billion children worldwide living in poverty do, one’s need will not be met by the market. Conversely, investors will pursue only those projects that have the potential to make a profit…Broadly speaking, the dynamic between capital and wage-labor, as well as that between millions of atomized units of capital each seeking profit at the expense of every other, makes for a very unstable and crisis-prone economy. Capital’s interests lie in paying the worker as little as possible and in preventing him from exercising control over the process of production, while the worker wants to be paid as much as possible and to exercise greater control over production…From the very beginning of its history, the manifold evils of capitalism have given rise to oppositional movements’…and with that springboard, Wright launches into one of the more convincing and illuminating discussions of the history of the cooperative movement, both globally and in the United States. Follow the author’s exploration and distillation of Marxism and discover aspects of labor and economy about which we know too little. This is a rich resource of information by which we may rethink our current status. ‘Worker and consumer cooperativism, the social economy, the solidarity economy, local participatory democracy, public banking, regional economic coordination – all this represents the future.’ This is a book that should be required reading for those framing tomorrow.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    This is an exceptionally well-written, well-argued book. Also, it’s accessible, given that the author is an academic. Succinctly, Wright argues that the socialist revolution will not be a sudden, cataclysmic event. Rather, it will occur organically and gradually as capitalism continues to eat its young. As capitalism is decaying, a necessary and worker-oriented means of productive relations must be in place to absorb the decay of capitalism. Worker Cooperatives are the base of a new economic sys This is an exceptionally well-written, well-argued book. Also, it’s accessible, given that the author is an academic. Succinctly, Wright argues that the socialist revolution will not be a sudden, cataclysmic event. Rather, it will occur organically and gradually as capitalism continues to eat its young. As capitalism is decaying, a necessary and worker-oriented means of productive relations must be in place to absorb the decay of capitalism. Worker Cooperatives are the base of a new economic system that is growing in parallel with capitalism’s decline. Meaning to say, in addition to direct action and militancy, which must continue, the left must focus on building a parallel economy based on cooperation and direct democracy. Something must be in place as an alternative to capitalism when it fails. Wright presents Cooperatives as examples of a growing movement beginning to build this alternative base. I have a book full of highlights and the reasoning is sound and makes sense. It also aligns with my life. I can’t beat capitalism, so I have noticed that I am opting out where I can (it takes discipline) and doing more “business” with local, cooperatively owned entities, or non-profits. As I opt out of large, elite corporations, where do I go? For example, when I opt out of Bank of America, I need a local credit union to turn to. This is Wright’s point, when capitalism hits it’s failure inflection point due to the logical failure of its internal design, there must be a landing pad for society. Socialism, with Worker Cooperatives as a corner piece, will continue to grow, slowly, inclining, as capitalism continues it’s decline. Wright adds that Marx had it right, he only didn’t see through history to realize that as capitalism failed, local, democratic worker cooperatives would be the second economic system to be there to land the revolution. I don’t do the book justice in my review. It’s an excellent book and helps me, personally, to find a bit more pace in understanding what’s happening.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Erik Ferragut

    If the person winning at monopoly does a great job, they will end up bankrupting all the other players. Is the right response to (1) chide the winner to be more kind and to better respect those being trounced, or (2) to overhaul the rules of the game so that -- somehow -- the winner is not able to run rampant over the others solely on account of having a lot of monopoly money? If you believe (1), then you should be for reforming bank regulations and wall street rules, and maybe furthering the se If the person winning at monopoly does a great job, they will end up bankrupting all the other players. Is the right response to (1) chide the winner to be more kind and to better respect those being trounced, or (2) to overhaul the rules of the game so that -- somehow -- the winner is not able to run rampant over the others solely on account of having a lot of monopoly money? If you believe (1), then you should be for reforming bank regulations and wall street rules, and maybe furthering the services provided by government. But if you are ready for (2) and want to know more about the "somehow", then read this book. Short answer: begin the transition from transnational capitalism to democratically empowered worker collectivism. Of course other answers will be worth considering, but this book presents a clear and focused image of how things may change and why Marxist revolution is non-Marxist.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Craig Scandrett-Leatherman

