Episode 53: Carlos Perez de Alejo
Carlos Perez de Alejo is a the co-founder and Executive Director of Cooperation Texas, an Austin-based nonprofit that helps organize and raise awareness of worker-owned cooperatives.
Economics has been a regular theme in The Conversation but, from David Korten to John Fullerton, many of our discussions have focused on systemic issues and top-down reform. While we at The Conversation love big theories and grand visions, we’re equally interested in projects. Worker-owned cooperatives fall in this latter category and, while they are hardly new, the changing economic landscape and success of Spain’s Mondragon Corporation have raised their prominence considerably.
In this episode, Carlos and I talk about how cooperatives critique our current economic paradigm, even as they function within it. That theme leads into a discussion of whether cooperatives will ever be able to grow large enough to meaningfully change the economic paradigm or if they will always be overshadowed by the competition of traditional corporations.
In our concluding discussion of Walter Block, Neil suggested that conversation isn’t always possible. Carlos agrees, but also points to situations where people abandon old ideologies without conversation. Micah and I kick these ideas around a bit more in our conclusion.
Due to your influence, I’ve been thinking a lot about the the government of business, and am excited that this episode touched on that. Needless to say, many companies are operating as totalitarian dictatorships, oligarchies, and more. I think a discourse comparing models, evils, and highlights of government to business models would be highly invaluable.
Also, a comment on open-minded discourse, using Bonhoeffer as a starting point; “How can I possibly serve another person in unfeigned humility if I seriously regard his sinfulness as worse than my own?” (This blew me away the first time I read it – so simple and pure, but it cuts to the heart.) This comment equally applies to intelligent discourse I think. Amiable discourse, or agreement on terms, is not possible unless parties believe the other’s input to be of equal insight, intelligence, and/or value. It seems this is the antithesis of societal mechanisms.
HI guys – first up, i love your work and you should keep it up.
I have been an activist for many years now, on a few different issues. We face an assault on our physical life support (environment), human rights, and right to think freely.
The struggle against may different troubles, by many people, is valiant, tough, and dangerous. I got to thinking, what is the cause of all this wrongness? Why is it so?
The only comprehensible answer was economic. The system of business that necessitates infinite financial growth at the exclusion of all else will necessarily do anything at all to succeed (in its own terms).
now many of us have figured this one out, on all sides of politics, i know.
But how do we deal with this monster system with so much momentum and power, in a (first world) population that is almost unaware of what it is doing?
after i was booted out of my high school i went to a school that was run entirely by the students. here the misfits and outcasts of the city were determining curriculum, managing finances, hiring and firing teachers, and enforcing the sparse rules (respect for all was the sole one not forced on the school by government legislation). all this was acheived by a general meeting for 1 hour per day. (usually). It changed my life, along with most others involved. Trying to explain this experience adequately has defied me so far, so i reckon it has to be lived to be known. This was actual democracy at work, and it worked bloody well. No idiotic rules or insane beauracracy. It was not perfect, by any means, but it beats anything else i have ever done. The scool lasted thirty years before being shut down by a hostile politician, who could do it due to the school funding coming from the government. Democratic business (worker owned co-operatives for want of a slicker title) is a completely viable avenue to take on our working lifes journey.
If the source of the troubles is in the economic system, then the solution must lie in eclipsing it.
An appropriate constitution in a business cooperative can direct the coop in ways that will make business work FOR the planet, rather than agin it. as ‘conventional’ farming mines the soil, ‘conventional’ business mines our finite sources and our souls.
Organic, and many other types of farming will build the life, diversity, vitality and resilience of the soil, and an intelligently planned system of democratic businesses can do the same for both our physical and social realm.
current business is vastly inefficient due to the idea of waste, and to the funneling of profits into imaginary ides like the finance system instead of keeping our sources cycling amongst the life on our thin crust of earth.
Concentrating on physical realities, and necessities, then reconsidering what our wants really are, and working together in cooperative fashion to provide these things (clean air water and food, shelter and community) at low or no financial cost, will enable a co-op model to operate at very much lower profits, while still providing all the necessities of life, plus a vibrant community, to those involved. Getting rich is a nice idea, but it remains a means. Living well is an end worth trying for, and does not necessarily cost much money.
The coops must figure out how to work in essential sectors, and either sideline the corporate sector financially, or be sufficiently attractive places to work in to lure their workers away, leaving the bosses to do the work.
Sensible choice of technologies (not financial) must be considered. enrgy, food production, clean production of materials, soil building, eliminating waste, just for a start.
mondragon has proven the financial potential of the coop model, and recreated a vast portion of what our government currently does, with a considerably larger democratic input. We must now attempt to refine it into a viable economic force that may eclipse or at least challenge this current suicidal one.
Its worth a shot, I will be starting as soon as circumstance allows, and i hope others will consider this path.
coops are NOT projectism. If I sleep for 8 hours, spend 4 hours keeping house and self, 2 hours with the kids, 2 hours travel, then 8 hours at work, then the largest conscious component of my life is my work – whatever it be. I suppose this could be considered a project, perhaps it should? A project amongst many to acheive a systemic end. Consider the time one spends at work as a force to be spent – either in supporting the current system (by working within it) or working against it. if you provide yourself with a decent living along the way, then what is the difference?
whether you are shovelling shit or an intellectual at a university, your lifes work still needed to be done by someone, so why not direct it to a rejuvenative form of economics?
diversity will be the key, along with considering the future with a different type of growth (physical), and working to live, not living to work.
We are faced with a mountain of stuff to try, so lets give it a shot!
Perhaps a democratic co-op could fund this projectism that is this fine conversation!
very interesting about the school that ran well for 30 years till hostile politician closed it.
Why? Did it arouse jealousy? Fear? Hate?
Can you specify ‘what of’?
Do you think you need to know how your enemy or opponents think to be able to defend yourself and your work and out flank them?
Can you do this and not be seduced by your opponent or, more likely, be suspected by your companions?