12/12 Vital Conversation featuring Charles Eisenstein: "How Might Occupy Support the New Economy?"

"The root of the word economy itself comes from the Greek meaning 'home,' the place we occupy," writes Occupy Cafe Steward Gary Horvitz in his short piece on "why we're doing this."  It should therefore come as no surprise that the subject of a New Economy is intimately bound up with our vision for the movement itself.  And it is also no coincidence that we have Gary to thank for inviting Charles Eisenstein to join us on Monday,12/12 for the eighth in our regular series of "Vital Conversations" Cafe Calls. Now that this call is complete, please review our "Collaborative Tablecloth" notes, and continue the conversation via the thread below.

Our intention is to produce the "raw material" for a declaration of what might be possible for the movement in this terrain.  The questions below provide our focus, and we invite you to offer our thoughts as we explore this further.  Meanwhile we have convened a small team to take what has emerged and craft it into a one or two page statement that can be presented to the wider movement in general, and in particular to people planning to participate in Occupy Wall Street's 12/18 "unconference" on the Vision for the movement going forward.  You can participate by joining the "Occupy 2.0: New Economy" group, where we are using this Forum thread as our "home base."   We are also planning a call for Wednesday, 12/14, time TBD.  If you wish to participate, post your availability here.


As the Occupy movement continues to evolve, it seems increasingly important that a positive, creative  focus emerge at the core of what we standing for.  We know that our current economic system is morally, and increasingly financially, bankrupt.  Over the past decades, much deep and innovative thinking has gone into imagining alternatives to the current failed approach, i.e. a "New Economy.".

Conversations about a New Economy have evolved naturally out of the focus on Wall Street that sparked this movement.  And they have been among the most active discussions here at OC.org as well.  Paul Bernstein spoke powerfully to this subject as a conversation starter for the 11/14 Cafe Call.  The New Economy dialogue has also flourished via the forum discussion "A new Economy--Exploring the Heart of Sustainability," started by Gary Horvitz on 10/26, which had 177 posts as of 12/11.  

We are now honored and delighted to by the opportunity to deepen this conversation with the help and inspiration of Charles Eisenstein.  Charles is the author of Sacred Economics and The Ascent of Humanity.  "No Demand Is Big Enough," his "Reality Sandwich" blog reflecting on the nascent occupation of Wall Street, should also be considered "required reading" for those who care about where this movement is heading.  An excerpt:

We protest not only at our exclusion from the American Dream; we protest at its bleakness. If it cannot include everyone on earth, every ecosystem and bioregion, every people and culture in its richness; if the wealth of one must be the debt of another; if it entails sweatshops and underclasses and fracking and all the rest of the ugliness our system has created, then we want none of it.

No one deserves to live in a world built upon the degradation of human beings, forests, waters, and the rest of our living planet. Speaking to our brethren on Wall Street, no one deserves to spend their lives playing with numbers while the world burns. Ultimately, we are protesting not only on behalf of the 99% left behind, but on behalf of the 1% as well. We have no enemies. We want everyone to wake up to the beauty of what we can create.

Inspired by Charles' insights and our sense of the current moment in the Occupy movement, we invite you to join us for this Vital Conversation.  We are framing our conversation around the following questions, which we invite you to respond to via this forum thread in advance of our call as well, in order to help "seed" our dialogue:

  • How might the Occupy movement powerfully contribute to the emergence of the New Economy?
  • Many organizations and initiatives are already engaged in bringing the New Economy into being.  How can we work together with them in taking the next steps?  What unique contribution can the Occupy movement make?
  • How might the act of “Occupying” be re-imagined such that it is modeling and bringing forth the New Economy in ways that have impact, are accessible to anyone who wants to participate and are widely embraced by all segments of our society?

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It's my wish the Occupy Movement becomes known for people who feel their life is something they consciously create, not something they feel just happens to them. The cornerstone of the movement will be people who are focused on doing their inner work to get clear on their personal purpose and begin the process of helping each other come into alignment with their uniqueness. The fuel of the 1% is compliance. The strength of the 99% is their callings manifested in compassionate community. Alternate economies and complementary currencies will evolve to enable a world where everyone becomes a hero in the healing of the planet. Having seen the spiritual bankruptcy of corporate life for a number of decades, the heart based soulful and authentic life is what most people are now craving for. We have such a wide range of great tools and technologies for people to utilize that we never had even 10 years ago, the movement can now begin the process of enabling each other in finding their unique path. The best way to deal with the old system is to abandon it and move toward an evolved and enlightened workplace. Namaste, Terry Musch


The trouble with starting our own party is it then just splits many who vote Democratic and then the Republicans take over congress etc. We need to create an organization or party instead that will support both independents or new party and progressive and moderate Democrats as we make the transition. Also it is an incredibly difficult and ambitious project to start a new party. One that the Green Party did a great job at and still found incredibly challenging and with limited results in what they/we could accomplish. Better to organize a really effective network and wing within the Democratic Party that will also run its own candidates.

