Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

We Are What Comes Next: Organizing Economic Democracy in the Bronx
by Casper-Futterman, Evan, Ph.D., Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, School of Graduate Studies, 2019, 358; 22622993
Abstract (Summary)

Economic democracy is a framework for the cooperative configuration of society, from daily interpersonal relational practice to institutional governance, to a reconstructed set of state-market relationships and political economy. As such an overarching framework, economic democracy has many movement mothers. It is politically pluralistic and even ambiguous.

This dissertation examines the work of the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative, founded by community organizers in the Bronx in response to ongoing frustration with the process and results of planning, housing, and economic development theory and practice in the Bronx dating back decades. Rather than pursuing a strategy of cooperative enterprise development, the group is pursuing a strategy of creating a community enterprise network. This focuses on the incubation of institutional infrastructure to shift the Bronx political and economically towards economic democracy. These projects envision capacities of community-led planning and policy development, high-road small business development, advanced manufacturing and digital fabrication, education and training, as well as civic action coordination and a fund for capitalizing, investing in, and sustaining the network of institutions in the borough.

Through semi-structured interviews, document analysis and participant observation, this dissertation seeks to understand how this group of people understand and define economic in this case, and secondly, how does this group of people propose to operationalize that vision of economic democracy in the Bronx?

Through a multi-year embedded research process, the dissertation sketches out several core themes for how economic democracy is being developed here as a framework for shared or collective ownership of economic assets and their democratic management. This working definition arises from, challenges, and is applicable but not confined to, urban community organizing and economic development practice. It both intersects with and parallels from global anti-capitalist development frameworks and movements. Core themes arise in regard to challenging assumptions and practices of community organizing, anchor institution procurement initiatives, cooperative enterprise development, scale and scalability, and the construction of durable urban governing regimes. In the final instance, rather than a cooperative enterprise development network, BCDI’s work is seen as attempting to construct an “equity regime” for economic democracy, drawing on the lessons and failures of the progressive cities movement.

This dissertation contributes to literatures of equity planning, community organizing, economic democracy, the challenges of and obstacles to constructing durable political and economic power for people of color in the United States, community-labor coalitions and alliances, and freedom struggle in the United States.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: DeFilippis, James
Commitee: Newman, Kathe, Lake, Bob, Gordon-Nembhard, Jessica
School: Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, School of Graduate Studies
Department: Planning and Public Policy
School Location: United States -- New Jersey
Source: DAI-A 81/7(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Public policy, Economics
Keywords: Cooperatives, Economic democracy, Organizing, Scale, Urban politics
Publication Number: 22622993
ISBN: 9781392392034
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