    Author sets present struggle in historic context which gives hope: capitalism was a response and correction to feudalism so the persistence of capitalism is not inevitable. The revolution is moving forward by alternative visions, plans and organizing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    I love books that take me more deeply into a subject and/or challenge my ideas, and this book does both! I'm glad I didn't leave it out of my study of anarcho-syndicalism. In fact, all the books I've read were valuable, but this is probably my favorite (so far). Wright reinterprets Marx, criticizing his statism. “Revolution,” he argues, "is not a matter of swiftly organizing a ‘new society’ from the top down.” Instead, it will be a long game, a slow building of connections and accumulation of res I love books that take me more deeply into a subject and/or challenge my ideas, and this book does both! I'm glad I didn't leave it out of my study of anarcho-syndicalism. In fact, all the books I've read were valuable, but this is probably my favorite (so far). Wright reinterprets Marx, criticizing his statism. “Revolution,” he argues, "is not a matter of swiftly organizing a ‘new society’ from the top down.” Instead, it will be a long game, a slow building of connections and accumulation of resources. For revolution to occur, “A more rational or socially appropriate set of production relations has to already be spreading and attracting hundreds of millions of people worldwide who understand its superiority to the old economy.” Only now that statism is beginning to deteriorate, he explains, can the revolution occur. Previously, unregulated capitalism gave way to the Keynesian welfare state. But this time, states are too weak to mitigate the destructive effects of unregulated capitalism. Wright's maxim is, “When reform is possible, revolution is not.” His prediction: “As the networks accumulate capital and experience, as well as grudging support from political and economic elites… they will acquire such power that they undermine the foundations of the current society. The world-order will come to consist of a mix of cooperative and competitive social relations such that it is no longer clear what is the 'dominant' model of production.” In this way, gradually, comes revolution. Wright's explanation helps me to understand, along with Richard Wolff's, why revolutions in Russia and China failed (and why they were not true socialism). This is also a good book if you are looking to read about the successes and challenges of cooperatives, and particularly on Chicago's New Era Windows. Since there aren't many reviews for this book, I was a little worried that Chris Wright is some random crackpot, but I looked at his blog and he seems legit. In fact, he seems pretty brilliant to me--but then again, my shifting hormones render me easily impressed by intellectual men. I feel like every review I write should have the disclaimer, "This is probably mostly objective, but I may have been ovulating when I wrote it so who knows."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marc Menz

    Solid read on Worker Cooperatives for the first third of the book. Detailed examples and well researched and documented resources helps really grapple some of the issues and complexities of cooperatives. The next two thirds of the book focuses on the history of the US labour movement, a little on cooperatives in America, and mostly about Leftist ideology, Marxism and revolution. I'm not going to lie, it's a bit of a slog! The narrative is thick and academic, and luckily not so ideological that y Solid read on Worker Cooperatives for the first third of the book. Detailed examples and well researched and documented resources helps really grapple some of the issues and complexities of cooperatives. The next two thirds of the book focuses on the history of the US labour movement, a little on cooperatives in America, and mostly about Leftist ideology, Marxism and revolution. I'm not going to lie, it's a bit of a slog! The narrative is thick and academic, and luckily not so ideological that you don't learn anything. Towards the end there's a great little example of how a window making company was repurchased (after several years) by it's worker owners and repurposed as a cooperative. Great story, however I personally would have loved more detailed analysis - as a numbers person, I really want to figure out how to make a co-op work, who owns what, how to distribute, how to dilute ownership, how to finance. So many questions which unfortunately no one book has managed to answer. I think the book does a good job altogether. It certainly makes the case for cooperatives both immediately and for in the future.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lola_L77

    A fascinating look at the history of the American social system and how the emerging worker cooperatives (where businesses are owned and run by their members) could revolutionize the economy, for the better. Wright also informs on the history of the US labor movement, and his take on Marxism and revolution. So are working cooperatives the answer in moving towards a post-capitalist America? Wright’s argument is definitely convincing, thanks to his accessible style of writing and well-researched ex A fascinating look at the history of the American social system and how the emerging worker cooperatives (where businesses are owned and run by their members) could revolutionize the economy, for the better. Wright also informs on the history of the US labor movement, and his take on Marxism and revolution. So are working cooperatives the answer in moving towards a post-capitalist America? Wright’s argument is definitely convincing, thanks to his accessible style of writing and well-researched examples. This certainly isn’t just a book for academics and it has inspired me to learn more about worker cooperatives and the impact they could have on modern society.