Rob Wheeler


I do agree with you for the most part. Although a lifelong democrat, it infuriates me that democrats don't have it together to stand up and fight.  Why don't we have federal marshalls protecting Occupy as long as they are obeying the law and exercising first ammendment rights?  While it is undeniably correct that police abuse only enables the movement to grow and become more influential, I don't condone criminal violence in any fashion.  How do these officers sleep at night? 

Occupy Cafe Stewards, in the orginating post, says:

"After the call, we will convene a small team to take what has emerged and craft it into a one or two page statement that can be presented to the wider movement in general, and in particular to people planning to participate in Occupy Wall Street's 12/18 "unconference" on the Vision for the movement going forward."

In order for me to help craft a statement, I need to know more about the subsequent 12/18 "unconference" on the Vision for the movement. Please provide information and/or links to that.   Thanks.



Everyday we can practice LIVING the values inherent in a gift economy, simply by giving the best of ourselves, without expectation of anything in return. We trust that when we give in this way we ARE building and learning our way into the new economy (or new culture, new society, new way of relating).

The phrase "New Economy" has two problems. First, it doesn't say how it's different from the "Old Economy." And second, it's already been used, quite a bit, to mean a more Internet based, virtual, electronic version of capitalism.

I think "Solidarity Economy" would be much better. It says something specifically about the kind of economy we want - one based on solidarity instead of on competition and domination. And, this term is used by grassroots movements around the world whose values are similar to ours.

David Schecter

San Francisco, CA

Your comment here, David, brings up an interesting point about language that I have been considering for the last few days. In fact, I almost called an Open Space session about this topic on the Vital Conversations call today. Many times  words and phrases like "economy", "currency" ... even "love" are heavily laden with bias and meaning related to our current paradigm. I have questions about whether we should even continue to use words like "economy" at this point. If we could return the original meaning of this term - to care for, or manage the home - perhaps we could then have a different starting point. But can we disassociate the term sufficiently from the current worldview to allow for a true renaissance of this word?

Another example of this arose when I posted the title of a recent interview: “Relationship is the New Currency” on facebook. Someone wrote me back saying that currency was maybe not the best term because it always implies a transactional relationship. I am not sure whether this is true or not. Might it be possible to reclaim, or redefine currency as something separate from transaction, or no?

On the other hand, if we come up with new language to describe the new system we are together envisioning, how do we make sure that we are clear and that many, diverse people can understand our message? If we start inventing new language, how do we ensure that we're not using exclusionary jargon that many people do not relate to or cannot understand.

This is all a very intricate dance that we are immersed in. I have many more questions than answers ... and I think that it IS extremely important to chose our words carefully and to both instill the language of the old with new life and come up with new vocabulary to describe what we're up to ... but to do both of these things with a keen eye to inclusivity, accessibility and relevance to a broad audience. Do others have thoughts on this?

We had some discussion after the call yesterday where concerns were raised about the phrase too, David. Aerin's response also raises good concerns. What do you both think about the phrase "an economy that works for all" instead?

one of the realities of occupy wall street is that EVERYONE has an idea of how the new economy should function. Rather than try to synthesize all of these suggestion into one collaborative, consistent system, i think it might be better to create a common forum/space of PANARCHY, where local communities can dictate for themselves how they want to produce, distribute, and allocate locally manufactured goods. call it E-NARCHY or something, where bioregional groups can organize watershed councils, alliances, and continent congresses to set up green cities and restorative justice projects as THE economic activity of the new world.

why was one of the IWW long-term goals the abolition of the wage-system? because they realized that wherever and whenever their is money (a medium of exchange) it can ALWAYS be manipulated by those who control it. Eliminate the medium and there is nothing to manipulate. Humans can finally work for what is good, true, and beautiful, rather than destroying the planet and dissolving the social bonds in their communities for money. Education will emerge as critical, and the restructuring of the human social system will encompass a total redistribution of primacy, where political equality can be realized through economic equality---THE ABOLITION OF THE CLASS SYSTEM THROUGH THE ABOLITION OF THE WAGE SYSTEM. 

Power exists in the communes and the networks of workers councils who can potentially shut down the entire exploitative system that depends on the working class who sell their labor and lose the product in the process. 

