Imagining New Systems

Imagining New Systems

Operation Kindness’ purpose is to imagine, articulate, implement and actualize alternatives to neoliberal globalization based upon kindness, altruism and love, and as such policy formation is crucial to the movement. Our recent position paper ‘Love and Alter-globalisation: Towards a New Development Ethic’ aims to position Operation Kindness within the wider alter-globalisation movement, and articulate the rationale for adopting our specific ideas and practices. It explores the potential of a political concept of love as a frame of reference within which a genuinely realistic and visionary set of transformations could occur, leading to principled and non-violent revolutionary social change. The paper proposes that a new politics of love can offer an ethical hegemony to subvert and supplant the current neoliberal worldview whilst simultaneously providing a clear pathway for transition to the next system model. You can download the position paper here.

Radical system change might seem utopian in vision in a world within which ‘there is no alternative’ (TINA) remains a dominant narrative, but much detailed and practical work is underway on transition strategies to achieve just such change in an immediate way. While Operation Kindness does not exclusively propose one particular next system model, there are naturally some models more closely aligned to our values than others. Below is a selection of papers from the ‘Next System Project’ who are a US based initiative involving a broad group of researchers, theorists and activists who seek to launch a debate on the nature of the next system. We hope you find them a useful resource.

Next System Project Papers


The Economy for the Common Good – A Workable, Transformative Ethics-Based Alternative by Christian Felber and Gus Hagelberg By focusing on increasing the quality of life for everyone, promoting values such as human dignity and rights, ecological responsibility, and ensuring social justice, the economy can be finally controlled by the citizens to serve the public good. …continue reading…

Earthland: Scenes From a Civilized Future by Paul Raskin
This essay is written as a dispatch from the future. We visit Earthland in 2084, the flourishing planetary civilization that has emerged out of the great crises and struggles that today still lie before us. We learn how decades earlier a “global citizens movement” had coalesced and gathered momentum, becoming the key agent of the Great Transition that bent the arc of history from catastrophe to renewal. …continue reading…


The Promise of a Million Utopias by Michael Shuman

Here is a fun question guaranteed to stump your friends, family, and party guests: Can you name the leader of Switzerland? Trust me—no one ever knows the answer. And the reason is simple. It hardly matters. …continue reading…

Cultivating Community Economies: Tools for Building a Liveable World by J.K. Gibson-Graham and Community Economies Collective (CEC)
The Community Economies Collective (CEC) seeks to bring about more sustainable and equitable forms of development by acting on new ways of thinking about economies and politics. Building on J.K. Gibson-Graham’s feminist critique of political economy, the CEC challenges two problematic aspects of how “the economy” is understood: seeing it as inevitably capitalist, and separating the economy from ecology …continue reading…

imageCommoning as a Transformative Social Paradigm by David Bollier
In facing up to the many profound crises of our time, we face a conundrum that has no easy resolution: how are we to imagine and build a radically different system while living within the constraints of an incumbent system that aggressively resists transformational change? Our challenge is not just articulating attractive alternatives, but identifying credible strategies for actualizing them. …continue reading…

imageThe New Economy: A Living Earth System Model by David Korten
As an MBA student, I learned a basic rule of effective organizational problem solving that has shaped much of my professional life. Our professors constantly admonished us to “look at the big picture.” Treat the visible problem—a defective product or an underperforming employee—as the symptom of a deeper system failure. Look upstream to find and correct the system conditions responsible for the system failure. Otherwise the problem will simply reoccur. It is perhaps the most important lesson I learned in more than twenty-six years of formal education. We humans must apply that lesson now to the greatest challenges we have faced since our earliest ancestors walked the plains of Africa.
…continue reading…

imageEconomic Democracy: An Ethically Desirable Socialism That Is Economically Viable by David Schweickart
“The big challenges that capitalism now faces in the contemporary world include issues of inequality (especially that of grinding poverty in a world of unprecedented prosperity) and of “public goods” (that is, goods people share together, like the environment). The solution to these problems will almost certainly call for institutions that take us beyond the capitalist market economy.“ So wrote Nobel Laureate economist Amartya Sen, sixteen years ago. Needless to say the intervening years have only strengthened his thesis—inequality and environmental degradation have gotten much worse and grinding poverty persists. …continue reading…

imageToward Democratic Eco-socialism as the Next World System by Hans A. Baer
This essay is guided by two imperatives: (1) how do we live in harmony with each other on a fragile planet of limited resources, which have become unevenly distributed; and (2) how do we live in harmony with nature, particularly as humanity lurches forward into an era of potentially catastrophic, anthropogenic climate change that to a large degree is a by-product of the capitalist world system. …continue reading…

