By Nathan Schneider
- Ours to Hack & to Own; The Rise of Platform Cooperativism, a New Vision for the Future of Work & a Fairer Internet (2017)
- Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition That Is Shaping the Next Economy (2018)
The origins of the next radical economy is rooted in a tradition that has empowered people for centuries and is now making a comeback.
A new feudalism is on the rise. While monopolistic corporations feed their spoils to the rich, more and more of us are expected to live gig to gig. But, as Nathan Schneider shows in Everything for Everyone, an alternative to the robber-baron economy is hiding in plain sight; we just need to know where to look.
Cooperatives are jointly owned, democratically controlled enterprises that advance the economic, social, and cultural interests of their members. They often emerge during moments of crisis not unlike our own, putting people in charge of the workplaces, credit unions, grocery stores, healthcare, and utilities they depend on.
Everything for Everyone chronicles this revolution - from taxi cooperatives keeping Uber at bay, to an outspoken mayor transforming his city in the Deep South, to a fugitive building a fairer version of Bitcoin, to the rural electric co-op members who are propelling an aging system into the future. As these pioneers show, co-ops are helping us rediscover our capacity for creative, powerful, and fair democracy.
Brad Lynch on Medium wrote:
"Most of the book consist of the examination of a wide variety of cooperative ventures ranging from local grocery stores, credit unions, healthcare services, taxi firms, housing and electrical utilities as well as a host of open-source software, app and system developers. He even considers an effort to create a fairer version of Bitcoin. The book benefits from the author’s first-person accounts drawn from visits to individual co-ops and dialogues with both co-op members and knowledgeable academics. [...] The author does not offer a simplistic, one-shoe-fits-all model of co-ops. Rather, he presents a cautionary, if supportive, guided tour of the long history this nearly all-but-forgotten social and business alternative to private, corporate capitalism. He repeatedly stresses that the true strength of co-ops is the organization’s commitment to democratic participation and operational transparency."
Gar Alperovitz on Stanford Social Innovation Review wrote:
"Whether you are just starting to explore cooperatives’ core concepts of democratic governance, community-ownership and other guiding principles or an experienced cooperator looking for a fresh lens on the history and present state of cooperative action, this book is highly recommended. It serves up fresh, authentic, inspiring and entertaining dispatches from a thoughtful storyteller that is weaving a new cooperative tale. [...] Schneider’s reporting does not gloss over his cooperative examples as if they are perfect simply because they are cooperatives. He sees and reports the hope the participants imbue their projects with, some risking their livelihoods while ensuring a kind of pragmatic outlook on his subjects. At times, he notes his default viewpoint on things so that we are aware of how his point-of-view may be coloring the stories he tells. At times Schneider will begin a story (or two) and it’s not clear where he is going with it in regards to cooperation. Sometimes the reading is dense with an academic style and references that may not be commonly known. It can walk the line of being too academic, too much of a firehose of anecdotes from across time and space. This balance though adds to the authoritativeness, the intrigue, the sense that these are dispatches from the field of cooperative action and can be entertaining and enlightening to read. The writing overall has an authenticity from an authoritative writer that cares about cooperation and about the well-being of people. He has a poetic handle of language and narrative to create this compelling case as to why and how cooperatives are shaping the next economy, and in fact have been for some time."
"Schneider, as a participant and an observer, is well-positioned to both tell the story of this movement and its milieu and document the attempts to salvage the dream of networked cooperation and digital democracy from Silicon Valley’s nightmarish trajectory. His account highlights the spiritual impulse behind these efforts to create digital alternatives in order to find new ways of working and living with each other in cooperative economic models based in a desire for community. Equally important, Schneider explains the tensions that emerge as the spiritual visions for a new culture come into conflict with the realities of actual business development and real-world collective decision making that are contentious, slow, and messy. Like Schneider, for whom 'economy is a form of culture,' I believe that questions of culture and the institutional forms that produce and sustain it are essential for any serious political vision. However, it is because of these shared concerns that I ultimately feel Schneider’s important book fundamentally misses the mark: He gestures toward the absolutely critical questions about the relationship between economic and cultural life, but too often refuses to answer them. Instead, he skates around the contradictions that his work reveals and quickly moves on to the next anecdote. [...] In elevating cooperatives, Schneider leads the reader to mistake the model for the system. This mistake has political consequences, because our focus needs to be on changing the system, not just replicating models. By elevating cooperatives into one of the 'candidate regimes' for building a new social model, Everything blurs the line between economic instrument and systemic vision. Schneider’s account invites us to imagine a movement fragmented in its history and full of moments of hidden potential and rediscovery, despite co-ops’ inefficiency alone to exact systemic change: 'co-ops are not an end in themselves. They’re not a destination. But they’re the passageway to a peer-to-peer commons.' But clarifying how this 'passageway' could operate is the question of political economy that can’t be answered by hand-waving. Is the 'cooperative commonwealth' a subterranean network of affinity rooted in the shared use of an institutional form? Or is it a democratic-socialist program in which cooperatives are one part of the means to the endgame of justice? [...] While evocative and inspiring, Everything tells us little we need to know if we truly want to change the system. Cooperatives are undoubtedly important as models for a democratic economy, but changing the system is a different proposition from that of proposing more cooperatives, and the 'next big idea' thrust of Schneider’s book risks overselling the power of the latter."
- Interview with Schneider about the book, Commons Transition, 10 September 2019
Table of Contents of Everything for Everyone
- Introduction: Equitable Pioneers
- All Things in Common: Prehistory
- The Lovely Principle: Formation
- The Clock of the World: Disruption
- Gold Rush: Money
- Slow Computing: Platforms
- Free the Land: Power
- Phase Transition: Commonwealth
(see also this review on Medium that briefly summarizes the contents of each chapter)
About Nathan Schneider
Nathan Schneider is a Scholar-in-Residence of media studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has written for Harper’s, The Nation, The New York Times, The Catholic Worker, and other publications.