How Change Happens over “Pizza and Some Beer”

Democracy Collaborative co-founder Gar Alperovitz talks about how the democratic economy is coming into being during an October 2021 interview with Andrew Van Wagner, who has interviewed a number of leading thinkers for his Substack newsletter.

In the interview, Alperovitz points out that elements of an emergent democratic economy can be seen in the rise of cooperatives, community land trusts, worker-owned businesses, public banks, and other experimental forms of community ownership and control. “The challenge is to start to integrate these ideas—that have developed over the past 30 years—in order to have large-scale impact, rebuild communities, and ultimately rebuild the whole system. We publish a lot about how people’s successes at the community level lay the groundwork for a whole new system that’s very interesting and very practical and very American, but also very democratically owned.”

When asked how he would recommend people get involved in advancing this systemic change, he said:

“There’s an enormous amount going on around the country—you can look at our website and other organizations’ websites and see tons of things that people are actually doing and that you could also do in your community.

“I see lots of local developmental things, and there’s informal cooperation—I don’t see it as an organized national effort yet, but I think you’ll see national organizational efforts in the future.

“And how it really works is how the women’s movement worked in the 1960s—six friends get together and get some pizza and some beer. And you look at some websites and say: ‘What’s being done in other neighborhoods and other communities that the six of us could actually start right here?’ And you begin to figure out what you could do: “If they’re doing it there, why can’t we do it here?” And then something happens, and then it’s not abstract anymore.

“That’s how things actually happen—Bob Moses recently died and there’s a case where a whole movement eventually came out of the fact that half a dozen SNCC people got together and said: ‘Let’s do something. ’”

Read the complete interview on Substack.


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About the Lead Author

Gar Alperovitz
Gar Alperovitz has had a distinguished career as a historian, political economist, activist, writer, and government official. For fifteen years, he served as the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, and is a former Fellow of Kings College, Cambridge University; Harvard’s Institute of Politics; the Institute for Policy Studies; and a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of critically acclaimed books on the atomic bomb and atomic diplomacy and his articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, The Nation, and The Atlantic among other popular and academic publications. He has been profiled by The New York Times, the Associated Press, People, UPI and Mother Jones and has been a guest on numerous network TV and cable news programs, including “Meet the Press,” “Larry King Live,” “The Charlie Rose Show,” “CrossFire,” and “the O’Reilly Factor.” In addition to his media appearances, his work has been featured in TV documentaries, including two BBC programs and an ABC Peter Jennings Special on the use of the atomic bomb. As a well-known policy expert, he has testified before numerous Congressional committees and lectures widely around the country. Alperovitz received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin; a master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley; and his Ph.D. in political economy as a Marshall Scholar at Cambridge University. After completing his studies he served as a legislative director in both houses of Congress and as a special assistant in the State Department. Among his many achievements is having been the architect of the first modern steel industry attempt at worker ownership in Youngstown, Ohio. In addition, he was nominated to be a member of the Council of Economic Advisers by leading national consumer, labor, and environmental organizations. He is also the president of the National Center for Economic and Security Alternatives and is a co-founder of The Democracy Collaborative, a research institution developing practical, policy-focused, and systematic paths towards ecologically sustainable, community-oriented change and the democratization of wealth. He is also the co-chair of The Next System Project, a project of The Democracy Collaborative. He lives in Washington, DC.

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