Murray Bookchin

Market Economy or Moral Economy?




A powerful analysis of the moral degeneration of our current economic system.

Keynote address to the New England Organic Farmers Association, July 1983.



Sooner or later, every movement for basic social change must come to grips with the way people produce the material means of life — their food, shelter, and clothing — and the way these means of life are distributed. To be discreetly reticent about the material sphere of human existence, to loftily dismiss this sphere as « materialistic, » is to be grossly insensitive to the preconditions for life itself. Everything we eat to sustain our animal metabolism, every dwelling or garment we use to shelter us from the inclemencies of nature, are normally provided by individuals like ourselves who must work to provision us, as we, one hopes, are obliged to provision them.

Although economists have blanketed this vast activity with amoral, often pretentiously « scientific » categories, preindustrial humanity always saw production and distribution in profoundly moral terms. The cry for « economic justice » is as old as the existence of economic exploitation. Only in recent times has this cry lost its high standing in our notion of ethics, or, more precisely, been subordinated to a trivial place by a supraeconomic emphasis on « spirituality » as distinguished from « materiality. »

Accordingly, it is easy to forgive the great German thinker Theodor Adorno for acidly observing a generation ago: « There is tenderness only in the coarsest demand: that no one shall go hungry anymore » (Minima Moralia).

Overstated as this image of tenderness may seem, it is a much-deserved slap in the faces of those privileged strata whose « chubby insatiability » for the good things of life is matched only by their « chubby insatiability » for the contrived problems of their shrivelled and bored egos. It is time — indeed, necessary — to restore the moral dimension of what we so coldly denote as « the economy, » and more to the point, to ask what a truly moral economy is.

The difficulty in tying economics to morality stems from the nature of economic life as we know it today. Not that any economy can ever really be « amoral » as the economists or practitioners of « economic science » would have us believe, nor, for that matter, can ways of work and technology ever be regarded as « amoral. » [1]

The fact is that our present market economy is grossly immoral. Even in denying that economics can be regarded as an authentically moral domain in which people always make decisions about who shall do what, what shall be distributed to whom, and how « scarce resources » shall be weighed against « unlimited needs, » the economists have literally « demoralized » us and turned us into moral cretins. Price formation, to take only one example, is not merely an impersonal « amoral » computation of supply versus demand. It is an insidious manipulation of both supply and demand— an immoral manipulation of human needs as part of an immoral pursuit of gain. In speaking of a « market economy » as distinguished from a « moral economy, » it would not be false to speak of an « immoral economy » as distinguished from a « moral economy. »

But this distinction is hard to see, not only because economics, with its panoply of scientistic pretensions, has muddled the entire issue of economics and morality. It is also hard to see because we tend to assume that the economic status quo is a given, a « natural state of affairs, » that is assumed to be part of a fictitious « human nature. » So deeply rooted is the market economy in our minds that its grubby language has replaced our most hallowed moral and spiritual expressions. We now « invest » in our children, marriages, and personal relationships, a term that is equated with words like « love » and « care. » We live in a world of « trade-offs » and we ask for the « bottom line » of any emotional « transaction. » We use the terminology of contracts rather than that of loyalties and spiritual affinities. This kind of business babble, garnished with electronic terms like « input, » « output, » and « feedback, » could easily fill a dictionary for our times and those which lie ahead.

Life, in effect, has acquired those descriptive traits that earlier generations once assigned to strictly market interactions — interactions whose influence on their conduct was marginal, however invasive it became in periods of economic difficulty. The « dignity of labor » denoted the subordinate role of work to the higher moral concerns of the worker’s sense of self-esteem, however much this dignity was violated by the harshness of toil and the commanding presence of economic hierarchies. « Respect » was a criterion for transactions of any kind, and figured no less in the claims of the workplace militant than it did in those of the Mafia « Godfather. » In many countries on the road to industrialization, workers waged strikes to defend their self-esteem and express their moral solidarity, not only to gain material and social benefits.

Today, we have virtually lost this sense of moral direction because our social map has been completely taken over by the market. Our economic coordinates deny us any of the means for comparing ethical images of the past with the gray « amorality » of the present. As recently as the 1930s, people could contrast the « dog-eat-dog » attributes of the market place with the solidarity of a village-type neighborhood world and its rich supports in the extended family, whose older members formed living recollections of a more caring preindustrial society. Immediately outside the dense, poisoned cities of the world, the countryside was a visible presence, with traditional agrarian lifeways that were hallowed by the ages. However much one may choose to criticize this archaic refuge from the factory, office, and commercial emporium for its parochialism and patriarchialism (a criticism, I can say from personal experience, that has been greatly overstated), the fact remains that it provided a deeply human and personal refuge — one that was fecund with a limitless capacity for renewal and vitality.

