New Economy Movement in the United States

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Gar Alperovitz

The New Economy Movement in the United States is a group of organizations that are attempting to restructure the current economic system. The movement prioritizes human well-being over economic growth. Its primary goal is to localize the economy in an attempt to spread wealth and promote sustainable business practices.[1][2] The New Economy movement challenges both neoclassical and Keynesian economics to include theories of ecological economics, solidarity economy, commons, degrowth, systems thinking and Buddhist economics.[3][4] The movement promotes more public ownership of the economy through organizational structures such as cooperatives, and state-owned banks. The goal of these changes is to remove or alleviate harmful environmental and social impacts of capitalism through alternative economic as well as political practices.[5] A principal leader of the movement is the political economist and activist Gar Alperowitz, who, with others, promote the democratizing ownership of businesses and the economy as a means to achieve a sustainable, fair, and equal society.[6][7]


The New Economy movement is a rather disparate and wide-ranging collective, whose goals range from creating more environmentally sustainable community practices, such as food co-ops, to redistributing wealth, as seen in the Occupy movement.[8]

The New Economy movement resulted from a sense of disillusionment with the current American political economy system. Some New Economy issues have beginnings in wealth disparity, such as lack of living wages, the Great Recession economic crisis, and the consolidation of wealth. The movement also attempts to tackle social inequalities, such as an increasing prison population, brought on by the increasing privatization of the United States. Other issues have origins in environmental challenges, including the rise of global warming, and resource degradation, such as overfishing.[9]


Those who advocate democratization of ownership and other economic changes base their advocacy on a belief in the failures of capitalism in the United States. Due to these changes, members of the New economy movement advocate a rapid transition to new economic practices that are based on resource conservation, human happiness as a metric of success, and strong local communities.[10] Many New Economy organizations and activists maintain that issues such as Women's rights, Civil rights and the Environment, have connected causes and require fundamental change in politics and the economy.[5][11]


Many institutions have shifted from the orthodox corporate emphasis of profit and economic growth to a more progressive egalitarian and environmentally friendly business model.[12]

Most of these work in an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Currently there are more than 11,000 companies owned entirely or in significant part by some 13 million employees. The following is a chart of the largest 10 companies in the United States that operate an ESOP or other New Economy Movement based system:[13]

Rank Company City State Plan Plan Start Date Business Employees
1 Publix Super Markets Lakeland FL ESOP 1974 Supermarkets 182,500
2 Lifetouch Eden Prairie MN ESOP 1977 Photography 21,000
3 Penmac Springfield MO ESOP 2010 Staffing 20,420
4 CH2M Hill Englewood CO Stock Incentive & Purchase Plan 2000 Engineering & Construction 20,000
5 Houchens Industries Bowling Green KY ESOP 1961 Supermarkets & other services 18,000
6 Amsted Industries Chicago IL ESOP 1986 Industrial Components 17,000
7 WinCo Foods Boise ID ESOP 1985 Supermarkets 15,200
8 Alliance Holdings Abington PA ESOP 1985 Holding Company 14,700
9 Parsons Pasadena CA ESOP 1974 Engineering and Construction 14,000
10 Black and Veatch Overland Park KS ESOP 1974 Engineering 13,350

Seventh Generation, a company dedicated to producing 'green' household products has policies requiring that no one be paid more than fourteen times the lowest base pay or five times higher than the average employee.[12]

Many New Economy business models are classified as benefit corporations in the 30 U.S. states and the District of Columbia that allow such classification.[14] A benefit corporation is a for-profit corporate entity that allows for public benefit as a charter purpose in addition to the traditional corporate goal of maximizing profit for shareholders. As a requirement for this classification, corporations must expand the obligations of boards, requiring them to consider environmental and social factors as well as the financial interests of shareholders.[15]

130 million Americans already belong to a cooperative organization, the most common of which is the credit union.[5]

Food Cooperatives[edit]

Food Cooperatives are a part of the New Economy movement and consist of farms focused on giving back to their community with a sharp focus on local farming and economy. Many are nonprofit organizations. Cooperatives follow sustainable farming practices to avoid damage of natural ecosystems. These farms support their communities by donating any unused/unsold crops to local members or organizations in need.[16]


One challenge facing the movement is that the language used to talk about it holds negative connotations for many Americans. According to Gar Alperovitz, the idea of democratic ownership is new to many, and for others it conjures up images of past authoritarian, communist societies.[17] Members of the New Economy movement perceive advocacy as being fundamentally challenged by a prevailing attitude of dismissal or ignorance towards alternative systems of economics, and common framings of any alternative as based in socialism.[10] New Economy activists hold that the current model of American capitalism is so deeply ingrained in society that a shift to an alternative economic model would be met with resistance from corporations and wealthier individuals.[18] In the United States, there is strong resistance to reducing or eliminating economic growth. Members of the movement believe that in order to avoid resource depletion and exacerbation of climate change, economic growth must be drastically reduced, which alienates the movement from many potential supporters. Members of labor unions, for example, are often at the core of similar social movements, yet they are reliant on economic growth in order to keep from losing their jobs.[19] These factors present the New Economy movement with significant challenges in finding substantial support for their aims.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Collins, John (8 November 2015). "For the Activists in the New Economy Movement, All Revolution Is Local". In These Times. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  2. ^ Speth, Gus. "Toward a New Economy and a New Politics". The Solutions Journal.
  3. ^ Schneider, Nathan (2 November 2014). "OPINION: The commons are making a comeback". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  4. ^ Boyle, David (2009). The New Economics: A Bigger Picture. Routledge.
  5. ^ a b c Alperovitz, Gar. "The New-Economy Movement". The Nation. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
  6. ^ Collins, John (2015-11-08). "For the Activists in the New Economy Movement, All Revolution Is Local". Retrieved 2017-02-17.
  7. ^ "Gar Alperovitz". 2014-07-09. Retrieved 2017-02-17.
  8. ^ Alperovitz, Gar (20 May 2012). "The Rise of the New Economy Movement". AlterNet. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  9. ^ Speth, Gus (September 2010). "Towards a New Economy and a New Politics". Solutions Journal. 1 (5): 33–41.
  10. ^ a b "Weaving the Community Resilience and New Economy Movement Voices and Reflections from the Field" (PDF). External link in |website= (help)
  11. ^ "Mission and Vision". New Economy Coalition. 2015-04-20. Retrieved 2017-02-18.
  12. ^ a b Alperovitz, Gar. "The New-Economy Movement". The Nation. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  13. ^ "The Employee Ownership 100: America's Largest Majority Employee-Owned Companies".
  14. ^ "Social Enterprise Law Tracker". Social Enterprise Law Tracker. 2014-11-12. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  15. ^ "What is a benefit corporation? How is it different from a B-Corp?". Nonprofit + Social Enterprise Lawyer | Austin Texas | Cullinane Law Group. 2013-06-17. Retrieved 2017-02-25.
  16. ^ "Foodshed Alliance". LocalShare. 2013-10-27. Retrieved 2017-02-18.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Alperovitz, Gar (2012-05-20). "The Rise of the New Economy Movement". AlterNet. Retrieved 2017-02-25.

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