Synthesis/Regeneration 10   (Spring 1996)

Roy Morrison's Ecological Democracy

reviewed by Arnie Alpert

Roy Morrison's Ecological Democracy, South End Press, Boston, 1995. 281 p. Paper, $16.

Industrial capitalism, and industrial socialism as well, threaten life and democracy. The only way to save the planet is through decentralized networks of self-managing economic, political, and cultural institutions, according to Roy Morrison, author of Ecological Democracy. He sees community-based cooperative systems, like Mondragon in Spain, as models for the future.

Cooperative approaches are not the only models available to us. Morrison suggests that "global management," which uses technocratic and market-dependent methods to control industrialism's excesses, is "the best case for industrialism's future." But Morrison believes enlightened industrialism cannot save the system from itself.

Authoritarian approaches also loom on the horizon for those who fear and suffer from a world that appears to be beyond control. As industrial civilization spins into crisis, neo-fascist demagogues (Buchanan, Zhirinovsky, for example) offer a return to hierarchical order as the way out. Such alternatives must, of course, be resisted.

The third path is ecological democracy, arising "from popular ferment, aspiration for a better life, intolerance of the abuse of power, and collective and personal determination to build a just and enduring community." Only community-based, democratically managed associations have the potential to reconcile human needs for both community and freedom, and to erode the power of industrialism. Inspired by examples such as Mondragon (the topic of Morrison's earlier book, We Build the Road As We Travel), the Co-op Atlantic system of Eastern Canada, and the Seikatsu Consumer Cooperative Club in Japan, we can build our own alternatives from the bottom up.

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