Our Mission: For the Cooperative Commonwealth

The mission of The New Moral World is to provoke a conversation about history and future of the cooperative movement.

Cooperatives began to emerge around two hundred years ago as an element of the working class struggle for socialism. They embodied, demonstrated, and advanced the “principle of cooperation” that socialists maintained should govern social activity on the whole. The division of society into owners of wealth and hired laborers would dissolve, and in its place would rise the “cooperative commonwealth”: a society in which wealth is owned in common and used for the benefit of all.

Cooperative Store

As the struggle for socialism progressed, it developed other organizational forms and strategic priorities. It produced the trade unions, schools, civic organizations, and political parties, all playing their role in advancing the socialist cause.

Around 100 years ago, seemingly on the verge of victory, the socialist movement began to disintegrate. Unions and cooperatives have persisted since then, but they are no longer bound up with a vision of revolutionary social transformation, instead focusing on serving the needs of their members.

Anyone familiar with cooperative enterprises knows that they harbor a powerful potential. They point beyond the limits of our world, if only in a small way. Within every cooperative enterprise is contained a glimmer of the cooperative commonwealth: the possibility of overcome capitalism through socialism.

Yet the cooperative movement, on the whole, is no longer oriented by such a project of social transformation.

It hasn’t been for generations. Instead, it is concerned with spreading the cooperative model and advancing the interests of established cooperatives within capitalist society. Cooperatives are little more than a means of adapting to capitalist society, making one’s place within it more tolerable.

There is nothing wrong with owning up to reality. Yet it is our conviction at The New Moral World that the full potential of the cooperative movement will only be realized if we begin orienting ourselves around the implicit vision and goal of the cooperative principle.

We have to grasp our work in this movement not merely as a “bread-and-butter” concern but as part of an unfolding historical process. We must grasp and articulate the possible positive outcome of that process if we are to see it realized. If we neglect our responsibility for this process, we do injustice not only to the potential future, but to the past: the struggle for socialism that forged the cooperative form that we now take for granted.

To this end, we will publish a variety of relevant material. If you are interested in contributing, or would like to learn more, please contact us at reid@newmoralworld.net.

You can also help support this project with a small monthly subscription on Patreon.

Labor and Life

We must work to live.

We are expected to earn our place in society through our own effort, through labor.

We aspire to be independent, self-sufficient, self-determining, free. We do not want to depend on anyone else, but to relate others as our equals. The only dependence that we should accept is interdependence, in which all have equal standing.

We thus aspire to a democratic society, in which none are dominant and none subordinate: a society composed of free, self-determining individuals.

Yet if individuals are unable to freely determine themselves, or worse, unable even to aspire to such freedom, the possibility of democracy is threatened, and with it, the freedom of all.

Labor and LifeIndividuals can become trapped in circumstances that they do not desire but that they are unable to change. The more unlikely change becomes, the more they must adapt themselves to their limited, subordinate condition. They must convince themselves this is what they want, forgetting they ever wanted anything more.

Or they may simply give up on wanting anything. Life persists in such a state purely out of habit, reduced to the vilest impulses, or depressed to almost nothing at all.

Why does this happen? Read more…

Poverty and Freedom

The world is not as it should be. 

We live in the wealthiest society in human history, and the poorest.

The fortunes of the few are easily outweighed by the burden of misery shouldered by the rest.

Poverty, or freedom?
El Lissitsky 1924

Poverty destroys the human character. Beneath the weight of this misery, the body is broken and the mind warped. Aspiration to a better life is snuffed out. To survive, most learn to adapt to their wretched circumstances. They learn to accept, to desire, to thrive in the most vicious and degraded conditions.

Poverty ruins the wealthy and poor alike.

The squandered potential of billions of our fellow human beings has rendered everyone impoverished. We can scarcely imagine how different, how much greater, richer, freer life would be if every individual were able to realize their full potential. What passes for freedom even among the “privileged” is in truth a pathetic substitute.

We all sink well beneath what we could otherwise become, and learn to accept and apologize for the world as it is. We regard our own limited character as a virtue, rather than lamentable necessity. Or we learn to denounce this limitation, to complain about it, to despise it, and do everything we can to demonstrate our discontent, to no effect.

History vividly demonstrates that human beings can adapt to any circumstance, however desperate or depraved. It attests to our ability to endure, and to be corrupted by, conditions more wretched than any found in nature. Yet for the same reason, we should recognize that, given the right circumstances, there is nothing human beings cannot become, no condition to which we cannot aspire.

We live in a free society. Read more…