imageThe Good Society by Henning Meyer
When the global financial crisis hit in 2007/08, many social democrats in Europe (and beyond) believed that their time had finally come. Deregulated financial markets had developed into a self-referential system that was becoming more and more detached from the wider economy. And when the finance industry collapsed, it had wide-ranging consequences, given global economic interdependency. The crash of Wall Street brought down not just other financial centers, like the City of London, but plunged the entire global economy into a deep crisis that is still not resolved to date. …continue reading…

imageTowards a New, Green Economy Sustainable and Just―at Community Scale by Tim Jackson and Peter A. Victor
This paper explores what we will call the green economy as a potential solution to the multiple challenges from climate change, biodiversity loss, and resource scarcity to social injustice, and financial instability …continue reading…

imageBuilding a Cooperative Solidarity Commonwealth Created by Arthur Shlain from the Noun Project by Jessica Gordon Nembhard
The next system that we need, and that hopefully we are moving toward, is a cooperative commonwealth within interlocking local solidarity economies. Such a system is created from the bottom up, building upon multiple grassroots cooperative enterprises, and democratic community-based economic practices. These networks collaborate and federate from the local to municipal, regional, national, and international levels. …continue reading…

imageA Civic Economy of Provisions by Marvin T. Brown
Many of us agree that the economy we have is not the economy we want. There are alternatives: a solidarity economy, a sharing economy, a local economy, an ownership economy, and so on. Many of you know about some of these. All are good, and I think we are still looking. As an additional alternative, I want to propose a civic economy—an economy based on civic relations rather than property relations—designed to make provisions for all rather than making money for the few. …continue reading…

imageWhat’s Next? Parecon (Participatory Economics) by Michael Albert
People now fighting economic injustice have no right to decide how future people should live. But we do have a responsibility to provide an institutional setting that facilitates future people deciding for themselves what their own conditions of life and work should be. To this end, participatory economics, or parecon, describes the core institutions required to generate solidarity, equity, self-management, and an ecologically sound and classless economy. …continue reading…

imageWhole Systems Change: A Framework & First Steps for Social/Economic Transformation by Riane Eisler
Today’s nuclear and biological weapons give us destructive powers once attributed only to a vengeful God. Fossil fuels combined with our species’ exponential population growth are decimating our natural life-support systems. A seismic technological shift, as radical as that from foraging to farming and from agriculture to manufacturing, is hurling us into the postindustrial, knowledge-service age. Jobs are disappearing, and many more soon will be lost to robotics and artificial intelligence. The chasm between haves and have-nots is again widening both within and between nations. Religious fanaticism is resurging, promising heavenly rewards for terrorizing, maiming, and killing.
And that is only the short list of our environmental, economic, and social problems. Yet the vast majority of people, including most national leaders, academics, and mass media, remain in a kind of trance, insulated by old ways of thinking. …continue reading…

imageSix Theses on Saving the Planet by Richard Smith
From the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, workers, trade unionists, radicals, and socialists have fought against the worst depredations of capitalist development: intensifying exploitation, increasing social polarization, persistent racism and sexism, deteriorating workplace health and safety conditions, environmental ravages, and relentless efforts to suppress democratic political gains under the iron heel of capital. Yet, even as we fight to hold onto the few gains we’ve made, today, the engine of global capitalist development has thrown up a new and unprecedented threat, an existential threat to our very survival as a species. …continue reading…

imageStart With Worker Self-Directed Enterprises by Richard D. Wolff
Contemporary capitalism no longer “delivers the goods”—understood as a rising standard of real wages—to the majority of people. That classic defense of its instability (recurrent bouts of unemployment, lost output, and wasted resources), its deepening economic, political, and cultural inequalities (as Thomas Piketty documents), and the attendant injustices are no longer plausible. In the US since the 1970s, and especially since 2007, those who control the dominant capitalist enterprises and the resulting economic “development” made decisions that undermined the delivery of rising standards of living to the mass of people. …continue reading…

imageParticipatory Economics & the Next System by Robin Hahnel
It is increasingly apparent that neoliberal capitalism is not working well for most of us. Growing inequality of wealth and income is putting the famous American middle class in danger of
becoming a distant memory as American children, for the first time in our history, now face economic prospects worse than what their parents enjoyed. We suffer from more frequent financial “shocks” and linger in recession far longer than in the past. Education and health care systems are being decimated. And if all this were not enough, environmental destruction continues to escalate as we stand on the verge of triggering irreversible, and perhaps cataclysmic, climate change. However, in the midst of escalating economic dysfunction, new economic initiatives are sprouting up everywhere. …continue reading…

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