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Time to Ditch Our Profit-Hungry Corporate Economy: Here's What the Future Could Look Like Instead

Marjorie Kelly's new book explains how we can create a "generative economy" that is focused on sustaining life rather than extracting profit.

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It's very important to emphasize this. We're not going to stop global warming by changing ownership designs; we need very rapid action. There are lots of people working on that and that needs to happen. There is no silver bullet that is going to get us to the new economy or the new world that we need to have but what I would say is that if we're moving toward a steady state economy or a slow growth economy which I believe is the only kind of an economy that will be sustainable on this planet...not that I just believe that, I'm told by knowledgeable scientists that that's reality. And if that is the reality that we're trying to head towards some kind of steady state or slow growth economy you have to ask yourself, what kind of enterprise design is consistent with that world?

A teacher at Schumacher College posed a question: what kind of economy is suited for living inside a living being? Well, it's not an endlessly expanding economy, it's not an economy that's designed to serve the few, at the expense of the many, it is an economy that is generative -- that is life-serving in its purposes. So how do we generate the conditions for life to continue and to thrive?

Enterprise design needs to be designed with that purpose in mind. I cannot sit here and give you a six-point plan about how we're going to transform all major corporations. I don't think that's the nature of the change process in which we find ourselves. Ultimately the industrial economy that we're in right now is breaking down, that is not something that we need to make happen and it's not something that we can stop because it is incompatible with the conditions of the earth. And so it is going to continue to break down, we're seeing that, with financial crises, with ecological crises -- those are going to continue and probably get worse.

And so you can just imagine a scenario moving forward where crises multiply and accelerate and people at some point begin to say, "well, my god we need to do things differently; how do we do things differently?" What I am hoping is the kind of people that I point to in this book are the ones people can point to and say "Oh, you mean there are already places that are doing this. There is already enterprise designs and ownership designs and financial designs that do embody a different way of running an economy. What are they, what can we learn from them, how can we replicate them?"

We know from history and we know from systems science that these kind of things can happen very suddenly and very unexpectedly -- you look at the Arab Spring. I'm not saying that what is happening in Egypt is a wonderful thing right now, there is a lot of chaos and hardship, but you can say what looked like very stable regimes across the Arab world were suddenly shown to be completely vulnerable and brittle and I think that we may see the same kind of thing in our economy. What looks massive and permanent and invulnerable, may show itself quite suddenly to be brittle.

My hope in my work is to begin to point to people who are creating the designs that show another way, so when we start flailing around and say "what else is there?" there will be some things to grab onto.


Tara Lohan is a senior editor at AlterNet and editor of the new book Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource . You can follow her on Twitter @TaraLohan.

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