The Politics of Value: Three Movements to Change How We Think about the Economy 9780226446288

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The Politics of Value: Three Movements to Change How We Think about the Economy

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The Politics of Value

The Politics of Value Three Movements to Change How We Think about the Economy

jane l. collins

the university of chicago press

chicago and london

The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 60637 The University of Chicago Press, Ltd., London © 2017 by The University of Chicago All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact the University of Chicago Press, 1427 E. 60th St., Chicago, IL 60637. Published 2017. Printed in the United States of America 26  25  24  23  22  21  20  19  18  17  1  2  3  4  5 isbn-­13: 978-­0-­226-­44600-­4 (cloth) isbn-­13: 978-­0-­226-­44614-­1 (paper) isbn-­13: 978-­0-­226-­44628-­8 (e-­book) doi: 10.7208/chicago/9780226446288.001.0001 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Collins, Jane Lou, 1954– author. Title: The politics of value : three movements to change how we think about the economy / Jane L. Collins. Description: Chicago ; London : The University of Chicago Press, 2017. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016029262 | isbn 9780226446004 (cloth : alk. paper) | isbn 9780226446141 (pbk. : alk. paper) | isbn 9780226446288 (e-book) Subjects: LCSH: Economics—Sociological aspects. | Economics—Political aspects. | Value. | Value—Social aspects. | Social responsibility of business. | Social movements— United States—History—21st century. | Common good—Economic aspects. Classification: LCC hm548 .c644 2017 | ddc 303.3/72— dc23 LC record available at ♾ This paper meets the requirements of ansi/niso z39.48–­1992 (Permanence of Paper).

Contents Acknowledgments vii chapter 1. Introduction  1 chapter 2. Value and the Social Division of Labor  17 chapter 3. B  enefit Corporations: Reimagining Corporate Responsibility  34 chapter 4. Slow Money: The Value of Place  69 chapter 5. Value and the Public Sector  99 chapter 6. C  onclusion: Comparing the Three Revaluation Projects  136 Notes  161 Index  183



hree talented graduate student researchers helped collect the empirical material for this book. Working with them was a joy. H. Jacob (Jake) Carlson, Walker Kahn, and Jacki Hartley are excellent ethnographers, and their skills contributed immeasurably to the project. I enjoyed our sessions formulating questions, discussing interviews and observations, and batting around different theoretical framings. I appreciated their humor and good sense, their willingness to read a great deal of material to bring themselves up to speed on diverse topics, and the way each of them was always up for a new challenge. I thank the University of Wisconsin for a sabbatical leave and the National Science Foundation for research support, as well as the Rockefeller Center at Bellagio for a residential fellowship. The members of the brilliant and entertaining group of scholars and artists who were in my cohort at Bellagio were one of the first audiences for the project, and I appreciate their enthusiastic feedback. Susana Narotzky and her GRECO (Grassroots Economics) research group at the University of Barcelona (as well as Sharryn Kasmir and Tania Li, who were participants with me in a workshop there) helped me to refine my ideas at an early stage. Members of the GRECO group provided extremely useful reactions to my findings, and I learned so much from hearing them talk about their own studies of vernacular economy. Thanks to the many colleagues and students who have read or heard and commented on versions of the work in progress: Don Kalb, Don Nonini, Stacey Oliker, Gay Seidman, Gavin Smith, Ida Susser, and too many others to name in department seminars in Gender and Women’s Studies and Community and Environmental Sociology at UW-­Madison. I also thank participants in the 2011 American Ethnological Society conference



in San Juan, Puerto Rico, who provided comments on an early paper on the Madison protests. Finally, I appreciate the guidance and labors of Susan Bielstein at University of Chicago Press and the feedback from the three engaged and helpful manuscript reviewers.

Class struggle is pervasive in society. It is in the workers demanding higher wages, and in consumers boycotting a brand. It is in environmentalists stopping the construction of a new airport terminal and in women questioning the traditional division of labor. . . . It is in refugees crossing the borders, in landless peasants reclaiming land, and in indigenous people reclaiming dignity. . . . All these and many others are instances of non-­monetary value practices and correspondent social forces that . . . posit a limit to capital and its own specific value practices. massimo de angelis, The Beginning of History

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he head of the local association of manufacturers was adamant: “If you want to create wealth, you’ve got to mine it, make it, or grow it. If you aren’t making something, you’re not creating wealth, you’re just shuffling money around.” When the skeptical interviewer pointed to the significance of services in the state’s economy, he countered, “I guess I do include tourism. You could also throw in health care. If you look at total revenue, health care would actually be number two. I don’t think of it that way though. [Health care] is not a wealth creator, it’s a wealth redistributor.” Given that the service sector accounts for about 80 percent of the US economy and includes not just the extremely important health care industry but also such booming sectors as telecommunications and finance, the business leader’s statement was somewhat puzzling. Clearly these activities involve vast flows of resources and form part of gross domestic product (GDP), the official measure of national accounts. They employ millions of people, provide essential services, and stimulate demand in other sectors. To argue that they do not “create wealth” seems counterintuitive. Of course the businessman’s assessment was not universally shared. Presented with this quotation, a public school teacher quipped, “And so under that philosophy, plastic dog shit is more valuable than running a snowplow?” These individuals held fundamentally different views about what makes the economy work, creates social benefit, and is worthy of acknowledgment and remuneration. This book maps a set of cultural conversations about the kinds of investments and activities that contribute to the health and vitality of the economy—­in essence, about what creates economic value. It presents and analyzes three cases where citizens have acted to motivate reflection on what is needed to create a just, sustainable, and well-­functioning


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economic system. In one of these cases activists raise questions about the responsibilities of business, in a second, about the significance of local economy, and in a third, about the contributions of the public sector. This is not a story about the formulations of professional economists, except as these circulate through popular culture; it is concerned with vernacular discourses and practices—­the ways people conceptualize and enact their understandings of the economy and its workings in daily life. At first glance it seems that “value” is more or less a closed topic, because in recent years market frameworks have come to dominate most discussions of the economy. There appears to be widespread agreement about what economic value means and how to measure it. GDP growth, profitability, and share price are some of the accepted metrics of economic health, and unrestrained markets and fiscal responsibility are the ways to get there. The New York Times reports that opponents of Medicaid expansion in Louisiana say that increased coverage for 300,000 uninsured citizens would be too expensive.1 Citing increased costs, U.S. News and World Report asks, “Is a College Degree Still Worth It?”2 Stories like these suggest that questions about what contributes to the growth and stability of the economy have been put to rest by the inexorable logic of market transactions and cost-­benefit calculations. But sometimes the “settled principles” of market value become unsettled. Events unfold in a way that opens space for public discussion of big questions: Do corporations have responsibilities to workers and communities, or should they simply pursue the bottom line? Can we rely on global markets to circulate goods and services in ways that enrich local economies? Does the public sector contribute to the health of the economy, or does it waste scarce resources? In the wake of the financial meltdown of 2008, as in other periods of economic crisis, people began to enunciate alternative understandings of what makes the economy work. Sometimes their views were based on deeply held ideological commitments; sometimes they reflected a nostalgic embrace of the economic arrangements of the past; and in some instances they represented an innovative new position. This book explores three social movements whose “revaluation projects” challenge the notion that the market is the sole arbiter of value—­and offer alternatives.



Three Revaluation Projects Case 1. Value and Corporate Responsibility: Benefit Corporations The financial crisis of 2008 brought new scrutiny to US business. Some observers saw the crash as resulting from three decades of growth in, and deregulation of, the financial sector. These interlocked trends had allowed and encouraged Wall Street bankers and financial executives to create risky new investment instruments and to forgo traditional forms of capitalization. For nonfinancial corporations, the need to compete with these investment “opportunities” helped drive a shift from multifaceted economic goals to a single-­minded focus on share price as the measure of success. Emerging in the 1970s and growing in influence over the next three de­­cades, “shareholder value doctrine” suggests that managers should run companies for the sole purpose of increasing their stock price and returning profits to investors. Those who support this concept cite Milton Friedman’s adage that the “sole responsibility of business is to make profit.” Over the course of the 1980s and 1990s, corporate boards began to construe the “duty of care” and “duty of loyalty” that corporate charters require of managers to mean that they were legally bound to maximize profit and return it to shareholders—­any other approach would be considered malfeasance. There were dissenting voices, of course, mainly in academic departments and law schools. But some dissent took more tangible forms as well. In 2010 the state of Maryland passed the first law to charter a “benefit corporation” whose board is not only allowed but required to consider—­in addition to share price—­how the firm’s actions affect employees, customers, the community, and the environment. By 2016, thirty-­one states had instituted such statutes. Promoters of benefit corporations wanted to replace a market-­based assessment of business success built on a single metric with more complex, multivalent systems for judging a firm’s performance. Groups in civil society—­from labor unions to environmentalists—­advocated these new metrics as part of a different approach to corporate governance. The benefit corporation’s new framing of corporate responsibility raised questions about where corporate profits come from—­whether only capital and entrepreneurship contribute to earnings or whether workers, natural endowments, and place-­based infrastructure play a role. Activists asked what role corporations play in a broader societal division of labor, what responsibilities they have to their multiple stakeholders, and what


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government could and should require of corporations in return for chartering them, providing infrastructure, and giving them rights. Chapter 3 of this book tells the multisited story of how individuals and groups involved in the benefit corporation movement mobilized new understandings of economic value. Case 2. Value and Place: Slow Money As the US economy sagged after the 2008 crisis, facing slow employment growth, declining labor market participation, low consumer confidence, and increased poverty rates in many parts of the country, citizens began to intensify experiments with various forms of “alternative economy.” One of these projects—­a nonprofit network known as Slow Money—­focused on revitalizing local food economies through face-­to-­face investment. Nationwide in scope but with some of its most vibrant centers in Vermont, Maine, Texas, the Pacific Northwest, and Wisconsin, the movement called for “bringing money back down to earth,” arguing that the economy had become “too fast,” companies too big, and finance too complex.3 Slow Money’s principles urged radical shifts in how people invest, how they con­­ sume, and how economic resources circulate through communities. What distinguished Slow Money from other experiments in “local econ­ omy” was the attention it gave to alternative forms of investment and economic coordination rather than more familiar face-­to-­face forms of grassroots production and trade such as community-­supported agriculture, cooperatives, and farmers’ markets. Beginning in 2008, a loosely affiliated network of local groups spread across the United States, launching investment clubs and Slow Money funds. These groups negotiated with local officials to obtain public debt financing for local projects and for public bonds to buy farmland. They encouraged farmers, buyers, and processors to ramp up alternative supply chains, and they experimented with land trusts and conservancies. The Slow Money movement consciously sought to deepen and intensify local economic connections, building what economists call backward and forward linkages. It provided space for investors and business owners to incorporate “externalities” into economic decision making in order to value resources and labor, goods and services, at what activists perceived as their “true cost.” Slow Money’s projects offer the opportunity to observe civil society groups taking the lead in creating new economic relationships based on an alternative system of valuation. It shows participants grappling with ques­



tions such as How do “places” contribute to economic growth? How is globalization eroding place-­based assets? What kinds of value do social ar­­ ticulation and “embeddedness” create? Chapter 4 describes how concepts of economic value shape their efforts. Case 3. Value and the Public Sector In the spring of 2011, elected officials in the state of Wisconsin rescinded most collective bargaining rights for public sector workers and cut the state budget in ways that reduced public services. In the noisy months of protest and civic argument that followed, conservatives justified these actions by arguing that public employees “do not produce anything” and are a net drain on the public purse. Some media reports referred to public workers as the new “welfare queens.”4 State workers and their supporters responded that they produced engineers, doctors, healthy children, roads, bridges, garbage collection, and clean drinking water. They argued that the services they provided made everyone healthier, better educated, safer, and more productive.5 Throughout 2011, as a dozen other states passed laws similar to Wisconsin’s, this contest was replicated in statehouses, public meetings, and coffeehouses around the country. Legislators and the public argued over whether state workers were overpaid relative to their contribution to society and whether they deserved their relatively generous pensions, health benefits, and union rights. These questions about public workers thrust into view the long-­standing question of the proper role of the state in supporting the economy. If the era from the 1930s to the 1960s saw an unprecedented expansion of government’s role, from the 1970s onward the voices of small-­government conservatives gained sway in politics and policy. Proponents of the political rationality known as neoliberalism advocated cuts to government programs, both to reduce taxes and to open new spaces for private investment. On a philosophical level, they argued that large government was corrosive of liberty. On a practical level, they argued that deficits and debt had reached crisis proportions and that the only feasible response was to slash budgets. Rejecting Keynesian concepts about government spending as countercyclical stimulus and New Deal precepts about government investment in the economy, they called for a new era of austerity. Chapter 5 tells the story of the conflict over whether and how the public sector contributes to the economy as this debate unfolded during the 2011 Wisconsin protests and their aftermath. It explores the ways individuals


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and groups grappled with questions such as How does the state support economic growth? How should government contribute to the well-­being of citizens? What are the politics of budget cutting and austerity? It describes how groups opposing the loss of bargaining rights for state workers and cuts to state services in the 2011 budget tried to reframe the issue to make the public sector’s contribution to economic growth visible. The protests over changes in public sector work differ from the other two cases in being a defensive movement—­an attempt to hold on to an existing set of social arrangements—­rather than a proactive attempt to construct a new set of valuation practices. But like the other projects, they contested a simple market framework for assessing the utility of a realm of human activity and offered an alternative, and contestatory, vision of what matters for the economy.

What We Talk about When We Talk about Value “Value” is a word with innumerable meanings. In common speech, people tend to use it interchangeably with the broader term values— ­often as a synonym for worldview or cultural system. “Values” can encompass attributions of importance or worth based on rubrics ranging from philosophical to utilitarian, religious to aesthetic. It can signify what individuals, or society as a whole, “like,” or “prefer,” or what they hold to be in their “interests.” In the words of anthropologist Daniel Miller, in this sense the term is ubiquitous, “used by more or less everyone at more or less any time.”6 Economic value is not the same as value in this broader sense but refers to the way individuals and groups assess what contributes to the growth and health of the economy. This is always a discursive move, but it is a discourse about social life and materiality. To say something has economic value is to claim that it matters for the continuity of our way of life. In contrast, to say it embodies our “values” is to place it in the realm of the intangible and immeasurable. The movements described in this book all claim that our contemporary accounting practices fail to register activities they deem essential for social life and that this failure has material consequences. Their “revaluation projects” seek to remedy this failure, calling for the acknowledgment and measurement (and sometimes even pricing) of goods and services that fall outside the formal rubric of the economy.7 This call for acknowledgment may sound familiar, since it echoes other revaluation projects past and present. It is, for example, the gist of the



long-­standing feminist argument about housework and the unwaged labor of caring for children, the elderly, and the ill. To a striking degree in contemporary capitalist economies, this work remains unpaid, unmeasured, and thus largely invisible to policy and to all the official frameworks that assess economic transactions. Such a call for acknowledgment also goes to the heart of environmentalists’ concerns about negative externalities—­ the unintended consequences of economic activities such as air and water pollution, depletion of resources, and climate change. When these consequences are not measured, priced, or taken into account in some other way, they are likely to be absent from public deliberations. For many en­­ vironmentalists, making these effects visible is about finding a way to measure and value unpriced “assets” such as clean water and air, hydrologic cycles, soil fertility, and resource endowments. A third example of a conflict over acknowledgment is the way contemporary capitalist economies assume abstract buyers and sellers interacting in an equally abstract market. From the market’s perspective, it does not matter whether economic arrangements are local or global, or whether interactions are single-­stranded or dense and complex, despite the huge consequences for producers and consumers and their communities, who often respond by calls for market protection or subsidies. This blindness to the social embeddedness and location of market transactions is another significant “omission” from neo­­ classical or neoliberal economic frameworks. All the processes that render certain kinds of economic contributions invisible are linked to power, and all have racial, class, and gender dimensions. At critical moments, these kinds of “forgetting” become sites of struggle as advocates seek to forge new vocabularies and practices that take unperceived contributions into account. As these examples suggest, contests over value have material, social, and discursive dimensions. They are discursive in that they involve a strug­­ gle for recognition. But that struggle occurs within—­and sometimes seeks to change—­a societal division of labor. As economist Massimo De Angelis has written, “Value does not spring out of individuals isolated from the rest of society” but “articulates” the individual body to the social body.8 This is because a society’s valuation practices “recognize” and assign worth to each individual’s contributions (or fail to do so). They provide the framework for deciding what kinds of work will be done and how it will be or­­ganized, for managing relations among elements of the economic system, and for distributing the social product. As anthropologist David Graeber has argued, value is thus integral to the way societies reproduce


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themselves and change, guiding our collective efforts to make and remake our institutions.9 Value contests are also about material life—­and particularly about ma­ terial limits. When environmentalists argue that carbon emissions should be measured and taxed rather than be written off as externalities, they are calling for bringing that form of pollution into society’s value calculus. They point to the material consequences of continuing to “ignore” such emissions. When social movements resist austerity measures that slash public budgets, they base their claims not solely on social justice princi­ ples, but on concern that working classes and the unemployed will not be able to absorb the cuts without damage to their most basic capacities. In both these instances, activists contend that maximizing short-­term market return—­and failing to assign economic value to human and natural resources—­leads to depletion of a crucial asset. Echoing Austrian economist Karl Polanyi, they call for buttressing the “protective covering of cultural institutions” without which, that author argued, “human beings would perish from the effects of social exposure” and “nature will be reduced to its elements, neighborhoods and landscapes defiled, rivers polluted, and the power to produce food and raw materials destroyed.”10

Power, Voice, and Value In addition to tracking three distinct visions of value, this book asks a series of questions about the ability of the three movements to shape public discussion on what contributes to the health and sustainability of the economy. That is, in addition to exploring their vernacular economic discourse, including the notions of value they promote and those they oppose and the visions of the common good they put forward, it investigates their practices, including their mechanisms for circulating their ideas, the institutions and organizations they create, and the alliances they form. And it attempts to locate the movements in a broader social and historical context, asking how legacies of inequality shape their opportunities and strategies and how their understandings of value are connected to broader frameworks such as neoliberal political rationality, feminist and environmental sustainability discourses, and corporate governance doctrines. In the end, it assesses to what degree and in what ways each movement has been effective in establishing a claim to speak for the common good and in prompting a change in valuation practices.



In asking these questions about the three movements, the book documents their attempts to open public deliberation around issues that proponents of dominant free market rationality had declared closed. In each case, movement activists confronted a distinct form of “antipolitics” designed to thwart their efforts to initiate discussion. In the case of benefit corporations, antipolitics took the form of shareholder value doctrine; in the case of Slow Money, neoliberal globalization frameworks; and in the case of the public sector, austerity discourse. Antipolitics works by designating an issue as either too technical or too private for public debate.11 Domestic violence, for example, was considered a “private” matter until second-­wave feminists succeeded in having it recognized as a criminal act of violence. In the 1960s, southern business owners defied racial integra­ tion on the grounds that their stores were private enterprises. In the twenty­first century, those who oppose taking action to remediate climate change frequently assert that the scientific issues are not resolved—­that they are highly technical and we simply don’t know enough. In each of these cases, proponents of the status quo have succeeded—­at least for a time—­in cor­­ doning off the issues from public debate. But cordoned-­off areas are zones of struggle, and at times social movements succeed in moving the line. Nancy Fraser has written, “Under special circumstances, hard to specify theoretically, processes of depoliticization are disrupted. At that point dominant classifications of needs as ‘economic’ or ‘domestic’—­as opposed to political—­come to lose their ‘self-­ evidence,’ and alternative, oppositional, and politicized interpretations emerge in their stead.”12 Through their perseverance, each of the groups described in this book succeeded in opening public debate about their alternative value claims. They initiated a conversation about what matters to a well-­functioning economy and gained at least momentary visibility for understandings of value that had been excluded from the ledger books and ruled out of court in the public domain. The achievements of each of these movements were partly a result of their discursive, organizational, legal, and technical resources and strat­egies. But the ability to make headway—­to be heard and to enact change—­also depended on the power relations within which they operated. As Mark Blyth has written, “sequence is everything.”13 Success is often contingent on the historical moment and the openings for action. But much also depends on the social location of the agents. Antipolitics is not the only way those in power shape activists’ ability to stimulate public discussions of value. As

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individuals in these movements worked together to enact, reproduce, and transform economic practices, their bodies and citizenship mattered. Contemporary and historical race, class, and gender inequalities shaped both their critiques of the market and their chances to have their voices heard and to make changes. Their capacity to circulate their alternative valuations and to invoke notions of the common good and moral economy relied on their ability to position themselves in the public sphere as worthy individuals and reliable speakers. Nancy Fraser has pointed out that Jürgen Habermas’s concept of the public sphere, imagined as an arena for the unrestricted rational discussion of public matters, was actually constituted by much exclusion. She suggests that, far from being open to everyone, it was the training ground and power base for “a stratum of bourgeois men who were coming to see themselves as a ‘universal class.’ Its networks, practices, and idioms excluded women and anyone not of the proper class background.” And its definition of “public matters” excluded issues deemed private, from women’s education to family law.14 In a similar way, the ability of the movements in this book to intervene in public discussion depended on the social position of their members. At a most basic level, what activists must possess to participate in such conversations is citizenship, in the sense of membership in the polity. In the United States, many rights of citizenship have been closely bound to economic roles—­fully realized citizenship goes hand in hand with being “economically valuable.”15 In her 2008 Genealogies of Citizenship, sociol­ ogist Margaret Somers argues that market fundamentalism has shifted our concept of citizenship from an unconditional and permanent state to a con­­ tingent accomplishment earned by useful labor or personal assets. Somers writes: In a noncontractual relationship, as long as a citizen meets the required obligations, she is presumed an equal member of equal worth regardless of the market value attached to her citizenly responsibilities. But when citizenship has been contractualized, failing to provide a good or service of equivalent market value in exchange for what is now the privilege of citizenship, results in a reduction in the moral worth of the citizen. . . . Based on this Hobbesian-­inflected conception of the social contract, people with nothing to offer or exchange in the way of useful labor or personal assets—­the poor, the very young, the infirm, the severely disabled—­have no rights because they have no worth; they be­­ come rightless and excluded.16



Focusing on the period from the 1970s to the 2000s—­when neoliberal political rationality achieved dominance—­Somers claims that applying such market metrics to the civic sphere shifted “the meaning of citizenship from that of shared fate among equals to that of conditional privilege.” A great deal of historical research has shown that US citizenship has always had a contractual element, first premised on property ownership and later on wage earning. This scholarship reveals how profoundly these contracts were always shaped by what historian Rogers Smith has called an “inegalitarian ascriptive tradition” of race, gender, and class exclusion.17 Nevertheless, Somers provides strong evidence that the dominance of neoliberal political rationality in the late twentieth century marked an intensification of the contractual “dimension” of citizenship rights. Because value is about the necessary interrelation among elements of an economic system and about the distribution of the social product, it is always about power. As activists struggle to gain recognition for unmeasured work, to demand remediation of unregistered harms, or to ensure social protections that allow for the reproduction of families and society as a whole, they challenge the interests of those who would prefer not to pay those costs. Those powerful interests deploy various forms of antipolitics to mark such topics as incontestable, arguing that they are best left to “experts” who understand state budgets, cost-­benefit analysis, financial markets, and Wall Street transactions. At the same time, as the chapters that follow will show, the contemporary or historical disadvantages activists have experienced—­particularly those inflicted by inequalities of race and gender— ­can weigh heavily on their legitimacy as public actors, shaping public perceptions of the validity of their judgments and the worthiness of their proposals.

Methods: Studying Value in Everyday Life Studying value is not like studying factory work or the deliberations of neighborhood associations. The proper site for the research is not immediately clear, nor is it obvious how to “observe” or even start a conversation about such a seemingly esoteric topic. And yet judgments about economic value are part of most day-­to-­day activities. Some of the research settings for this project included public budget hearings, business certification roundtables, investment clubs, state legislative deliberations, protests, and economic development workshops.


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Case selection was based on two principles. First, it drew on the premise that social processes are most visible at moments of contention.18 In these moments, social actors articulate and defend, reflect on, and negotiate notions of value in ways they do not when conflict is absent. For this reason, the research focused on social movements actively involved in contesting dominant notions of economic value. Second, to capture variability in the nature of their critique, I chose cases that tackled dominant valuation practices in different “domains” of American society. Benefit corporation advocates challenged contemporary market practices; Slow Money proponents sought to strengthen aspects of civil society; and those who protested the weakening of the public sector highlighted the state’s role in supporting the economy. In conducting the interviews and observations that form the basis for this book, I was assisted by a research team of three sociology graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-­Madison: H. Jacob (Jake) Carlson, Walker Kahn, and Jacki Hartley. For each case, members of the research team interviewed activists as well as people who had outspokenly expressed opposing views. In other words, we sought out individuals who had emerged as “thought leaders” within their communities. In each instance we also attended events where the “revaluation projects” were under discussion, including a variety of rallies, public hearings, meetings, workshops, and forums. For the benefit corporation case, we drew on interviews with lawyers who drafted the original legislation, staff members of organizations promoting and supporting the new corporate form and providing certification mechanisms, legislators who passed (or opposed) the new laws, and managers of large and small firms incorporated under the new charter. These conversations took place in New York, Philadelphia, Annapolis, Chicago, and other cities; we also supplemented data collected in person with telephone interviews with individuals across the country. For the Slow Money case, we began by speaking with activists in Wisconsin but later expanded the network to include actors in other locations. The 2014 annual meeting of Slow Money groups in Louisville, Kentucky, provided an opportunity to observe the movement’s “national” face as well as to broaden the group of people we were able to interview. For the public sector case we relied mainly on observations and interviews with labor and community activists (and their opponents) in the state of Wisconsin, but we followed at a distance similar processes unfolding across the country. For each case, we conducted extensive media and archival research



to reconstruct the context and timeline of events. The research officially took place between August 2013 and August 2015, although the public sector case incorporates observations conducted during the 2011 protests. To organize and analyze the ethnographic materials we gathered for each case, we relied on the concept of the “assemblage,” roughly translated from the French agencement. Assemblages are sets of material, organizational, technological, and discursive resources and relationships that emerge in politically or morally charged domains.19 They are generally understood to be relational (constituted by the meaningful connections between elements rather than defined by the essence of any of them) and productive (that is, they build the world and do not simply represent it).20 French philosopher Gilles Deleuze defined an assemblage as an “emergent unity” of heterogeneous components structured by a desire.21 Most authors have understood this desire— ­or purpose—­to be the will to govern, implying that it emanates from an authority. Tania Li calls this desire “the will to improve,” which she defines as “the attempt to direct conduct and intervene in social processes to produce desired outcomes and avert undesired ones.”22 But countermovements also have such desires, and they too create and participate in projects to intervene in social processes. Therefore it should be possible, in some circumstances, to speak of “contestatory assemblages.” Michel Callon, who pioneered the use of the concept of assemblage in economic sociology, has argued that researchers interested in the economy ought to focus not on what the economy is but on what economics does. He suggests that economics frames the world to make it calculable; it creates “calculative agencies” that use these framings.23 Because value contests are simultaneously material, social, and discursive, they need to be studied in a way that captures all three dimensions. In each of the conflicts analyzed here, a group seeking change criticized an existing set of valuation practices and to some extent enacted an alternative set. To differing degrees, all the projects moved beyond the realm of discourse into the construction of new daily habits, laws, rules, institutions, networks, and tools. They developed new visions of value, but also new “calculative agencies” that included claims-­making practices, forms of expertise, and certification procedures. It is in this sense that they are “contestatory assemblages” that talk back to dominant economic understandings. While these visions and calculative agencies are in a sense new, they were also grounded in the past, and this research sought to capture some of that history. As activists struggled against a narrowing of business responsibilities, the declining vibrancy of local communities, or a shrinking


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state, their radical visions for the future sometimes seemed like a rerun of a 1950s movie—­the alternatives imagined entailed a well-­functioning welfare state, responsible corporations, and prosperous, close-­knit communities. As they developed frameworks for explaining how the economy works, what makes it thrive, and what gives it stability, their claims were often patterned on what William H. Sewell Jr. has called nostalgia for “what they regard as a past historical condition.”24 Cultural critic Raymond Williams has argued that culture is always composed of relationships between “emergent,” “dominant,” and “residual” ideas. This is not a simple trajectory but a way to understand the dynamic and uneven quality of thought at any particular time. For Williams, residual ideas that may have been formed in the past remain active and effective in the present. For this reason, each of the case study chapters includes some historical background to clarify the evolution (and recursiveness) of thinking about how the corporation, local communities, and the state are involved in a vibrant economy. Understanding this history helps explain not only where some now-­dominant concepts originated, but also the origins (and appeal) of some of the nostalgic, or backward-­ looking, formulations that activists invoke25 as they seek to imagine and create new valuation practices. Contestatory assemblages are never pure contestation—­they are always shaped by engagement with dominant ideas. Our ethnographic interviews tapped into conversations that preceded the encounter and would continue after it. Participants in these projects had rehearsed the stories they told and the opinions they shared in conversations with friends and family members or colleagues and had honed their views in debates with some of these same people. In formulating their responses, they drew on reports from the news media, speeches they had heard in the union hall or the Chamber of Commerce, teaching from their religious leaders, lessons learned in high school history class, or any of the myriad other ways that messages about economic value circulate in US culture. Thus the accounts that follow track not just conversations with activists and their opponents, but also ideas about value circulated in media and political venues. Using these “public sphere” sources helped map the cultural landscape within which the disputes we doc­­ ument take place—­the larger conversations about shareholder value, the articulation of local economies, and the role of the state. The concept of assemblage allowed us to study each movement on its own terms and to appreciate the different critiques and approaches, but the strategic selection of cases allowed for a broader comparative and



political-­economic analysis. It allowed investigation of how the critiques of value were connected to the division of labor among state, market, and civil society. By comparing social movements pursuing revaluation projects across these three spheres, it was possible to document the problems, across the social spectrum, caused by failures to acknowledge and measure certain kinds of contributions to societal well-­being. Examining the cases in relation to one another and asking how they are connected is an approach that sociologist Philip McMichael has called “incorporated comparison.” Incorporated comparison differs from conventional comparison in considering its objects of inquiry to be historically linked. McMichael argues that scholars who use conventional comparison remove cases from their time-­space location and juxtapose them according to an experimental logic. In contrast, incorporated comparison allows the researcher to consider context and to understand cases as “relational parts of a singular (historically forming) phenomenon . . . [in which] the instances and the combined process are not independent of one another, and cannot be adequately understood outside of the historical relations through which they form.”26 Reading the three cases together offers a more complex picture of the political moment in which the three revaluation projects arose. Just as communities in different geographic locations each perceive distinct aspects of global climate change—­rising sea levels, drought, an increasing number and intensity of storms—­movement actors in these three cases perceived, and responded to, different dimensions of a larger societal shift. Because each group targeted concepts of economic value in a distinct sphere, taken together they provide insight into public response to the broader changes that neoliberal policies have worked in the division of labor between state, market, and civil society since the 1970s. This suggests that their efforts to promote a stronger state role in the economy, greater corporate responsibility, and more viable local economies were not isolated movements. Rather, they were pieces of a larger struggle to reclaim or invent a different overall configuration of societal forces—­ something like what John Kenneth Galbraith called “a system of countervailing powers.”27 * * * The movements described and analyzed in this book are not the most radical of their time. They do not seek to end capitalism as we know it or


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overthrow the state. In fact, they propose reforms that are in large part premised on a nostalgic view of the capitalism of the past. Neither are they the most successful social movements of their era—­their prospects for having a lasting impact are uncertain. But analyzing them together through the lens of economic value offers an unusual vantage point on the dilemmas of twenty-­first-­century capitalism. Exploring each movement on its own terms reveals what its activists perceive to be a gaping hole in our social fabric—­a set of arrangements that fail to renew the conditions necessary for the economy’s (and society’s) continued functioning. Taken together, the three cases reveal the effects of a decades-­long shift in the societal division of labor that has occurred across the domains of market, state, and civil society. This shift has altered the ways our institutions distribute risks and rewards and make provision for the future. It would certainly be possible to analyze these cases without using the language of value—­to simply report their efforts to transform business accountability, institute local investment practices, and defend state services as the “next new idea.” But examining them through this specialized lens allows us to see how each group’s efforts tackle a small element of a larger problem. It locates their projects within the broader historical forces that have created the conditions they address. Applying the lens of value is useful in another way as well. Over time, value systems and the social relations that sustain them become naturalized through the very accounting practices they authorize. We come to take for granted their logic and the insolvencies they create. We rely on the vocabularies and frameworks they offer. Using the language of value allows us to step outside the terms that proponents of market economy have created. It not only provides a set of theoretical tools to analyze contemporary market relations, it offers a novel vocabulary with which to criticize existing arrangements and imagine a space for alternatives.28

chapter two

Value and the Social Division of Labor Deconstructing and Reconstructing a Labor Theory of Value


o do more than simply record a society’s preferences and commitments, a theory of value needs to incorporate material, social, and ideological dimensions. It needs to recognize that while value is ultimately discursive, it registers, critiques, and sometimes seeks to reconfigure social and material arrangements. Dictionary definitions hint at this more complex meaning. Webster’s says value can mean “a fair return.” Fair in relation to what? What are the relations and equivalencies involved? Who gets to say what counts as fair? Webster’s also suggests “relative worth, utility, or importance.” The term relative raises the question, Compared with what? There is always something lurking outside the definition implying that value is not inherent but relational, always determined within a larger societal frame.1 There is no shortage of scholars who have investigated value as a cultural and discursive construct. Sociologist Luc Boltanski and economist Laurent Thévenot, in their comprehensive volume On Justification: Econ­ omies of Worth, scoured business textbooks to identify six Western frameworks for reasoning about value and studied how individuals navigate and negotiate these different rubrics. Sociologist David Stark, in The Sense of Dissonance: Accounts of Worth in Economic Life, investigated how workers in three business organizations deployed concepts of value in their daily interactions. Anthropologists have explored the diverse ways value structures exchange across different cultural settings, from Wall Street to the Trobriand Islands. In all these instances, the scholars in question conceptualize value as primarily ideational and discursive.2


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The main contender for a theory of value that takes materiality into account is, of course, free market fundamentalism. The dominant view in the early twenty-­first century is that, left to their own devices, markets correctly compute value based on supply, demand, desirability, production costs, and other factors—­and that correct computation is reflected in price. Yet every economist can cite examples of goods or services that are “underpriced” or “overpriced.” Veblen goods, for example, are commodities for which the demand is proportional to their high price, in apparent contradiction to the law of demand. And of course there are those presumably valuable goods and services that have no price at all: childcare and elder care performed at home, clean water and air. The limits of value as price were called into question soon after the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill, for example, when observers noted that the spill itself, by generating massive expenditures on cleanup, contributed to gross domestic product, whereas most conservation efforts do not. A contending materialist approach is the labor theory of value—­a line of thought that is central to Marxism but predates it. This theory ties value to the labor content of goods and services and thereby to the accumulation processes of the economy as a whole. For at least two decades, critics—­including feminist theorists, environmentalists, postmodernists, and proponents of contending versions of “scientific Marxism”—­have chal­lenged the labor theory of value, arguing at various times that it was reductionist, determinist, unnecessary to explain exploitation or capital accumulation, and blind to the environment, self-­provisioning labor, and the providing of care. Since the turn of the millennium, however, a growing number of scholars have sought to rescue elements of a labor theory of value from history’s dustbin, offering a reinterpretation of Marx’s original formulation that eschews reductionism and determinism and broadens its scope to include nonmonetized domains. In some instances this work has gone hand in hand with a rediscovery of the work of Karl Polanyi, using his concept of economic embeddedness to question narrow market frameworks for understanding value and to reveal the dependence of market transactions on the domestic sphere and the natural world. The common thread of these two approaches is their recognition that value is not just a cultural perception but also a way of thinking and talking about materiality and limits. Why did scholars abandon a labor theory of value only to revive it two decades later? As late as the mid-­1980s, the printing presses of the left were still churning out treatises on Marx’s theory. Although economist

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Paul Sweezy believed he had effectively debunked the idea that labor gave goods value in the 1940s, and though others lost interest in the issue as the New Left fell into disarray in the 1960s,3 what seemed the final blows to the theory came in the 1970s and 1980s. First, economist Ian Steedman proclaimed that Piero Sraffa’s work had shown the labor theory of value to be an unnecessary adornment on Marx’s account of capitalism.4 Then the contentious “domestic labor debates” that racked left feminism in the 1960s took a radical turn, with one side abandoning the quest to make the labor theory of value encompass housework and, instead, rejecting it altogether. Finally, the sociologist James O’Connor started a small journal called Capitalism: Nature: Socialism in which he criticized the theory for ignoring the contribution from nature. And then . . . almost radio silence. By the 1990s these convergent critiques seem to have wiped the labor the­­ ory of value off the map. So what was the approach to value that was being abandoned? For at least three centuries, Western philosophers and economists sought to define the mysterious quality that allows us to consider goods and services commensurate—­to say that two things very different in nature are equivalent. This ability is what makes market transactions possible and monetary systems necessary, but it ultimately has even broader implications. It also makes it possible to think about options not taken—­what we now call opportunity costs; to estimate the worth of things that lie outside the market; to allocate collective resources to alternative ends; and to formulate plans for the economies of regions, states, and nations. Within market economy it is common to think about value as price. Yet most economists caution that economic value is distinct from both price and market value. Value is linked to price through the mechanism of exchange, but price is only a data point in a complex set of relations among desirability, scarcity, costs of production, and other factors. Value is, in Marx’s words, “a third thing” that is apart from the goods or services being exchanged. If one is exchanging corn for iron, in his classic example, then “the two things must therefore be equal to a third, which in itself is neither the one nor the other.”5 For classical political economists, the “third thing” that gave entities their worth and made them exchangeable was labor. In formulating a “labor theory of value,” they drew on seventeenth-­century philosopher John Locke’s expositions on the subject. Locke wrote, “’tis labor indeed that puts the difference of value on everything” and went on to offer as proof, “Let any one consider, what the difference is between an Acre of Land


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planted with Tobacco, or Sugar, sown with Wheat or Barley; and an Acre of the same Land lying in common, without any Husbandry upon it, and he will find, that the improvement of labour makes the far greater part of the value.”6 Nearly a century later, Adam Smith made the labor theory of value a cornerstone of his political economic framework. He argued, “The real price of everything . . . is the toil and trouble of acquiring it.” He saw the value of an object not as simply the congealed labor expended in the past but as the labor that would be required for the purchaser to manufacture it in the present. If an item had lost its desirability or usefulness, it would be without value no matter how many hours of hard labor had been invested in its making. If a new technology allowed it to be made in a simpler fashion, its value would reflect the labor required by the new production process, even if its makers used the old methods. Thus Smith’s labor theory of value was not premised on an essentialist notion of labor content but con­­ sidered labor investments in relation to time, utility, and price. Nearly a century after Smith, Karl Marx further developed the labor theory of value as an element of his analysis of capitalist market economy. Like Smith, Marx explored the relation between the labor invested in a commodity and its price; going beyond Smith, he showed how the difference between the value of wages paid to workers and the value of the goods they produced generated the surplus value that linked the accumulation of capital to workers’ exploitation. Most scholars who have studied Marx have argued that his theory of value was designed to answer one of two questions: his theory was either a proof of exploitation or an explanation of prices. But other scholars have suggested that Marx’s goal was to explain something larger. In the words of economist Diane Elson, he was “seeking an understanding of why labour takes the forms it does, and what the political consequences are.”7 The feminist critique of the labor theory of value, which peaked in the late 1970s, asserted that it failed to account for many forms of social production—­such as housework and childcare—­that were outside the wage relationship but essential to capitalist society. An early cohort of second-­ wave feminist scholars called for expanded attention to what Engels called “the production of human beings themselves.”8 How, they asked, could one maintain a labor theory of value in which the labor of half the world lay “outside” value?9 For over a decade, participants in the “domestic labor debates” worked to incorporate household labor into the Marxian equation. Maybe patri-

value and the social division of labor


archy was a separate system that extracted value from women in domestic settings and transferred it to the capitalist system with which it was articulated. Maybe housework created surplus value that was extracted through the male wage. Perhaps then it was functional for capital because it allowed the male wage to be lower than it would be otherwise. Or perhaps domestic labor was a form of petty commodity production whose “product” was workers themselves.10 According to sociologist Barbara Bradby, “These theories made everything functional to the reproduction of the value form.”11 Or, as Maxine Molyneux expressed it, Housework is . . . variously referred to as “necessary,” or “essential” to capitalism; for its part, capitalism is sometimes seen as having “created” housework, and in some formulations even “depends” on it for survival. . . . There is no recognition that, however beneficial the domestic sphere might be in a given conjuncture, it is undergoing changes as a result of capitalism’s expansion or of the class struggle, and might also generate contradictory effects for capital.12

Eventually many protagonists in this debate became frustrated with inventing possible auxiliary functions for domestic labor or stymied by their inability to explain the many and varied forms it took across time and place. Finding themselves disillusioned with the entire endeavor (and facing the intellectual paradigm shift that became known as poststructuralism), they more or less threw in the towel and went home. Similarly, the 1970s and 1980s saw an outpouring of work that sought to broaden the labor theory of value to include consideration of natural resources and environmental processes. As early as 1971, the libertarian socialist Murray Bookchin began to publish works challenging the left to think about ecological limits. In 1974, sociologist Aiden Foster-­Carter wrote that those who said environmental destruction had nothing to do with Marxism “merely insure that what they choose to call Marxism will have nothing to do with what happens in the world.”13 But the first attempts to incorporate environmental consciousness into a theory of value came when James O’Connor began publishing the journal Capitalism:  Na­­ ture: Socialism in 1988. Seeking to understand how capital created barriers to its own expansion by destroying its “conditions of production,” O’Connor posited a second, ecological contradiction of capitalism. He argued that, as capital solves its “overproduction” or “realization” crises by seeking new ways to expand markets and consumption, it creates another problem. These

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capitalist growth strategies lead to destruction of the ozone layer, salinization of water tables, toxic wastes, soil erosion, and climate change. Just as capitalist classes confront the first contradiction of capitalism—­the reality that the greater the rate of surplus value extraction (exploitation), the greater the difficulty of realizing surplus value in the market (finding sufficient consumer demand)— ­O’Connor argued that the faster the despoliation of nature, the more difficult it becomes to find sufficient and appropriate conditions of production (natural resources and processes, as well as elements of the built environment). He predicted that “the combination of crisis-­stricken capitals externalizing more costs, the reckless use of technology and nature for value realization in the sphere of circulation, and the like, must sooner or later lead to a ‘rebellion of nature,’ i.e., powerful social movements demanding an end to ecological exploitation.”14 Despite the seriousness of these challenges, some scholars were reluctant to abandon a labor theory of value altogether. Anthropologist Terence Turner continued tinkering with it through the 1980s, seeking ways to make its insights applicable to “noncapitalist” societies. In 2008 he published a paper that drew heavily on Diane Elson’s work. In this paper he argued that Marx had been critical of classical political economists’ belief that value was an intrinsic quality of goods that could be measured by their labor content and suggested that Marx saw value as a “relational aspect of a structure of interdependent productive activities.” Marx insists that it is impossible to define the value of any product or commodity by itself on the basis of the quantity of labor used in its production, but only in terms of its relation with other products, where the amounts of productive labor embodied in each product appear as distinct quantitative proportions of a common qualitative substance shared by both products.15

In making this argument, Turner, like Diane Elson, drew heavily on Marx’s often-­quoted 1868 letter to Ludwig Kugelmann in which he claimed that, by revealing inner connections, value offers a way to understand the “necessity of the distribution of social labor.” Marx wrote: The masses of products corresponding to the different needs require different and quantitatively determined masses of the total labor of society. That this necessity of the distribution of social labor in definite proportions cannot possibly be done away with by a particular form of social production, but can only change the mode of its appearance, is self-­evident. No natural laws can be done

value and the social division of labor


away with. What can change in historically different circumstances is only the form in which these laws assert themselves.16

In 2001 anthropologist David Graeber took up Turner’s challenge to develop a version of the theory of value that worked cross-­culturally. His Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams developed Turner’s notion that value was about the significance of social entities and actions for “imaginary totalities.” Any action or process, Graeber contended, “only becomes meaningful . . . by being integrated into some larger system of action.”17 In 2007 Massimo De Angelis, in The Beginning of History: Value Struggles and Global Capital, continued this line of argument: “It is by pursuing value that we reproduce wholes, that is webs of co-­production. Thus the study of how we reproduce the capitalist mode of production . . . is a study of how we pursue the values that are characteristic of it. The politics of alternatives is ultimately a politics of value.”18 For many scholars this interpretation offered a way to understand the labor theory of value that broke sharply with reductionist and determinist traditions and opened the door to feminist and environmentalist critiques and concerns. It offered what Michel De Vroey once called “a social paradigm” for the study of value relations.19 Geographer George Henderson has suggested that, understood in this way, the problem of value becomes a domain for critiquing an existing societal division of labor and its attendant division of surplus. Where capitalism would rudely heap everything on the market, from bibles to whiskey, value would coolly reveal the equivalences holding the chaotic jumble together. . . . But this same value, in Marx’s rendering, also would explain the exact opposite, the inequivalences holding things together: the inequality that miraculously emerges from equality, as when profit seems to magically appear from fair-­market exchange, like gold from straw. . . . By focusing on labor time and the difference between labor and labor power . . . [Marx asserted] the core insolvency of the immense collection.20

What these new approaches had in common was the contention that economic value was about commensurability, an understanding that value is more than price but is about “a third thing.” That third thing encapsulates the labor invested in a good or service, whether waged or not. It also includes the natural resources and material assets that went into its creation,


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as well as unmeasurable (or at least unmeasured) forms of sociality that contribute to a societal division of labor. In this sense, value is about defining the material limits of a social-­natural system— ­determining the significance of an entity or a practice for the long-­term functioning and sustainability of that system. This view exposes how power operates in market fundamentalism’s selective vision. Prices are set within markets that are embedded in the conventions of an era. If those in power decide that environmental pollution is an externality, then the costs associated with it are not included in the price but are left for the state to remediate or for citizens to bear as pollution-­related illnesses. They do not go away altogether. In a similar way, the costs of child and elder care performed by family members in the home remain off the books, but these costs are no less real because no price is attached to them. The approach I take in this book understands value as a discourse for exploring the necessary interrelations among elements of any economic system, whether recognized by the social conventions of pricing or obscured through power’s sleight of hand. It presents conflicts over value as projects to bring recognition to necessary elements of the economy that were formerly obscured, or to “recalibrate” the system to give greater weight to some key aspect.

Theories of   Value and Economic Embeddedness Those who are even a little acquainted with the work of Karl Polanyi may detect echoes of his writings in these more recent versions of the theory of value. Polanyi developed his concept of economic embeddedness to contest the market ideology that emerged in the 1870s and grew prevalent by the mid-­twentieth century—­the belief that the market was separate from the rest of society and a privileged sphere of social interaction. He worried that the growing dominance of a market calculus would lead to the impoverishment of the working classes and plundering of the environment. His insistence that the economy was organized through and inseparable from social, political, and religious relationships, and his warnings about the cost of ignoring that fact, resonate with the work of many latter-­ day value theorists. The Austrian scholar, whose work encompassed anthropology, sociology, and economic history, began his career during the profound upheaval of World War I, followed by the Great Depression and the rise of fas-

value and the social division of labor


cism in Europe. Unlike his Austrian contemporaries Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, who developed the view that market freedom was the proper response to these catastrophes, Polanyi began working on a counternarrative that identified unfettered markets as the root cause of these catastrophes. Forced out of work in Austria and England because of his socialist leanings, he moved to the United States, where in 1944 he completed his masterwork The Great Transformation. Broadly comparative and sweeping in scope, Polanyi’s book catalogs the world’s economic systems from 1500 to the present and shows how the rise of market society (the “great transformation”) departs from all previously known economic traditions. The concept of economic embeddedness is central to Polanyi’s narrative. In his introduction to the 2001 edition of The Great Transformation, sociologist Fred Block writes that embeddedness “expresses the idea that the economy is not autonomous, as it must be in economic theory, but subordinated to politics, religion, and social relations.”21 Embeddedness is the stark opposite of the concept of the “self-­regulating market,” which for Polanyi meant “no less than the running of society as an adjunct to the market.”22 Polanyi understood the “separateness” of the economy to be an illusion, but he recognized that it was a powerful illusion that had real-­ world effects. He wrote that once classical economists imagined the market to be a separate sphere that functioned outside other social relations, they urged politicians to maintain its “freedom” by limiting regulations and taxes. Polanyi warned that increasing the autonomy of the market—­ removing the rules that tempered it and the social programs that softened its effects—­would lead to a dystopia “that could not exist for any length of time without annihilating the human and natural substance of society.”23 The Great Transformation offers a powerful endorsement of the role of government in protecting citizens from unemployment and impoverishment. Polanyi saw the New Deal as building “a moat around land and labor wider than any ever known in Europe.”24 He called these measures “the protective covering” that would keep human beings from perishing from hunger and homelessness.25 Far from being an ivory tower academic, Polanyi engaged in political debate about the wisdom of the New Deal and the proper role of government, directly arguing against the nascent neo­­ liberalism of the Austrian school of economics, the Mont Pelerin Society, and the Chicago school. Polanyi’s concept of embeddedness remains a potent framework for scholars and activists who seek to analyze the complex social relations


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surrounding markets. It provides a way to conceptualize relations between activities and resources that are measured and recorded in the accounts of the formal economy and those that are not and to show the dependence of waged work and market transactions on unwaged labor and natural endowments. While incomplete in many respects (Polanyi’s work says little about class relations, for instance), it provides a device for critically questioning the “naturalness” of market arrangements and of the boundaries between markets and the rest of life. Like latter-­day labor theories of value, Polanyi’s work provides a lens to examine each of the “revaluation projects” described in the chapters that follow. Through their discourses and practices, the activists in each movement draw attention to what is left out of traditional economic accounting measures and to how what is measured materially depends on what is left out. They track the relations and interdependencies that make a social division of labor possible. In an era when the market has become the measure of all things, and when individuals are encouraged to construe even the most intimate dimensions of their lives in market terms, their activities have begun a conversation about how societal wealth and well-­being depend on—­are embedded in—­social relations, activities, and institutions that are often seen to lie “outside market value.”

Value and the Social Division of Labor Revaluation projects are motivated by a sense that things are not being measured fairly, that is, by a feeling that an economic activity one participates in— ­or relies on—­is not being given due recognition. For this reason, many revaluation projects are nostalgic. They respond to a perceived change in the way things are being evaluated—­a failure to take into account something that was recognized before. Historical examples include the nineteenth-­century English Luddites, who protested new weaving technologies that made their skill and knowledge lose relevance to textile production. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” articulated an early twentieth-­century feminist critique of a new version of female “domesticity” that stripped women of their central role in the livelihood of households, or—­in the case of poorer women—­failed to recognize the nonwaged labor they continued to perform. The social movements described in this book emerged in response to the hegemonic force of neoliberal political rationality in the late twentieth

value and the social division of labor


and early twenty-­first centuries and to the ways this rationality reshaped existing institutions to make them conform more closely to market principles. The governance practices of this era restructured relations among state, market, and civil society in several ways. First, they sought to relieve businesses of some of the responsibilities they had formerly accepted for meeting the needs of their various “stakeholders.” Second, they sought to bring localities into line with the requirements of globalized commerce, replacing what geographers call the “lumpiness” of place with a more uniform financial and regulatory environment. And third, they challenged the role of the state in managing the economy and providing a social safety net. Jacob Hacker has called these interlinked changes “the great risk shift.” He argues that it transferred to individuals, families, and communities a greater portion of the burden of solving their livelihood problems—­as if government and business simply said, “You’re on your own.”26 Building on Hacker’s account, this book contends that these changes gave rise to “valuation crises” in which individuals struggled to respond to the loss of former arrangements for securing their livelihood that were threatened because the state, or business, “could no longer afford them” or because they stood in the way of global growth imperatives. Several authors, including political scientist John Ruggie, have char­ acterized these shifting responsibilities as the end of an era of “em­bedded liberalism.” Ruggie’s work points to a central paradox of the Bretton Woods agreement that provided a framework for trade between the United States and European nations after World War II. The paradox was that the nations that forged the bold new free market trading system simultaneously enacted historically unprecedented social welfare and regulatory protec­tions at home. In other words, their free market stance with regard to international relations went hand in hand with a decidedly state interventionist policy within domestic economies. Ruggie argued that the Bretton Woods regime succeeded precisely because of this seeming contradiction: while it promoted free trade, it also allowed individual nations to respond to the social and economic needs of their citizens and protect them from trade volatility. Referencing Polanyi, he labeled this arrangement the “com­­promise of embedded liberalism,” indicating that free market trade relations (classical economic liberalism) were “embedded in” protective national institutions. While the Bretton Woods accords opened markets and provided a framework for monetary management and exchange rates, they allowed member nations to build their own versions of national capitalism around distinct approaches to labor markets,


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corporate governance, taxes, business-­government relations, and provision of welfare.27 In the United States, the period of embedded liberalism saw the stabi­ lization of New Deal programs like Social Security, the consolidation of a national income tax, the building of highways, and the spread of a range of new public services. In business, it was the heyday of large firms emphasizing stability and growth, run by professional managers, offering workers lifetime careers. Unions grew at an unprecedented rate, and business and labor forged compacts like the Treaty of Detroit. It was an era of wage growth, new inventions, rising expectations, and American hegemony in the world. The benefits of this model of growth, of course, did not reach all citizens. It was also the era of Jim Crow and rampant gender discrimination. White women and citizens of color were excluded from many New Deal social programs and faced segregated labor markets and unequal opportunities in public life. But this era, which some have called Fordism-­Keynesianism (after the economic models that informed its design) remains etched in the national imagination for many as a period of American social mobility and global ascendancy. Many scholars, including Ruggie, have argued that free market policies from the 1970s forward have reversed the terms of embedded liberalism in most industrialized nations, eroding the systems of social protection achieved in the decades after World War II. According to Jacqueline Best, since the end of the Bretton Woods regime, “there has been a progressive disembedding of liberalism, as we have witnessed the gradual marketization of domestic society and subordination of domestic stability to the principle of international economic stabilization.”28 Hannes Lacher has argued that the postwar balance between economics and politics “was disrupted after about a quarter century by the rise of the ideology of neoliberalism and by economic globalization, leading once again to the disembedding of the market.”29 These accounts point to the ways that neoliberal globalization, in the interest of open markets, has eroded protections for workers and the environment, privatized collective resources, and shredded social safety nets. Economist Dani Rodrik offers a compelling account of this reconfiguration that clarifies how the supposed imperatives of globalization led to changes within nations. According to Rodrik, embedded liberalism was premised on the notion that open markets and a strong national state are “complements not substitutes.” In his words, “markets work best, not where states are weakest, but where they are strong.”30 This is because “people de-

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mand compensation against risk when their economies are more exposed to international economic forces; and governments respond by erecting broader safety nets. . . . The welfare state, in other words, is the flip side of the open economy.”31 In a 1998 working paper, Rodrik elaborated this argument: By the standard of the interwar period (1919–­38) the decades following World War II have been an unqualified success: world trade and capital flows have expanded at impressive rates. But what is inadequately appreciated is how the resurgence of the world economy after 1945 was upheld by another remarkable social bargain that developed within the advanced capitalist countries. This bargain relied neither on the docility of labor nor on the animal spirits of the capitalist class. . . . It relied instead on the government’s expanded role, and in particular, the growth of the welfare state with its network of income supports and safety nets. The function of the welfare state was to take the edge off the risks and inequities inherent in market economies, especially those that were open to trade. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the role of governments expanded greatly in the post–­World War II period as international trade rose. Nor is it surprising to find that the welfare state grew fastest in countries that were most exposed to trade.32

Rodrik agrees with other scholars that the “deep” (or neoliberal) glob­ alization of the decades since the 1970s reversed Bretton Woods priorities, making domestic economic management subservient to the demands of international trade and finance. Trade policy negotiations came to focus not on tariffs and nontariff barriers, but on policies inside borders. Nations lost the “clear bright line” between domestic prerogatives and external obligations.33 This left workers and citizens within formerly sovereign nations more fully exposed to market forces—­to the job loss, wage decline, and general erosion of bargaining power that accompany global labor market competition and to the loss of economic citizenship rights that new global compacts prohibit as “barriers to trade.”34 While many accounts portray these changes as driven by economic trends (oil price shock, stagflation, Eurodollar surpluses), Rodrik’s account highlights the massive reconfiguration of the responsibilities of state, market, and civil society at their heart. In Has Globalization Gone Too Far? Rodrik asserts that the new trade agreements that structure hyperglobalization have led to erosion of incomes, labor standards, and benefits. They have magnified labor market


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shocks and volatility and have weakened unions, labor laws, and other protective mechanisms. While free trade advocates insist that in the long run everyone will be better off, Rodrik counters that nothing guarantees this. Some groups, especially less skilled workers, will suffer long-­term losses from free trade.35 At the same time, economic institutions at the global level are unable to fill the gap by providing new forms of protection. In Rodrik’s language, global markets are “weakly embedded.” “There is no global antitrust authority, no global lender of last resort, no global regulator, no global safety net, and of course, no global democracy.”36 The ascendance of market principles from the 1980s onward also reshaped the business world. The twentieth century was the era of what business historians have called “the managerial firm.” As Alfred Chandler described in The Visible Hand,37 this type of firm emerged in the late nineteenth century to run large, complex enterprises such as railroads and telegraph companies, but it quickly expanded to many sectors. These enterprises were too big be run by the owners themselves, requiring professional managers charged with protecting the company’s long-­ term interests by reinvesting in its physical infrastructure and retaining its employees. Their managerial capacities were evaluated based on the firm’s growth and development, its profitability, and its reputation. As anthropologist Karen Ho has explained, “Only twenty-­five years ago, the public corporation in the United States was mainly viewed as a stable social institution involved in the steady provision of goods and services, responsible for negotiating multiple constituencies from employees to shareholders and judged according to a longer-­term time frame.”38 The managerial firm was a key player in providing social benefits to workers. Embedded liberalism took a different form in the United States than in many other parts of the world owing to the role businesses played in providing health insurance, pensions, and other social benefits. Jacob Hacker has noted that “in no other nation do citizens rely so heavily on private benefits for protection against the fundamental risks of modern life.”39 These programs never covered all workers; women and people of color were most likely to be excluded, often because of the occupations they held in a labor market that was deeply segregated by race and gender (domestic work, agricultural work, etc.). But by 1980 almost 80 percent of American workers under age sixty-­five received health insurance coverage through their employers.40 The managerial corporation was an important part of the “protective covering” for mid-­twentieth-­ century workers.

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By the 1980s, however, a change was already under way. As shareholder value doctrine gained dominance, business owners began to jettison their former responsibilities to workers. The rate at which employees under sixty-­five were covered by employer health insurance is but one indicator: the coverage rate dropped from nearly 80 percent in 1980 to 55 percent in 2011.41 Managers shifted defined benefit pensions to defined contribution plans— ­or eliminated pensions altogether, providing workers opportunities to invest in 401(k) programs instead. While some high-­demand knowledge workers gained access to more substantial benefits, on the lower rungs of the labor market even sick days disappeared. As business relinquished responsibilities that had been part of a mid-­ twentieth-­century social compact, more responsibility fell on individuals, households, and communities. With household incomes flattening or decreasing, more people turned to self-­provisioning and informal work. Particularly after the 2008 Wall Street crash and the subsequent recession, the number of experiments with local currencies, off-­the-­books lending, barter, and other homegrown economic arrangements exploded.42 Scholars have long reported that households seek alternatives to wage labor as a way to weather economic downturns.43 In 2008, as individuals retreated into local and informal economies to make ends meet, they entered a landscape where three decades of free market policies had weakened economic connections within their communities. Former local employers were now contracting production overseas. The arrival of Walmart, Target, and Home Depot had put many small stores out of business. Wells Fargo and the Cash Store had replaced the town banker. Each of these businesses brought new opportunities, but their decisions were made elsewhere and could not easily take local needs into account. In this context, communities that passed legislation to defend their livelihoods by, for example, requiring employers to pay a living wage or offer sick leave, often found their efforts stymied. A federal judge struck down the state of Maryland’s attempt to require Walmart to provide health insurance for more workers.44 One study has shown that from 2011 to 2013, legislators in thirty-­one states introduced 105 bills designed to suppress wages, most of which involved repealing local minimum wage or living wage ordinances or making such ordinances illegal.45 Legislators voting for such measures argued that creating a “level playing field” for wages would allow states to remain economically competitive and to grow.46 In a similar way, legislatures and courts have frequently prohibited counties and municipalities from implementing local standards for activities


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such as fracking, or from imposing air and water protections stronger than state or national standards. This has not happened everywhere—­some cities and counties have had success in passing protective legislation. But localities have become the site of contests over whether communities can control their own economic fate or must accept the market imperatives of neoliberal globalization. Just as Rodrik argued that globalization eroded the “clear bright line” between national-­level domestic prerogatives and a state’s external obligations, when localities sought to take on responsibilities abdicated by government and corporations, they often found their right to do so challenged. The end of embedded liberalism was also marked by the emergence of conservative coalitions that sought to diminish the state’s role in managing the economy, smoothing out labor market fluctuations, and providing a social safety net. Calling for a “return” to market principles, these groups argued that government should have limited functions and that its growth is a danger to individual liberty. These ideas are not new—­they have been around since the eighteenth century, and their dominance has waxed and waned since. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, this view lost ground to philosophies that envisioned a stronger role for the state, but it did not disappear. Its full-­scale resurgence in the Reagan years gave birth to a new “small-­government agenda” that featured as key elements cutting taxes and reducing government’s involvement in the economy. Of course, those who held these views did not always actually shrink government (the Reagan administration is an example), and they retained and expanded government supports for many projects that supported business. But the decades since the 1980s have seen policymakers and politicians take many concrete measures to reduce the state’s role: ending the entitlement of the poor to welfare, cutting federal aid to states and localities, instituting “balanced budget” requirements that limit government spending, and privatizing many former government functions. The attack on public employees’ collective bargaining rights and the severe austerity budgets that swept the nation in 2011 were high-­water marks of this trend. Understanding this context gives new meaning to the movements described in this book. Restoring responsibilities to business, rebuilding local economies, and reclaiming the public sector were ways of responding to the new configuration of responsibilities that marked the end of embedded liberalism. The activists involved in each of these movements expressed a sense that “things were falling through the cracks”—­that the protective covering built over the course of the twentieth century was

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fraying. Studying each movement illuminated a single set of efforts to protect or reclaim one aspect of the societal configuration established during the period of embedded liberalism. Studying the movements together revealed the larger vulnerability that citizens faced in this particular historical moment—­when the loss of protections on all fronts made pursuit of a safety net elusive.

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Benefit Corporations Reimagining Corporate Responsibility The Corporation as a Terrain of Struggle


n April 2010 the state of Maryland passed a bill establishing a new kind of corporate entity, the benefit corporation. The state senate passed the bill unanimously (44–­0), and the state assembly passed it with only five dissenting votes (135–­5). The bill’s authors had written the bill in mind-­ numbingly boring language and presented it as a minor update to the state’s business law. But as it moved toward a vote, one of the legislators interjected, “Wait. You’re basically trying to transform the whole nature of capitalism!” To which the drafters of the legislation replied, “Yeah, that’s basically right.” Speaking with the press after the signing event, State Senator Jamie Raskin, one of the bill’s sponsors, said, “We are giving com­ panies a way to do good and to do well at the same time. The benefit cor­ poration will tie public and private purposes together.” Jay Coen Gilbert, an advocate for the bill, went even further, linking the bill to the ongoing economic crisis: “Today marks an inflection point in the evolution of capitalism. With public trust at an all-­time low, this represents the first systemic response to the underlying problems that created the financial crisis—­protecting companies from the pressures of short-­termism, while creating benefit for shareholders and society over the long haul.”1 The new type of corporate charter that Maryland created required a company to pursue social goals in addition to economic returns. Normal charters do not specify profit making as a corporation’s only goal, but over the decades since the 1970s, many lawyers and businesspeople have come to assume that this is its primary duty. The statute passed in Maryland

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required a company to dedicate itself instead to a “general public benefit,” understood as a material benefit to society and the environment. It could also elect to pursue a “specific public benefit,” which could be any kind of publicly minded purpose the owners desired. The charter set certain transparency requirements and called for the production of an annual “benefit report” to meet a third-­party standard. By March 2016, thirty-­one states had adopted some form of this legislation, and plans were afoot to introduce it in half a dozen more. Why so many states would suddenly offer a new form of incorporation, and one that seemed to revert to earlier decades’ generally accepted business practices, was a puzzle to many. Even legislatures that adopted the new charter had discussions about whether existing law already allowed managers to make protected “business judgments” in the interest of goals that went beyond simple profit making.2 At the same time, and working hand in hand with this legislative effort, a nonprofit organization known as B Lab began to offer corporations a new tool for assessment and certification. Billed as a measure to “cut through” the confusing mass of market-­driven corporate responsibility initiatives, B Lab provided companies with an instrument to measure the impact of their governance, labor, and environmental practices. The assessment provided a baseline snapshot of a company’s impacts, and B Lab then recommended best practices and strategies for change based on the experiences of others in its “community of firms.” Certification required a certain min­ imum score, a willingness to make scores public, and a commitment to regular reassessment. As of March 2016, more than 1,600 companies in 130 industries had completed certification.3 The founders of this movement envisioned the new legal charter operating in tandem with B Lab: the nonprofit would offer the kind of third-­party certification the charter required while also promoting the legislation and supporting individuals and groups interested in passing it in their state. Elizabeth Babson, one of the lawyers involved in drafting the legislation, explained: “B Lab does what we could never do, which is create a movement around [the legislation].” Despite (or perhaps because of) the serendipity between the legal framework and the nonprofit that supports it, legislators and the public have sometimes struggled to understand the distinction between them. The parts are separate but interrelated: a corporation can be chartered as a benefit corporation but seek certification somewhere other than B Lab. And any corporation—­including those not chartered as benefit corporations— ­can go through B Lab’s certification procedure.


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This was not a movement spearheaded by radicals seeking to dismantle corporate capitalism or to share the wealth. Its main proponents hailed from the fields of business and law, and its models of success were small to mid-­sized private sector firms. Bipartisan coalitions supported the new charter in most state legislatures that passed it, and Republican gov­ ernors—­from Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal to New Jersey’s Chris Christie—­ signed it. Yet the movement signaled a concern on the part of the relatively well-­heeled and powerful that twenty-­first-­century corporations had lost their way. For many of those who supported the new movement, the issue was the growing dominance of the belief that a corporation’s singular purpose was to make money for its shareholders— ­or to phrase it more precisely, that the primary goal of a corporation’s directors was to maximize shareholder value. If that premise sounds obvious and consonant with common sense, it is important to remember that it was not always so. As recently as the 1970s, it was generally accepted that corporations were important members of the communities where they did business, as providers of jobs and purveyors of goods. Managerial capitalism, as this model of production was known, assumed that professional, technocratic managers would act as stewards of the company to balance and promote the interests of all stakeholders. Business strategies tended toward the “retain and reinvest” model: both revenue and employees would be held and redeployed to maximize the growth of the firm.4 This did not mean that corporations of the mid-­twentieth century were always model citizens or that they did not also seek to maximize profits. But managers of that era assumed they had a duty to many stakeholders, viewing themselves as “charged with guiding a vital social and economic institution in the interests of a wide range of beneficiaries.”5 As recently as 1961, a Harvard Business Review survey of corporate executives found that more than 80 percent believed that “for a corporation to act in the interests of shareholders alone, and not also in the interests of employees and consumers, is unethical.”6 From the 1940s to the 1970s, the public generally saw the managerial corporation—­with its retain and reinvest philosophy and its long-­term growth strategies—­as key to the remarkable success of the America’s war effort and postwar expansion. The United States played the dominant role in the world economy during this period, even as it engaged in an increasingly heated cold war against the Soviet Union. Its corporations were world leaders in technology and production and became the primary drivers of global capital accumulation during the period 1945–­70. French economist

benefit corporations


Robert Boyer has called this “the epoch of the triumph of the managerial corporation . . . [where] the de facto complementarity between the liquidity of savings and the specialization of management deliver[ed] an unprecedented dynamic efficiency.”7 But even in this epoch of triumph, changes were brewing inside the firm. Concerned with the rate of mergers and acquisitions and the massive conglomerates that resulted, the US Congress passed a law in 1950 restrict­ing many kinds of vertical and horizontal mergers. Thus firms could acquire new businesses only in unrelated lines. Over time, firms be­gan to see this as a new mode of risk diversification. By combining unrelated industries they could rely on lines that were doing well to keep the enter­prise profitable when other parts of the business were in trouble. Man­agers—­particularly financial managers—­began to conceptualize the firm as a “bundle of assets” rather than a cohesive organization. This “portfolio theory of the firm” laid important groundwork for the emergence of shareholder value theory.8 Greta Krippner argues that “once the firm was conceptualized as a stream of cash flows to be shuffled and reshuffled in whatever combination would produce the highest return . . . a number of transformations occurring in the institutional environment of firms gave this conception the more specific imprint of shareholder value.”9 These transformations included the practice of compensating executives with stock options,10 thus tying their remuneration to share price. Equally important were the emergence of a corporate takeover market and the growing significance of institutional investors. Taken together, Krippner says, “these changes had a profound effect on the behavior of firms, with the threat of takeover acting as stick and stock options as carrot to fulfill the imperatives of the market.”11 By the 1970s, a host of factors were undermining corporate success. Oil price shocks and international competition were causing profits to decline across many sectors. Full employment and strong unions made it difficult for firms to reduce workers’ share of profits. And a significant number of firms had extended their scope beyond their core competencies and had become unwieldy and overly diversified. After Nixon’s abandonment of the gold standard in 1971, inflation crept upward. Combined with poor eco­ nomic growth, the economy languished in the notorious “stagflation” of that decade. And the effects were felt on the stock market as well. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost nearly half its value in the bear market of 1973–­74.12 In light of these troubles, investors began to seek new strategies.


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In Britain in the 1970s, a group of “buccaneer capitalists of hot money” known as the Mayfair Set began to pioneer the kinds of transactions that later became known as leveraged buyouts (LBOs).13 In an economic landscape where profits in traditional industries were declining, these individuals and their counterparts in other countries sought new opportunities in financial transactions, most of which involved buying firms and selling off their resources (while manipulating share prices). The concept of the firm as a “bundle of assets” supported these practices, as did Reagan’s and Thatcher’s deregulatory initiatives. A comprehensive new “theory of the firm” published by two business scholars in 1976 provided intellectual ballast for the notion that managers were agents whose proper role was to act exclusively on behalf of the firm’s “true owners”—­the shareholders.14 This set of concepts and practices quickly became a new orthodoxy in business schools and on Wall Street and enabled the activities of corporate actors like the Mayfair Set to become common, if not mainstream. They provided a rationale for the broader leveraged buyout movement of the 1980s, in which corporate raiders formed committees of “activist investors” to restructure what they perceived to be “underperforming” corporations— ­companies they felt were not maximizing shareholder returns. These investors purchased the undervalued stock of a company, replaced the CEO and board, and changed the company’s management strategy.15 The new approaches they imposed involved divesting the firm of divisions that were not “core” to its mission or were underperforming, laying off workers and using retained earnings to pay higher returns to shareholders, and taking on debt to finance investments in technology and infrastructure. In many if not most cases, these measures caused disruption and hardship to workers and their communities.16 The influence of shareholder value doctrine was not felt only in the targeted firms. LBOs generated “such an environment of fear that corporations restructured themselves in anticipation of takeover attempts, hoping to raise their stock prices and render themselves less vulnerable.”17 As Lynn Stout noted in an interview, “Carl Icahn [a hedge fund manager prominent in the LBO movement] doesn’t just change behavior at the firms where he takes a toehold; he changes the behavior of all the boards that are worried that Carl Icahn might show up.” For Robert Boyer, share­ holder value doctrine deployed this way became a “disciplinary device governing the behavior of firms.”18 It led all managers to focus on short-­ term earnings reports at the expense of long-­term performance, to shortchange workers in ways that made it harder to retain a skilled labor force,

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to outsource in ways that undermined purchasing power in communities that formed their market, and to forgo investment and innovation in favor of shareholder payouts. A spate of corporate scandals discredited the LBO movement in the late 1980s, but shareholder value doctrine did not go away. It remained a basic premise of Wall Street practice and resurged with the private equity movement of the 2000s. Private equity firms continued many of the practices of the LBOS. They were lightly regulated investment companies that used debt financing to take ownership and control of businesses. They dis­ assembled corporations, most of which were not actually “failing,”19 in order to “unlock value” (improve share price). As with LBOs, private equity managers accomplished this by selling assets, liquidating underperforming units, and downsizing the workforce. By the time the private equity movement came on the scene, the ascendance of neoliberal political rationality had sparked waves of deregulation in banking and on Wall Street, opening the door to financial practices that had never before been imagined (and thus fell outside the realm of regulation).20 The rise of institutional investors also fueled the trend toward the single-­minded pursuit of shareholder value. Public pension funds invested over $250 billion in private equity funds from 2000 to 2012, making up over one-­third of total investments. While data on private pension funds is harder to collect, they are estimated to have added $100 billion to that total.21 In this overheated environment, the junk bond market thrived, further banking deregulation created even larger pools of capital, and new speculative and unregulated financial instruments proliferated.22 And because of the new alliance between executives and financiers, who became major champions of shareholder value doctrine, CEO pay exploded.23 Par­ adoxically, while some US workers saw their pensions fattened by gains reaped by private equity, many of these same workers also lost jobs or saw their employment contracts restructured as a result of private equity takeovers of the firms they worked for. As these developments suggest, shareholder value doctrine wove together several of the most significant economic transformations of the neo­ liberal era. It was implicated in the growing dominance of finance capital as the measure of performance that private equity firms and other Wall Street actors used to justify taking over and restructuring firms. It was involved in labor’s loss of power, because the threat of corporate takeover allowed managers to argue that investments in wages and benefits would harm share price and increase the firm’s vulnerability, thus undermining

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production workers’ ability to make claims on income.24 This was a trend that worried the International Labor Organization: “The switch in the 1980s to corporate governance systems based on maximizing shareholder value and the growth of aggressive returns-­oriented institutions, including private equity funds, hedge funds and institutional investors, put pressures on firms to increase profits, especially in the short term, and thus weakened workers’ bargaining position.”25 Financialization worked hand in hand with shareholder value doctrines to exacerbate this loss of worker power, as Appelbaum and Batt have argued: To the extent that firms began to increase their profits from financial activities relative to those from productive activities, the incentive to invest in workers’ skills and human capital began to decline. The welfare of shareholders and managers became less intertwined with the welfare of employees. . . . Employees are viewed as more dispensable—­a variable cost to be minimized or, more recently, to be outsourced or sent overseas. . . . The idea of labor as a “quasi-­ fixed” asset, or human capital as valuable and firm specific, has come under attack.26

These interactions among the growth of finance, the shareholder value model, and the loss of worker bargaining power were important drivers of the twenty-­first century’s burgeoning increases in inequality. Over the course of the 1980s and 1990s, the shareholder value movement took root in business schools and on Wall Street and gave rise to a com­ plex—­and increasingly dominant—­assemblage of organizational forms, business practices, laws, rules, and norms. This assemblage included a vast “knowledge creation” enterprise in which law and business schools taught the basic premises of the new theory and produced research showing that attention to share price created leaner, more profitable firms. Their graduates developed new rules that facilitated and sometimes required maximizing shareholder value, from changes in the tax code and securities regulation to proxy voting rules and reporting standards.27 New corporate practices (such as the leveraged buyout movement of the 1980s) and forms (such as private equity firms) emerged to “discipline” managers by taking over companies that were not maximizing returns to shareholders. Under this kind of pressure, corporate managers came to assume not only that maximizing share price was their primary fiduciary duty, but that they could be sued (or their companies taken over) if they made decisions that

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failed to maximize that price over the short term. Over time, the concepts that animated shareholder value doctrine spilled over from the corporate domain and became “common sense” within the broader culture. In this context, shareholder value doctrine not only was pervasive, it became a kind of antipolitics. Just as gross domestic product reduces all knowledge about the health and sustainability of a national economy to a single number, shareholder value thinking reduces all knowledge about corporate performance to a single technical measure. This was an inherently political project that, in Karen Ho’s words, allowed bankers “to translate their particular values into a number, which acts as its own explanatory force.”28 Shareholder value held broad appeal because it offered a simple and easily applied metric for corporate performance, but it had staying power because it benefited hedge funds, corporate raiders, and private equity firms whose profits were made by restructuring firms to increase payouts to investors as well as CEOs whose income was now tied to share price.29 This led to what Robert Boyer has called a “de facto alliance of executives with financiers”30 to present their own interests as the market’s unbiased discipline. In order to open a discussion of the proper role of corporations within democratic capitalism, activists first had to expose the politics of shareholder value and to dislodge the widespread belief that maximizing it was good for everyone. Average citizens faced formidable obstacles in taking on this task. Financial transactions are inevitably harder to trace and measure than the “real economy” of goods and services. The stock market itself is hard for a layperson to fathom. It is not like a market for goods and services but sells proportionate interests in the net worth of companies whose “value” is determined by estimates of the firm’s future earning power. These estimates are based on reputational factors, fads, and emotions as well as fundamentals. The investor Warren Buffett once famously said, “Mr. Market, he’s kind of a drunken psycho. Some days he gets enthused, some days he gets very depressed.”31 This situation made it hard for nonexperts to make or sustain claims about fairness or corporate performance. Yet despite the “mysterious” nature of stock market returns, experts reliably contrast the “hardness” and precision of share price with the “mushiness” of social factors that are harder to measure. Rather than being seen as unrealistic, the simplicity of the single indicator is considered a mark of its “scientific nature.” Such well-­established business measures have an aura of inevitability and seriousness; those who oppose them are often cast as unrealistic, idealistic, and ill-­informed. All these moves make


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it difficult for most citizens to initiate discussions about corporate behavior and to discuss its political implications—­to wrest the topic from the realm of the technical and open it to what Daniel Bell once called “conscious decisions, publicly debated and philosophically justified.”32 Proponents of benefit corporations sought to provide a new vocabulary, new transparency norms, new legal protections, and alternative measurements to reinitiate inherently political discussions about the proper role of the corporation.

Inventing a New Kind of Corporation The story of how benefit corporations started is somewhat apocryphal, and well-­rehearsed versions have been published in a range of business journals. It began when Jay Coen Gilbert founded the AND 1 sports apparel company in 1993 while a graduate student at the Wharton School of Business. The next year Bart Houlahan, Gilbert’s former classmate at Stanford, left his investment banking job to join the firm, and the two led the brand’s rapid growth. AND 1 gained a cult following thanks to Gilbert’s innovative marketing, especially the wildly popular AND 1 “Streetball Mixtapes,” which combined video footage of top-­tier street basketball with sound tracks by rising hip-­hop stars. The firm’s annual revenue grew from $5 million in 1995 to more than $250 million in 2001, making it the number two basketball shoe brand in the United States. Stiff competition from Nike evolved into a price war, however, and in 2005 Gilbert and Houlahan decided to sell AND 1 to American Sporting Goods, a private shoe company.33 AND 1 had been an early adopter of socially responsible business practices. The company had generous parental leave benefits and widely shared employee ownership, and it donated 5 percent of its profits to charities promoting urban education and youth leadership development in the Philadelphia area where it was headquartered.34 It gave employees forty hours of paid leave annually to engage in social service work and matched their donations to charity. At the company’s production facilities in China, managers implemented a rigorous code of conduct, hired independent auditors to oversee factory conditions, and paid production workers a living wage.35 After the sale of AND 1 to American Sporting Goods, Houlahan and Gilbert saw their social responsibility programs stripped out of the company in a matter of weeks. Houlahan summarized his revelation: “When

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you get to the point where you are ready to sell a company . . . legally, the only thing you can consider is maximum shareholder value. . . . This is not a lament. We were paid full value. But it felt like I lost a limb to watch all of our commitments to employees, to the environment, and to the community be stripped from the company within six weeks of the sale.”36 For Gilbert, the changes instituted by AND 1’s new owners were “fair game, but afterwards we knew we wanted there to be a better way.”37 In June 2006 Houlahan, Gilbert, and their college friend Andrew Kassoy began work on a plan to advance what they envisioned as a different type of corporation. While previous corporate social responsibility ef­ forts—­such as organic and Fair Trade certifications—­focused on good products, they wanted to find a way to certify that a business’s full range of practices would benefit the general public and not just shareholders. They developed a model for what they came to call B Corporations (the B stood for beneficial). They founded a nonprofit, B Lab, to promote them. Houlahan, Kassoy, and Gilbert designed the B Corporation project around two obstacles they identified for mission-­driven businesses: the lack of verifiable performance standards for measuring social and environmental impact and the limitations of existing legal frameworks.38 B Lab launched the B Impact Rating System in 2007. Conceived as a tool to verify and measure the impact of a corporation’s practices, these ratings were designed to be similar to those issued by Moody’s or Standard and Poor’s, except that they would measure social and environmental performance. They planned for B Impact to be transparent, comparable, and publicly available. The ratings measured the effects of businesses on a wide range of stakeholders, including employees, shareholders, suppliers, customers, the general public, the local community, and communities where suppliers or subsidiaries are located. They also included measures of environmental stewardship.39 Certification was meant to guard against “greenwashing”—­firms’ marketing themselves as socially responsible with­ out any verification—­and to give investors and consumers the detailed information they needed to compare firms’ track records.40 By 2016, B Lab had certified over 1,600 companies in forty-­three countries, and another 17,000 firms had used their assessment tool.41 Of those firms, 72 percent were in the service sector (roughly equivalent to the share of US employment in services). Just over 14 percent were in wholesale or retail trade, and 13 percent were in manufacturing. Most of these companies were small—­nearly two-­thirds had fewer than ten employees—­but several of the largest firms had more than a thousand workers.42 Some


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B Corporations were household names: Patagonia Outdoor Clothing, Warby Parker eyewear, the craft vendor Etsy, Couchsurfing International, New Belgium brewery, Numi Tea, Dansko Shoes, Kickstarter, and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Others diverged from this somewhat hipster profile. These included Cooperative Home Care Associates (a worker-­owned organization of over 2,000 home health care providers in the Bronx) and Cascade Engineering (a Grand Rapids-­based company with 1,600 employees that produces large-­scale plastic injection-­molded components). The lineup was eclectic: power companies, banks, manufacturers of apparel, hammocks, soap, garden supplies, paper products, and coffee roast­ers; firms providing IT services and custom software; grocery stores, hotels, bakeries, travel agencies, creameries, processors of cranberries, nuts, honey, and beef, recycling operations, and a skateboard company. All of these firms had completed the B Impact assessment, achieving a minimum score of 80 out of a possible 200, and all had articulated a “social mission.” The second issue B Lab addressed was the constraint placed on mission-­ driven businesses by the prevalent assumption that corporate managers were bound by law to maximize share price at the expense of all other considerations. While in day-­to-­day decisions they understood that the business judgment rule gave directors a great deal of leeway in pursuing fiduciary duties, they felt that in some circumstances companies were still vulnerable to derivative lawsuits by shareholders if they took “socially conscious” actions unrelated (or detrimental) to a financial goal.43 To give certified businesses greater freedom to raise capital while maintaining their mission, B Lab initially required that they write their social mission into their corporate charter.44 B Lab founders quickly realized that this goal was out of sync with US corporate law: it could not be achieved through simply amending a corporate charter but would require a reformulation of corporate entity laws. In 2008 Gilbert and Houlahan began working with the Philadelphia law firm Drinker Biddle and Reath LLP to develop a new corporate entity law for what would be called the “benefit corporation.”45 The new charter would require directors to consider the general public benefit of their actions as well as shareholder value. Further, benefit corporations would be required to have a third party certify an annual benefit report, similar to the annual financial report, for shareholders. And unlike B Lab certification, which a corporation could opt out of at any point, the benefit corporation’s reporting requirements would be permanent and unavoidable.46

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The benefit corporation has been extremely popular as a new corporate form. After Maryland passed the first law in 2010, more than thirty states followed over the next six years, with legislation pending, as of 2016, in five more. In contrast, limited liability corporation laws (the most recent comparable corporate entity legislation) took nearly two decades to receive widespread acceptance.47 Delaware, home to the majority of publicly traded corporations and to what is perhaps the most important corporate law court in the world, passed benefit corporation legislation in 2013.48 As of 2016, approximately 3,000 firms had incorporated nationally using the new charter.49 But the popularity of this new corporate form was not universal, and several state legislatures that considered such legislation rejected it. On May 15, 2013, the North Carolina legislature voted down House Bill 440, which would have created benefit corporations in the state, 60–­52. Critics of the bill said its goal was to move the state toward socialism by implying that there is a “higher, better purpose than maximizing profit.” They argued that benefit corporations were part of a secret conspiracy to promote the United Nations’ “Agenda 21” sustainability efforts, which they alleged were a socialist plot. A Republican sponsor of the bill, Represen­ tative Chuck McGrady countered, “This is not a conservative or liberal bill at all. It’s actually an entrepreneurial bill. . . . Those coming up younger than us—­they want to make a profit, but they want to be about good things. This lets them do that.” Another Republican legislator added, “I think you’re seeing that capitalism would like to help in those areas where it can.” The highly charged nature of the debate, and the split it occasioned among individuals who considered themselves advocates of free market economy, suggested that the legislation had touched a nerve.50 At the time benefit corporations were developed, thirty-­two US states already had what are called “constituency statutes” for corporations, which allow corporate directors to consider nonshareholder interests when making business decisions. Most of these statutes were passed in the 1980s, when Chambers of Commerce advocated them as a tool for corporations to resist hostile takeovers—­to give businesses an excuse to reject an offer they did not want to accept. While constituency statutes seemed to offer some of the protections for corporate directors that benefit corporation legislation sought, the provisions were weaker in asserting that directors “may,” rather than “must,” consider a range of stakeholders. Also, a lack of case law left all parties uncertain how a court would rule if directors


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made a decision based on broader considerations than the highest offer.51 For this reason, entrepreneurs who sought to run their businesses in a socially conscious way sought additional protections for decisions that might not yield the highest returns in terms of share price. The business law community was divided over whether such legal protection was necessary. Cornell Law School professor Lynn Stout insisted that existing law allows directors to consider many constituencies. Many proponents of benefit corporations disagreed, arguing that the Michigan Supreme Court set precedent in the 1919 case Dodge v. Ford Motor Co. when it proclaimed, “There should be no confusion. . . . a business corporation is organized and carried on primarily for the profit of the stockholders. The powers of the directors are to be employed for that end.”52 But Stout argued that the remark was “mere dicta”— ­observations made in passing—­rather than part of the court’s finding, and dicta cannot set precedent. She pointed to the failure of modern courts to cite the case as evidence that it is now “an undrinkable vintage” from a “backwoods of corporate jurisprudence.”53 Finally, she argued that the “business judgment rule”—­which gives boards of directors the leeway to make decisions as long as they are not tainted by personal conflicts of interest—­protects directors from legal action. Many lawyers disagree with Stout, and most of them cite the 2010 case eBay v. Newmark, in which the owners of eBay sued the owner of Craigslist, the online classified advertising service, after purchasing a portion of its stock. Craig Newmark, Craigslist’s owner, had started the company to create a free communication network that served local communities; in the view of eBay’s directors, these ideals led him to fail to monetize key elements of the platform. In finding for eBay, the judge in the Delaware Chancery Court declared, “Having chosen a for-­profit corporate form, the Craigslist directors are bound by the fiduciary duties and standards that accompany that form. Those standards include acting to promote the value of the corporation for the benefit of its stockholders.”54 In light of this decision, Eric Trojian, policy director at B Lab, argued that it is a big “misconception that companies can already [consider multiple stakeholders]. It is a complete misunderstanding of current law.” Despite disagreement about the implications of this case, all business lawyers, including Stout, agree that corporate directors are vulnerable to lawsuits if they fail to maximize share price at times of change of control, such as when they are merging or being sold. While small, privately held corporations have some leeway in their business decisions, drafters of the benefit corporation legislation noted that “for-­profit companies pursuing

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a social mission face increasing difficulty as they scale; as officers and directors of these entities consider investment, mergers or liquidity events, the default position tends to favor the traditional fiduciary responsibility to maximize returns to shareholders over the company’s social mission.”55 A robust body of case law, including Revlon v. MacAndrews & Forbes and Unocal v. Mesa,56 says that directors have a duty to achieve for shareholders the best possible price at a time of sale. According to Jamie Raskin, “It’s not a strict legal requirement that corporations have to be maximizing profit at all times but they can set themselves up for . . . litigation in acquisition contexts if they’re passing up what is arguably a better deal for the shareholders.” Attorney Babson added, “The benefit corporation is most important for change of control situations—­for sales. You have to sell to the highest bidder.” For many critics, benefit corporations represented simply a kinder, gentler neoliberalism. Even the strongest supporters sometimes wondered whether they could be a sturdy enough vessel to reverse or alter the course of what some called the “fundamental shift in the concept of the American corporation” that shareholder value represented.57 But for those who participated in the movement, the new corporate form embodied both a critique and a vision. These individuals saw the benefit corporation’s new practices as challenging the notion that value on the stock market was value in real life and that short-­term gains always trumped sustainable returns and social well-­being. They saw themselves as constructing a new way of doing business that acknowledged the contributions and interests of workers, consumers, and communities and placed the corporation in the center of a web of relationships and responsibilities. When those who promoted the benefit corporation spoke of “business,” they did not mean “the market” as an abstract organizing principle but referred to tangible enterprises with histories and identities embedded in webs of social relations. They sought to return to a conception of the firm as a long-­term enterprise with moral and material commitments, to keep track of the negative and positive externalities the firm’s activities entailed, and to articulate a vision of business as part of a broader societal division of labor where it operated in tandem with government and civil society.

The Embedded Corporation Cooperative Home Care Associates is a worker-­owned home health care agency in Bronx, New York, with affiliates in several other US cities. Founded


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in 1985, by 2015 it was the largest worker cooperative in the United States. That year, in a situation the organization’s leaders refer to as the “lasting recession”—­with unemployment rates in the Bronx still well above those for New York City or the nation as a whole— ­CHCA provided free training and guaranteed high-­quality employment for 600 low-­income and unem­ ployed women. The cooperative offered its 2,300 employees full-­time hours, competitive wages (about $16 an hour including benefits), time and a half overtime pay, health and dental insurance, and worker ownership. Because many of its workers faced multiple significant barriers to employment, it offered comprehensive training and mentoring as well as financial literacy classes, counseling services, and health and wellness programs. Partly as a result, CHCA had a labor turnover rate of 15 percent compared with an industry average closer to 60 percent. The company did all this while maintaining its reputation as a provider of reliable, high-­ quality home health care for the elderly, the chronically ill, and individuals living with disabilities.58 In its 2014 B Lab report, CHCA’s managers wrote, “Countering an industry paradigm that regards direct care staff as temporary and easily replaceable, [our member] organizations are ‘raising the floor’ for job seekers . . . building career ladders for these essential workers, and redefining direct care work.” In other words, CHCA challenged both the notion that businesses are solely about profit and the preconception that caring labor performed largely by women of color was of low value. In 1982 a Zen Buddhist meditation group founded Greyston Bakery— ­a Yonkers, New York, enterprise whose chewy chocolate brownies became famous as a component of Ben and Jerry’s chocolate fudge brownie ice cream. Greyston is a for-­profit business, but its mission statement announces, “We don’t hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people.” What this means, in practice, is that the bakery has a practice of “open hiring”— ­offering jobs to individuals regardless of their educational attainment, work history, incarceration history, homelessness, or history of drug use. These employees enter an apprenticeship program where they learn baking along with personal development tools and professional skills. In 2012, 62 of the bakery’s 130 staff members had been such “open hires”; about 49 of them had criminal records. Employees received health insurance, were eligible to participate in profit sharing, and could receive six weeks or more of paid parental leave. The company prided itself on its sustainability initiatives such as installing solar panels and reducing landfill waste. It audited its main suppliers for the quality

benefit corporations


of their environmental and labor practices.59 Both CHCA and Greyston Bakery are certified B Corporations, which means they completed the assessment tools and met the requirements of B Lab. Greyston Bakery was also the first company in New York State to legally incorporate as a benefit corporation. In both cases, these organizations emerged out of collective practices that drew on many strands of knowledge not taught in business schools. The impact reports for B Lab’s hundreds of certified companies each tell a story of this type. They recount the activities of for-­profit companies that are breaking the implicit and explicit rules of private enterprise by attending to issues and constituencies that go beyond shareholder profits. Each profile is an object lesson in economic embeddedness, detailing many aspects of relationships with workers, suppliers, customers, and the environment and measuring and reporting their impacts. According to Kevin Trapani, owner of a North Carolina B Lab-­certified insurance firm, the reports document the way “people and place matter” in the everyday transactions of their firms. Directors provide documentation of the firms’ governance practices and transparency of operations. They detail aspects of the employment relationship, including wages and overtime, training, benefits, recruitment practices, health and safety outcomes, diversity of workforce, profit sharing, and employee ownership. They share information about community programs and outreach, local job creation, and the firm’s proportion of local sourcing. And they provide evaluations of the labor and environmental practices of major suppliers as well as their own environmental practices in the areas of energy use, percentage of renewable energy, waste to landfill, handling of toxic materials, and proportion of organic or non-­GMO inputs. Finally, they identify obstacles the company has faced in meeting its goals and set targets for improvement for the next year. Many of these certified B Corporations started out small. When they had only a handful of employees and no institutional investors, it was not difficult for their idealistic founders to escape the logic of the market: most would have adopted a socially conscious approach to business even without B Lab certification. What B Lab offered them at that point was an as­ sessment tool to determine how they were doing in a variety of areas, a stan­dard against which to measure their progress, and a community of other businesses with whom they could share experiences and best practices. The situation changed for these firms, however, when they grew to a size where they needed— ­or wished—­to seek capital from outside


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sources. At this point, serious questions arose about whether they could continue to enact their social and environmental justice missions. Even where a company is not being sold, most lawyers feel that investors want to see share price and returns to shareholders given priority. Trapani, the North Carolina businessman, described the quandary he had faced in trying to increase the scale of his business: “Our business model has been really positively received by our customer base and there’s been a lot of demand for us to expand. And the only way for us to do that is to hire more people. We needed to attract outside investors in order to be able to scale. . . . We needed to raise $75 to 80 million.” He noted that when he talked to potential investors they expressed enthusiasm but said, “ ‘You’re going to have to have fewer people, you’re going to have to have higher profit margins, and you’re going to have to get rid of that B Corp thing.’ It flew in the face of economic value maximization for them, which is all they wanted to think about.” In the face of these demands, Trapani decided to finance the company with his credit card. But he came to realize, “This is crazy. There are millions of people we could be benefitting if we expanded.” Eventually he found an investor, the insurance firm Crum and Forster, who not only accepted the firm’s business model and actively encouraged Trapani to maintain their B Corp status, but agreed to explore becoming a B Corp themselves. Tim Frick, principal of Mightybytes, a Chicago tech firm that had obtained B Corp certification and was legally chartered as a benefit corporation, said that for day-­to-­day practice, certification as a B Corporation made more difference than the charter. But he added: “Should the idea of selling come up . . . that changes a lot of things. Then, suddenly the social mission thing becomes more important to keep intact. . . . We’ve put a lot of work into hiring people who are on board with this way of doing business, and I would be an asshole if I were to sell the business to someone who is just going to gut all that.” Benefit corporation legislation was designed to make it possible for firms with a social responsibility agenda to remain protected from investor lawsuits as they grew. The lawyers who worked with Gilbert and his colleagues produced model legislation for the new corporate form, which various states have modified to one degree or another as they have passed it. But consistent across the various versions is the tripartite mission. To be chartered as a benefit corporation a company must have a corporate purpose to create a material positive impact on society and the environment; expanded fiduciary duties of directors that require consideration of

benefit corporations


nonfinancial interests; and an obligation to report on overall social and en­ vironmental performance as assessed against a comprehensive, credible, independent, and transparent third-­party standard.60 In meeting the obligation to create a material positive impact, all companies must document that they are producing a “general public benefit”; they may also elect to pursue one or more specific public benefits. The “general public benefit” is meant to ensure a holistic assessment of the firm’s impact on all its “stakeholders.” Framers of the legislation debated whether a corporation could simply elect several specific public benefits, but they decided against this approach. They wanted to ensure that a company could not reduce waste while increasing carbon emissions, for instance, or reduce both while paying their workers a poverty wage.61 Elizabeth Babson noted, “You shouldn’t be able to dump toxic waste out the window but get a gold star because you built a school.” Tim Frick put it even more bluntly: “Don’t be wagging the dog for disenfranchised women in India while dumping shit into the river over here.” The importance of the “general public benefit” became abundantly clear during the 2014 Supreme Court case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, which allowed corporations a religious belief exemption from the birth control provisions of the US Affordable Care Act. In his majority opinion in this case, Justice Samuel Alito surprised many citizens by referencing the benefit corporation to bolster his claim that companies should be al­ lowed to pursue religious goals. He wrote, “Recognizing the inherent compatibility between establishing a for-­profit corporation and pursuing nonprofit goals, states have increasingly adopted laws formally recognizing hybrid corporate forms. Over half of the States, for instance, now recognize the ‘benefit corporation,’ a dual-­purpose entity that seeks to achieve both a benefit for the public and a profit for its owners.”62 Alito’s enthusiasm was somewhat confused. Hobby Lobby had not applied for or received the status of a benefit corporation. Further, Alito overlooked “a crucial element of benefit corporation law—­namely, that these entities are bound by an overriding obligation to pursue a ‘general public benefit,’ which acts as a check on the pursuit of any specific benefit.”63 Given the way the statutes were written, in most states the pursuit of a specific public benefit, such as promoting religion, would not absolve a corporation from the obligation to, say, provide its employees with health insurance. Like Alito’s statement, the legislative debate over the adoption of benefit corporations in Colorado demonstrated how crucial the general public

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benefit clause was in drawing a red line between an attempt to ensure corporate responsibility in the broadest sense and a simple expansion of corporate personhood. The debate pitted those who wanted to adopt the general public benefit against those who wanted only the option of one or more specific public benefits. In an interview, Herrick Lidstone, a Colorado attorney opposing adoption of a general public benefit, noted, People who elect this form should have the ability to balance and pick and choose and maybe general public benefit is not what they want to choose. Wheth­er they wanted to do something specific or not they had to worry about the ice cap in the Arctic, the dolphins in the Pacific. . . . When maybe what they want to do is to build an elementary school or a ballpark. . . . We wanted them to be able to choose a specific public benefit and not be tied to a general public benefit.

Lidstone acknowledged that he was explicitly interested in the leeway a “specific public benefit”—­perhaps to promote a religious case—­might provide for a business that wanted to opt out of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to provide access to birth control. Of his colleagues who opposed the benefit corporation law, he said, “They only see it from the left. They don’t see the benefits it can provide to the right as well. That’s the beauty of it. It goes both directions.” In the end, Colorado was one of only a few states to date to adopt legislation that did not require a benefit corporation to provide a general public benefit.64 In addition to pursuing a general public benefit, a benefit corporation must implement accountability measures. The model legislation states that the benefit corporation directors must consider the effects of their ac­tions on shareholders; employees, including those of subsidiaries and sup­pliers; customers; community and societal factors in each community where they or their subsidiaries or suppliers do business; the local and global environment; and the corporation’s own short-­term and long-­term interests. The statute also allows directors to consider the interests of any other group they deem appropriate. It is notable that the law does not require any particular behavior on the part of the firm. It recognizes that there are trade-­offs—­that installing new solar panels may delay a raise for workers, for example—­and allows directors discretion to balance impacts as they see fit. But it requires the firm to explain how its actions affect all these groups or factors in its third-­party standard reporting. As explained by William Clark, one of the legislation’s authors,

benefit corporations


The model [legislation] actually says that the weight to be given those interests in any particular instance is up to the directors—­the thought being that the directors may need to consider primarily the financial stability of the organization in some instances. In other instances they may consciously decide that it fits their purposes to prefer the interests of employees or of the community. But at the end of the day when they issue their yearly report on how they did, they’re supposed to have managed the business in way that maximizes its return to all three measures of the triple bottom line.

The final obligation laid out in the benefit corporation charter is the reporting requirement. The legislation says the performance review must be independent, credible, comprehensive, and transparent, and it offers precise explanations for how each of these criteria must be met. B Lab provides a list of organizations it believes offer reliable assessment devices, but companies can choose others if they meet those criteria. The report must include a narrative description of activities, impacts, accomplishments, and setbacks as well as an instrument that “scores” the firm against its past performance by a third-­party standard. The final document must be sent to shareholders, posted on the website so members of the public can access it, and filed with a department of the state where the corporation is chartered. Bill Clark noted that the transparency requirement was the most difficult aspect of benefit corporations for traditional companies to accept: “It’s the transparency piece that tied corporate lawyers up in knots.” Some corporate lawyers expressed concern that providing such detailed information about a firm’s decision making and effects on stakeholders could open the door to lawsuits and could reveal valuable “trade secrets” to competitors. In contrast, those who were committed to the benefit corporation model saw the transparency requirement as its most valuable feature. In part this was because it requires managers to engage in conscious consideration of stakeholder concerns. Jamie Raskin argued that the reporting requirement caused firms to “internalize” commitments and values—­ making them part of “the DNA of the company—­so when the company sits down to create a business plan, it’s also creating a benefit plan.” Tim Frick explained: “Every time we recertify we look at ‘How can we improve this? How can we become a more environmentally focused company? How can we treat our employees better? How can we make sure we’re being upstanding members of the community?’ Whether that’s the community of web developers or the physical community we live in.”


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Another manager emphasized that the process is not static, because B Lab continues to ratchet up the standards with every new version of the certification instrument. They are now on their fourth version, and this person said, “They continue to make it more challenging every time.” Corporate directors or specialized compliance personnel were not the only ones who participated in this introspection. As Kevin Trapani said, “Many, many of our employees are involved in the assessment, and they have become quite sophisticated about our business model and our mission.” The effects of these assessment tools and transparency requirements on the behavior of companies are not yet well studied. A major impediment to such research is finding comparable data on employment and en­ vironmental practices from firms not required to document their activities. One preliminary assessment found that companies that obtained B Lab certification were twice as likely as “ordinary” firms to offer part-­time workers benefits and to have recycling programs. They scored significantly better than other “sustainable businesses” (businesses that had some other kind of social responsibility certification) on many, but not all, indicators.65 Another business school study found that certified B Corporations in the professional, scientific, and technical services and in accommodations and food services had significantly lower social performance, while firms with at least one female on their founding team, or whose founding teams included individuals with experience in government or in nonprofits, performed significantly better.66 B Lab itself has noted on its website that certified B Corporations have been more likely to survive economic downturns and are more likely to hire women and minorities. The richest body of evidence on performance to date comes from the companies’ reports themselves. Some of the starkest contrasts between B Corporations and their peer institutions can be seen in employment practices. One example is Cascade Engineering, an injection-­molding firm in Grand Rapids, Michigan, whose fifteen product lines and fourteen locations brought in $285 million in 2014. Cascade won awards for its sustainability practices, including innovations in incorporating recycled plastics into its products, its use of 50 percent renewable energy in its manufacturing, and its achievement—­at nine facilities— ­of zero waste to landfill. But the most unusual aspect of Cascade’s performance was its program to employ individuals from low-­income Grand Rapids neighborhoods with histories of unemployment and felony convictions.67

benefit corporations


The company’s recruitment strategy was designed to remove barriers to employment. Its application process omitted familiar “prior convictions” questions, waived the requirement of a high school diploma or GED, and eschewed written tests, which tend to eliminate applicants with learning disabilities or limited English proficiency. Human Resources staff members requested referrals for jobs from nonprofit and government agencies, drew on local high schools’ lists of at-­risk youth seeking employment, and asked current employees living in targeted inner-­city neighborhoods to recommend neighbors, family, or friends who needed work. The firm provided extensive paid training to new workers. In partnership with the state of Michigan, it maintained a caseworker on site to help those who needed assistance with childcare, transportation, or financial emergencies. It paid all its employees a living wage, covered 75 percent of health insurance premiums, and provided 20 percent of workers with paid professional development opportunities.68 Another example of high-­road employment practices came from a smaller computer services firm. At the time they first sought B Lab certification, they mostly hired freelance workers on contract and thus initially obtained a very low score on the employment part of the assessment. Over the next two years, the owners made full-­time employment available to everyone who wanted it. They began by offering a fairly basic benefits package, but they improved it every year, adding a retirement plan, health insurance, dental and vision coverage, parental leave, and other kinds of leave. A cleaning products firm offered a third example. As a “green” man­ ufacturing enterprise, they had a long-­standing interest in sustainability and scored well on B Lab’s environmental assessment. Because they lagged on their social scores, they decided to locate their next LEED-­ certified manufacturing plant in an economically depressed community and worked with local nonprofits to recruit employees from that neighborhood. Kevin Trapani eloquently explained how his high-­road employment practices related to his sense of the corporation’s embeddedness in the larger community: No company can succeed in a community that’s failing. So if you’re not moved by morality—­if you don’t believe that you’re your brother’s keeper—­maybe economics will move you. . . . There are people who work hard, who work full-­ time, who work multiple jobs, but they’re not making enough money to raise a family, to rent an apartment, to do the things they need to do. . . . Because I

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don’t care how far you cut back public spending and disguise that as some way of making people be responsible for themselves—­you can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps in this environment. Everyone will point to one person who did. But the data are overwhelming. . . . Even Henry Ford said, “If I don’t pay my people enough, they won’t be able to afford my cars.”

In incorporating new social benefits within their day-­to-­day practice and accounting measures, B Corporations benefited from the camaraderie that developed among certified firms. Tim Frick noted the value of interactions with Chicago B Corp peers: The community that one gets out of this has been very valuable for me. It’s an opportunity to connect with owners of different kinds of businesses, but also others like yours. The Chicago community has a larger proliferation of digital agencies than any other community except Portland. So that’s kind of awesome because all of us web geeks can get together and be like—­“How do you deal with this? How do you meld the stress of the ebb and flow of cash and workload with maintaining your mission?”

He noted the mentoring function that the group provides: We do peer group advisory meetings in Illinois. Once a quarter, someone goes in the hot seat. One of the B Corporations comes in and says, “Here’s a problem that I’m struggling with” and then the other B Corporations go around and ask questions and try to get to the heart of what it is they’re struggling with and how to address it.

Business professor Colin Mayer has written that in the past corporations succeeded and created economic value by entering into commitments with employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, and others. He suggests that the idea that firms exist only to serve shareholders endangers these other commitments and causes companies’ interests to diverge from those of the societies where they operate.69 The assessment procedures of B Cor­ porations and the legal requirements for benefit corporations give corporations permission for, and in fact require, attending to these commitments. Elizabeth Babson asserted: How a firm treats its employees . . . can either bring up or bring down the standard of life in a community. There are choices with respect to the supply

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chain: Are they using local people? Are they using international? What are the standards of the factories where their products are coming from? All of these choices have a really broad impact. . . . When you are making decisions, you’re thinking about all of the different people— ­or the environment—­that are going to be affected by that decision.

Advocates for benefit corporations did not simply argue that firms should respect the interests of many constituencies: they also had a more complex concept of the interests of shareholders themselves. They recognized, in other words, that people who own stock are also workers, consumers, community members, and individuals concerned about clean air and water and climate change. Legal scholar Lynn Stout has criticized the dominant assumption that shareholders have one-­track minds: Shareholder value thinking looks at the world from the perspective of a Platonic investor whose only asset is equity shares in one firm (say, BP) and whose only purpose and desire in life is to raise today’s price for BP shares by any means possible. But this Platonic shareholder does not exist. Real human beings own BP’s shares, either directly or indirectly through pension and mutual funds, and real human beings care about much more than just whether BP stock rises. They also want to protect the value of their other investments, keep their jobs, lower their tax bills, and preserve their health.70

Stout goes on to sketch a profile of such an investor, who owns BP stock but also has a beach home in the Florida panhandle and a job in the Gulf tour­ism industry and cares about her health and that of her family. Inves­ tors, Stout points out, like everyone else, have broader stakes “in the economy, the community, and the planet.” Benefit corporations recognize the firm’s embeddedness in the social world, but what they offer in response is not exactly a social justice initiative. It is not a process whereby citizens can claim their rights to fair treatment in the workplace, a clean environment, or a fair distribution of resources. It is an initiative taken by relatively privileged business owners who are motivated to run their enterprises differently. As William Clark noted, “The theory of all this is that this is a better, more successful in the long term way of doing business.” The specific programs that directors implement are sometimes paternalistic and represent their particular visions of what society needs.

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Many participants in the movement recognized this limitation. They believed that government could better solve some of the problems they were addressing, but they did not expect that to happen. Bill Clark noted, “It is very clear, and I think most people would agree with this, that we’re not seeing any major government programs—­new major spending—­any­ time soon. And at the same time we have problems that—­as a progressive society that we all want to live in—­we’d like to fix.” Jay Coen Gilbert of B Lab echoed this view: At least in the United States, we are in a time of increasing uncertainty about what people think the proper role of government in society should be. No matter where you come down that on that ideological spectrum, all projections seem to show that we’re headed into a generation where government will have less money to spend than it has had in the past. . . . If the government isn’t going to be able to do that, or if it’s not willing, then where else do we look for leadership? The idea is we ought to be able to look to the private sector . . . but we have to give the private sector some of the tools that are lacking to do that more effectively.

Kevin Trapani put the matter even more bluntly: “Government has ceded responsibility for overseeing and taking care of the people to business.” In an era when government was unwilling or unable to provide “protective covering,” these individuals saw the benefit corporation as a way to ameliorate the harms caused by relentless pursuit of corporate profits. The benefit corporation’s structure and practices were designed to re­ veal the ways corporations were embedded in society: their effects on workers and the environment, consumers and creditors, neighbors and governance bodies, supply chains and labor markets. The new corporate entity’s “accounting practices” required managers to assess and document the good or harm they were doing in each of these areas and to make that information available to the public. While traditional corporations sought to improve profits by externalizing many of the costs of their operations, the benefit corporation model encouraged firms to internalize some of these costs. These activities were not quarantined in a separate office of “corporate responsibility” but were integrated into the firm’s overall mission and day-­to-­day decision making. By making hidden costs and impacts visible and arguing that they should be taken into account in corporate decisions, proponents of benefit corporations were mounting a movement

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to change understandings of how economic value is created and where it resides.

Revaluation Project: Talking Back to Shareholder Value Timothy Mitchell has defined the economy as “a set of practices that puts in place a politics of calculation.”71 In these practices, we can see how people assess value, establish equivalences, calculate, and make things measurable. They identify and require certain kinds of social actors or agents and certain sets of relations, both among people and between humans and the environment. Shareholder value is one such economic practice. It entails assessing value and establishing equivalences, practices of measurement, and calculation. It names and prioritizes certain actors (shareholders, CEOs, private equity firms) while marginalizing others and making them invisible (workers, communities, and the environment). In talking back to this dominant assemblage, the benefit corporation movement sought to change not just a mode of thinking, but also a deeply rooted set of investments and behaviors. Promoters of benefit corporations sought to challenge the hegemony of shareholder value doctrine by creating new forms of value, new kinds of equivalence, and new practices of calculation. In the parlance of the business world, “you manage what you measure”—­which means that transfor­ mations in practice require ways of tracking current impacts, setting goals for remediation or improvement, and measuring progress toward them. These measures of social performance were not part of normal accounting practice and rarely were taught in business schools— ­or appeared only in elective courses on ethics. According to Eric Trojian, both consumers and investors “lack the comprehensive tools to understand the complete picture of a company’s performance across the full range of social and environmental measures.” The challenge, in the words of another advocate, was to “quantify the qualitative activities of companies.” As a “contestatory assemblage,” the benefit corporation movement cre­ ated its own body of knowledge about corporate performance, including many ideas recuperated from a real or imagined corporate past. It included new laws and rules, a new type of corporate charter, new certification practices, and a knowledge-­sharing community. It required new reporting procedures and new norms of transparency. By providing a way for a small number of corporations to enact a more complex and multivalent set of

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valuation practices and a different set of relationships with its constituencies, it sought to demonstrate that it was still possible for businesses that behaved in this way to survive and thrive. Kevin Trapani explained why new methods for assessing success were crucial: We need to be able to pay a higher price that is inclusive of the total cost to society and the environment, so that you’re not extracting or externalizing by means of doing whatever is necessary to make another dollar. . . . This means having a higher cost of operations from things like paying employee benefits and good treatment of employees and higher wages. But these are the things that investors usually look at first on a list of levers to lower costs.

He described how he explained his socially conscious decisions to shareholders: The investor needs to see a report that says: “Your investment of x amount earned this much over a five-­year period, but over those five years the business you have supported has employed 100 people with developmental disabilities, provided housing for them, recycled sixteen tons of e-­waste.” If there were a way to put a number on that social return–­it’s the question of measuring the qualitative.

Matt Stinchcomb, a senior manager at Etsy—­a benefit corporation that provides marketing services to individual craftspeople— ­explained the challenges he faced in quantifying the “intangible” benefits his business model provided: We’re made up of 1.2 million small businesses—­most of them run by women, half of them living under the median poverty level—­so this is real economic impact. People are getting direct access to markets. . . . We’re reducing the barriers to commerce to almost zero marginal cost for the people who are doing this thing. We’re aggregating them and bringing them to the marketplace. That in and of itself on some level reimagines commerce. . . . So this reimagining of commerce to me also speaks to “Well, what is success? And do you view success only in financial terms, or is real success actually something deeper than that?” . . . We can’t beat Facebook or Google on price, but we can beat them in values and culture.

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The question of how to measure externalities—­both positive and nega­ tive—­loomed large in the mind of B Corporation managers. As one said, One of the things that we as a society are terrible at is measuring negative externalities. And so CISCO lays off four thousand people and the stock goes up three points. Nobody thinks about the four thousand mortgages that aren’t going to get paid. This is a huge, huge issue in our society. Because what we have taught business leaders to do is to privatize profits and socialize costs. So—­I’m delighted to take my employees under thirty-­five hours a week because then I don’t have to pay them health benefits. “The Affordable Care Act will take care of that.” And I’m okay paying people minimum wage even though I know they’re going to need Section 8 housing. This is a toxic business practice that has become the key to success for people.

In contrast, this person said, “When my head hits the pillow at night, I know that I’ve got eighty mortgages to pay, I happen to know that my eighty employees have seventy-­three kids right now. I know how many of them are in college and how many of them I’ve got to take care of in terms of paying for their college expenses. Those are our obligations and blessings to take care of.” When managers took the high road, they realized they needed to measure the difference between the outcomes they created and those that would have ensued had they followed the old practices. So they began to measure the energy savings of switching to renewable sources, for exam­ ple, and the jobs created in neighborhoods with high unemployment. One firm that had pioneered a new set of safety practices calculated the lives saved and injuries prevented by the new measures. In these ways, manag­ ers began to develop accounting practices for positive externalities as well. The metrics provided by B Lab and other third-­party assessment organizations are a kind of experiment station for quantifying the qualitative. The B Lab instrument consists of thirty pages of questions about governance, employment practices, community impacts, environment, and other issues; many of the questions require supporting documentation. B Lab computes a score in each of these areas based on the answers, which firms can use to compare their practices against those of other firms and their own progress over time. Managers found the assessment challenging. Rebecca Ryan, owner of a B Lab – ­certified consulting firm, noted, “It was an arduous process to get the certification. And as you know, we have to be reviewed regularly.” Many business owners pointed

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out that the assessment was useful not just in giving them a quantifiable index of their behavior, but in focusing their attention on practices they had taken for granted. One manager explained, “So we took the assessment and found that we passed but barely (80.2). . . . We became a B-­ Corp. And now, almost two years later, we’re up to 105. So the certification process showed where we had a lot of shortcomings. And a lot of times it wasn’t that we were doing anything bad, but just that we weren’t measuring it.” The certification process often led managers to discover consequences of their practices that they hadn’t been aware of. Tim Frick, the director of a computer services firm, expressed surprise at what he learned while conducting the assessment: We were answering the questions about our supply chain. For the most part, we don’t have a really big supply chain because what we offer is made of pixels. . . . But the assessment gave us an opportunity to look at the sustainability of the web in general, and pixels require electricity. We started looking at the carbon footprint of the Internet and—­lo and behold—­it’s 830 tons of carbon emitted each year. So suddenly we’re like, “We’re more of a problem than we thought we were! The things we create emit more greenhouse gases than the airline industry!” . . . So we retooled our process to think about where energy would be used in the process of building a website, and we began ‘green hosting’—­ making sure all websites housed on our servers are powered by renewable energy. And then optimization. Eventually we built a new product that allowed anyone to analyze the sustainability of their website and to identify areas where they could be more energy efficient.

In published reports, managers translated the certification instrument’s summary scores back into concrete accomplishments such as percentage of employees paid a living wage or receiving benefits, proportion of energy obtained from renewable sources, and reductions in waste sent to landfills. Many companies documented the ways their missions met the needs of the communities where they were located, citing the number of entry-­level jobs they created. Others noted how their environmental practices—­such as incorporating recycled materials—­were setting new norms in their industry. Still, for many the numbers themselves were not sufficient. Managers spoke about the need for stories to capture the imagination of investors and the public and to demonstrate the complex consequences that

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a mission-­driven business model could have. Reed Mayfield, a lending manager at RSF Social Finance, noted, “Storytelling is a powerful way for investors to see the connection between their intention and the transformation created by social enterprises.” Another manager explained, “It’s pretty clear that you need both qualitative and quantitative data—­ everybody likes the numbers. But they buy the stories. Stories move people’s hearts.” People began to develop expertise in creating narratives that conveyed their successes. The owner of a certified B Corporation told how, faced with dire financial circumstances in the aftermath of the 2008 recession, he had refused to lay off any workers, forgoing profits and taking on debt to weather the crisis. Others posted testimonials from their employees, highlighting the ways access to benefits, or paid leave, or an educational opportunity had affected their lives. They sought to craft a vernacular economic discourse of moral economy that linked the success of business to the well-­being of workers, community, and environment. Some directors were less interested in developing documentation as a measure of their performance than in making it available as a guide for others seeking to follow in their footsteps. Stinchcomb explained: You can go to the website and you can see that our ecological score is 40 or whatever. But that doesn’t actually tell you anything. What’s missing to me is the hands-­on tactical “how to do these things.” . . . Like, How did you build a food program using all organic, local, in-­season, small vendors rather than the corporate mode? Well, we’ll write the white paper on that. We’ll write a white paper on how to calculate the footprint of an individual good in the marketplace. . . . They [B Lab] give you suggestions of things you can do, but what I really want is people who are doing this stuff to say, “Here’s how we did it.” The “Footprint Chronicles” from Patagonia is a good example. If you go to Patagonia they are like, “Here—­this is everything that we do to make our garments. You can learn how to do it. If you want to do it this way, we’re open-­sourcing this. Go off and build a competitor.”

Measurement was, of course, only a first step. For the information to do more than sit on the page (or the website), it had to be incorporated into a feedback mechanism. For certified B Corporations, the main feedback loop was reputational. By publicizing the report on their corporate website and referencing it in their marketing, the companies invited investors and consumers to take it into account in deciding whether to invest in

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the firm or to buy its products. Adrian Reif, owner of the food enterprise YumButter, expressed it this way: And so what transparency does is it allows people to make better decisions with more information. . . . being transparent with our supply chains and how we interact with people, how we treat our employees, where our ingredients are coming from. You’re going to see a huge shift in how firms operate. And you’re also going to see a huge shift from consumers and who they choose to buy from because they have more information.

For chartered benefit corporations, there was the additional possibility that shareholders could pressure the company—­in court or informally—­if they felt it was not performing well enough in some area of their social mission. Although benefit corporations were explicitly charged with considering the effects of their activities on all stakeholders, only shareholders were empowered to hold them accountable in this way. As they struggled to develop new modes of calculation and new measures of impact and to create institutional mechanisms that would recognize and validate them, promoters of benefit corporations translated big questions about value into the everyday practices of a contestatory assemblage. This was sometimes tedious—­YumButter’s Reif complained, “The B Corporation was just a lot of work. . . . sitting in front of the computer and making sure all the documentation was there and going out and getting documentation for all of our stuff.” But many found the assessment work itself part of the process of change. One manager said, “The most important part of being a B Corporation is the constant certification and recertification, and the learning community we’re part of that makes us better all the time.”

Conclusion Compared with the antiglobalization movement or Occupy Wall Street, the movement to charter and certify benefit corporations was not world changing. Participants themselves acknowledged this. As Jay Coen Gilbert said, “This is a pretty conservative movement— ­conservative with a small c—­interested in returning business to its roots: which is, business exists to serve society, to create high-­quality jobs, and to improve the quality of life in our communities. A return to basics.”

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The backward-­looking character of the movement was also obvious. Jamie Raskin put it simply: “When the country started, all corporations were benefit corporations.” Kevin Trapani echoed this point: “The way we think firms ought to behave is the way business behaved until the 1970s. It wasn’t always that CEOs made four hundred times what their employees did. But as we got to a place where ownership was outsourced to shareholders and metrics altered to finance, we began to lose our way.” Writing about the benefit corporation movement in the New Yorker, James Surowiecki underscored the nostalgic nature of this stance: The desire to balance profit and purpose is arguably a return to the model that many American companies once followed. Henry Ford declared that, instead of boosting dividends, he’d rather use the money to build better cars and pay better wages. And Johnson & Johnson’s credo, written in 1943, stated that the company’s “first responsibility” was not to investors but to doctors, nurses, and patients. There were problems with this way of doing business: it was paternalistic and often inefficient. But what replaced it—­the fetishization of shareholder value—­has inflicted serious damage of its own, encouraging corporations to focus on short-­term prospects and share price at the expense of everything else. The rise of B corps is a reminder that the idea that corporations should be only lean, mean, profit-­maximizing machines isn’t dictated by the inherent nature of capitalism, let alone by human nature.72

As in all recuperative movements, advocates for benefit corporations deployed a vision of the past to censure what they saw as a degraded present. And at the heart of that recuperative move was a revaluation project: an attempt to acknowledge and value contributions that the current mode of economic reasoning made invisible. The list of invisible elements included the contributions of workers to productivity; the value of workers’ skills and knowledge; the ways businesses drew from and contributed to places; the advantages of a long-­term, sustainable business presence; the benefits of reliable, stable jobs; the strength of transparent and multi­ stranded relationships with suppliers; the firm’s role in contributing to the survival and well-­being of the current generation of workers and to the reproduction of the next generation; and the “ecosystem services” of clean water, clean air, and stable climate. The new measures were also an effort to track and take responsibility for all kinds of “externalities”—­ the unmeasured “costs” (and sometimes benefits) of current business practices. Despite their claim to be reviving an old idea, the accounts

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provided by individuals involved in the movement traced an image of corporate responsibility that arguably looked less like the mid-­twentieth century managerial corporation than a prefigurative vision of something altogether new. Understood in its largest frame of reference, activists designed benefit corporations to address what they perceived to be a shift in the balance of power between corporations and the rest of society. At the middle of the twentieth century, economist John Kenneth Galbraith described the United States as having a system of “countervailing power” where a strong labor movement and activist government balanced corporate dominance.73 By the 1970s, business economists Ralph Gomory and Richard Sylla claimed that “Galbraith’s countervailing powers had . . . begun to break down.”74 As a new neoliberal political rationality called for and achieved less government involvement in the economy and reductions in the social safety net and launched a multipronged assault on the power of unions, corporations gained expansive new legal rights, rolled back decades of regulation, and commanded an increasing share of the nation’s wealth. In the view of many advocates, the newly imagined benefit corporation sought to return to a situation where companies’ power was held in check to a greater degree and where they assumed a broader set of obligations for societal well-­being. As Raskin explained, There is a profound anxiety about the role big business is playing in American life. I don’t think people want to see a society where you have the Fortune 500 and everybody else is treated like serfs. There should be ways for people to enter commerce where they don’t have to surrender all of their other moral and ethical commitments. . . . I wanted to go back to the older idea of a corporation, which is that it doesn’t just have to be about profit and there is some relationship between the corporation and the public good.

An extremely small segment of business was pursuing this new vision—­a “piece of the pie of the system,” as one manager put it. It was in­ tended to be a demonstration project—­to show that a company that chose a social mission and considered the well-­being of multiple constituencies could still be successful. As Matt Stinchcomb explained, “ I hope that we can be financially successful and return value to our investors and shareholders and live up to these values and do business in a very honest, direct, transparent way. And say, ‘Look, this is what we do, and we still make money’ . . . and they would be like, ‘Hey, so we can do that too.’ ”

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William Clark expressed his hope that “the more this spreads and the more people come to admire businesses that behave this way, the more there will be pressure on others to move this way.” Trapani said, “People will see that you can have a higher purpose and don’t have to swear a vow of poverty.” In fact, this demonstration effect seems to have been the main grounds on which the Michigan legislature refused to pass benefit corporation legislation. A representative of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce made this clear: We were not necessarily comfortable standing by and watching an effort that would result in . . . a label that basically labels one company as a good company, socially conscious or environmentally sensitive. And by default if another company doesn’t have that quote unquote label, well, then the insinuation is that this is a bad company and not socially conscious and not environmentally conscious.

Trapani acknowledged the limitations of such a demonstration project: It can’t be a full solution. But there are business leaders that have good will . . . and they ought not be punished. . . . They ought to be protected. . . . No one thinks that B Corporations are going to be the solution to all of the problems globally. It’s an answer. And there’s nobody that’s going to be an opponent of it because it’s not the whole answer.

The benefit corporation model teetered on a massive contradiction. As a movement that sought to restore a system of countervailing powers and to respond to the growing dominance of corporations in American life, it relied on the initiative and creativity of corporations themselves. For critics, it was obvious that making corporations better actors could benefit workers and communities and take up some of the slack left by a shrink­ ing state. But it was not clear that members of civil society had a voice in this process, either directly or as citizens represented by government. Many activists in the movement recognized this omission but did not see a way to address it. As Tim Frick pointed out, “It [the B Lab assessment] will ask you questions about open book management and all that, but it won’t ask you how you empower your employees. They’ll ask about the percent of employee ownership, but there are ways of thinking about [the issue] that the B Lab assessment doesn’t address yet.”


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The best approximations to a solution were found in those enterprises (and there were many) that had some degree of employee ownership. Even as a project wholly within the corporate sphere, however, benefit cor­ porations offered a new vision of how economic value was created and how it could be distributed. Arguably, by showing that metrics and practices that respected those definitions of value were consistent with corpo­ rate success, the movement opened the door to a larger conversation about what civil society might demand of the corporation or what government might require on its behalf.