Perhaps equally important, it provided « industrial man » with a sense of contrast and tension between a moral world where values of virtue and the good life guided economic standards, and a marketplace world where values of gain and egotism guided moral standards. This sense of contrast and tension was carried inwardly by workers into shop and home, union and family, factory and neighborhood, city and town. Even when the market economy seemed to be the focal center of life during the working day, a sense of an older, more congenial, and moral world to which one could later repair existed in the peripheral vision of the ordinary worker. The space to be a human being with spontaneous human concerns clashed with the space which forced the individual to be a class being, a creature of the market economy and its highly rationalized industrial core.

Ironically, in the vision of millions, the Great Depression of the 1930s moved the market economy from its primary status in the previous decade to a secondary one. Despite the prevalence of a naive commitment to progress and belief in the power of technology to remove all the ills of society, the generation of the early thirties moved in great numbers from the city to the countryside, tightened its family bonds to meet economic adversity, intensified its sense of local solidarity and, with it, neighborhood and town support systems. In short, it recovered moral commitments between people, despite the great dislocations that occurred among farmers in the Dust Bowl and the torrential increase in urban strays who filled the railroad box cars of the middle and far West.

As a result of this parallel movement into and out of the centers of industry and commerce, the impersonal world of frenzied speculation and paper riches so exuberantly celebrated during the boom years of the 1920s suffered a major loss of prestige, as the revival of populist and socialist movements so clearly revealed. The stock market collapse in 1929 ended a popular reverence not only for corporate wealth, but also for the market system itself. Barter, mutual aid, the verities of an agrarian America, self- reliance, and independence, together with regionalism and cultural identity, haunted the land for years and even invaded its artistic canons, as witness the paintings of Grant Wood, the WPA muralists and photographers, and the resurgence of research into local lore and traditions.

Today, this decade-long lapse of the market economy’s prestige has simply been forgotten. From the 1950s onward, the market economy has not only imperialized every aspect of conventional life, it has also dissolved the memory of the alternative lifeways that precede it. We are all anonymous buyers and sellers these days, even of the miseries that afflict us. We not only buy and sell our labor power in all its subtle forms, we buy and sell our neuroses, anomie, loneliness, spiritual emptiness, integrity, lack of self- worth, and emotions, such as they are, to gurus, specialists in mental and physical « well-being, » psychoanalysts, clerics in all garbs, and ultimately to the armies of corporate and governmental bureaucrats who have finally become the authentic sinews of what we euphemistically call « society. » We buy and sell the outward trappings of personality: the sheen-like leather jackets that make humble bookkeepers look like dashing pimps and the high- heeled boots that make bored secretaries look like dangerously seductive whores. Clothing, face paint, well-blown coiffures, baubles, a vast array of insignia and tokens all combine in the urban cesspools of the world to make us seem more « interesting » and less depersonalized than we really are.

Convention submerges in a quick dip only to resurface as stylized indiosyncracies, damning badges of « individuation » that subtly affirm its loss. The snapped cap of the traditional worker, even the high hat of the cartoon bourgeois, once topped faces that were etched with character, experience, inner strength, and individuality. Today the doll-like heads of our « bohemian » middle classes, these relics of a vibrant past, seem like grotesque caricatures. Today the market economy has shown its power to reach the most inward recesses of personality by making its acolytes into look-alikes even as they grasp for the idiosyncratic in dress and the low culture of the mass media. Indeed, whatever is culturally exciting and fills our concert halls and theaters to the bursting point is the recycled product of generations now dead or dying — often recycled with a technical proficiency and slickness that bleeds it of all character and earthiness.

Our liberalism toward every moral excess seems more like indifference than tolerance. Anomic, spiritless, and unfeeling, we have become the very free-floating commodities we so eagerly produce and devour. Society, in turn, flattened and colorless, has become the very market economy we once confined to the personally remote world of « business. » The immorality of our credo of « amorality » stems from a sense of indifference that is evil because it has no criteria for the good and the virtuous. Its philosophy consists of the endless prattle of small talk and its ideals are embodied in its garishly cluttered shopping malls, which have become its most imperious and sacred temples.

The market economy is blessed with a grand secret from which it draws its power to shape the totality of social life: the power of anonymity. Sellers do not know buyers and buyers do not know sellers. What sellers dump on the market — all self-serving myths of « salesmanship » aside — are their commodities, not themselves. A buyer who purchases a dress ultimately confronts an object, a dress — not its producer, a person. Admittedly, there are producers who fit a buyer for a garment and « sales » personnel who oil the purchase along. But the fitter or tailor is a marketplace archaism who actually belongs to a bygone era, or serves a highly affluent elite. The « salesperson » is at best a catalyst for making purchasable dreams more palatable. He or she is virtually nonexistent in the great shopping malls, where the principal encounter between buyer and seller occurs on a checkout line at a cash register, not in the more intimate world where the purveyor of merchandise tries to persuade a potential buyer into a purchase. No, the market economy is structured around buyer and object, or producer and retail establishment, not between person and person.

The anonymity of the exchange process today has formidable consequences, more far-reaching than we normally suspect. We are struck first by its suffocating impersonality. A machine called the market takes over vital functions that rightly should be performed by the intercourse between people. Although electronic and print media continually barrage us with images and voices that seem like human beings, we rarely encounter real flesh-and- blood people in the modern market. Often, no way exists to leisurely discuss the worthiness of a product with the producer who, it would seem, can best judge its qualities and utility. Salespersons, few as they are, are notoriously ignorant about the commodities they purvey and can be easily outwitted by any knowledgeable buyer. Moreover, they are generally outrageously indifferent and excessively rehearsed. They can be — in some places have already been — replaced by a recording. In the impersonality of the market, no interchange between buyer and seller exists that can lend itself to ethical guidance.

In all past eras, the worthiness of a product was morally integrated with the worthiness of its seller and producer. The value that a buyer placed on a commodity, indeed, on any exchangeable entity, constituted an ethical gauge of the moral integrity of the individual from whom it was acquired. To denigrate this object, to return it with disparaging remarks about its quality, was to impugn the seller’s probity and self-esteem — not simply as a « good » producer, but as a person with ethical standards. The craftsperson, in this sense, was as « good » as the « goods » he or she crafted; the seller, as « good » as the « goods » he or she sold. I use the word « good » not instrumentally, in terms of technical proficiency — a word that today, quite characteristically, usually means precisely that — but ethically, in terms of human « goodness » and moral probity. « Good will » meant honesty, integrity, reliability, responsibility, and a high sense of public service, rather than staying power in the marketplace jungle, fiscal soundness, and the contrived myth of « superiority » inculcated in the public mind by advertising. One did not buy a « name » that repeatedly appeared on television screens, neon signs, and billboards; one « bought » the moral certainty of a good personal reputation, an artist’s sense of commitment to aesthetic excellence, the cherished arete, or virtue, that the Greeks imputed to an individual’s vocation as a moral calling, and the deeply felt responsibility of a good worker to a product that constituted an extension of his or her human powers. « Goods » and « goodness » — a commonality of terms that is not accidental — carried the ethical imprimatur of social responsibility, not the instrumental slickness of technical finesse and hard-sell.

The actual act of selling, in turn, had its own etiquette and personal ambience. Buyer and seller encountered each other with talk about the affairs of the day, personal inquiries and assurances, opinions on a host of public issues, and finally, a mutual interest in the product, with knowledgeable remarks about its components, artwork, and merits. A price was a moral bond, not a mere exchange of « goods » for money. The signature of the producer or seller appeared on the product as well as the bill of sale, people used terms like « just prices, » not simply « bargains. » Between buyer and seller was an ethical tie that signified their reliance, indeed their dependence, on each other for the needful and good things of life. A high sense of mutuality, based on trust and a shared recognition of faith in a nexus of complementarity for sustaining survival itself, permeated the entire exchange process.

We should not consign such relationships to distant ages like the medieval world. However vestigial in form, they existed as recently as the 1930s, when production, despite its increasingly mass character, was commonly tested in the deeply personal arena of small neighborhood retail shops; in the fitting rooms of garment makers; in cobbler, cigar-making, and bakery shops; and in an endless array of service establishments where work was done under the eyes of the customer and even under the eyes of passing crowds.

Today, the anonymity and depersonalization of the market has almost completely divested the exchange process of this moral dimension. Even in so-called alternative enterprises like organic farms, craft shops, and food cooperatives, the ethical inspiration which presumably gave rise to them has been gravely diluted and threatens to fade away. To the degree that these establishments become « established, » they become more entrepreneurial than moral. This is especially true when moral inspiration is confused with material need. An organic farm that is meant merely to satisfy a « need » for « good food » rather than food that is cultivated from a sense of « goodness » and ecological concern — like a « food cooperative » that is meant to provide « good food » at cheap prices — is guided more by need than by ethics. That is to say, it is meant to satisfy a concern that is pragmatic rather than moral.

Ironically, none of these concerns can ever supplant the shopping mall. No organic farm can compete successfully with agribusiness, and no food cooperative can successfully outbid, much less outsupply, a supermarket. The most these « alternative » enterprises can do is to coexist precariously with the giants that tower over them, as mere marginalia that appeal on strictly material grounds to society’s fringes, not society at large.

Worse, as practical projects that aim for « efficiency, » « high returns, » expanded operations, a more « successful » marketing strategy, they begin to objectify their consumers as much as they do the produce they sell. They become merely another impersonal business enterprise whose « goods » are as lacking in « goodness » as those of their larger rivals. Dwarfed by the giants who smirk at their existence and claims, they become food pharmacies for dispensing unpolluted « organic » products instead of pills — the drugs for coping with a social disease, not for preventing or curing it. In short, they become as inorganic, depersonalized, computerized, and cynical as the larger enterprises on whose turf they nibble — dumping grounds for organic foods to meet the therapeutic needs of an increasingly anonymous and inorganic public. The moral aspects of distributing or growing food and other produce are blotted out by considerations of « efficiency » and « success » — the two attributes of capitalistic enterprise that lend themselves to a concern for economic quantity at the expense of ethical quality.

To put the issue bluntly: an organic carrot, a homespun garment, a crafted plank of wood, or a hand-worked leather boot is merely a « thing » that people confront as impersonally in a food cooperative or a craft shop as they do in a shopping mall if it does not carry a moral message that changes it as an exotic creature of an immoral economy. The « thing » itself will never give voice to a moral message merely by its quality, ecological pedigree, and usefulness. As wholesome, nourishing, attractive, and free of the pollutants that infect our bodies and tastes as it may be, it does not become a « good » in a moral sense for these reasons alone. Moral « goodness » can come only from the way in which people interact between themselves, and the sense of ethical purpose they give to their productive activities. It is through the way « goods » are exchanged or, to state the case more radically, the way exchange is used to appropriately distribute them such that « buyer » and « seller » cease to be polarized against each other and are joined in an economic community, united by a fraternal or sororal relationship based on a sense of mutual identification and personal complementarity. Care, responsibility, and obligation become the authentic « price tag » of the moral economy, as distinguished from the interest, cost, and profitability that enter into the « price tag » of the market economy.

Care, responsibility, and obligation, we are told, are « ideological » concepts which have no place in a scientistic notion of economics. This criticism points to the very heart of the issues raised by a moral economy. A moral economy — a participatory system of distribution based on ethical concerns — is meant to dissolve the immorality that the modern mind identifies with economics as such. Its goal is to dissolve the antagonism between « buyer » and « seller, » to show that in practice both « buyer » and « seller » form a community based on a rich sense of mutuality, not on the opposition of « scarce resources » to « unlimited needs. » The object exchanged is secondary to the ethical values that are explicitly shared by the participants of a moral economy. For « buyer » and « seller » to care for each other’s well-being, for them to feel deeply responsible to each other, and for them to be cemented by a deep sense of obligation for their mutual welfare is to replace a strictly economic nexus with an ethical one — that is, to turn economics into culture rather than to visualize it as the « circulation » of things. Where distribution becomes a form of complementarity, it ceases in fact to be economic in the usual meaning of the word and the terms « buyer » and « seller » become meaningless.

Material needs begin to express one of many ways in which claims for things become claims for moral integrity. The « buyer’s » expectations begin to expand beyond mere needs to a belief in the « seller’s » ability to exhibit the highest moral probity in providing the material means of life. The « seller, » in turn, advances his or her goods, and « goodness » — an ethical conviction that the means of life serve to satisfy not only material needs, but also spiritual ones that foster trust, community, and solidarity. The rivalry and seeming independence that pervades the market economy is replaced by reciprocity and interdependence in which distribution with its moral etiquette — like primitive rituals — affirms a sense of unity and shared destiny between its participants. The inequalities conferred by differences in strength, health, age, and skill cease to be the damning stigmas of a specious « equality » that permits each individual to drift on his or her own in a deadening and emotionally blunted pursuit of advantage. To the contrary, they spawn a sense of complementarity and a commitment to compensation that yields the great radical maxim: From each according to his or her abilities, to each according to his or her needs.