  9. 5 out of 5

    THE FREE

    First, let me praise the author Chris Wright. He is an excellent writer with a good amount of knowledge and a good way of communicating. You can relate to each paragraph you read and that makes his writing special. Coming to the book, I love books that give deep-rooted information about the subject and/or helps me pursue my ideas and writings, and this book does both! Adding it to my library was a great pleasure and I should accept it. Mr Wright sets present struggle in a historic context which g First, let me praise the author Chris Wright. He is an excellent writer with a good amount of knowledge and a good way of communicating. You can relate to each paragraph you read and that makes his writing special. Coming to the book, I love books that give deep-rooted information about the subject and/or helps me pursue my ideas and writings, and this book does both! Adding it to my library was a great pleasure and I should accept it. Mr Wright sets present struggle in a historic context which gives hope: capitalism was a response and correction to feudalism so the persistence of capitalism is not inevitable. The best thing about the book is detailed examples and researched documented resources helps really grapple with some of the issues and complexities of cooperatives. I'm an Indin and the book gave me a look at the history of the American social system and how the emerging worker cooperatives (where businesses are owned and run by their members) could revolutionize the economy, for the better. Lastly, I'll say I disagree with some of the points of the author but I really acknowledge his view point.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Caribbean Didi

    A very important book and very mind-opening details. Detailed examples and well-researched It will help to resolve some complexions in our modern world. It had some good information about the history of USA Labour, Things I've never known, Talks about Marxism and revolution and I don't want to be a spoiler. The author studies it very well, with proof and in an academic way. You can Imagine the author is standing up there and trying to explain it on his own way as if you were in a class. very importa A very important book and very mind-opening details. Detailed examples and well-researched It will help to resolve some complexions in our modern world. It had some good information about the history of USA Labour, Things I've never known, Talks about Marxism and revolution and I don't want to be a spoiler. The author studies it very well, with proof and in an academic way. You can Imagine the author is standing up there and trying to explain it on his own way as if you were in a class. very important read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Aldridge

    Chris Wright make a great case for worker cooperatives and while the writing felt a little forceful at times it made me feel like i was listening to him speak in person. Chris is confident and he has a way with words that could sway even the most determined capitalist.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Гюстав

    Brilliant work! And the conclusion really aligns with my point of view on relations of production.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    I have had a peripheral interest in the American labo(u)r movement for some time; a movement full of hope and innovation but often struggling to achieve significant power. What I especially appreciated in this work was the balancing of past, present, and future commentary; it never feels too theoretical, speculative, or focused on fighting past battles. I do not claim to have read a great deal of similar literature, so I cannot say this authoritatively, but it feels fresh and not too dogmatic co I have had a peripheral interest in the American labo(u)r movement for some time; a movement full of hope and innovation but often struggling to achieve significant power. What I especially appreciated in this work was the balancing of past, present, and future commentary; it never feels too theoretical, speculative, or focused on fighting past battles. I do not claim to have read a great deal of similar literature, so I cannot say this authoritatively, but it feels fresh and not too dogmatic compared to other works. I’m not sure how confident I am in the overall argument; of the coming dominance of local bottom-up initiatives as opposed to the top-down solutions seen in the 20th century. This, however, is not a condemnation of the book itself but rather my own limits of knowledge. I’m certainly intrigued by it, and I appreciate the self-awareness shown throughout, especially in the closing admission that abstract thinking, such as this book, cannot birth a new world alone. There are footnotes throughout, but I would have a appreciated a bibliography. Otherwise, I consider this an excellent work that many with an interest in these topics will appreciate.

  14. 4 out of 5

    M. J.

    Revolution is the new black. The concept has been used, abused and even turned into a commodity to sell products (we saw what you did there, capitalism!). As the planet faces a major climatic crisis brought about by the forces of capital, we need to bring together the new and the old, and be bold in our search for solutions. This book serves these purposes, challenging the reader to revise ideas about socialism, class warfare and the economy in the 21st century with a thorough analysis. Dreamers Revolution is the new black. The concept has been used, abused and even turned into a commodity to sell products (we saw what you did there, capitalism!). As the planet faces a major climatic crisis brought about by the forces of capital, we need to bring together the new and the old, and be bold in our search for solutions. This book serves these purposes, challenging the reader to revise ideas about socialism, class warfare and the economy in the 21st century with a thorough analysis. Dreamers and realists welcome!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It's reliable and fast It's reliable and fast

  16. 4 out of 5

    Grover Goldbaum

  17. 4 out of 5

    Romeo Olquin

  18. 4 out of 5

    Emory Camidge

  19. 4 out of 5

    Asha Vinci

  20. 4 out of 5

    Thao Kinkella

  21. 4 out of 5

    Darwin Milcher

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Shelato

  23. 5 out of 5

    Reuben Longbotham

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dorcas Rabin

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Pflugradt

  26. 5 out of 5

    Maye Mullany

  27. 5 out of 5

    Honey Vandegraaff

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carlota Riculfy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Loyd Tabron

  30. 4 out of 5

    Emily Warfield

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