Sunday, August 17, 2008

Autonomous Individuality v. Rugged Individualism

Capitalism is internally contradictory. In one breath it promotes rugged individualism, where the “self-made man” is said to have raised himself by his own bootstraps, while at the same time creates a dependency of workers who are forced to survive on the often meager wages paid to them by employers. If you fail to find someone to hire you then you are likely to find yourself out on the street. One of the stipulations forced on the worker by the employer is to give up his or her individuality and to conform to the mainstream in the hopes of being employed. We see this in the corporate dress codes (written and unwritten) along with the corporate disdain for tattoos.

The capitalist class is free of this burden. The financial freedom that comes with being a capitalist is why some of the rich are known as being “eccentric” for their wealth allows them to exhibit their own individuality. They can show their individuality because they can afford to.

In an economic democracy it would be different. According to Nicholas Capaldi in his book John Stuart Mill: A Biography the reasons Mill supported cooperatives, “were to promote autonomy, to promote the cooperation that flows from autonomy, and to turn workers into entrepreneurs.” Mill also understood that the worker cooperative would end the class system of capitalist and worker and would eliminate the wage system. In an economic democracy people would have the dignity of being able to stand on their own without stepping on someone else and therefore the freedom to express one’s own individuality without fear.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Collective Copies

Life was difficult for the workers of Gnomon Copies in 1983. The workers of the shop had been on strike for months due to bad pay, poor equipment, and horrible working conditions. Making ends meet was difficult as they struggled to survive. Then, just when things were looking up because an agreement had been reached with management, Gnomon Copies was evicted and shut down.

Rather than going their separate ways the workers started their own copy center. But this one would be like no other. It would be a worker’s cooperative called Collective Copies.

With its original site located in Amherst, Massachusetts Collective Copies is the only worker-owned copy center in the nation. They provide a wide range of services such as file printing, high resolution digital reproduction in a wide variety of formats, digital scanning of documents and images, finishing services, and much more.

Collective Copies is organized as a collective, meaning that it’s a worker-owned cooperative in which all of the members are equally involved in the operation and there is no management or labor division. Decisions are made through consensus with the workers sharing the various duties in the operation of the copy center.

The workers of Collective Copies care for more than just their own members and customers. Each year the cooperative donates ten percent of their pre-tax profits to help organizations such as student groups, child development, human rights, environmental defense and many more.

Collective Copies is a unique and special economic enterprise. Through it we get a glimpse of hopeful future for us all.

Visit their web site (the source of the above information) at: