Philosophy

CoöperatePittsburgh is interested in articulating an anti-capitalist politics. Most injustice in the world including racism, incarceration, income inequality, gentrification, sexism, war, and environmental crises are not only linked to capitalism, but are its natural outcomes and are absolutely necessary to uphold it.

In the post-Cold War United States, it has been difficult to hold an anti-capitalist position. Most leftists/Democrats take for granted that socialism and communism have been proven failures. Whether or not this is true, this has led to a general resignation towards capitalism and a reformist politics. Our failure to imagine a viable alternative outside of these well-worn dichotomies has paralyzed the left in this country.

We propose that there is a third path, neither statist revolution nor reform, which has the potential to be much more successful because it is fundamentally incrementalist and individualized. This is the path of divergence. Divergent systems are legible in the here and now, but help us do the work of changing ourselves, our communities, and our environments radically, from within, to achieve a result we cannot yet name.

This unnamability is a crucial element of the project. Rather than proposing a model and failing to live up to it, we choose to make the road by walking, trusting our own joys, frustrations, and inspirations to show us the way. This is politics as an ontological process rather than an epistemological one. As we each resist the oppressions in our lives and seek new solutions based on principles of sharing, stewardship, justice, and joy, we will not only be building a world we want to live in, but become people capable of the trust, love, whimsy, commitment, and internal motivation necessary to maintain it.

To this end, there are many examples of collectives, cooperatives, and other resource sharing organizations seeking to break down our notions of egocentrism, private ownership, and fear-based hoarding and competition. As we practice the skills of genuine community building, consensus, speaking truth to power, and voluntary simplicity, we begin to wean ourselves from the capitalist system. However, capitalism is sneaky and we must be wary of the ways in which it has and will continue to attempt to co-opt these movements. Remember, we garden, bike, and do yoga (for example) in order to simplify our lives and develop autonomy and resilience, not to buy more and more niche products. These activities can be done for cheap or free; do not be sucked back into the machine!

Many of the kinds of projects we are talking about: food coops, credit unions, community land trusts, etc. have been included in what is now frequently called the New Economy Movement. We at CoöperatePittsburgh feel that this focus on the “economy” as the central feature of what we seek to change does not go far enough as it limits its focus to the purely transactional rather than the total liberation of all beings.

Fundamentally, we must embrace uncertainty, learn to trust ourselves and each other, and remember that even though this approach is incrementalist, it is revolutionary.

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