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Slow Money The Value of Place Local Economies as a Field of Struggle


n 2012 the Chatham Marketplace, a cooperative grocery store in Pittsboro, North Carolina, faced bankruptcy. The co-­op was a social hub for Pittsboro’s four thousand people and sold a variety of locally produced foods and crafts, from artisanal breads and sauerkraut to eggs from free-­ range chickens. On the eve of bankruptcy, it held a bank loan at 8.7 percent interest and faced an imminent deadline for a balloon repayment. The bank was tightening its lending practices and suggested it might not be possible to refinance. In response to this situation, a local activist convened a group of sixteen co-­op supporters. They formed an “investment club” and an LLC (limited liability corporation), and each individual contributed $25,000 toward the $400,000 needed to purchase the co-­op’s loan from the bank. Once they gained ownership of the loan, they reduced the co-­op’s interest rate to 5 percent. Net of the expenses of running the LLC, the investors received a 4 percent return on their money. With the cost of its debt reduced, the co-­op not only stayed in business but began to turn a profit.1 The informal lending network that saved the Chatham Marketplace was part of a newly emergent national (and international) movement called Slow Money. The birth of Slow Money represented the convergence of two early twenty-­first-­century trends: a growing interest in socially responsible investment and a massive increase in the popularity of locally grown food. From the perspective of Wall Street in 2012, a 5 percent loan did not adequately reflect the risks of lending to a struggling small business. But the local investors who engineered the “rescue” of Chatham Marketplace


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felt that not only were they saving their town’s meeting place and their source of local food, they were also supporting dozens of local enterprises that supplied the co-­op, thus pumping resources into a regional economy that had seen its share of hard times with the loss of textile and poultry employment in recent years. For them, Slow Money was both an investment strategy and a food movement whose central principle was the significance of “the local.” The Slow Money movement has roots in a utopian agrarianism that values the land, simple technologies, and face-­to-­face relationships. Its participants find philosophical grounding in the work of Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, Rudolf Steiner, Wendell Berry, and E. F. Schumacher (author of Small Is Beautiful ). It is part of a long history of movements for ethical investment, from Islamic banking to Quaker boycotts of industries involved in the slave trade. Unlike some predecessor movements and utopian communities, however, it seeks a way to activate these values inside capitalist markets. Like the movement around benefit corporations, many of its founders and participants are entrepreneurs and investors, but their discourse and practices depart sharply from dominant economic theories. Slow Money’s name pays homage to the Slow Food movement, a loosely knit international mobilization that started with protests against the building of a McDonald’s franchise near the Spanish Steps in Rome in 1986. Responding to what protestors saw as globalization overtaking local food cultures, Slow Food’s manifesto declared, “We are enslaved by speed and have all succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods. Our defense should begin at the table.” Drawing on this philoso­ phy and extending it into the sphere of investment, Slow Money’s founding documents declared, “We must bring money back down to earth. There is such a thing as money that is too fast, companies that are too big, finance that is too complex. Therefore, we must slow our money down—­not all of it, of course, but enough to matter. . . . We must connect investors to the places where they live.”2 The movement’s founders sought to translate the “patient” approach of Slow Food to the field of finance. As a food movement, Slow Money fostered investment in local enterprises in order to build strong alternative food systems. Activists used the term foodshed—­an analogy with the concept of a watershed—­to describe the flow of food from the area where it is produced to the place where it is consumed, including the land it grows on, the route it travels, the markets it passes through, and the tables where it ends up.3 Slow Money sought

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not just to invest in farms and processing enterprises that could provide food locally, but to build densely interconnected local food economies. In deliberately cultivating these relationships, Slow Money activists were engaged in a revaluation project. They sought to develop a discourse and set of practices that recognized and nurtured what mid-­twentieth-­century development economists called the “articulation” of local economies—­ their backward and forward economic linkages, multistranded relationships, firsthand knowledge, and recirculation of wealth. They worked to create communities where people produced locally some portion of what they consumed, and where some local consumers had a stake in its production. This economic interconnectedness was meant to tie together the fates of members of the community, distributing risk and profits along with local products. In constructing a contestatory assemblage, Slow Money activists worked to create new vernacular economic knowledge premised on the ideas that dense local webs of investment and commerce were vital to economic development and that the relative transparency of localized patterns of economic activity made the effects of business—­both positive and negative— ­easier to understand. They developed a wide variety of new, loosely regulated face-­to-­face investment practices and forms of financial intermediation that they called “line of sight investing.” They held conferences to disseminate ideas about how to make local investing work, organized “incubators” for budding entrepreneurs, and held “meet and greets” for potential investors to connect with businesses that needed capital. They found ways to provide technical assistance to fledgling enterprises and shared information among local groups through webinars and conference calls. As a movement, Slow Money talked back to neoliberal global market logic. The impetus behind its activism was the perception that the most recent wave of neoliberal globalization had harmed local communities. Activists sought to draw attention to these harms and to reconstruct some of what they believed had been lost. In doing so they saw themselves as responding to an economic logic that reduced places to abstractions and contended that they were interchangeable. They countered with a discourse and practices that said the particularities of place mattered. They talked back to theories of comparative advantage that said goods should be produced where the opportunity cost is lowest, even if that location is five thousand miles away. They took issue with economies of scale: many sought instead to expand their enterprises—­when they did—­through econ­ omies of scope. They rejected the premises of global trade agreements that


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prohibited supports and protections for local enterprise. In the words of Slow Money’s founder, Woody Tasch, they believed that globalization had broken “the relationships among capital, community, and bioregion.”4

Building a New Way to Invest Although ethical investing has a long history, the first firms specializing in sustainable and responsible investment formed in the 1980s. Woody Tasch directed one such fund—­the Investors’ Circle—­in the 1990s. In January 2008, Tasch organized a retreat in Sundance, Utah, for a group of sixteen individuals who had been experimenting with new forms of local investment in the food sector. Bringing together their experience from different parts of the country, and with the economic meltdown of fall 2007 as a backdrop, they founded Slow Money. The goal was to implement the principles Tasch had helped to develop at the Investors’ Circle but with a specific focus on the food sector. In his 2010 book, Tasch laid out the organization’s vision: “What is needed is a new form of financial intermediation. Intermediation that favors a large number of small, independent, local-­first food enterprises over a small number of large, consolidated, global-­first food enterprises. Intermediation that is oriented around nurture, rather than acceleration, extraction, and export.”5 In the view of its proponents, Slow Money’s approach goes beyond forms of socially responsible investing (SRI) that seek to avoid channeling funds to companies whose practices and products are harmful. It is more radical, too, than “impact investing” that tries to fund companies whose actions benefit society and the environment. Slow Money calls instead for “line of sight” investing where people channel capital into enterprises they know firsthand, with the goal of improving the quality of life in their own communities. It redefines the notion of fiduciary responsibility to include promoting social and environmental well-­being within a region or community, and it expands the notion of return to include nonfinancial values. In 2009, hubs of Slow Money activism began popping up across the United States. Largely independent of one another, most groups began by convening individuals and organizations to conduct assessments of the regional food economy’s resources. The first national gathering of these local movements was held in September of that year in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It brought together over 450 people from thirty-­four states and six countries.6 By 2014 there were thirty-­seven semiautonomous Slow Money groups in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky,

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Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mex­­ ico,  New  York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, Vermont, and the Pacific Northwest. These groups had invested over $40,000,000, mostly in increments of $20 to $50,000. Volunteers ran them. If they had any office staff, their time was often “borrowed” from like-­minded organizations. Slow Money had a national office of five people in Boulder, Colorado, who convened its annual gatherings, published a newsletter, and maintained a website, but local chapters were the activity centers. Slow Money organizations tended to emerge in places that already had significant “local food” resources—­regions with thriving farmers’ markets, co-­ops, a variety of artisanal food enterprises, and community-­supported agriculture farms (CSAs).7 These entities proved to be repositories of expertise and technical knowledge about local food production, from local varieties of heirloom tomatoes and apples to artisanal cheese production and fermentation techniques. They also possessed organizational resources—­not only distribution channels for local products, but networks of individuals with existing commitments to local food and mailing lists, websites, and traditions such as food expositions and fairs. Local Slow Money groups experimented with mechanisms for connecting investors to small businesses that needed capital. In designing them, they worked around US Securities and Exchange Commission rules requiring investors to be accredited. The 1933 Securities Act established disclosure requirements and set a minimum net worth and annual income for investors. It was, in the words of one Slow Money activist, “created to guard Grandma from losing her whole savings.” The law allows for various exceptions; for example, it allows individuals to invest in the businesses of “family and friends.” Many Slow Money chapters sought to work within these areas of exemption: Tina Frailey, a member of Wisconsin Slow Money’s board, referred to this as learning to “dance with the regulations.” But the regulatory landscape was uneven and changing. States had their own rules governing investment, which meant that experience gained in one place was not always transferrable to another. In 2014 the US JOBS Act opened the door to several new forms of investing that facilitated “mini” public stock offerings and peer relationships such as “crowdfunding” while loosening some reporting and accreditation requirements. Within this legal and regulatory context, Slow Money chapters developed a range of funding mechanisms. A popular strategy was the “investment club”—­the approach taken to fund the Chatham Marketplace. In this model, a group of five to twenty people would come together, each


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contributing some amount to a common pool. They would create an LLC and, after the members studied different investments, would decide to buy or sell based on a majority vote. Club meetings had an educational component, and each member could actively participate in investment decisions. As long as the group did not delegate decision making to a manager or offer membership to nonparticipating members of the general public, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) did not consider them to be dealing in securities. Groups in Texas, Massachusetts, and Maine approached lending in this way. Some groups adopted a “connector” approach, creating opportunities for potential investors to meet owners of businesses needing capital, hoping they might develop a relationship as the basis for a friends and family exemption. Slow Money chapters that followed this model sponsored showcases where local farms and businesses could present their products and projects. Sometimes they set up websites to serve the same function. According to Mario Vangelisti, one of Slow Money’s founders, when investors found an opportunity that interested them, the Slow Money contact person would say, “Okay, you should talk to Farmer John. Why don’t you go have coffee together? See if you like each other. Become friends. After that you’re on your own to figure out if you want to make something happen.” Sometimes connector groups also provided technical and logistical assistance, sponsoring workshops on legal issues such as the fine points of SEC law or how to make loans. Some also provided mentoring to farmers and processors, helping them improve their business plans and financial records so they were more attractive to investors. While these were the predominant mechanisms Slow Money groups used to structure investments, they were not the only ones. Groups in northern California, the Pacific Northwest, and New York worked through “miniangel” networks, where investors did not pool their capital, as in investment clubs, but met regularly to review opportunities and to share the work of due diligence. These groups were made up mainly of wealthy, accredited investors. Slow Money Wisconsin piloted a project in which small-­ scale investors could work through an accredited local investment firm that specialized in socially conscious transactions to provide loans to vendors who sold to a popular Madison co-­op. The co-­op vetted proposals from vendors in need of credit, and the investment firm performed due diligence before loans were made. As Amy Cortese, a local economy advocate who has written about Slow Money,8 explained in an interview, “Slow Money is not tied to any one investment model. “It’s just, How do we do this? Let’s

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find the best ways to do it. Maybe there are farm trusts or maybe there are slow muni bonds. Maybe there are local stock exchanges. . . . But let’s just channel more money to supporting local sustainable food and agriculture.” In all of these cases, groups worked to develop what Tasch called new forms of financial intermediation premised on face-­to-­face relationships and ethical principles. In creating these new models of investing, local Slow Money groups faced challenges that went beyond remaining in compliance with SEC rules. One had to do with the fact that small food-­system businesses tended to be both high risk and low return—­the opposite of what most investors were seeking. As Claude Arpels of the Slow Money New York City chapter commented, I approached Slow Money investing about three years ago with a hope of being able to make investments that earned low financial returns but commensurately invited low levels of risk. Instead, I find myself regularly confronted with the unsavory combination of low returns and high risk. I wrestle with the question of whether the nonfinancial returns outweigh the financial ones. Should we approach this kind of investing as a different form of philanthropy . . . in which we get some of our money back, sometimes?9

To resolve this issue, chapters experimented with portfolio approaches, bundling investments with varying degrees of risk and different prospects of return. Sometimes they tried including farmland or sustainably managed timberland in the portfolios as a kind of “stabilizer.” Other groups began to work on developing bonds that were similar to municipal bonds but invested in local food systems. But in general there was consensus among activists that this kind of investing required a new mind-­set—­a redefinition of investing to include the kind of social returns that did not show up in traditional accounting books. A second issue was how to handle success—­what to do when a company prospered and needed to expand its operations. The question for Slow Money activists was whether it was possible to create ownership and governance structures that expressed the “stakeholder accountability” values of the movement and would not be diluted as the company grew. Many activists were acquainted with, and interested in, the benefit corporation as a possible way to do this. Some of the entrepreneurs in the movement made a commitment to grow through increasing the scope, rather than the scale, of their enterprises. For example, one company moved

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from butchering sustainably raised meats to producing a variety of specialty sausages and other meat products, to running its own retail butcher shop, a catering service, and a successful restaurant, all of which were “local.” But Tera Johnson, whose whey-­based health food product line had virtually exploded onto the national scene, explained her predicament: I built the smallest . . . plant I could possibly make, and there’s no way that I could have survived for two days selling [in this region]. There are just not enough people here. No way. I had to sell in northern California and New York because that’s where the consumers are for a product like [this]. It’s actually true for a lot of high-­end food products.

Each Slow Money group worked through these issues in its own way. At the fifth annual meeting of Slow Money affiliates in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2014 (which lasted three days and had 830 registrants), national leaders presented a profile of the deals made through Slow Money chapters in the aggregate. Sixty percent were for less than $100,000. The vast majority took the form of loans; two-­thirds had holding periods of zero to six years. One-­third of investment was in farm or ranch land, another third in organic brands, and the rest fell into the categories of food production operations, processing, distribution, or other activities. Groups in New England and the Pacific Northwest “moved” the largest amount of money.10 Without having a single model, Slow Money had achieved these gains through a portfolio of new practices.

Embedded Localities: Forging Relationships and Responsibilities The claims that Slow Money activists made about the advantages of local investing sometimes sounded like nostalgia for the days of barn raisings and quilting bees, and sometimes like an updated version of REM’s song “Shiny Happy People Holding Hands,” but they were also grounded in a certain kind of economics. This was not the economics of global trade or of Wall Street, but a vernacular tradition with roots in the development theory that flourished from the 1950s through the 1980s. In the 1950s,  de­­ velopment economists like W. A. Lewis, Theodore Schultz, and Albert Hirschman sought solutions for the economic woes of former colonies where the middle class was not strong enough to generate much demand

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for goods—­where ships and trains carried tropical fruits and precious minerals northward, returning with tractors and household appliances for the elite. They worried about unevenness in sectoral development in these countries, where the few existing industries needed sophisticated infrastructure that did not serve the mass of producers. They worried about missing linkages among economic sectors, when factories required inputs that could be obtained only from abroad; they were concerned by the lack of correspondence between production and consumption, when factories turned out goods that only a few wealthy citizens could afford to buy. They recommended import substitution policies for nations to incubate key industries as a way to create jobs and develop connected supply chains. They felt that growth was served when new enterprises generated products that were inputs to other industries (forward linkages) while creating demand for the products of other factories (backward linkages). They sought to build economies where productivity gains translated into real wages and consumption capacity expanded in relation to productive capacity.11 Their vision was aligned with a Keynesian faith in the ability of policymakers to effectively tinker with the economy in the interest of stability and growth and with a Polanyian vision of the economy as embedded in a wide range of social institutions. Development economics was always something of a dissident tradition within the discipline because of its focus on state interventions in the economy. Few mainstream economists think in these terms today, but many in the local economy movement do. Organizations like the American Inde­ pendent Business Alliance and the Business Alliance for Living Local Econ­ omies sponsor research to determine the economic multiplier effect or “local premium” that accrues when a consumer spends a dollar at a locally owned business rather than a national or global chain store. (They calcu­­ late that while a little over thirteen cents of a dollar spent at a chain retailer recirculates in the local economy, the figure is roughly forty-­eight cents for each dollar spent at an independent local retailer.)12 Proponents of local investment argue that synergies among local enterprises add value and reduce risk.13 They draw on the concepts of economic geographers who write about business clusters generating “regional push”14 and “agglomeration effects” and who suggest that having a concentration of well-­financed actors in sectors like food generates lucrative interfirm transactions and fosters an appropriately skilled labor market, structures of learning and innovation, and physical and institutional infrastructures. They point to an array of tangible subsidiary benefits that go along with promoting local

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foodsheds: preservation of farmland and small farms, retention of a diversity of local cultivars and animal breeds, reduced food safety risks, less fossil fuel use in transport, and more job creation. In explaining their vision of local economic development, participants in Slow Money often used a negative example. They pointed to the behemoth retailer Walmart as the antithesis of the model of thriving local economy that they sought to promote and as an example of the harms they sought to remediate. As Grant Abert, investor and member of the Slow Money Wisconsin board explained, The idea here is to raise our consciousness or awareness about the value of community and keeping our dollars flowing in our community. We have an economic system that actively attacks community. It’s a global trading system that basically profits from attacking and monetizing the things that make a community a good place to live. . . . Walmart basically attacks Main Street and all of the relationships and local economic cycles and circles that a healthy Main Street provides to a community. They basically undermine that and vacuum up the money and export it from the community and impoverish the community by doing that.

In contrast, he argued that Slow Money was “an attempt to put value on— ­or at least alert people to—­the value of a healthy community economic system. It gets to this whole question of connecting our actions as economic actors to their consequences.” Amy Cortese explained how the erosion of local economic relationships by retailers like Walmart made communities vulnerable by exposing them to forces beyond their control: I think there’s a feeling of vulnerability, right? You can’t depend on global markets. If there’s a huge catastrophe somewhere and your supply is interrupted, what do you do? What if Walmart were to go out of business or something? How many rural areas depend on a Walmart because all their other stores have gone out of business? So it’s just about having options and being resilient and learning how to do things again for ourselves.

For most in the movement, large retail was only a symptom of a bigger problem—­the way neoliberal globalization had separated producers from consumers and investors—­and corporate management from both. They saw global market logic as a problem not only in the retail sector, but in the creation of “global assembly lines” for manufacturing a wide range

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of products. Grant Abert argued, for example, that local investment strategies were part of the answer to the question, How are we going to rebuild from this terrible three decades of exporting our economic base? Slow Money advocates saw global market logic as eradicating the knowledge of specific places and circumstances that local parties bring to transactions. Many activists spoke of how, as farmland became a less important part of their portfolios, national banks lost the knowledge they needed to assess the risks of loans to farmers or to understand the special terms they might need. They felt Slow Money helped fill a gap in lending that supported small farmers and processors and their alternative models of enterprise. For example, Slow Money lenders sought to provide midsized loans for sums that were too small to interest banks but too large to put on a credit card or borrow from family. To emphasize the need for this kind of lending, one activist told the story of a bank that offered a small farmer a $400,000 loan for a new piece of equipment but would not lend him $40,000 for a used machine. Slow Money made other kinds of loans that banks were not willing to make. Wisconsin activists recounted how one bank balked, for example, on learning that an orchard would not see an income stream until the trees began to bear fruit after three to four years. In another case, a bank refused to accept a hoop house as collateral because it did not understand what it was. In each of these cases, distant underwriters without a connection to agriculture lacked the knowledge and relationships to assess loan potential and risks in an informed way. As Michael Hernke, an adviser to the Slow Money Wisconsin board, put it, These folks can’t go to a bank and find anybody who understands what it means to do fruits and vegetables. They don’t even know how to evaluate it, so they just say “that’s risky” because it’s unknown. So they can’t go to a bank and get a loan for most of the things that people would say are really the coolest food businesses around.

He pointed to the way consolidation in the banking industry contributed to this difficulty: Slow Money, I think, is a response to having lost that hometown banker who knew the people and . . . could allocate capital in a way that really was efficient for the community. Not efficient for returns to capital—­that’s a different thing. So it’s an attempt to reestablish relationships and have decisions about capital flow be made with more intimacy.

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Hernke drew on his experience to explain how he felt lending between known parties changed things: My first loan when I started a business was with a banker who knew my parents. Based on nothing, we shook hands and he said, “I know your parents and I know you’re going to pay me back.” And he was . . . saying that he knew I would, but he was also shaking my hand and saying, “You damn well better, ’cause I know your parents.”

Rebecca Ryan, owner of a consulting firm and a member of Slow Money Wisconsin’s board, was blunter about the impact of investing between known parties when she explained why she felt sure that no investors she recruited would impose unrealistic conditions on borrowers. She said simply, “I mean, we don’t let any assholes become members.” Slow Money activists also spoke about the “intangible” benefits that accompanied local economic relationships. Grant Abert elaborated on these nonfinancial returns: Investing as it’s practiced these days is a disembodied system. You know, you send your money away to somewhere. You don’t know where exactly, and you don’t exactly know what they’re going to do with it. And there’s no connection. There’s no investment in the psychological sense. And then the only thing that becomes relevant is “What’s the margin on this?” “What’s the return?,” because you don’t know anything else, really. But when you invest locally, you can have another connection with the investment, with the business, with the system that you’re investing in. And then there comes the possibility of other kinds of return besides financial.

For some individuals, the emotional “returns” to this kind of investing were primary. Carol Peppe Hewitt, a North Carolina Slow Money activist, emphasized this dimension: One of the things people are desperate for is meaningful connections with other people. Good ones. Happy ones. Friendly ones. Warm ones. Ones that nurture you—­nourish and nurture you to where you come away jazzed and pumped and inspired. You want your intellect to be challenged, possibly. And it would be nice if you got eight hugs that day. All those things, those are what really mat­­ ter— ­quality of life. You want your health, friends, and family, all those kinds of things. That’s what we really want.

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Hewitt offered an example of the emotional rewards that can be involved in this kind of investing: If someone picked up my car in the morning and it was gone all day, and then it came back at night, and there was a $10 bill there. Okay—­my car was gone all day, and I made $10. But wouldn’t it be more fun to get $9 and have the people that were using it call you and say “How are you doing? Thanks so much for letting me use your car! By the way, can I do anything for you this week?” We could do that with our money. We just haven’t. We’ve been trained differently. We got tricked into believing that we shouldn’t, that we aren’t capable of managing our own money. We got tricked into believing that somebody else should. And why? Because somebody else makes money on that knowledge.

At the 2014 Slow Money gathering in Louisville, Kentucky, activist Mary Berry spoke about the need to recognize and name these “noneconomic” values: “If some of us think that working out an economy based on cooperation, not competition, is a good idea, then we have to begin talking about noneconomic intangibles such as neighborly work and love, affection and thrift—­noneconomic terms that turn out to have economic consequences.” While this emphasis on nonfinancial returns was an important theme for the movement, it did not necessarily resonate with a broader community of investors. A 2012 New York Times article included Slow Money investments as one possible element of a “financial plan” for those who were “truly fed up” with the slow recovery from the recession. But the article noted that returns on Slow Money investments were in the “lowish single digits.” While acknowledging that the economic roller-­coaster of the past four years clouded the question of whether this was really a “low-­ return” investment, the article reminded readers that “just a percentage point in a portfolio’s average annual return can add up to hundreds of thousands of lost dollars over decades” and that they should “think about whether you’re prepared to save even more, spend less and work several years longer to make up for any shortfall in returns.”15 The article did not speak to the issue of “nonfinancial returns” or other motivations. It suggested that, for traditional investors, the only rational behavior was to attain the highest monetary return possible. Slow Money investors saw all investment as entailing a mix of social and economic “returns” and Wall Street investors as simply willing to ignore the nonfinancial results— ­or negative externalities— ­of their actions. As one person who spoke at the 2014 meeting put it, “The investments

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that we make today are not happening on a separate planet where only the financial returns are repatriated to us. The investments we are making today are shaping the world we are living in.” Wisconsin entrepreneur Tera Johnson elaborated: “If we want to see food companies and agriculture that are reflective of a larger set of values related to the environment and communities, we have to invest in businesses that are not going to have competitive returns in the traditional sense. But they have other kinds of returns in that they’re providing an environmental benefit or social benefit.” Slow Money advocates argued that when individuals invested in a way that did not seek to obtain the greatest possible profits, they were intentionally absorbing the cost of practices that reduced negative externalities and were creating the positive externalities they called nonfinancial returns. Slow Money participants drew inspiration for their attempts to measure nonfinancial returns from European ideas about the multifunctional nature of agriculture. Researchers and activists working in this tradition suggest that agriculture not only produces food and fiber but fosters the preservation of landscape, biodiversity, technical knowledge, and local infrastructure. European advocates for this approach have had some success in getting their claims accepted in European Union policies.16 Tera Johnson offered an example of the “multifunctionality” of the small farm enterprises that Slow Money sought to recognize and foster. Speaking of the owner of Wisconsin’s only organic peach orchard, she said, There’s only one. . . . He’s in Door County; he also grows apples and cherries. He’s a sixth-­generation orchardist. The farm’s been carved up over time among brothers and uncles. So he’s got forty acres that he farms organically. . . . Apparently there used to be little packinghouses for fruit every couple of miles up there—­there’s one left in all of Door County. Most of those orchards are dying because nobody is maintaining them. The industry is going away. People are buying fancy estates up there because they want to ride their bikes through those orchards, and they are going to go away.

For Johnson, this small farm was emblematic of a larger problem: If we want to have a local food system, we have to support some of these businesses. When it’s gone, it doesn’t come back. Wealthy people can raise fruit trees, but they don’t know what six generations of orchardists know about when to prune them, what varieties to plant, when to pick the fruit. All of that goes

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away, along with the processing. So it’s really important. Nobody got rich, but it was a local economy. There are a lot of layers to why it’s important to do this kind of stuff—­and a lot of layers to why it’s difficult.

In this example, the value of landscape, local knowledge, and regional infrastructure replaced a singular focus on the market value of organic produce. For many Slow Money activists, the most important nonfinancial return that local enterprises provide is creating jobs. They argued that when economists use labor productivity (the amount of output per unit of labor) as a measure of success, they automatically privilege technologies and ways of operating that reduce employment. This can be a good thing when labor is scarce, but it is devastating for local communities in times of slow growth and high unemployment. Michael Hernke explained: “We’re much more interested in people than efficiency— ­efficiency, which, you know, really translates into labor productivity. I mean, we could think of efficiency differently as efficient livelihood.” He went on to provide an example from a Northeastern fishing community: Out in Gloucester, Massachusetts, fishing boats have been displaced by large automated trawlers. So a family that could earn a living on a small boat before now needs to go earn a living doing something else because the trawler displaced forty family-­sized fishing boats. You could make the argument that the trawler—­the big automated trawler, the big-­box fishing boat—­is more efficient because it uses fewer resources per fish caught. If you measure that in a constrained enough way, that’s true. But all those people who used to make a living on their small fishing boats now have to do something else for their living, and that has costs for society.

Embeddedness in locality is not without its drawbacks, of course. Most Slow Money proponents recognized the double-­edged nature of personally conducted economic transactions—­they could be rewarding, but they also required time and emotional labor. When interests and worldviews were aligned between parties in an investment relationship, they could feel wonderful; but when they diverged, or when it became necessary to hold other people to account for their behavior, situations could become conflictual and painful. One person attending the Louisville Slow Money gathering commented in an open session, “I’m really interested in what you’re saying. But you’re telling me I have to take a loan from

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my neighbors, and I don’t even like some of my neighbors.” The session moderator’s response was, “You’re totally right. . . . Transactions are hard, but relationships are even harder.” In a globalized economy with its complex, long-­distance relationships, business managers can fire workers without ever speaking to them, and lenders can call in loans without any personal contact with the borrower. In contrast, Slow Money transactions required both good and bad news to be confronted in highly personalized ways. A manager of a loan fund operated through the Willy Street Co-­op of Madison, Wisconsin, noted, “I think [borrowers] trust us more than traditional lending sources. They realize that we understand their business. I think they anticipate that if they were to have problems we would be more flexible.” But she pointed out that this familiarity cuts both ways: But that’s also one of the challenges of loaning locally. It’s really great to be able to invest in your neighbor, but it’s also really hard to say no to your neighbor. Would we want to take somebody’s house if they couldn’t make good on a loan? If the whole goal of this is to try to help them expand their business and they’re new, so they’re risky because they’re new? And then we end up taking their house? That wouldn’t be any fun. It would be upsetting.

For all their attention to the quality of local relationships, Slow Money activists were not particularly attentive to the parochialism that sometimes characterizes local economies or the racial fractures, class antagonisms, exploitation, and intolerance that can also be present in face-­to-­face economic relations. The leaders of the organization, both nationally and in the local affiliates, are largely white. Racial justice issues do not feature prominently in the movement’s materials or writings. Of the 830 people who attended the 2014 Slow Money conference, only a handful were people of color, and with the exception of Vandana Shiva, all the featured speakers were white Americans or Europeans. A session on urban agriculture was given minimal time and marginal space. When a few attendees from the host community of Louisville raised questions about this seeming margin­ alization, white activists were largely defensive. They focused on the lack of time and personnel to devote to the issue of inclusiveness and the need for communities of color to take this on themselves. For all these reasons, the movement was susceptible to the kind of criticism that Patricia Allen, Rachel Slocum, Julie Guthman, and others have made of local food move­­ ments—­that they are largely white social spaces where white subjectivities are expressed.17

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When pressed on this issue, activists acknowledged inequality in a broad way. Rebecca Ryan pointed to disparities: “We need to have a country that works better for more people. Because right now this country works really well for some, but it works incredibly poorly and it’s getting worse for a lot of people. And those people are a broke population.” But they did not necessarily connect that inequality to race, ethnicity, or immigration status. A few individuals had thought about the fact that “local” investment was likely to be hard in regions with little disposable wealth. Mario Vangelisti, for example, saw potential for blending Slow Money’s approach with the microcredit movement to create an approach that could work in poor regions: Now the question is, if people have absolutely no capital whatsoever . . . then there isn’t really a lot that you can do unless you get capital from somewhere else. . . . But it turns out that even in areas that are relatively poor and rural, there are people that have some retirement funds, some pension funds, something. The problem is that that money is invested far away. . . . So, for example, in the Appalachian Mountains you might have a very poor community, but there’s an entrepreneur that needs $1,000 to get some tools. Then the community can basically become a trustee or sponsor of that entrepreneur. Put him up on Kiva Zip18 and then through that platform everybody could invest as little as $5 into the loan. So you could have two hundred people pitch in $5 each. Now all of a sudden, that is a zero percent interest loan to an entrepreneur, and they have $1,000 so they can start doing something and repay that capital to the community. So that’s an example of platforms that can make community-­funded microloans possible.

Amy Cortese pointed to the possibility of expanding Slow Money investment principles to nonfood enterprises like the Evergreen (laundry) Cooperative in Cleveland. She offered this as an example of how to galvanize local economic connections in a way that addressed poverty (and perhaps racial inequality). Few activists raised questions about the ways inequalities were consti­ tutive of local communities—­the ways racial legacies structured access to land and immigration structured labor markets, for example. Their most innovative attempts to address inequality involved what were called “double­up bucks,” a program where participating retailers or farmers’ markets would double the value of SNAP benefits (food stamps) when they were spent on fresh local produce. At the 2014 Slow Money gathering in Louis­ ville, one local African American participant noted, “Double up bucks are great but . . . we haven’t seen the policy solutions to help poor people

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participate in market-­based programs, market-­based solutions. Things that would help business development in the urban-­based communities . . . there’s been an absence of programs to help poor people participate as entrepreneurs in the system.” She posed this question to a panel, which ended without the members’ addressing it. The assumption by a majority of conference participants that local ties necessarily implied responsibility and nurturance resonated strangely in a town that had experienced the local (and face-­to-­face) tyran­­ nies of Jim Crow. For most Slow Money activists, in the end problems of inequality simply took a backseat to the main project of building sound foodsheds and vibrant local economies. As Carol Peppe Hewitt explained, I certainly don’t want to use a trickle-­down theory approach here, but if you don’t have healthy, sustainable, local farms, nobody’s going to eat. . . . So it’s really tricky, this issue of social justice. We can go after that in various ways. Number one, we can make sure SNAP benefits are available at farmers’ markets. We can do some gleaning, possibly. Let’s get a lot of food, an abundance of food which will drive prices down somewhat but they’ll be prices that these farmers can afford, that will support them. There’s ways that we can figure this out, but we’ve got to keep these farmers in business. The whole system has to be worked on, and in the process all boats will rise.

Hewitt’s words echoed those of Slow Money’s founder, Woody Tasch: I look at [this] as a transition period. We’re going from an era when none of the true, long-­term costs of food production were integrated into the system. If we’re going to make the transition to a real food system that produces healthy food in a way that is less harmful—­I’m talking about harm to the environment as well as harm to the people who eat the food— ­then there’s going to be a transition, and the transition is going to be uneven. None of us is smart enough to invent the whole system all at one time. The fact that early adopters may tend to be more affluent does not bother me. We have to start moving, and if that’s where we start, that’s where we start.19

The movement’s lack of attention to inequality and race was in many ways consistent with its attitude toward government. Slow Money activists were skeptical that federal or state government could or should contribute to their project. Tera Johnson commented, “When I was young, I was

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very enthused about social change and much more likely to look to government and nonprofits to execute all of that. But I’ve become more skeptical of their ability to do it.” Amy Cortese echoes this view: “The fact is we have a very dysfunctional federal government at the moment. . . . We can’t look to Washington to solve our problems; we have to look to ourselves. And that’s part of becoming more resilient and rebuilding these systems—­funding them ourselves.” As a movement, Slow Money did not seek to achieve social change at the level of the larger economic system or to make claims about economic justice. It did not seek government support for rebuilding foodsheds, and its goal was not to change the practices of business as a whole. Instead, it concentrated on building a different model with resources that could be mobilized within civil society. As an investment strategy, Slow Money worked to foster what Wolfgang Sachs has called the “thickness” of place.20 It sought to build a variety of face-­to-­face relationships, beginning with the relationship between business owners and those who capitalize them. Its investors provided “patient capital” and were willing to take smaller returns in order for busi­­ ness owners to internalize the externalities created by agribusiness as usual—­to farm sustainably and with fewer chemicals, to pay workers a living wage, and to buy their own inputs locally whenever possible. It encouraged investors to think of a thriving local economy, a beloved landscape, or meaningful community relationships as part of their return. In all these ways, the movement worked to name and enumerate aspects of the economy that market transactions normally do not consider. In a very real sense, it sought to figure those into the costs of doing business.

Revaluation Project: Contesting Global Market Logic By 2008, in the midst of the Great Recession, even mainstream economists were abandoning the view that globalization “lifts all boats.” After more than three decades, the evidence appeared to be in, and Paul Krugman, Lawrence Summers, Jeffrey Sachs, and Joseph Stiglitz, among others, had changed their minds. Dani Rodrik summarized these views: “Free trade advocates argue that in the long run everyone will be better off. In fact there is nothing that guarantees this.” He pointed out that global trade has distributional effects, and that it tends to harm the same people time and time again—­those with little skill and education and those who

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stay in one place. Therefore, Rodrik says, “We must ask, are the gains too small relative to the potential losses to low-­income or other disadvantaged groups? And does trade involve actions that violate widely shared norms or the social contract?”21 Despite these questioning voices, the premise that neoliberal globali­ zation worked for everyone—­and that it was inevitable—­was instantiated in a wide range of institutions and practices. In many instances these practices seemed to be at war with the local. Global trade agreements like NAFTA allowed corporations to sue states and municipalities for setting environmental protections they considered a “barrier to trade.”22 Legal doctrines of “preemption” made it difficult for localities to prohibit practices such as the use of GMOs or fracking if higher-­level units of governance permitted them. Giant global retailers swept into small towns offering prices local businesses could not compete with, while courts barred states from requiring those same retailers to either pay for their workers’ health benefits or reimburse local government for covering them under state programs.23 Factories bolted their doors and contracted to have goods made in faraway locations where labor and environmental laws were weak or nonexistent. Agro-­industry giant Monsanto sued farmers for saving and replanting their own seed.24 In all these ways, the new rules of globalization seemed not just to leave small towns and communities behind, but to work actively against their ability to organize life in ways that did not suit global capital. Slow Money activists took issue with this global market logic, perceiv­ing it as increasing localities’ vulnerability to the ups and downs of the global economy. They saw their movement as dealing with its consequences. It was perhaps no coincidence that Slow Money took hold in the year of the Great Recession. Several activists spoke of the way the economic meltdown had motivated their participation. Cortese said, I think the financial crisis was a huge catalyst for me personally, but also for the movement and for a lot of people because it just really exposed the—­What do I want to call it?—­the perversion of the financial system. What is the value if you’re making money by betting against your customers? If they lose you win. Or if you’re making money by high-­frequency trading where you’re basically front-­running any honest players in the market? Or if you’re making tons of money by engineering multibillion-­dollar leveraged buyouts of the company and then you basically gut it and lay off employees and cut R&D and cut benefits and ruin livelihoods and really destroy value? So where’s the economic value being created in this?