These images of a moral economy and its ethical preconditions are not abstractions. They imply concrete institutions and specific forms of behavior. Institutionally, they presuppose a new form of productive community, as distinguished from a mere marketplace where each buyer and seller fends for himself or herself — a community in which actual producers are networked and interlocked somewhat like the old medieval guilds in a responsible support system. In this support system, the producers — be they organic farmers, carpenters, leather workers, jewelers, weavers, clothiers, builders, craftspeople and shop workers of all kinds, indeed, professionals such as physicians, chiropractors, nurses, attorneys, teachers, and the like — explicitly agree to exchange their products and services on terms that are not merely « equitable » or « fair » but supportive of each other. Like all real communities, they form a family that provides for the welfare of its participants as a collective responsibility, not simply a personal responsibility. For example, medical people assume a moral duty to care for the health needs of craftspeople, who in turn assume the task of provisioning the community’s physicians, nurses, dieticians, etc. This sense of moral complementarity — this social « ecosystem, » so to speak — encompasses all members of the productive community. Price, resources, personal interests, and costs play no role in a moral economy. Services and provisions are available as needed, with no « accounting » of what is given and taken.

« Need, » in turn, is moralized in the very profound sense of a shared concern of the giver as well as the receiver, for it becomes important for the producer of a « good » to see to it that the consumer suffers no privation or want for lack of his or her product, indeed, that the « good » is the « best » that can be given to whoever is needful. To go « beyond good and evil, » if I may use the title of Nietzsche’s provocative work, is to seek excellence for its own sake and, above all, for the community’s sake rather than remain trapped in amorality or moral relativism.

« Need » turns from mere want of a « good » into a way of identifying producer and consumer in a caring social bond that is guided not by interest, profitability, and cost, with all their quantitative trappings, but by that ineffable qualitative and disinterested sense of mutual welfare such as we expect in parental and sibling relationships. It is no longer the yearning of one individual for a « good, » but a collective funding of desire with the shared expectation that fulfillment is a communal desideratum, just as a lover experiences the joy of the beloved in the very fact that a desire is satisfied. Inasmuch as virtually every consumer is in some sense a producer, the fictive opposition between consumption and production, with its connotation of the « innocent consumer » who must be protected from the « predatory producer, » is eliminated.

That the infirm, elderly, or very young do not seem to belong to such a productive community in the technical sense is perhaps all the more reason to include them fully in its benefits, if only to test continually the moral intentions of such a community — that is, to confront it with an ongoing challenge of its own moral probity and disinterestedness. And yet even the elderly and the infirm, I suspect, will want to find a function for themselves in a moral economy, be it simply custodial, clerical, or instructive, depending on their training and background in the more active periods of their lives. The point is that a moral economy exists for moral reasons, not simply for reasons of survival or gain. The good life, materially supported by « goods » that are the messengers of « goodness, » is an end in itself: a source of new selfhood and new ways of life; an ongoing education in forms of association, virtue, and decency; a countervailing force to the socially, morally, and psychologically corrosive marketplace and its unbridled egotism.

Such a moral economy has no historical precedents on which to model itself — and, in a very real sense, can only be created by practice and experience, rather than precept and past example. But its architects can draw some inspiration from many so-called primitive communities in which usufruct, not ownership, guided people in the availability of tools and resources. [2] Possibily, too, they can learn from the democratic guild forms of organization that existed in early medieval townships and from certain cooperative or quasi-religious forms of productive association like the Hutterite and Tolstoyan communes. But these forms of associations are hints, often defective when taken by themselves and useful when selectively pieced together, of what must ultimately be a broader concept of a moral economy for society as a whole. A moral economy, structurally speaking, may for a long time be a marginal example of what the human community as a whole should one day become. But so much that now exists in the center of human affairs formerly developed on their margins that we should not despair that a moral economy can only be peripheral to society today.