Stage 1: Occupy

Stage 2: Realize that merely occupying an area is unsustainable without imported resources

Stage 3: Reinhabit ecologies and protect your bioregions as if your life depended on it (CAUSE IT DOES) http://ecospiritjournal.wordpress.com/2007/12/24/bioregions-the-con...

I'd like to live in a world where it is the norm to "Freecycle".  Imagine a world where EVERYONE gifts everything they do not use.  What a beautiful world it would be!!!!  I have been a Freecycle moderator for a long time.  Like Occupy, it's a labor of love.  It really helps those struggling in the community.  I can't say enough about it.  JUST GIFT IT!!!  You will feel good that you did something TODAY!! It's up to us to evangelize Occupy as much as we can.  Freecycle and Occupy really are a perfect match.  I can't think of anything else in existence that can exemplify a gift economy like Freecycle.  They are both world-wide, grass-roots, organic evolution of our communications.  Freecycle's tagline is "Changing the world, one gift at a time".  It's my hope Occupy will expand this message to the world.  For those of us that love Freecycle, we use the tagline "To Freecycle is to live".  Once you become a part of it, it's hard to imagine life without it!!

I am noticing that this conversation "wants" to be about what the "New Economy" might look like, rather than the idea that Occupy might catalyze it's emergence. At first glance, it seems like you have to answer the former question first. But actually I not only don't think that's true but also believe that any declaration of possibility that is too prescriptive will fail to inspire the full movement and to connect more broadly with the world at large in a way that causes the ranks of Occupiers to swell.

As usual speaking from a very different place on the subject of the "new economy", what will pull us back from the abyss is

(1) moving away from a model of continual growth and expansion.  David Eggleton had posted a wonderful piece some time ago that explains this very simply.  What will pull us back from the abyss around which we all stand is  moving toward a sustainable and thriveable balance.

(2) moving away from the fiat system of money manufactured through debt at the decision of the bankers ( the federal reserve system) to a new central bank model that is more transparent, more accountable not to politics but to serving the will of the people

(3) moving away from an economy based on consumer spending and debt to an ecnomy based on long term investment

(4)  moving as quickly as possible away from an oil based economy ( now an even more frantic post peak oil economy) to an economy and technology supported by affordable endlessly renewable energy

(5) de privatizing  and de centralizing


On my island we have the "new economy" spoken of in the latest call.we raise money for the uninsured, sit at the bedsides of the sick , care for one another through crisis, gibe away everything we don;t truly need to those who need it more grow fresh organic food for our food pantries  we work on conservation of our fisheries to keep them helathy and sustaianable, we work to keep access open for everyone, we are a major center of alternative medicine.  We live the way poor islands and rural communities have lived for generations..it is not keeping us from the abyss. where do doctors and medical care fit into the model everyone is talking about here at occupy; how do poor kids get equal access to top quality education? what is the alternative for my fisherman who can't afford the oil driven prices of operating their boats and purchsaing gear?  The cost of growing food is very high..organic food even more so ( more labor intensive)..local is not more affordable than the susbidized genetically engineered, chemically polluted food in most supermarkets.  It won;t be until we take those subsidies away and shift to reinvesting in food security and local agriculture.

To take control of our lives we need to radically change the systems which have us in their grip..we need to realize there is no escape from these systems..no setting up alternatives in the wildnerness that are unaffeceted by these systems..these systems have us in their grip..we helped create this by not paying attention for 30 years..we have to take it apart radically and fast.

As Rev Roberts said in his beautiful piece a few weeks ago erath and er people will cry for a very long time no matter what we do.  There is no spontaneous rescue from the edge of the abyss.  It will take two or three decades to turn things around.

Occupy is not going to make any meaningful contribution to a "new economy" if it doesn't begin to undertake this core work. 

 The first part of that work, the work Occupy can do best,  is awakening  all of us to the truth.awakening to the reality that we cannot escape the existing systems..we cannot disentangle our lives from what we have co-created over these past three decades.

Occupy should be doing that awakening..people still don't get what it means every time they buy bottled water..they don't get the economic reality of fossil fuel dependence,  they don't get or even know the cosnequence of the complete centralized privatiztion of the wolrd's food supply in the hands of a few corporations.  Occupy's work should be this awakening. 

 If Occupy had had any effect at all Black Friday would not have been the huge sucess it was..everyone was right back racking up debt on credit cards eagerly waiting for things to get back to business as usual. In fact none of Occupy's calls for actions to do with the economy have had any impact at all except leaving a few hundred thousand wishing they hadn't transferred their accounts to credit unions.



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