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She described how these concerns formed the context for the first Slow Money national meeting in 2009: “I went to the very first inaugural gathering. It was in Santa Fe. It was really an eye-­opener to me. How do we take back control of our money and our investments and the economy? And it was interesting because it was a year to the day that Lehman Brothers collapsed. So that was kind of the backdrop.” For other Slow Money activists, the financial crisis provoked an awareness of the fragility and vulnerability of the global financial system. For Tera Johnson, “I think the recession was the nail in the coffin for some people. A big, global anonymous system can just unravel. I think it was shocking to people when all of a sudden. . . . It used to be too big to fail. The whole thing used to be too big to fail, and then suddenly it was failing.” Such concerns about the recession were not just at the level of political economy but reverberated in individual lives. Tina Frailey said the recession made her feel she needed to know more about her personal investments and where they were going: “You know, after the ’08 crash, it was sort of like, ‘Well, I have a 401(k) and my money is somewhere out on Wall Street. I think. And I don’t know what kind of companies.’ And that’s becoming more of the norm. As opposed to saying, ‘Yes, I invested my money in this organization and I know it’s bringing food locally.’ ” A participant in the 2014 annual meeting put the issue more broadly: “The global economy does not have our best interests at heart. Agribusiness corporations do not have our best interests at heart. We must therefore look to those who do— ­our friends and neighbors, our local communities and our local economies.” By shaking people’s confidence in the stability and ethics of Wall Street practices, the economic crisis created a sense that the time was right for experiments with homegrown, easy-­to-­grasp investment alternatives. Ethno­­ biologist Gary Nabhan described how the recession affected Slow Money in the Southwest: “Since the Great Recession . . . the surest means that poorer communities have found to recover economically are through proliferating low-­entry, small, locally owned businesses. Such microenterprises can both scale up rapidly as income allows and generate multiplier effects that ripple through the community.”25 In focusing on the crisis of confidence caused by the Great Recession, Slow Money activists raised fundamental questions about an economic system that tied their fate to unseen forces. They were questioning the dispersal of economic activities along a global assembly line where people who made products were in one part of the world, consumers in another,


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and corporate executives in a third. They were challenging a set of dominant ideas that said this was the most efficient way to organize things—­ that it led to higher productivity and lower prices that would eventually benefit everyone. Their call for a “return to the local” was a response to what they saw as the deficiencies of this kind of globalization. As Cortese put it, “It’s globalization driving this [movement]. It’s the financialization of the economy. It’s about creating something new and revitalizing economic systems from an earlier period of time.” But responding to globalization with calls to revalue the local raised the question of what “local” meant. Some geographers have rejected this term altogether (along with terms like global) because of their lack of specificity and the way they “smuggle in” timeworn dichotomies and their associated hierarchies— ­distinctions like small/large, concrete/abstract, static/dynamic, or diversity/universalism. These geographers remind us that scale is a representational trope, “a way of framing political spatiality that has material effects.”26 Just as proponents of neoliberal globalization take advantage of the term global’s associations with dynamism, progress, development, and cosmopolitanism to lend it a sense of inevitability, Slow Money advocates present the local as what Doreen Massey has labeled “a redoubt against the global.”27 It becomes a repository for a more complex agenda of change. Some of the meanings that Slow Money advocates “smuggle into” the local can be discerned by their portrayal of the movement as beholden to the past— ­of its agenda to revitalize “economic systems from an earlier period of time.” In developing their critique of globalization, Slow Money activists often used the real or imagined past as a reference point. For many activists, the work of fostering local economies in a global world involved recovering “older, slower” ways of doing things, from bringing back rotational grazing and artisanal cheese making to fostering exchanges of tools and labor. Cortese explained the significance of these activities: “Our economy has been hollowed out by decades of globalization, and that’s happened around the world. I mean, I think that’s part of it. People are trying to bring back manufacturing and remember how to make things and make things locally and rebuilding those supply chains and foodsheds.” In their frequent references to an earlier, simpler, time of more solidarity, Slow Money activists often spoke in what cultural theorist Raymond Williams called the “pastoral mode”28 —­a rhetorical strategy of contrasting complex industrial life to a simpler agrarian lifestyle. They drew heavily on strains of a uniquely American pastoralism—­a Jeffersonian tradition

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that sees urban life, capitalism, and technology as destructive of independence and dignity and portrays the agricultural community, with its fellowship of labor and cooperation, as the model society.29 The tendency to foreground and romanticize an agrarian past allowed Slow Money to appeal to a wide range of constituencies and differentiated its positions from many other antiglobalization or global justice movements. But it also led many activists to ignore the ways power, racism, patriarchy, and parochialism historically shaped, and continue to shape, rural communities. While few movement participants specifically referenced communitar­ ian political philosophy, many echoed communitarian ideas about the atom­­ ism of modern liberal polities and the value of particularistic attachments to place and culture. As Dupuis, Harrison, and Goodman have written, “Communitarian concepts of the good life are embedded in particular relationships of trust, often based on the physical proximity of living in the same place.”30 This emphasis on trust and proximity aptly describes the philosophical grounding of the movement. As many political philosophers and others have argued, in practice communitarianism can be profoundly antiliberal and even authoritarian, imposing the cultural norms of the majority on those who do not share them.31 In their practices, Slow Money activists were not antiliberal but could perhaps be more accurately described as “cosmopolitan localists,” a perspective that Wolfgang Sachs describes as seeking “to amplify the richness of a place while keeping in mind the rights of a multifaceted world. It cherishes a particular place, yet at the same time knows about the relativity of all places.”32 Nevertheless, unlike the food policy councils that grew up in large cities like Toronto, or the urban gardening movements of San Francisco and Detroit,33 the communities from which Slow Money’s values were drawn tended to be white and relatively privileged in their class status. While activists framed their practices as “the local” standing up to “the global,” defining what local meant for the movement’s purposes could be tricky. The 2008 Farm Bill, for example, defined “local food” as food pro­­ duced within four hundred miles of where it was sold. This seemed both too expansive a region and too rigid a definition for Slow Money purposes. Some agricultural extension workers defined local as “county level,” but this was perhaps too small and similarly rigid. Many farmers’ markets that give priority to “local” vendors define local as anywhere within a fifty-­mile radius. Chef Odessa Piper, an early supporter of the Slow Money movement, proposed defining local as “the distance your heart can travel,” which had broad emotional appeal but did not solve such problems as Does local

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imply small? Does a local product require all local ingredients? Does a local business (for purposes of investment) also have to sell locally? Can a local business scale up? In the end, Slow Money activists seemed to side with the geographers—­ they acknowledged that local was a qualitative, and inherently political, distinction. Tasch conceded the problem, for example, but also grasped at the possibilities of the term’s indeterminacy: Is local a specific number of miles from Point A to Point B? Is it a specific political or contractual designation? How does it relate to a bioregion or a watershed? In the word local are connotations of rapport, relationship, rootedness, and the kind of responsibility that is the reciprocal of anonymity and absentee ownership. In the word local is a hint of the possibility of localization, that which is bubbling up in the wake of globalization. The quantitative imprecision of the term does not diminish its importance. As with the word small, its importance lies precisely in a reliance on qualitative distinctions.34

This framing of the local counterposed its logic to what E. F. Schumacher once called “footlooseness.”35 By footlooseness, Schumacher meant the abdication of responsibility for people and place. He argued that footlooseness promised freedom but actually destroyed it by making both people and place more vulnerable, and he suggested that economic relationships should never be conducted at such a distance or in such a way that one could be ignorant of their consequences. These kinds of tangibility, visibility, and accountability were at the heart of what the movement meant by local. They contested an economic system where those effects were erased from the ledgers and those concerns ruled out of court. This is what activists were seeking to convey when they referred to Slow Money’s strategy as “line of sight” investing—­implying that those who funded projects could “see” whether the enterprises they supported avoided polluting the environment, treated their workers well, improved the soil, or increased the volume and diversity of locally produced food. Abert explained: It gets to this whole question of connecting our actions as economic actors to their consequences. In other words, it’s basically helping us to understand that where we put our money is like voting. So what are you voting for when you buy this or when you invest in that? It’s about helping people to understand that there are consequences, and that they can have local beneficial consequences or remote destructive consequences.

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Slow Money activists saw this direct connection to the outcomes of their investment choices as more transformative than the attempts of environmental economists to assign a market value to the negative effects of pollution or the positive “ecosystem services” provided by a forest. They felt that such approaches were still bound by a global market logic rather than one centered on sustainability and responsibility. Vangelisti, who had managed investments for traditional firms until the 2008 economic crisis, explained how this worked: Finance is the ultimate blindness to anything that is not measurable in financial terms. . . . It’s not enough to put a dollar value on the forest, on the water purification service that nature provides, on biodiversity, and so on, and then apply the neoclassical economic machinery. . . . The values are just dollars and what is not measured by the dollar amount is forgotten. . . . Or you put a price on something, and then if what you can derive from that is more than its price, you can still go ahead and destroy it, right?

He noted how Slow Money’s approach countered this logic. What is fundamentally different about Slow Money is that it brings back an expanded view of economic value so it’s not only “Well, let’s put a price on re­­ taining this land in organic agriculture given the other benefits that the land provides—­water purification, habitat for species, etc., etc. . . .” But it goes to the other meaning of value, which is values that are moral and ethical. So Slow Money actually is driven primarily and foremost by biophilia. . . . It’s a complete overhaul, and in fact even a redefinition, of values in the economic sense.

It was clear that for Slow Money activists, place—­the local—­was a metaphor for visibility and accountability. As a metaphor, it was, of course, limiting in many ways. All goods and services cannot be produced in every location. People have become accustomed to having tomatoes and avocados at all times of year, not to mention a variety of fish and cheese, timber and silk, and large quantities of cotton and sugar. People who wrote books and made films about surviving on only local products (usually for a year) did not plan to keep it up forever and, from the perspective of most consumers, did not paint a pretty picture.36 Even E. F. Schumacher wrote of the need to be discriminating about the issue—­suggesting that every activity has an appropriate scale.37 Slow Money advocates explored the efficacy of various ways of scaling up enterprises while maintaining transparency and a commitment to community economic development.38 But they did not

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really address the politics of inevitably global transactions. That inevitability has inspired movements like Fair Trade, which offers above-­market rates for certain kinds of globally traded products, or codes of conduct that seek to create visibility at a distance through complex monitoring mechanisms. Unlike these global activists, Slow Money advocates did not work to change the behavior of multinational corporations and other global economic actors but sought to create their own alternatives to them. Most of the movement’s members were quick to acknowledge that their approach could be only a small part of a more comprehensive response to the harms caused by globalization. It was limited in its focus on the local, but also in placing food at the center of their project. It was one thing to talk about local food but another to expand that approach to the rest of the economy. Nevertheless, activists felt they were taking important first steps toward a larger transformation. For Woody Tasch, Food is a very important place to start, but it’s obvious that once you start thinking about money this way and begin deploying it this way, you see that it’s needed in a whole bunch of other sectors of the local economy, whether it be energy, smart transportation or smart development, green housing, independent media, or community health care.39

Cortese explained, A lot of it started with food, I think, because it’s just so much easier to grasp. It’s tangible. We’re already shopping at the farmers’ market and thinking about the connection to where your food comes from and that relationship between you and the farmer. . . . So I think it was easier for people to take that next step and extend that to their investing.

Other activists agreed with Tasch that it should be possible to expand their approach beyond food into other sectors. Hewitt noted, So if you look at Woody’s mission, it isn’t food. It’s soil. His mission initially was soil fertility. So if you have a huge cotton industry—­that is terribly toxic—­just horrific what they spray. And if you can get them to go organic, you are going to recover those fields and that land, that soil. So we’re going to have to go into local apparel. That’s got to be on our list. Local food is good, local fuel is good, but apparel has got to be in there somewhere pretty soon. We’ve got to figure out how to create clothing and textiles that are also healthy.

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Cortese pointed to efforts to expand the movement beyond food: I was just in northern California, and they’re talking about the “fiber shed” there with textiles—­from the raising of sheep and the growing of the cotton to the milling of the fabric to the dyeing of the fabrics to the design and making of the clothes to selling them. They’re trying to bring all of that back.

But in general activists suggested that the project did not necessarily intend to change the whole world but addressed only a small part of it. They argued that building a strong local foodshed was a realistic goal that did not require a wholesale shift in the dominant economic paradigm to be successful. Some emphasized that Slow Money was not an “all or nothing” proposition but could be seen as “just another asset class.” One person suggested that individuals could choose to invest a “decent chunk of money” in local enterprises but not so much that they needed “to worry about eating cat food in their retirement.” They noted that if American investors put just 1 percent of their investment dollars into local food projects, it could transform and revitalize the food system. While not necessarily changing the economy as a whole, it would channel resources to projects that would enhance food security and foster innovative forms of local economic development. This emphasis on modest, achievable goals was part of the ethos of the movement; in fact, grand schemes for societal transformation were at odds with its basic philosophy. Woody Tasch made this point at the 2014 Slow Money conference: To deal correctly with the problems I am talking about, we must first of all be content, or try to be, with the notion of small solutions. We must also be content, or try to be, with the apparent slowness of our work. If we move too quickly, or are quick to accept large solutions, we will be following the example of the industrial mind . . . a mind that has accepted the official, quasi-­religious litany of synonyms—­labor saving, efficiency, progress, convenience, speed, and comfort.

Nevertheless, most activists also hoped the movement could, perhaps incrementally, foment larger changes. As Cortese put it, I think . . . we’re building our own alternative economy from the ground up. And it’s the classic definition of disruptive innovation—­like the smart phone is disrupting the PC industry. Nobody paid any attention to it when it came out. If you were a computer maker you were like, “Huh, it’s a little toy phone and


chapter four camera.” But look at all the power that’s in that and what it can actually do. And now, you know, do you really need your desktop computer or your laptop if you have all this power on your phone? In a way—­I mean maybe this is hopeful thinking—­but I hope that we’re creating an alternative economy. . . . Wall Street is not quaking in its boots or anything yet, but I do hope that we build something that is strong and networked and powerful and resilient.

Activists felt that small, slow, and local experiments could lead to larger societal transformation by serving as “prefigurative projects”—­as alternative “streams,” outside the main channel of the economy, where new knowledge and practices could thrive. These projects were in essence contestatory assemblages: collections of relationships, new finance mechanisms, new ways of evaluating economic soundness, methods for building capacity among aspiring entrepreneurs, and ways of sharing information within communities. Although the projects did not directly challenge the relationships of the dominant economic model, they offered examples of economy at a different scale while bolstering regional food security and economic resiliency in the places where they existed. As G. W. Stevenson has written, there was a hope that by “building alternative agrifood relationships and organizations and then helping people ‘move over’ to them,” the movement could embody both “resistance and affirmation.”40 The changes they brought about in a few places and in one sector were experiments of a sort— ­designed to see whether local economies could be reconnected in an era of globalization. The true test was not whether a handful of new businesses could be funded, but whether a critical mass of locally funded enterprises would develop mutually supportive relationships and foster a set of institutions and practices that would help other businesses, and the community as a whole, to thrive. Like shareholder value, the logic of neoliberal globalization was a kind of antipolitics that made it difficult to raise questions like these about the local. First, popular accounts of globalization often presented it as something like gravity—­an inevitable force not guided and directed by visible actors whose motives and agendas could be questioned. Most people saw what David Harvey labeled the “time-­space compression”41 of globalization as the inevitable result of new information and communications technologies, or the unavoidable consequence of the growth of capitalist markets. Seeing it as a nameless, faceless process made it difficult to ask if this was the only kind of globalization possible. It conflated the particular practices of neoliberal globalization—­including its erosion of state

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sovereignty and the safety net protections of earlier eras—­with the simple interconnectedness of economic functions. Second, mainstream accounts equated globalization with progress, growth, and a triumphant capitalism, none of which is easy to question or oppose. In this sense, to revalue the local was to seek to turn back the clock. Third, globalization had science on its side—­at least economic science. Textbooks full of highly technical economic models attested to the correctness of its core premises. Through the lens of the dominant assemblage of neoliberal globalization, Slow Money’s approach to the local reeked of “protectionism,” defied measures of efficiency, and demonstrated a naive indifference to economic growth. All these features coalesced to make globalization hard to oppose. Slow Money activists responded to this logic by demonstrating another path. In asking the deceptively subversive question, Why can’t some economic transactions happen in my community?, Slow Money activists sought to reopen a political conversation about who determined the shape of the global economy. Rather than allowing that agenda to be determined by Walmart executives, US trade negotiators, or SEC commissioners, they took matters into their own hands. Like the promoters of benefit corporations, many—­though certainly not all— ­of these individuals were wealthy, and most were well educated. They were well positioned both to advance a critique of the existing system and to experiment with new economic practices. The vision of community that they contrasted with global market logic was both strengthened by the ability this gave them to mobilize time-­honored communitarian discourses and weakened by the exclusiveness of their networks.

Conclusion In May 2015 a group of potential investors crowded into a law office in Madison, Wisconsin, to hear presentations from a group of budding entrepreneurs. They listened eagerly to young (and a few older) people presenting their plans to scale up production of spicy peanut butter ice cream, apple brandy, specialty vinegars, and old-­fashioned pimento cheese; to young engineers explaining their modular system for growing microgreens on rooftops; and to older farmers explaining their vision for a new kind of sellers’ cooperative. Each presenter received feedback from senior investors, a loan officer, and a financial specialist. By the end of the evening,


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each had made plans to meet individually with one or more attendees whose interest had been piqued by the presentation. What difference did it make that these entrepreneurs sought investments from their “neighbors” rather than from a traditional lending institution or a public offering of stock? Most obviously, their neighbor-­ investors would expect a lower rate of return; they would be more flexible about what counted as collateral; and perhaps they would offer a longer time horizon for repayment. Lenders likely would also visit the farm or factory and perhaps give advice. They would be able to see for themselves the way the new companies operated. In these small, perhaps mundane, ways Slow Money activists saw them­­ selves as contesting the nameless, faceless forces of globalization by revaluing place. As a revaluation project, the movement sought to demonstrate the value of locally deployed capital and face-­to-­face relations between investors and small enterprises. It sought to use that capital in ways that reinforced dense, multistranded economic relationships among neighbors and that fostered its recirculation through a variety of local projects. It sought to reframe the notion of “return,” encouraging investors to forgo the highest possible earnings in exchange for freeing entrepreneurs to “internalize” the costs of treating workers responsibly and protecting the environment. As a revaluation project, Slow Money talked back to a market that made all places equivalent with practices that valued heterogeneity, and to a world economy that valued speed and efficiency with a philosophy of slowness and meaningful activity. In arguing that the connections of place were of value to the economy, Slow Money participants did not call on other businesses to behave differently. They did not seek to change the rules or incentives that government provided. Unlike Occupy Wall Street or the Global Justice movement, they did not seek to change those existing power relations but created autonomous spaces for economic experimentation. In those spaces they worked to show that local ties were qualitatively distinct from—­and better than—­global connections, and that “line of sight” relationships generated more responsible economic behavior. In an era when the division of labor between state, market, and civil society was shifting, they were crafting ways to absorb more of the costs of economic production and to experience more of the benefits within civil society.

chapter five

Value and the Public Sector The Public Sector as an Arena of Struggle


arely has a single piece of legislation divided a state as bitterly as Scott Walker’s 2011 Budget Repair Bill divided Wisconsin. Made public on February 11, the bill’s provisions surprised even the most jaded politicos. Under the guise of solving a budget shortfall, it effectively ended collective bargaining for public sector unions in the state that had first given them that right in 1959. As the news of the bill spread that week in February, crowds began to gather at the state Capitol. Many who turned out to express their outrage were public workers who feared losing their unions. Others were private sector workers who came out in solidarity because they saw the bill as a broader assault on the labor movement. Some were citizens who feared what the law would mean for their access to public services they relied on. The protestors’ songs, signs, and speeches, not to mention their sheer numbers—­which topped 100,000 at one point—­riveted those who encoun­ tered them, as well as television audiences across the nation. Less visible were the men and women sitting at home and watching the events unfold on television who, perhaps spurred by talk radio or Fox News, wondered if public employees really were overpaid—­if they received too generous ben­ efits that the state could no longer afford. As Kurt Bauer, president of the conservative trade association Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce noted incredulously three years later, “2011 was the most polarized time in my life, and I remember Vietnam.” Beneath the passionate demonstrations of political beliefs that were un­ folding that early spring, a careful observer could discern the echoes of a debate with deep roots in Western political culture. Michel Foucault once claimed that the fundamental question of liberalism is “the utility value


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of government in a society where exchange determines the true value of things.”1 That question, as old as republican forms of government, quick­ ened the pulse of Wisconsin residents as public debate over Act 10 spilled out of the newspapers, television studios, and lecture halls and into the streets, churches, community centers, and bars. While the public’s immediate response to Act 10 focused on its im­ plications for unions, at its heart the dispute was about economic value. Underlying the conflict was a disagreement about the role of the public sector in the economy and the nature of its contributions to economic health and growth. Whereas policymakers of earlier decades had em­ braced the notion of the state sector as “public household,” the arena for “the satisfaction of public needs and public wants,”2 Walker and other defenders of Act 10 argued that public services did not contribute to the state’s economy and in fact were detrimental to it. Republican senator Tom Coburn’s response to the Wisconsin protests summarized this view: “Government employees, although they’re fabulous and they overall do a great job, they produce no net economic benefit in our country. Matter of fact, they produce a net neg­­ative economic benefit.”3 Right-­wing claims that public employees were overpaid “tax eaters” who were “dependent” on the state4 were premised on the idea that their labor did not create economic value. The overarching rubric for these arguments against the state was the need for austerity—­the idea that, for a variety of reasons, society could no longer afford a government of the size and scope that citizens had come to expect. This contest over value was set in motion by the November 2010 elec­ tions, in which Republican candidates swept many US statehouses and governorships. Across the country, Republicans gained eleven state legisla­ tures, and by the time the dust settled they held both houses of government and the governorship in twenty states, including Wisconsin. Engineered by Republican strategists and funded by “dark money groups,” the sweep provided an opportunity for Republican legislators to control vital redis­ tricting processes that would affect the composition of the US Congress for years to come.5 It also created openings to showcase radical Republican ideas by implementing small-­government, pro-­business agendas. This opportunity for Republicans to fully shape state legislative dockets created new possibilities for political advocacy groups that had been de­ veloping conservative policy templates for years. In the language of theory, the elections in Wisconsin brought to power not just a collection of legisla­ tors and a governor who had strong support from national conservative

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movements, but a governing neoliberal assemblage. This assemblage in­ cluded conservative think tanks like the local Bradley Foundation and MacIver Institute, national legislative clearinghouses like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the State Policy Network, and conser­ vative policy advocacy groups like David and Charles Koch’s Americans for Prosperity and Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform. It also tapped into resources provided by the national Republican Party and the Tea Party movement. These institutions and networks offered arguments, analyses, and framing devices that shaped public debate. They helped to produce a twenty-­first-­century economic discourse of small government and individual responsibility that shaped public understanding of the public sector’s role in the economy. Tania Li has written that the first task of a governing assemblage is to forge alignments—­to link the objectives of  various parties, including those who aspire to govern and those whose governance they undertake.6 For a governing assemblage to be effective, in other words, it needs to establish coalitions for the work at hand and also to effectively recruit and include the governed. The newly ascendant neoliberal assemblage in Wisconsin counted on neoliberal citizens who imagined their relation to the state in particular ways. Walker hailed these citizens in his speeches: the “hard­ working taxpayers,” “job creators,” and “middle class.” While many cit­ izens saw themselves in those terms and found Walker’s acts consonant with their own “common sense,” for others the shock of Act 10 ignited a rebellion. It became the impetus for an oppositional coalition that, for a time, effectively contested the governor’s plans. This coalition had labor unions at its center, but it incorporated an array of feminist, civil rights, and faith groups as well as a large number of unaf­ filiated individuals. It was multipolar and loosely coordinated. Despite its diffuse nature, it is possible to conceptualize this coalition as a “contesta­ tory assemblage” that talked back to Act 10 and the larger legislative and policy program of which it formed a part. Like the governing neoliberal assemblage, it had its own material, social, and discursive resources: ties to think tanks engaged in knowledge production; a dense local infrastructure of unions, cooperatives, and community organizations; and support from the national labor movement and the Democratic Party. Individuals who participated in this contestatory assemblage developed a vernacular eco­ nomic discourse that wove themes from mid-­twentieth-­century Keynes­ ianism together with more contemporary critiques of globalization and inequality and deployed it in defense of a strong public sector.

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The Wisconsin Uprising Although the decades since the 1960s have featured a number of major showdowns over the federal budget, the struggle over small government has not always played out at that level. Lawrence Mone, president of the Manhattan Institute— ­one of the organizations that most ardently pro­ motes austerity doctrines—­proclaimed that “cities and states have emerged as key battlegrounds in the fight to rein in spending.”7 Robert Pollin and Jeffrey Thompson called the 2011 battle over public employee collec­ tive bargaining in Wisconsin “the most dramatic expression of a struggle that is ongoing throughout the country over the future of state and local governments.” For generations now state and local governments have been the most impor­ tant providers in the United States of education, health care, public safety, and other vital forms of support. State and local governments are also, collectively, the largest employers in the country, responsible for creating thirty million jobs.8

The “Budget Repair Bill” severely limited collective bargaining in pub­ lic sector employment and changed the rules for public sector union cer­ tification.9 Wisconsin did not have an especially large contingent of pub­lic sector workers—­in fact, it ranked forty-­third in the nation in the ratio of state and local government employees to residents.10 But its public work­ ers were heavily unionized. In 2011, unions represented 53 percent of Wisconsin’s public sector workers, compared with 40 percent nationally.11 Given the loss of manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin from the 1970s onward and the degraded conditions of much service sector work, by 2010 public sector jobs were unusual in offering stable employment, health insurance, defined-­benefit pensions, sick days, and vacation days.12 In the minds of many, they were the last good jobs in the Wisconsin economy. In Wiscon­ sin, as in the rest of the nation, public sector work was an especially im­ portant path to upward mobility for African American men and women who, like white women, held a disproportionate share of these positions.13 The significance of public sector jobs was magnified because so many households in the state included at least one state worker and so many ob­ tained their health and retirement benefits through that individual. One in seven Wisconsin farm families were receiving state-­subsidized health

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insurance in 2011, and in most of the rest someone worked as a nurse or teacher to access those benefits.14 Small-­business owners and Walmart workers were in the same boat, holding on to benefits that were increas­ ingly scarce in the economy at large by virtue of their connection to a public sector worker. Joe the Plumber, it turns out, was often living with Betty the Teacher. The importance of public sector jobs was also magnified because the role of public services in the lives of working-­class people has been growing over the past half-­century. As more women moved into paid employment in those decades, families dealt with their lack of time for domestic labor by purchasing on the market many of the services formerly performed at home: childcare, elder care, meals, laundry services, and cleaning. But at the same time, the public sector provided services crucial to time-­pressed families. Public schools, libraries, and museums furnished education and cultural enrichment. Public workers performed tasks that in past eras had fallen to families, like plowing streets and removing garbage. They pro­ vided day care for children through Head Start programs and elder care and assistance for adults with disabilities through a plethora of state and local programs. These and other services had become woven into the fab­ ric of daily life for working families. In the wake of the 2008 recession, budget cutbacks created what the Pew Charitable Trusts named a “fiscal vise” for states and localities squeezed on one side by reduced federal or state aid and property tax income and on the other by a growing demand for these services among families with reduced income. During Walker’s first days in office, he announced $137 million in tax breaks for corporations, increasing the state’s budget deficit.15 That same week, he made the state’s Department of Commerce a public-­private hy­ brid that was funded by—­but not accountable to—­taxpayers and issued an executive order limiting lawsuits against corporations. Two weeks later he unveiled the so-­called Budget Repair Bill and—­in a tone at odds with Wisconsin’s heretofore peaceful political culture—­threatened to call out the National Guard should there be resistance to it. Despite its name, the original bill contained a laundry list of nonfiscal items, the most notorious being the evisceration of collective bargaining rights for public employ­ ees, home health care workers, and day care workers.16 It targeted public sector unions in other ways as well, imposing elaborate new rules for cer­ tification and limiting arbitration rights. And in a seemingly random set of neoliberal gestures, it offered state subsidies for commercial develop­ ment of protected wetlands, put thirty-­seven state-­run power plants up for


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no-­bid sale, and gave state administrators leeway to rewrite Medicaid rules and slash its funding without public hearings or legislative input.17 The weekend the bill was unveiled, as word spread about its provisions, protesters gathered around the state Capitol and the governor’s mansion. On Monday, February 14, the University of Wisconsin Teaching Assistants Association (TAA) marched to the Capitol carrying valentines that read “I ♥ UW” and “Governor Walker, Don’t Break My Heart.” On Tuesday, more than half of Madison-­area teachers simultaneously got “the flu” and called in sick to attend the protests; over 13,000 people showed up at the Capitol as the Joint Finance Committee began hearings on the bill. In an effort to slow its passage, hundreds of people signed up to testify about the bill’s impacts. As it became clear that hearings would continue through the night, the TAA began to make provisions for the care and feeding of those who would stay. Local businesses delivered free food, people brought in bedding, and the TAA set up an operations center on the third floor of the Capitol. On Wednesday the teacher sick-­out spread beyond Madison, and 20,000 protesters showed up in the driving snow. Teachers, nurses, and prison guards lined up to give speeches about what it would mean to them to lose collective bargaining rights. Teachers noted that they would no longer have any influence over class size. Nurses pointed out that they would lose a voice in work rules with implications for patient care. One quipped, “Do you really want me inserting your catheter after I’ve worked back-­to-­back ten-­hour shifts?” Meanwhile, in the Capitol rotunda, students started a drum circle and led thousands in chants and songs. It became clear that the governor’s attempt to isolate public sector workers was not going well, as private sector unions turned out in massive solidarity. Firefighters and the police, even though they had been exempted from the loss of col­ lective bargaining rights, distributed food, gave rousing speeches, and marched, often with bagpipes. By the morning of February 17, nerves were frayed on all sides. Re­ publican senators shut down amendments and proceeded to a vote; in response, fourteen Democratic senators walked out of chambers, climbed into a small bus and headed for the Illinois border. The crowds in the Capitol roared with joy as they realized what was happening. The gover­ nor had introduced the Budget Repair Bill as a fiscal measure, despite its many nonbudgetary elements. Because fiscal bills required a supermajor­ ity quorum, the Democratic senators were making it impossible for the Senate to vote on the bill, buying time for a broader public discussion. As schools around the state closed, 25,000 people rallied at the Capitol.