Even more fundamental than structure is the problem of behavior. A moral economy, based on shared concern rather than private interest, is no better than the sensibilities it fosters. If our concept of a material « good » comes from a waning sense of moral « goodness, » the recovery of the tie between the material and the moral, between « good » and « goodness, » recasts our very notion of an economy in a radically new light. It places upon a moral economy the crucial function of developing an economic community into an arena for ethical education, as well as a moral system of production and distribution. [3]

Like the Athenian polis of some two thousand years ago, a moral economy must become a school for creating a new kind of citizenship: economic citizenship as well as political, productive citizenship as well as participatory, a place for learning a respect for “things” as products of a fecund nature as well as a center for dedicated work, and the embodiment of a spiritualized physicality as well as a productive domain for creating objects for personal consumption. The “curriculum” for such a school involves a “respiritization” of the work process, the “raw materials” this process shapes, the moral context in which people work together, and the purposes for which they work — this, aside from the more obvious issues of familial, communal, or distinctly pedagogical institutions and politically libertarian forms of self-governance through which people are educated. Hence, the economic arena becomes a “school” — as it has always been, more for the worse than for the better — forming the moral character of the individual as well as providing major guidelines for his or her behavior.

This economic image of moral self-development is inseparable from the tools and machines that give it reality. Ecotechnologies, such as small-scale solar and wind-power devices, ecological agriculture, aquacultural techniques, energy-conserving shelters and devices, in short, that entire panoply of so-called appropriate technologies (a term I find difficult to accept because the word “appropriate” — for what? — is too morally ambiguous) should be seen more in terms of their ethical function than their operational efficiency. That we must bring the sun, wind, land, flora, fauna, and the building materials of our shelters into our lives in a new, ecologically oriented way if we are to develop an authentic respect for the natural world, its fecundity, and our dependence on it should be obvious. There is more to ecotechnology than its efficiency and renewability: our metabolism with nature will either be mutually interdependent such that our vision of ourselves will place us firmly within the natural world — not “above it” — or we will become its most destructive parasites.

Fundamental to that sense of interdependence is a re-visioning of nature as a moral basis for a new ecological ethics. This moral basis, so suspect to the modern scientistic mind, forms the stuff of social ecology and requires separate discussion. Here it suffices to point out that we will either re-vision nature as a domain of fecundity and development or, in the marketplace mentality, conceive of it as a rank jungle to be savagely exploited as we exploit each other in the buyer-seller relationship. A market economy and a moral economy thus stand counterposed to each other on many different levels: in their images of nature, technology, education, work, the production and distribution of the means of life, community, and “goods” as commodities or the embodiment of “goodness”.

Above all, they stand counterposed to each other in the way men and women envision themselves and the ideals they advance for human intercourse — indeed, whether these ideals advance no further than mere survival, with all its narrow technocratic and economistic implications, or rise to the level of life, with its broad ecological and ethical implications. On this score, a market economy and a moral economy raise fundamentally opposed notions of humanity’s self-realization and sense of purpose, concepts which define the very meaning of material premises on which our development eventually depends.



[1] Marx, like David Ricardo, played a major role in divesting economic theory of its moral content and surrounding it with a scientistic ambience even while he denounced capitalism for its brutality and egotism. Marx’s Capital is riddled with mixed messages that impute the all-presiding, seemingly « just » role to equivalence in the capitalist economy, particularly in the exchange of labor power for wages, while exhibiting a genuine revulsion for an economic system that reduces every human relationship to a cash nexus. Marx’s scorn for demands like « economic justice, » particularly a « just wage, » seems to be almost unknown to most Marxists these days, a scorn which would be laudable were it not the product of his own scientistic image of economics as the study of « the natural laws of capitalist production. » (Karl Marx, Capital). For further discussion of the nature of justice, see Chapter V of The Ecology of Freedom (Palo Alto: Cheshire Books; 1982).

[2] The notion of usufruct, the freedom of individuals to appropriate resources merely because they want to use them at a time when the « owner » has no need of them, is too complex to discuss here. For a more thorough and historical examination of the pronciple, see The Ecology of Freedom (Palo Alto: Cheshire Books, 1982), especially pp. 50, 51.

[3] ‘This function has often been sadly overlooked by many food cooperatives which, for a time, were administered by the « cooperators » who did the buying as well as the « staff » which organized the distribution of food. That the need for « efficiency » and the competitive stance in which many such cooperatives were placed with large commercial food emporia ultimately provided some justification for a « tightening up » of their operations goes without saying. What is troubling, however, is that the mentality which the seemingly more concerned administrators of the cooperatives exhibited often differed very little from that which we would expect to find in the manager of a supermarket. « Efficiency » was not merely placed before morality and the educative functions of a food cooperative; the latter simply dropped out of sight completely, as though a food cooperative was a cheaper depot for victuals rather than a cooperative in any sense of the term.


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