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By Friday the crowd had grown to 40,000, national labor leaders and the Reverend Jesse Jackson showed up, and national media had begun to cover the story. A judge denied the Madison School District’s request to force teachers to return to the classroom. Demonstrators occupying the Capitol began to form an impromptu village with its own rules and cul­ ture. The TAA cleaned inside and out every night, organized recycling, coordinated free food deliveries, and ran a phone bank. They set up an information desk and appointed yellow-­vested marshals to answer ques­ tions and keep order. They organized a team of medics and distributed hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of colds. Demonstrators placed fresh flowers each day at the statue of Progressive Era reformer Bob La Fol­ lette. There was a “cuddle puddle” for naps, a family area with toys for children, and a quiet space for meditation. The chant “Whose House—­ Our House” lost its sports overtones and became a mantra of public own­ ership of civic space. On Saturday, February 19, the Capitol Square in Madison was jammed with over 70,000 people chanting “kill the bill” and singing union songs. The next day, as tens of thousands returned to march in bitter cold with sleet falling, the governor announced plans to clear the Capitol building. At about 11:00 that night, a contingent of Steelworkers marched in to sleep alongside the occupiers. The following night, firefighters showed up for a “sleepover,” and the night after that, the police. The next day, activ­ ists in Egypt called Ian’s, a local restaurant, to order pizza for the protes­ tors. Within weeks, similar orders to help feed the crowd had come in from all fifty US states and twenty foreign countries. Gearing up for the presentation of his full budget proposal on March 1, Walker gave the order for police to remove protestors from the Capitol. The Capitol Police and City of Madison Police refused. When the Dane County sheriff announced on the local news that his officers “would not be palace guards,” the governor called in the State Highway Patrol, headed by the father of two powerful Republican lawmakers. After a thirty-­six-­ hour standoff, protesters agreed to leave. Once they had gone, for the first time in history access to the state Capitol required passing a metal detec­ tor. But something of the spirit of the occupation remained in the sign posted at the screening point that said “no animals/snakes, balloons, cool­ ers, Crock-­Pots, easels, massage chairs, buckets, drumsticks, trash can lids, vuvuzelas . . .” Over the next nine days, protests, teach-­ins, and marches continued not just in Madison, but in communities across the state: in Eau Claire, Oconomowoc, Ashwaubenon, Waukesha, Menomonie, Chippewa Falls,


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Rice Lake, Fond du Lac, Rhinelander, Beloit, and Milwaukee.18 Frus­ trated by their inability to pass legislation without their Democratic col­ leagues, the State Senate gave up the pretense that collective bargaining, Medicaid governance, and power plants were fiscal issues. On March 9, splitting these items from the rest of the bill, they passed the restrictions on collective bargaining in a vote held with insufficient public notice. Realizing that the bill had been passed in violation of the state’s open meetings law, protesters were visibly angry for the first time. One group breached the door of the Capitol, and thousands poured in. They spent that night and the next back in their “house.” Having lost the immediate battle, unions met to consider what to do next. The South Central Federation of Labor voted for a general strike,19 but no one knew exactly how to make it happen. Since the last statewide general strike in the United States had happened in 1888, no one in the country had experience in mounting one (although the federation brought in unionists from Ontario to relate their experience with a provincewide strike in 1997). In addition, some union members were hesitant to strike because the Budget Repair Bill contained provisions for firing public sec­ tor workers who did not show up for work for three consecutive days. In the end, unions decided to put their resources into a campaign to recall the governor.20 Without further reason to remain holed up in the Best Westerns and Econo Lodges of northern Illinois, the Democratic sena­ tors returned home to a demonstration of over 100,000 people (including fifty farmers on tractors), at the Capitol Square. In organizing these events, there was never a moment when everyone sat down together and said, “This is what we must do.” In the earliest days, private and public sector unions used their e-­mail lists to spread the word about protest events. Union leaders met near the Capitol to map out plans for rallies and to organize transportation to Madison for union members from communities throughout the state. Then a variety of um­ brella organizations, some of long standing and others organized expressly for the purpose, helped coordinate actions, using their web pages and e-­mail lists to reach people who were not union members. They brought together participants from churches, an array of social justice groups, and the Democratic Party. A few passionately engaged individuals with Twit­ ter feeds helped spread information about when and where protests were happening.21 But many people learned about the events from friends and neighbors or saw stories about them on the news and simply showed up. The movement possessed many of the characteristics of the “networked

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counter-­publics” that Jeffrey Juris has described in his book about the Global Justice movement.22 It incorporated actors from a wide variety of backgrounds working on a disparate array of political projects and loosely grouped into the short-­term coalition that lasted from February 2011 un­ til the end of the recall vote in June 2012. Act 10 did not fully eliminate collective bargaining rights for public workers, but it restricted them to bargaining over wages and limited any raises negotiated to the rate of inflation. It prohibited negotiations over benefits, work rules, health and safety issues, working hours, shifts and over­ time, grievance procedures, seniority provisions, and all other aspects of the employment relationship. The collective bargaining restriction, how­ ever, was not the aspect of the bill that rang the death knell for unions. The act also required all unions to run yearly recertification campaigns in which they had to gain 51 percent of the votes of all members, not just those voting. It eliminated the right to arbitration and prohibited unions from collecting dues through payroll deductions. Union leaders knew the unions could never survive under these restric­ tions and would have to reinvent themselves in some other associational form once the bill took effect. And in fact, after Act 10’s implementation, dues-­paying membership in Wisconsin’s unions fell sharply. The Ameri­ can Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a national union that was founded in Wisconsin in 1932, represented many of the state’s public sector workers.23 The state’s three AFSCME coun­ cils, which had nearly 63,000 members in 2010, merged in 2015 after total membership dropped to fewer than 20,000.24 The Wisconsin State Em­ ployees Union experienced a drop from 22,000 dues-­paying members to fewer than 10,000.25 The state’s main teachers’ union, WEAC, lost 16,000 of 98,000 members from 2011 to 2013.26 Total labor union membership, in both public and private sectors, dropped to 8.3 percent of Wisconsin workers in 2015, down from 14.2 percent in 2010.27 According to Michael Thomas, president of a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) local in Milwaukee, “We’re surviving—­trying to survive. . . . We’re not going to be able to function with 400–­500 people.” The 2011 events in Wisconsin were one instance of a larger set of strug­ gles around the nation over the role the public sector would play in the day-­to-­day lives of citizens. By May 2011, lawmakers in all fifty states and Puerto Rico had introduced a total of more than 820 bills restricting collec­ tive bargaining; more than 550 of these bills specifically targeted public sec­ tor workers. Twenty-­one states and Puerto Rico enacted those laws, with


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twelve states restricting bargaining in ways as draconian as Wisconsin’s.28 In each of these states, while arguing that they were simply displaying fiscal responsibility, lawmakers struck a blow at public sector employment and public services in ways that deeply affected the poor, the working class, women, children, and people of color. In each instance, as they pared away the protective covering of cultural institutions, they also reconfigured the division of labor among state, market, and civil society.

The Public Sector and Embeddedness: The Public Household Daniel Bell once called the public sector “the public household” and de­­ fined it as the “agency for the satisfaction of public needs and public wants” as well as a significant “arena for conflict of political forces.”29 Defend­ ers of the public sector in Wisconsin did not use this term, but in making their case for the economic value of public sector services, they elabo­ rated Bell’s vision. They viewed public sector goods, services, infrastruc­ ture, and institutions as resources held in common by all citizens and saw public expenditures as investments in the future economy. A teacher from the small town of Cross Plains, Wisconsin, who appeared at a forum on the budget, expressed this vision: “What I pay in taxes is an investment in quality of life for so many people. I don’t mind paying taxes. I want my taxes to go for life-­affirming things: public education, shared collective well-­being. For example, I want the recycling money back in the budget. We have worked for two decades to reduce our waste. And workers’ com­ pensation? We started it.30 [Walker] wants to destroy it.” This teacher believed that the taxes she paid had helped build a set of resources for society as a whole. She cited recycling programs and the state’s workers’ compensation program as examples of common resources, built up over time, that she felt were in danger of being destroyed by funding cuts. A secretary from a suburb of Madison made a similar point: “They are taking away public services that we as a society paid for: our university, our state park system, Department of Natural Resources, senior care, dis­ ability care, K–­12 education.” Bryan Kennedy, former president of the American Federation of Teachers in Wisconsin, emphasized the often-­ unrecognized value of these kinds of public investments: The public sector benefits everybody in society. Even if you never get a driver’s license or own a car, the odds are you still benefit from the roads. Somebody’s

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got to bring you food, or that food has got to get to the supermarket that you might walk to. If you never set foot in a park, there is still a benefit to you from being part of a society that values having public spaces. The neighbor kids are playing in the park instead of running across your front yard. . . . I just think there are people who don’t want to see that state programs contribute to every­ thing around us.

Doug Keillor, a member of Wisconsin’s Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, contrasted this view to the individualism that informed Walker and others’ small-­state conservatism: There are competing factions: between a worldview that believes that we rise together and we fall together, that we have common responsibilities for each other, that there are some fundamental rights and benefits that everybody should be entitled to such as a free public education and health care; and a worldview that is much more individual-­focused, that does not believe in this common good piece, that believes the common good is best achieved if every individual does what they can with their own talents, that they fly as high as they can or sink as low as they can based on their own individual efforts.

Public sector supporters were especially adamant about the importance of investing in education. An accountant who spoke at a forum on the bud­ get in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, said, “For long-­term growth, investment in education is number one. Youthful minds will help us solve our problems, but only if we educate them. Everybody needs a good education. It doesn’t matter if you drive a truck, if you’re a farmer, if you work in a factory.” At a similar forum held in Madison, an eighty-­seven-­year-­old retired chemistry teacher made her way to the front of the hall to say, I grew up during the Great Depression in a “welfare family.” We were on home relief in New York City. Even in that time of profound depression, the city put money into our public schools. Every child had access to an excellent education—­the opposite of what is happening now. . . . Education has always been the great equalizer, giving opportunities that would otherwise not be available. If this budget means that we get a $5 refund on our property tax bill, I just want to say, “you are welcome to have it back.” Things are being taken away from us, and it’s causing people to become fiscally, physically, and mentally unstable. It is holding our state back, because who will want to open a business here now? Who will want to raise a family?

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Jon Peacock, research director at Wisconsin Council of Children and Families, emphasized the importance of investment in education for the state’s economic competitiveness: All the way from early education through higher education, we need to invest in our workers. And by doing that, that’s how we stay competitive with Min­ nesota and Massachusetts and will be able to attract employers who have well-­ paying jobs. And then also, hand in hand with that, we need to have a good transportation system, and you need to have communities that people want to live in, and— ­especially—­vibrant cities where young entrepreneurial, tech-­savvy people want to live.

Other individuals explained that the budget cuts were threatening invest­ ments in health care and disability programs that not only had improved the quality of life for many but had also saved the state and federal government money. One person who taught a class that helped seniors improve their balance said, “If one person doesn’t fall as a result of the class, the saved ER and rehabilitation bills would pay for my salary.” Another pointed out that when state agencies provide support to unpaid caregivers, it saves Medicaid $8,000 a month in nursing home bills. A woman explained that her elderly mother, who had worked and paid taxes all her life, had outlived her savings and that “sixteen hours of help a week can help her live alone.” She feared the loss of that help because the state agency that coordinated the services was being cut. A county board member from Madison, who had been con­ fined to a wheelchair for many years, noted, “Because of the health care system we have had here in Wisconsin, I’ve been able to live in my home and serve my community. This budget is going against the common good.” Many activists expressed a sense that the withdrawal of resources from the public sector reflected deepening class divisions within the state. One speaker at a budget forum noted that while people in the room were trying to figure out how they would cope with the cuts, “[others] are off on their yachts.” A young stay-­at-­home mother in western Wisconsin made the fol­ lowing point about the budget’s expansion of charter schools: “A budget is more than numbers on a page. It tells about value, priorities. I fear for my son’s education when I should be excited about it. If you want to send your child to private school—­pay for it! Don’t make me pay for it. You’re steal­ ing from my kid. I never paid much attention to politics, but I am now.” These Wisconsinites’ comments presented a view of public goods and services as collective resources that taxpayers helped build and that were

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held in trust for all to draw on when they needed them. It is within this worldview that certain signs at the 2011 Wisconsin protests made sense. A number of these homemade placards referred to the Walker administra­ tion’s destruction of public resources that had been built up over genera­ tions. “Get elected governor—­break things” and “Scott Walker is why Wis­consin can’t have nice things.” In their comments, activists pointed to concrete ways that investments in education, health care, and other programs supported the economy—­ through producing a healthy and educated workforce, providing support­ ive services that helped people remain productive and independent in old age and disability, and providing a clean and healthy environment. But they also invoked a vernacular version of Keynesianism, arguing that there was a connection between good jobs at good wages and consumer demand that stimulated the economy. They invoked Keynesian concepts such as the state’s role in stimulating the economy in recession, although they ex­ pressed them in more homespun terms. Jim Cavanaugh, former president of Wisconsin’s South Central Federation of Labor, made this case: Periods of relative prosperity can be traced to healthy consumerism—­when you have a lot of people who have money to buy stuff, that generates people making stuff, and that generates profits. Clearly, government has a huge role. When there is a downturn, and government puts money in the economy—­ whether it’s the WPA [Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration] or Obama’s stimulus—­people have money to buy stuff. . . . The “job creators” aren’t the job creators. It’s the people who buy the stuff, because you don’t create jobs in a vacuum— ­only if they’re producing a product or service that people will give you money for.

SEIU local president Michael Thomas, echoed this view: “An econ­ omy works on people working, paying taxes, going to the grocery store, and going to buy necessary goods. That’s the way you keep a society mov­ ing forward. But if the economy is down, if you don’t have jobs, if you’re working for slave wages, then what do you do?” Boyd McCamish, presi­ dent of AFSCME District Council 48, simply said, “Government budgets are drivers of the economy.” Several union and business leaders mentioned that the Greater Madi­ son Chamber of Commerce had told Governor Walker to “take it easy” with Act 10 in 2011, because Madison was home to 65,000 public sector workers of various kinds—­teachers, state employees, county employees,

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city employees, and so on—­and some analysts had calculated that Act 10’s provisions for increasing pension and benefit payments would take $660 million out of the Dane County economy.31 John Matthews, execu­ tive director of Madison Teachers, Incorporated, elaborated: That money just drained right out of the economy. Where before people could go buy a new TV or have new carpet put in or buy a new car . . . now around 8 or 9 percent of your disposable income was gone. I use the word “grand theft,” and it was. And one of the impacts of that—­a girl down at city hall told me a while back that twenty-­two home goods stores had closed in the greater Madi­ son area since the passage of Act 10. We have a lot of public employees . . . who can’t buy a new refrigerator.

Protestors crafted a vernacular economics of the public sector that saw the state as a force not just for order and stability, but also for pros­ perity and thriving. They articulated a vision of government that would help stabilize an economy during downturns and provide access to a wide range of basic services to prepare people for work, life, and citizenship. In crafting this view, they reached back in time to recuperate some ideas from Keynesian economics and the era of the New Deal, emphasizing the connectedness of production and consumption and suggesting that citi­ zens’ prosperity was interlinked. Unlike Walker and his cohorts, they did not see the interests of individuals as opposed to those of the state. In their vision of the “public household,” the state was a collectivity that represented the interests of citizens and generally acted on behalf of the common good. In making the contributions of public sector labor visible, protes­ tors confronted deep legacies of classic economic liberalism. Act 10 was grounded in a minimalist view of the state that had been nurtured in con­ servative circles for a very long time. Sometimes called the “night watch­ man state,” this vision held that the functions of the public sector should be limited to the original three articulated by Adam Smith in 1776: pro­ viding for national defense, policing, and mounting public works too large for individuals and small groups to manage. Small-­state conservatives held that when government expanded beyond these domains it was on a path toward tyranny. During the vast expansion of the US state’s functions in the mid-­twentieth century, Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Chicago school economists kept this view alive in their respective academic circles. Ronald Reagan’s 1964 Republican Con­

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vention speech, in which he proclaimed that the US welfare state had broken with the nation’s founding principles and represented a threat to American freedom as significant as Soviet Communism, gave it renewed resonance by translating the economists’ ideas into accessible prose. As Jamie Peck has written, “When [a] crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.”32 When the US economy hit the skids in the 1970s, the argument that a large state sector was harmful to the market and to liberty was waiting in the wings. While neoliberals debated the precise roles that government should play, reducing the size of government was a key element of the conservative philosophies that resurged during the “Reagan revolution” and became dominant in the decades that followed. They portrayed shrinking the state— ­or “starving the beast,” as Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform put it—­as a patriotic act that restored the balance the nation’s founders had intended. Reading national press coverage of Wisconsin from 2008 to 2015, it would be easy to conclude that its leaders were suffering from an epi­ demic of what Michel Foucault once named “state phobia.”33 The state’s most visible political figures provided eloquent examples of Foucault’s concept. US Congressman Paul Ryan, for example, in a statement about his 2012 vice presidential aspirations, linked (without irony) his own deci­ sion to enter public service to the fight against Big Government: “The rea­ son I got involved in public service . . . if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand. The fight we are in here, make no mis­ take about it, is a fight of individualism vs. collectivism.”34 In his televised response to President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address, Ryan proclaimed, “We believe, as our founders did, that the pursuit of happi­ ness depends upon individual liberty, and individual liberty requires lim­ ited government.” He devoted the entire speech, in a year of continued high unemployment and generalized economic malaise following the Wall Street meltdown, to arguing that America had arrived at a day of reck­ oning and that “a government that controls too much, taxes too much, spends too much in order to do too much” would be called to account for its borrowing and spending, squandering of savings, and crippling of the economy.35 Wisconsin governor Scott Walker also expounded on the notion that government was corrosive to liberty. In his inaugural address in January 2011 he proclaimed, “Our rights as free people are given by our Creator, not the government. Among these rights is the right to nurture our free­ dom and vitality through limited government.” And “What is failing us is


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the expanse of government. But we can do something about that starting today.” Quoting Ronald Reagan, he continued, “There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: as govern­ ment expands, liberty contracts.”36 US Republican Party chair Reince Priebus, from Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, echoed these sentiments: “The federal government has boundaries, and when it oversteps them it’s en­ croaching on your personal freedom and your God-­given liberty to decide what’s right for your own life.”37 In these public pronouncements, Wiscon­ sin’s national stage political leaders did not just reason about the economy in the language of market efficiency but crafted a vision of the common good that prioritized liberty over other possible goals. These views of the state were consonant with those of important conser­ vative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, and the Cato Institute, and with the rhetoric of the Tea Party movement. It is interesting that they fit more awkwardly with the thinking of Wisconsin business community members (who often relied on state subsidies and programs). Leaders of organizations representing Wisconsin’s business—­ including present and former heads of the trade association Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Association, and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation— ­did not frame the state’s role in these terms. All these individuals were staunchly conserva­ tive. Most advocated policies like right-­to-­work and expressed admiration for Scott Walker. But none warned that big government was eroding individual liberties. They made the case against excessive government in­ volvement in the economy in a different register. Government tends to be inefficient. High taxes reduce money available for private investment. Gov­ ernment regulation reduces profits and incentives to invest. Government programs crowd out private initiative. All these factors can cause busi­ nesses to leave the state. But even on these points, members of the business community acknowl­ edged the need for government to play a role in the economy. They did not uniformly reject government regulation, for example. James Haney, former director of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, said, “You can have a regulatory system that’s as strict as you want it; if it’s fair and predictable and doesn’t change with every administration, that’s what [businesses] are looking for—­the stability.” Current WMC president Kurt Bauer echoed the importance of predictability: “One of the concerns we have seen in Wis­ consin is that the pendulum shifts from one party to another and you get a very different philosophy on what the regulatory environment should be.”

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Another WMC member spoke of the need for a “strong regulatory struc­ ture to control pollution” in the state. Paul Jadin, former president and CEO of Scott Walker’s newly established Wisconsin Economic Development Cor­ poration, spoke of the need for government to ensure “that we have the right regulatory environment, that we’re not overtaxed, that we have a quality workforce . . . and that we don’t have gaps in the supply chain.” Most industry representatives saw a role for government in the tradi­ tional activities of building roads and bridges. According to Haney, “In­ frastructure’s important. You have to have ports, good railroads, a good highway system. . . . The new tech world needs to get around the world a lot, and they need good air service, and if you don’t have it, you’re not going to see a lot of growth.” Bauer elaborated: “The president has called for a second stimulus. . . . And he would like the second stimulus to be more focused on infrastructure and the energy grid. I don’t disagree with him. I think that would be a great idea. He should have done that with the first one. But we don’t have the flexibility now because we’re $17 trillion in debt.” Bauer even suggested that government could play a countercyclical role in the economy: “The public sector is important in some instances where you need to get an economy jump-­started . . . for public works. But beyond that, government becomes more of a burden than a force for growth.” Some in the business sector alluded to “constituencies that feed off government” and “the entitlement state,” implicitly disparaging safety net programs. But Bauer spoke to the need for such programs: “One of the things that I’ve failed to mention about the role of government would be the social safety net, and I think most of my members would agree that that is an important function of government.” Haney also saw a role for such programs: There are some social service programs that are safety net, and you have to kind of break those out, because those are important to a society. . . . People who are sick need to get help, and people with disabilities need some support. And I don’t think anybody begrudges those programs until they read that there’s a lot of fraud or cheating going on, and then they get riled up. I think any hu­ mane society has to have a way of caring for those who for whatever reason truly cannot care for themselves.

Privatizing state services drew qualified support. Bauer, who was mar­ ried to a public schoolteacher, explained:

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I happen to agree with Governor Walker that if you privatize certain functions, you can bid them out and probably save the taxpayer more money. I think that’s important. But I’m not antigovernment. I’m a big believer in public schools. I believe that they have to be effective public schools. And to the extent that they’re not, there has to be a way to correct that, and this is one of the reasons you get this debate between school choice and public school. Conservatives would argue that they want school choice because they want to put competitive pressure on the public schools to improve. To some extent I think that makes sense. But I think the public should be, by and large, the one educating our chil­ dren. And in Wisconsin, we do a pretty good job.

Most executives had a “wish list” of things that government could do for business. Some noted with approval that the state was supporting busi­ ness by picking up costs of workforce training. Bauer went so far as to sug­ gest that Wisconsin might consider the Chinese government’s relationship with business as a model: In one sense, China is an example that we could follow a little bit more, per­ haps. I visited China a year and a half ago, and what struck me is that there is a partnership at the high levels—­they want to grow their private sector industry. They still have a lot of communistic tendencies. There’s a lot of businesses and sectors that the government still controls—­I’m not suggesting that. But they do what they can to grow businesses. . . . I think that that’s a partnership that we should have.

Many of these individuals were strong supporters of right-­to-­work laws that would weaken private sector unions, and all favored balanced budgets and lower taxes. Many saw the Walker administration as having greatly improved the state’s business climate. But for the most part, prominent members of Wisconsin’s business community were uncomfortable with the polarized climate of the state since 2011. Bauer said, “The Act 10 thing was an ugly chapter in Wisconsin’s history.” Many also felt that the polar­ ization resulted from an influx of outside political interests, such as the Koch brothers. In the words of Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayer Alliance, There is no question that the national political environment is driving the state political environment to a much greater degree than it used to. Most people here are not driven by hard-­core philosophical, ideological concerns. I think

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there’s always going to be tension in a representative democratic society, but I would say overall there is actually a lot more commonality in Wisconsin than is reflected by the partisan activities on either end. They neither want a govern­ ment as big or centralized or activist, nor a government as small, as one side or the other would suggest.

Taken as a whole, many members of Wisconsin’s business community invoked precepts about sound finance that have circulated in popular cul­ ture from the 1930s to the present. Almost every individual quoted Oliver Wendell Holmes’s famous adage that “taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.” They expressed a desire for government to be as efficient and streamlined as possible and for regulation to be fair and consistent. They also expressed concern about the state’s aging workforce and the need for reliable and affordable energy. Their overall approach emphasized what government could do for business. They did not advocate major cuts, ar­ gue that big changes in direction were needed, or quote Ayn Rand. The disjuncture between the words of Wisconsin’s “national stage” pol­ iticians and those of local business leaders pointed to a crack in the “govern­ ing assemblage” that came to power in 2010. It suggests that the dis­cursive resources developed in conservative think tanks do not mesh well with the needs of business owners who rely on government supports, who see at first hand the myriad contributions of the public sector to the state’s in­ frastructure, and whose vernacular economics emphasizes what the state could do for them. While discourse at the national level accentuated ques­ tions of how much government society could afford and freedom could bear, and while those issues dominated the airwaves during the protests of 2011, members of the business community in Wisconsin seemed eager to engage in more fine-­grained discussions of what government could and should do.

Revaluation Project: Public Services and Social Reproduction Standing outside the Capitol in February 2011, a schoolteacher took the microphone and told the crowd, “They say I produce nothing. But I pro­ duce engineers and doctors, accountants and scientists, nurses and archi­ tects.” The crowd cheered in approval. His response linked the conflict unfolding in Wisconsin to a larger project of making visible the hidden contributions of public sector work. In speeches and in the signs they

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carried, the crowds at the protests echoed this theme. They spoke of their reliance on the services state and local government workers provided and the centrality of these services to their quality of life and even daily survival. People expressed gratitude to the aides who took care of their parents in nursing homes and the special education teachers who helped disabled children. They thanked garbage collectors, tree trimmers, and sanitation plant workers. This discourse reinforced rather than contra­ dicted the labor message of the protests, because the public workers who were losing their labor rights provided the services that were being cut by the austerity budget. Valuing those services was simultaneously a show of support and an act of solidarity with those who provided them. The signs that pointed to the importance of these services were poignant, funny, and sometimes wordy. “Care For Your Teachers Like They Care for Your Child”; “Remember This When You Hit a Pothole”; “Scott Walker, Who’s Gonna Care for You When You Have a Stroke?”; and “We All Do Better When We All Do Better.” Doug Keillor talked about the first time he realized that protestors were linking the attack on public workers to the public services they received: I think what was clear was that people really understood this to be an attack not just on unions—­that wasn’t even the main thing. It was really an attack on public services, on public workers, and an attack on democracy. . . . I knew something was different when I got up there. . . . Going up to the Capitol and living at those protests, I saw people that I knew from lots of different areas of my life that I would not associate with being involved in union protests or labor protests. I saw for the first time in my life a very unified community . . . incredible organic support of just regular everyday people, from young kids to senior citizens. A lot of people responded because they saw this as an attack on their children’s teachers—­the people they count on every day and love, to a large extent.

Boyd McCamish reflected on this phenomenon: The public sector runs so deep in every community that what happened was peo­ ple would take this back home at night to the dinner table, they’d take it to church on Sunday, they’d take it to the PTA meetings, and then teachers would talk to parents, and public service workers, and so on.

Bryan Kennedy echoed these observations:

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There were a lot of people who came out in support of schools, who came out in support of snowplow drivers, who came out in support of the folks who work in municipal offices, in town offices, who basically said, “No, we respect the services that are provided in our state. It’s one thing to say you don’t like government, but when you start getting specific—­“I don’t like police officers, I don’t like firefight­ ers, I don’t like teachers, I don’t like snowplow drivers, I don’t like the person who processes my driver’s license application”—­it’s harder for people to say, “I don’t like those specific jobs; I don’t respect those services; I don’t respect peo­ ple who do them.” So with teachers . . . they were out there in the forefront of the fight. Because they are the people you entrust your kids to for seven to eight hours a day, it was hard to come out and say, “I don’t like teachers.”

At the protests, and in discussions over the budget, people spoke frankly about the way the erosion of public services would affect their lives. At one budget forum, a middle-­aged man in a camouflage T-­shirt and cap stepped to the podium. He talked about leaving his job as a traffic engineer to care for two sons with disabilities. One of his sons had muscular dystrophy and a tracheotomy tube and required attention twenty-­four hours a day, seven days a week. He explained that he managed financially through combin­ ing his retirement pension with income from a small storage business and with a variety of state aids and community support. Wiping away tears, he described a precarious set of domestic arrangements that he could barely hold together and that he felt would be destroyed by the health care cuts and privatization of services proposed in the state budget. “The measure is supposed to be fiscally neutral,” he said of the privatization plan. “But if it cuts and ‘streamlines’ our services while costing the same, who gets the savings? The out-­of-­state corporations who will take it over? And mean­ while, how am I going to be able to care for my sons?” Responsibility for disabled family members was a major theme of the budget hearings. A woman who cared for an adult son with severe physi­ cal disabilities said, “We have medical technology to keep kids alive, but we need to support them when they live.” An elderly man noted, “Repre­ sentatives say they support independence, but they cut the programs that give us independence and dignity.” A woman in her sixties told a budget forum, “I worked hard to contribute to the economy. I had a college de­ gree, and I made $51,000 a year at one point. I didn’t manage to save a lot—­Maybe 15 percent over fifteen years. In 2001 my back went out. I used up my savings. Now I am on Medicaid and Social Security Disabil­ ity. If these people keep cutting things, I don’t know what I’ll do.”


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Another woman said, “My son has Down syndrome. I’m sixty-­seven. I rely on state agencies to help organize care for my son. Now I feel like I can’t die because I can’t be sure that he will be taken care of.” One individual summarized the significance of these services for the public at large: “Most of us are only one accident or illness away from need­ ing this care.” Other people spoke about the value of public “amenities” such as state parks. A school superintendent from western Wisconsin said, “State parks are critical to teach children and adults to connect with nature.” An elderly man with prosthetic legs told a budget forum, “I almost lost my life in a car accident three years ago. The state parks were a big part of my recovery. I practiced walking there almost every day, and it cleared my head and made me feel hopeful.” The vast majority of state and local government expenditure is for ser­ vices, and the bulk of the cost of those services is compensation for the workers who provide them.38 To justify major cuts, small-­government con­ servatives argued that this money is wasted—­that the services provided were not consequential for the health of the polity. Many went further, however, to suggest that the employees providing these services were a privileged group and that they drained resources from the rest of society. Governor Walker’s speeches promoting Act 10 were full of references to unproductive workers. In these speeches he argued that public employ­ ees were overpaid and dependent on the tax dollars paid by private sec­ tor workers. “We can no longer live in a society,” he declared, “where the public employees are the haves and the taxpayers who foot the bill are the have-­nots.”39 This line of argument was not unique to Walker but had been brewing in right-­wing think tanks for years. Since at least the mid-­1990s, the conservative Manhattan Institute in New York produced reports on what it called the unsustainable cost of New York City’s pub­ lic sector workforce, and specifically the fixed cost of public employee pensions.40 In the wake of the 2008 recession, the media picked up and circulated the message that the Manhattan Institute and its allied think tanks had honed. In 2010 the New York Times reported on “The Coming Class War over Public Pensions.”41 Forbes magazine produced a story on “gilt-­edged pensions” where it asserted, “America, in case you hadn’t noticed, is di­ viding into two nations. The 22.5 million strong public sector . . . is grow­ ing ever larger and is enjoying ever greater wages and benefits . . . while in private sector America, your job, assuming you still have one, hangs

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on the fate of the economy.”42 Rush Limbaugh echoed these arguments and tied them to the lack of value of public sector work: “They’re not producing anything. They’re not making widgets. . . . The annual house­ hold budget of a public sector union worker is taxpayer revenue, pure and simple. . . . It’s pure redistribution of wealth.”43 The think tanks, through their cultivation of ties to governors and state legislators, translated this rhetoric into actions by states, including attacks on public employee bargaining rights. Governors Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin were both frequent participants in Man­ hattan Institute events; both offered keynote addresses at the Institute’s September 2011 conference on the topic “A New Social Contract: Refram­ ing the Terms of Public Sector Employment in America.”44 The Institute quoted Daniels on that occasion: “I think I owe the Manhattan Institute some rent. I’ve been reading and consuming and learning from your prod­ ucts . . . for a long time.” These attacks on public employees featured a palpable race and gender politics. In the United States, the public sector disproportionately employs women and people of color (as well as serving more poor and working-­ class individuals). In 2011, nearly 20 percent of African Americans worked in the public sector compared with 14 percent of whites and 10 percent of Latinos. For black men the public sector (including federal, state, and local jobs) was the largest employer; for black women it was the second largest. Nearly 60 percent of public sector workers were women. As state and local governments cut back in response to the 2008 recession, women made up over 70 percent of those who lost their jobs. (They also benefited dispro­ portionately from Obama’s 2009 stimulus package, with its supports for state and local government.) The percentage of African Americans who lost public sector jobs in the recession was higher than that of any other racial group.45 Conservative attacks on public employees subtly referenced the race and gender composition of the workforce when they stereotyped public workers as “lazy” and “dependent”—­a strategy made explicit by Jon­athan Cohn’s 2010 article for the New Republic titled “Why Public Em­ ployees Are the New Welfare Queens” and in Paul Krugman’s rejoinder in the New York Times, “Schoolteachers Driving Cadillacs.”46 Wisconsin had its own array of conservative think tanks that dissemi­ nated this message about public employees. Milwaukee Journal-­Sentinel reporters Jason Stein and Patrick Marley identified the Milwaukee-­based Bradley Foundation as a key player in promoting the rollback of rights and remuneration in the public sector, along with the Wisconsin Policy


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Research Institute and the John MacIver Institute for Public Policy.47 Scott Walker’s agenda was particularly closely tied to the Bradley Foundation, whose president, Michael Grebe, was both his campaign manager and the chief of his transition team when he became governor. The Foundation was started by Milwaukee industrialists Lynde and Harry Bradley in 1985 and makes over $30 million in grants annually. While some of these funds go to local arts organizations and charities, of 333 grants in 2012, 73 per­ cent went to organizations that advocated for limited government, limited taxation, curtailing workers’ rights, or privatizing schools and other gov­ ernment services.48 The Foundation is one of the most formidable forces opposing public employment and the public sector more generally. In 2011, one Bradley-­supported group ran a website called “Teachers Unions Exposed,” which produced materials such as “The Biggest Bully in Schools? Teacher Unions.” The MacIver Institute specialized in produc­ ing in-­house reports alleging that public workers were overpaid compared with their private-­sector counterparts. Progressive economists countered that these studies did not control for the higher educational levels of pub­ lic workers, arguing that when education is accounted for, public workers receive wages 11 percent below those of their private sector counterparts. With all benefits added in, their compensation remains 7 percent below their private sector peers, according to these authors.49 But over time, MacIver, Bradley, and other advocacy organizations developed a lively and prolific policy network that specialized in criticizing the public sector and in pro­ ducing novel frameworks for debate over its role in society. Drawing on the rhetoric developed by think tanks, Walker offered Wis­ consinites a “beggar thy neighbor” logic that said, “Why should someone else have these benefits if you don’t?” “Why should you pay for public workers to have secure retirements when you don’t have that luxury?” This theme was echoed in signs brought by Tea Party activists on the two week­ ends they organized counterprotests at the Capitol. “WEAC = Greed” one placard read, referring to the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “Collective Bargaining = Extortion,” another proclaimed. Other variations on this theme included “Quit Complaining, Farmers Don’t Have ANY Re­ tirement Packages,” and “Pension? Sick Days? Retire at 55? Can I Get in on the Suffering?” Each of these signs positioned the carrier as a worker/tax­ payer who made do without the “advantages” supposedly enjoyed by public sector workers whose collective bargaining rights were being targeted. Some members of the public, particularly those who lived outside Mad­ ison and Milwaukee, echoed these complaints. Political scientist Kather­

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ine Cramer Walsh found this to be the case in interviews she conducted throughout Wisconsin from 2007 to 2011: Public employees were often denounced as lazy people who sit behind their desks all day and never get their hands dirty. Citizens saw themselves and their neighbors working hard, but forced to hand over the fruits of their labor to foot the bill for public workers’ health benefits and pensions. Resentful comments often came in the midst of discussions about health care, as people expressed worries about their own ability to pay for the medical services they and their families need. Benefits for public employees seemed way out of step with the benefits available (or not) to many private workers. . . . Public employees were said to routinely waste taxpayer money and to be more concerned with per­ petuating their own jobs rather than reducing public spending.50

Protestors and other supporters of the public sector acknowledged that many fellow Wisconsinites held this view. Doug Keillor said, A lot of private sector employees are susceptible to that message—­“Why should my taxes go to pay for your benefits when I don’t have those myself, and I have no control in my plant and my company, and my life is always at the whim of my employer and relocation and plant shutdowns?” Some of this seems kind of inevitable. We have the kind of economy that lays the groundwork for politi­ cians like Walker to exploit that and use that to cut things further.

Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education As­ sociation, elaborated on this logic, highlighting the role that race played: Walker was able to turn a fair amount of private sector folks . . . against public sector workers. It was a “them and us” thing. He said, “Look at these people who have decent health insurance and pensions. Instead of you people having them, let’s make sure that they don’t have them, and you will be happy as you race to the bottom and crash.” Unfortunately, people swallow that for a variety of reasons. One, they don’t feel that they’ll ever have the chance to get those ben­ efits, and two, those public sector worker unions are people of color or helping people of color.

The widespread support for Governor Walker in the 2012 recall election (and subsequent 2014 gubernatorial race) suggested that this message resonated with many Wisconsin voters.

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The think tanks used a rhetoric of taxpayers versus tax eaters that bothered many public sector workers, and not just because they paid taxes too. Beyond that, and the implication that they were unproductive, they perceived another fatal flaw in the formulation. As one teacher present­ ing at a public forum pointed out, the governor and legislature seemed to think that “taxpayers” arrived on the scene full-­grown and ready to work. These miraculous taxpayers didn’t need to be cared for as children. Their health didn’t need to be safeguarded. They did not depend on clean water, schools, parks to play in, or libraries where they could read books. Public workers saw themselves as making a largely unmeasured contribution to the capacities of the workers and citizens who were the taxpayers. In July 2012, Barack Obama famously sparked Republican ire with his “you didn’t build that” speech that pointed to the contributions govern­ ment makes to the economy. “If you were successful,” he said, somebody along the way gave you some help. There was a great teacher some­ where in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American sys­ tem that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that, somebody else made that happen. . . . The point is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. . . . We rise or fall together as one nation and one people.51

Obama was paraphrasing a similar point made in fall 2011 by Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren during a speech in Andover, Massachusetts: There is nobody in this country that got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a fac­ tory. . . . Good for you. But I want to be clear. You move your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hire workers that the rest of us paid to edu­ cate. . . . You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea—­ God bless. Keep a BIG hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay it forward for the next kid who comes along.52

Warren’s speech went viral in progressive Internet circles, but it did not draw the kind of public sphere anger that Obama’s did. Obama’s speech was made during election season, just before the Republican Convention. The convention’s organizers declared the second day of that event “You Built It” day and commissioned a country-­and-­western song with that title. Nearly every convention speaker referenced the “you didn’t build

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that” comment as a sign of Obama’s disrespect for hardworking entre­ preneurs. “You built it” merchandise proliferated. The progressive media discovery that the stadium housing the event was largely built with public financing did little to dampen the outcry.53 To the extent that the public grasped Warren’s and Obama’s point, it was with regard to government’s role in providing the infrastructure for economic development. The notion that factories ran their trucks on government-­built roads and bridges and used state-­supported electrical grids made intuitive sense to many. But fewer grasped the way public services support those human functions that feminists have called social reproduction54 —­services that maintain the well-­being of households and communities daily and generationally. Most would concede that schools are important because education can be tied directly to the skills and ca­ pacities of the workforce. What was missing was any broader conceptual­ ization of how a laboring population is maintained from day to day, year to year, and generation to generation—­any sense of how working families solve the problems of care for their youngest and oldest members, their sick, and their disabled. The understanding that businesses do not bear the full cost of maintaining their labor force—­that this cost is broadly socialized through taxation and the construction of a safety net—­was not part of the discussion. As political scientist Suzanne Mettler notes, most Americans are unaware of the many ways they depend on government for public health, education, and safety. They may misunderstand the way government subsidizes Social Security and Medicare, believing they have paid the full costs of their participation in these programs.55 Yet, as Pollin and Thompson note, state and local governments are now the most im­ portant providers of many vital forms of support for family livelihoods.56 The decades since the 1970s have seen a seismic shift in how domestic chores and the labor of caring for families are accomplished in America. Nearly half of the growth in income in the United States since that time has gone to women’s wages. A large share of the growth in productivity of the economy throughout this period has been sustained by dramatic increases in women’s waged work. Susan Thistle has argued that the com­ modification of formerly domestic services performed in American homes generated the same kind of economic expansion as the opening to invest­ ment of a new geographic region. She estimates that a quarter of today’s service sector employment involves tasks formerly done at home and that the marketing of these services was responsible for more than one-­ fifth of the growth of private sector gross domestic product from 1970


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to the present.57 These trends signified a massive restructuring of relations among the domestic realm, the market, and the state. The story of this reconfiguration is often told as the movement of do­ mestic labor from family to market, with the role of the public sector left out altogether. This shift in responsibilities for domestic labor and care was not a seamless process. Families coped with sending more adults out into the labor force by purchasing some services on the market and sim­ ply leaving other tasks undone. Among poor families who could not af­ ford market alternatives, difficulties of care emerged: crucial tasks “fell through the cracks.” Many families turned to the public sector for sup­ port in the form of early childhood education and after-­school programs, school lunch programs, Medicaid and Medicare funding of home health care, services for disabled children and adults, and the work of public hos­ pitals and clinics. Public sector workers have always performed many services essential to social reproduction, and these services historically have been relevant to families across the income spectrum. With the advent of public schools, mothers and fathers did not have to homeschool their children. How much more difficult would life be if all families had to (as some still do in rural areas) snowplow their own roads or cart their own garbage to the landfill, not to mention build those roads or procure safe water? It is difficult to quantify shifts in the public sector’s support for social reproduction, be­ cause sometimes the state provides such services directly (for example, the Head Start program), while in other cases it helps families buy services on the market (as with childcare subsidies). Some supports are universal, while others are means-­tested. But in general, as wages have stagnated over the past two decades and families and individuals work more hours, public sector contributions have become a more salient part of the liveli­ hood equation.58 In many ways these services were an easy target for small-­government advocates because of the way they were rooted in legacies of race and gender discrimination. They were replacing what was formerly housewives’ labor, performed without pay in the privacy of homes. Or they were replacing the labor of domestic servants marked by racial alterity. Evelyn Glenn has shown how racial preconceptions about domestic work led to a continu­ ing devaluation of that labor when it moved from private homes to more market-­based arrangements. Women of color—­still disproportionately rep­resented among service providers when laundry and childcare, clean­ ing and food preparation moved outside the home—­faced the low wages,

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irregular hours, and lack of labor protections characteristic of the bottom of the service sector labor market.59 Media identification of public workers as “welfare queens” made sense to a large proportion of the public because the tasks of social reproduction that public sector workers were now per­ forming had long been associated with the domestic labors of women and people of color. Bob Peterson of Milwaukee pointed to the connection politicians were making: I view Walker and the Republicans’ attack as primarily class-­based, but it has a gender theme as well, because about 75 percent of the teachers are women. . . . And the two public sector unions that were excluded from Act 10 [police and firefighters] are heavily male-­dominated; they also endorsed Walker. . . . In a lot of ways the attack on the public sector is also racialized. When Walker said to people during the recall race that we don’t want Wisconsin to become like Milwaukee, basically he was saying we don’t want black and brown people to be that close to us.

These gender, race, and class dynamics were inseparable, in Peterson’s view, from the conservative critique of the public sector. And the critique saw the public sector as both disproportionately made up of, and dispro­ portionately serving, people of color. And it’s all obviously wrapped up in public service, because some people’s per­ spective–­and certainly the line of the right wing–­is that, “Well public sector—­ we’re helping those who refuse to help themselves. Those people are mainly people of color.” I’m sure that statistically more white people get helped by the public sector than people of color. But the issue of race affects all of us, as it is used as an excuse to destroy the public sector.

The extension of discourses of dependency to public workers was rel­ atively new. From the 1970s to the 1990s, policymakers and politicians used this language to disparage welfare recipients, drawing a sharp line between workers and the unproductive poor, even when those “unpro­ ductive” others were performing social reproductive labor such as caring for children.60 But by 2000, conservatives had begun to redefine “work” as “private sector work” and to extend the rhetoric of dependency to public servants at all levels. The earlier version of “welfare dependency” dis­ course was reflected in the libertarian Cato Institute’s “moocher index,”


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which calculates the ratio of individuals using some kinds of state services to the state’s population.61 Forbes magazine captured the more recent and expansive dependency discourse that included public workers in its own “moocher ratio”: “Numerator: the number of state and local government employees times 1.25 (the extra 25% representing an estimate of future pension burdens), plus the number of people on Medicaid. Denominator: private-­sector employment.”62 The efforts of the protestors and their contestatory assemblage to rec­ ognize the role and value of the public sector in providing these services necessarily proceeded on this deeply racialized and gendered terrain. On one hand, acknowledging the public sector’s role in social reproduc­ tion seemed to make the issue more universal by taking it out of the gen­ dered arrangements of the household and into the public sphere. On the other hand—­as the labeling of public sector workers as “welfare queens” suggests—­legacies of racial and gender stigma that clung to the labor of social reproduction “contaminated” the public sector. Social reproduc­ tion’s history as women’s work—­and when purchased in the market, work disproportionately performed by women of color— ­collided with the per­ ceived overrepresentation of women and persons of color in the public sector workforce and among those it served. These historical legacies saturated the topic with racial and gender stereotypes and brought into play discourses of dependency and deficiency. As protestors crafted a vernacular economic account of what public workers and their services mean to the economy, they called for the rec­ ognition of something previously invisible or illegible. Making something invisible is a power-­laden discursive move. Foucault refers to “silence itself—­the thing one declines to say, or is forbidden to name” as “an inte­ gral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourses.”63 Sup­ porters of the public sector in Wisconsin drew a connection between the labor of public sector workers and the survival of the working classes and the poor, suggesting that the governor’s moves were not simply budget tactics but had implications for the health and welfare of citizens, the re­ plenishment of the workforce, and the continuity of society. In forging a provisional solidarity between public sector workers and those who re­ lied on them for services, they demonstrated that what geographer David Harvey labels “the politics of the living space”64 and what feminists call “social reproduction” is never separate from labor issues. They offered an interpretation of the crisis with the potential to foster coalition building and collective action.

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The (Anti)politics of Austerity From the 1980s to the 2010s, austerity ideology was one of the most power­ ful forces shaping attributions of value in the public sector. Political scien­ tist Mark Blyth calls austerity “a form of voluntary deflation.” Austerity doctrines offer a compelling set of calculative premises and practices de­ signed to shrink government. Budgets must be balanced. Taxes must not be raised. Dollars spent by government crowd out private sector investment. Although some economists dispute them, each of these premises appeals to the public’s “common sense.” In reducing inherently political questions about the nature of the state and the services it should provide to a technical question of balancing bud­ gets, austerity discourse is a form of antipolitics. Its effectiveness is linked to the sense of inevitability it creates. It allows legislators and policymakers to justify cuts and privatizing of state programs and services by arguing that there are simply no resources. The state/city/nation has just run up against the “bottom line,” and the “piper must be paid” or, in Margaret Thatcher’s words, “There is no alternative.” Framing these changes as necessary and inevitable—­and as a purely fiscal matter—­forecloses the possibility of Daniel Bell’s “conscious decisions, publicly debated and philosophically justified, in the shaping of directions for society.”65 Austerity politics is thus “antipolitical” in the sense that it shuts down political deliberation. In the words of James Scott, it appeals to technical considerations in order to “devalue” or “banish” politics.66 But of course politics does not really disappear. By framing them as a matter of fiscal necessity, legislators and policymakers simply obscure the fact that the changes they propose ramify beyond the budget into people’s daily lives and have implications for the distribution of wealth in society. Austerity seems to be a feature of every era, prompted by the business cycle, the ebbs and flows of trade, wars, disasters, and other failures of ex­ isting economies. And as everyone from economist Joseph Schumpeter to Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has reminded us, economic crises present opportunities for rethinking and restructuring budgetary priorities and in­ vestments. Nevertheless, since the 1960s austerity discourse has occupied an unusually important place on the American political agenda. A number of analysts point to New York City’s near bankruptcy in 1975 as the birth of a “politics of austerity” in the United States. Urban studies scholars argue that the response to New York’s fiscal crisis ushered in a new era of


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“neoliberal urbanism”67 or “austerity urbanism”68 that reduced or disman­ tled many federal supports for states, cities, and localities. They pointed to this moment as a dramatic reversal of mid-­twentieth-­century Keynesian policies that made the federal government a countercyclical stabilizer and support for smaller units of government. Historian Alice O’Connor has documented the process through which a handful of think tanks used the occasion of New York City’s near bankruptcy to unleash a new discourse of austerity that intertwined calls for small government with moral panics about “urban crisis” and “welfare crisis.”69 In 2010, after the Republican sweep in midterm elections across the nation, lawmakers began to use the 2008 recession to justify more budget reductions and more cuts to, and concessions from, the public sector work­ force. In Wisconsin, then Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey, Michigan, Tennessee, Arizona, Oklahoma, and New Hampshire, Republican majorities took mea­ sures to roll back the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers.70 Mark Blyth has called this series of events “the greatest bait and switch in human history,”71 as lawmakers translated a crisis that had emerged in the banking sector and high-­risk finance into a “crisis of state spending” and a “pension crisis.” While this bait and switch required electoral victories that allowed legislators to push the costs, risks, and burdens of Wall Street’s economic failure onto less powerful classes and social groups, it would not have been possible without an ideological component: the long-­term effort of organizations like the Manhattan Institute to reframe market failures as government failures and a product of the greed and unworthiness of broad classes of the citizenry.72 In Wisconsin in 2011, Republican lawmakers used austerity discourse to shut down debate about whether Act 10’s restrictions on public sector unions were fair and whether draconian state budget cuts were necessary. In putting forward Act 10, Governor Walker argued that he was giving local governments “tools” to bring their budgets under control by releas­ ing them from the terms of collective bargaining with public employee unions—­mainly teachers’ unions. He argued that this was necessary be­ cause the state faced an unprecedented budget crisis. “Let me be clear,” he said in his 2011 State of the State address, “We have an economic and fiscal crisis in this state that demands our immediate attention.”73 In his budget address following the announcement of Act 10, he told citizens, The facts are clear: Wisconsin is broke and it’s time to start paying our bills today—­so our kids are not stuck with even bigger bills tomorrow. . . . While

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families across this state were focused on making ends meet, the state govern­ ment continued to grow well beyond our taxpayers’ ability to pay. But the time has come for us to make the tough choices necessary to put our state back on the path to prosperity.74

Over and over, the governor’s supporters insisted that “Wisconsin is in fiscal crisis. . . . While some people are content with doing nothing, the consequences of inaction are dire.”75 In order to address the economic value of public goods and services, protesters and activists first had to address this claim that the issue was a matter of budgetary necessity and thus “beyond politics.” The 2008 re­ cession had taken a toll on Wisconsin’s budget, and the state had faced a structural deficit for years. There was ample room for debate about how best to address these issues—­how much of the deficit would be resolved by a return to growth, how to balance cuts with new revenue, how to prioritize cuts. But claims about austerity became a rationale for short-­ circuiting reasoned public debate about the proper balance between fiscal responsibility and reinvestment for the collective good. In talking back to this dominant idea, protestors took a dual tack: they argued that the governor and legislature had the facts wrong and the bud­ get was not a purely technical issue. Filmmaker Michael Moore set the tone for the first project when he told crowds at the protest on March 5, 2011, that “Wisconsin is not broke . . . America is not broke.” Scott Walker had premised his Budget Repair Bill on the claim that the state faced a $3.6 billion deficit.76 This came as a surprise to many citizens, since the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau had produced a memo two weeks earlier projecting a $112 million surplus in the state’s general fund by the end of the fiscal year.77 The reliably conservative Wisconsin Taxpayer suggested that the deficit number was inflated because it reflected requests by state agencies, not actual allocations.78 As fiscal wonks debated the issue, it be­ came clear that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau had neglected to count some things as well. Over time, many observers came to agree that, while the state did face a deficit, it was smaller than Walker’s estimates. Cross-­state comparisons revealed that Wisconsin was faring better than many other states in the years following the recession and suggested that the numbers would improve once growth stabilized.79 Public sector supporters sought to counter the governor’s assertions about the budget crisis by producing their own fiscal analyses. Using a variety of metrics (and drawing on expert opinions from throughout the


chapter five

nation),80 they made the case that Walker was turning a minor shortfall caused by the Great Recession into a trumped-­up justification for long-­ term structural change. They accused him of using the notion of fiscal cri­ sis as “a Trojan horse in order to enact unfair public policy in the name of fixing the budget.”81 Jon Peacock assessed the situation this way: “There was a significant hole. It was not that much different than other budget holes. It required some tough choices, but it didn’t require slashing things the way the governor did.” Following the recession of 2003 and the far worse 2008 downturn, aus­ terity politics was not hard to sell to the Wisconsin citizenry. The state’s overall unemployment rate had peaked at just over 9 percent in 2010.82 Pri­ vate sector wages were falling.83 People throughout the state were experi­ encing economic hardship. For many people, the need for austerity in these circumstances acquired the status of what Antonio Gramsci long ago called “common sense”: a set of political ideas that become so much a part of an era’s narratives and images and figures of speech that they no longer seem like politics and thus are harder to notice and to resist. Even members of progressive community organizations felt that government services might have to be trimmed in this economic context. One said, “I think that after the financial crisis states were really hurt. I mean, budgets dried up. We’re in this still—­this era of austerity and budget cutting—­and everyone’s wor­ ried about the deficit, so I think that’s another driver to all of this. We can’t look to Washington to solve our problems, we have to look to ourselves.” As this activist suggests, it seemed obvious to many people that gov­ ernment should tighten its purse strings in the same way that individual families were doing. Scott Walker justified Act 10 on the grounds that “while families across this state were focused on making ends meet, the state government continued to grow.”84 There is something appealing to many people about the idea that a nation’s budget works like a household budget and therefore should be “balanced” in the same way. This image is an example of what economist Frédéric Lordon calls “the strength of simple ideas.”85 Yet journalist Kevin Drum argues that the idea that household budgets and national budgets are equivalent is “one of the most destructive bits of economic folklore ever to enter common circula­ tion.” Writing from a Keynesian perspective, Drum counters that “the truth is exactly the opposite; the proper role of the federal government is to be countercyclical. When households and businesses are all cutting back at once, Congress needs to be the spender of last resort to keep the economy from falling even further into recession.”86 As Blyth has de­m­ onstrated, this is a classic example of what Keynes called “the paradox

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of thrift—­someone has to spend for someone else to save. Otherwise the saver would have no income from which to save. . . . We cannot all cut our way to growth at the same time.”87 For the protestors, defending public services required addressing the deeply held “simple idea” that gov­ern­ ments ran like households. Supporters of the public sector understood that claims about austerity provided a rationale for short-­circuiting reasoned public debate about the proper balance between fiscal responsibility and reinvestment for the col­ lective good. To change the terms of the debate, they needed to expose the political forces at its heart. Nancy Fraser has written that capitalist institutions “depoliticize certain matters by economizing them.”88 Activ­ ists knew that they needed to repoliticize discussions of the public purse by expanding the field of debate from the purely fiscal or economic to include a broader set of social concerns. The turning point in this public discussion was a snowy day in March when Rabbi Renée Bauer of the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice told the crowd of protestors at the Capitol, “The budget is a moral document.” Taking up this discourse, one activist asserted, “Budgets are important, but we also have to take a look at what’s happening to people. This budget shows that we don’t value people, we value corporations.” Another pointed to the way a seemingly “fiscal” document worked structural change: “It’s not a budget, but an agenda. The budget has become a policy instrument. Thirty years ago, this was a transparent and research-­based process, but not any more.” This reframing expanded the terrain of struggle from the technical to conscious public decision making. Taking up the challenge of reframing the debate, some public sector supporters attempted to craft their own alternative budget. Church leaders throughout the state, as well as some long-­standing progressive research organizations, played a role in this effort.89 “This is not about scarcity but about choices,” the leaders claimed. Interfaith groups held prayer vigils about the cuts and urged citizens to learn more about the details of state finance. The “values budget” these groups designed included monetary concessions from state workers but preserved their rights; it proposed nar­ rowly targeted tax increases for corporations and the very wealthy, and it derived $900 million from improved revenue collection. It cut state  pro­grams by $600 million rather than $2.48 billion as the governor’s bud­ get proposed.90 Jon Peacock argued that through sharing information in a more open process, average citizens could arrive at more reasonable and equitable solutions: “Let’s have the tax policy choices and spending choices on the table at the same time. Let’s help the public decide not


chapter five

based on abstract arguments, but based on What are we spending on? And do we like the value that we’re getting for those things? And do we want to maintain that or improve that? Couple the spending choices and the tax choices.” Public sector supporters insisted that Act 10 and the budget process were not simply fiscal exercises but were about making deliberate political choices with far-­reaching social implications. They reframed these deci­ sions as about economic value and morality and sought to engage in rea­ soned discussion of what the state needed and how those goals could be met. By pointing to impacts on families and unequal effects on different groups, they exposed how power structured the choices that were made. In each of these ways, they rejected the antipolitics of austerity discourse.

Conclusion In many ways the struggle against Act 10 in Wisconsin looked like a classic labor battle. The immediate object of the protests was a bill that restricted the collective bargaining rights of public workers. The eighteen-­wheel Teamster rigs parked on the Capitol Square and the Laborers Union members in their flashy orange T-­shirts reinforced this impression. But a closer look revealed that a broader issue framed the protestors’ concerns. In speeches and with the signs they carried, in the presence of so many individuals who had no union affiliation at all, protestors revealed a com­ mon investment in the protective covering of social institutions and in the “public household.” For those who showed up at the Wisconsin Capitol, the state workers who were under assault became the symbol of the pro­ vision of collective services that made daily life possible. As the protests went on, people who came to protest the loss of labor rights made com­ mon cause with those who showed up to protest the budget’s cuts to social programs, united by their concern with the erosion of the public sector’s contribution to their livelihoods. In forging this alliance, protestors were engaging in a “revaluation project.” They refuted the rhetoric of right-­wing think tanks that painted public workers as overpaid “dead weight” dependent on the tax dollars of private sector employees and insisted that well-­functioning social services and public supports were crucial to a healthy economy. They sought to make visible the contributions that state services made to the day-­to-­day survival of families and to the intergenerational reproduction of the work­ ing classes. They pointed out that politicians’ failure to acknowledge the

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need for a broad array of livelihood supports to ensure social reproduction, and the public sector’s increasing role in providing those, allowed them to avoid addressing the critical difficulties created by austerity measures. The protests did not succeed in overturning Act 10 or—­after a major 2012 campaign to do so—­in recalling the governor. In fact, Walker was reelected in 2014 by a comfortable margin. These electoral outcomes were consistent with a national trend toward conservative statehouses that began in 2010, bolstered—­if not caused outright—­by infusions of post–­ Citizens United cash and Republican-­led redistricting efforts. But there were other forces and factors at issue as well. One was undoubtedly that Walker’s actions took citizens by surprise and activists found themselves mounting a defensive movement with little notice. Another was the rela­ tive fragility of the contestatory assemblage that activists were able to construct in such circumstances. And a third was the way racialized and gendered histories of public sector work shaped the perceived legitimacy of those who provided its services and those who used them. In endeavor­ ing to open a public conversation about the value of the public sector’s support for social reproduction, workers and activists found their voices discounted.

chapter six

Conclusion Comparing the Three Revaluation Projects Comparing the Contestatory Assemblages


n the quotation that opens this book, Massimo De Angelis asserts that struggles over value are class struggles and that they are all around us—­in consumers boycotting a brand, refugees crossing borders, women questioning the household division of labor.1 These movements are about value when they cast doubt on the accounting mechanisms that hold a society together. They express elements of class conflict when they argue that, by failing to fulfill a responsibility, actors are shifting risk or harm to others and threatening the viability of existing arrangements. The geographers writing as J. K. Gibson-­Graham refer to these contests as “new forms of distributional struggle” that draw on alternative rights discourses and visions of development.2 They are closely related to what many scholars have identified as “dispossession contests” in which resources are trans­ ferred from civil society or the public sphere to dominant classes.3 Activists in each of the movements described in this book responded to what they saw as insolvency in a particular sphere of the economy—­a set of arrangements that was both unfair and unsustainable. The contestatory assemblages they constructed targeted different dimensions of value. They were guided by distinct versions of moral economy that drew from varied philosophical traditions and different understandings of the past. And they diverged in another crucial way as well—­whether their members could demonstrate credibility as neoliberal subjects or labored under racialized and gendered stigmas that undermined their ability to speak as worthy citizens. In this chapter I first offer a conventional comparison of the three movements, highlighting key elements of the assemblages they



built and noting what is distinctive about their strategies. I then present an incorporated comparison of the cases in order to explore what the three projects—­taken together— ­can tell us about what C. Wright Mills once called “the larger historical scene.”4 Benefit Corporations The benefit corporation movement started with a small, closely networked group of like-­minded individuals. All were committed, to varying degrees, to the project of social enterprise. Most had connections through graduate or professional school or through organizations that promoted corporate social responsibility, such as the Tellus Institute, the Aspen Global Leadership Network, or the McKinsey Global Institute. The founders used their networks to draw together the legal expertise needed to draft the new corporate charter. When they set out to design their certification instrument, they tapped the best minds in the field. The coordination problem they faced was not to create consensus among diverse parties in one place, but to construct a virtual community that could pull together the legislative efforts needed to pass benefit corporation legislation in fifty states while certifying and supporting thousands of B Corporations across the nation and around the world. At the heart of this virtual community was an extraordinarily detailed website that provided many essential resources, including model legislation for states that wanted to charter benefit corporations, white papers, law review essays assessing various legal issues, and clear explanations of the differences between becoming a chartered benefit corporation and becoming a certified B Corp. The website posted explanations of B Corp certification procedures, examples of the assessment instrument, and up-­ to-­date tallies of states that had adopted the legislation and corporations that had gone through B Lab certification. It directed readers to news stories about B Lab and about successful B Corporations as well as to webinars and vignettes featuring “changemakers.” It included links to the yearly assessment reports of all 1,600-­plus certified companies and hosted a discussion forum. Over time, as various cities and states developed a critical mass of certified enterprises, B Lab helped establish face-­to-­face support networks. Thus, what began as a virtual community in some instances became a face-­to-­face one. As information was disseminated through these virtual and face-­to-­face networks, the promoters of benefit corporations counted on the mo­del’s spreading through a demonstration effect. They hoped that once it became


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clear that companies could make money behaving responsibly, other firms would feel pressure to change their behavior as well. They felt confident that they were also seeing a generational change—­that young people in business schools and elsewhere were interested in working for firms with a social mission, whose practices they could endorse. B Lab and other promoters could not engineer such a paradigm shift themselves, but they hoped to contribute to it by creating a legal “safety net” for firms that de­ cided to change, and by proving that socially beneficial performance was measurable. Within this virtual community and its interpersonal enclaves, socially minded entrepreneurs enacted a new vision of economic value. Participants expanded the way their businesses measured success, adding new metrics to their standard accounting practices. They used the legal tool of the benefit corporation charter—­in states where it was available—­to guarantee that they were protected in managing their firms for the general social benefit, even if that meant not maximizing returns to shareholders. They engaged in certification practices and participated in a supportive community to bolster that reframing of corporate responsibility. This goal required them to revive a concern with “stakeholders” who had faded into the background—­the workers, consumers, and community members who also had an interest in the firm’s success or failure. It required them to measure success over a period of years rather than simply tracking share price quarter by quarter. Taking these steps involved crafting a new vocabulary and set of concepts for recognizing, measuring, and assessing beneficial activ­ities that did not, in the short run, contribute to the bottom line. This contestatory assemblage was unquestionably effective. Activists were able to mobilize resources at a distance and to parlay an online presence into face-­to-­face community. They enrolled state legislatures and a large number of firms in the project. They offered state-­of-­the-­art technologies for measuring social and environmental impacts and provided inspiring narratives about best practices. The new corporate charter for benefit corporations took off more quickly than anyone could have expected, passing in thirty-­one states in only six years. The certification of more than 1,600 firms was likewise impressive. Participants in the movement made their arguments about economic value largely in instrumental terms. They described their approach as a way to improve business, not attack it. They were optimistic that firms that provided social benefits could be as successful as others, if not more so. They argued that this was not only because such practices enhanced



a firm’s reputation, but also because healthy companies required healthy communities. Echoing the vernacular Keynesianism of public sector activists, they argued that workers with more cash in their pockets could buy more goods and services; they could also pay more taxes to improve infrastructure. They believed that shifting to renewable energy sources and recycling would reduce costs over the long term while making the environment safer for a broader community that included themselves and their families. They argued that taking responsibility for social and environmental costs that other firms would have considered externalities might be expensive today but would ultimately enhance sustainability and reliable earnings. Proponents of benefit corporations did not create this vision for a new, more responsible capitalism out of whole cloth. Like public sector advocates, they invoked mid-­twentieth-­century institutions and practices as a model for change. They argued that the contemporary emphasis on share price and payouts to investors was not a best practice but an instance of market values run amok. A common reference point for their critique was the mid-­twentieth-­century managerial corporation, whose directors, at least in theory, pursued the long-­term stability of the firm by attending to the needs of all stakeholders. They contrasted this “retain and reinvest” model with the “downsize and distribute” approach fostered by shareholder value doctrine.5 They invoked the memory of the managerial firm, which they associated with the prosperity of the postwar period, and used it both to raise questions about the wisdom and legitimacy of contemporary management paradigms and to map an alternative vision. With the meltdown of Wall Street banks and the mortgage crisis as backdrop, they were able to present this vision as a way of getting back to basics and restoring the practices that in another era had made American enterprise great. Such views were not uncontested. In state legislatures and in parts of the business community, many considered these views naive at best and “socialist” at worst. During floor battles about the legislation, lawmakers in North Carolina and Michigan argued that “the business of business was to make profit.” Critics worried that taking power away from sharehold­ ers and giving it to directors would lead to inefficiency and lack of ac­ countability. The Wall Street Journal quoted a corporate governance expert to this effect: “ ‘The structure creates a lack of accountability’ . . . if the management of a benefit corporation makes a bad decision, ‘there’s very little you can do about it as a shareholder.’ ”6 Invoking the antipolitics of


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shareholder value, these critics argued that benefit corporation practices defied the commonsense accounting practices of business. As Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot have suggested, when faced with such challenges, groups proposing an alternative value framework may shift the discussion to “higher-­order principles.”7 In these circumstances, promoters of benefit corporations moved beyond instrumental logic to invoke a version of moral economy, suggesting that their movement not only built better companies but also addressed basic principles of fairness and responsible stewardship. But in doing so they confronted a contradiction. The concept of moral economy rests on an assumption that all parties agree on what is fair and desirable. There was nothing in the structure or practice of benefit corporations that guaranteed that workers, consumers, community members, stockholders, and directors shared a com­mon vision—­and there were no mechanisms in place for adjudicating disagreements. Some features of the new corporate model could be useful in enabling such a discussion. For example, the documentation of corporate practices required by certification procedures provided valuable information for workers, community members, or others who wished to negotiate an issue with managers. In addition, a large proportion of participating firms were cooperatives, and others had some form of employee ownership program, so mechanisms for employees’ voices were in place in these instances. But B Lab directors emphasized that the new form gave corporate directors greater freedom to enact their particular social entrepreneurial vision and to ensure that it endured even after they sold the company. While they wanted a cleaner capitalism and a more broadly shared prosperity, they did not envision citizens’ being able to claim those conditions as rights. They felt that business leaders with good ethics could deliver them on their own. Their vision of change was thus one of benevolent paternalism, in which B Lab fostered a virtuous competition among owners and managers to ratchet up social and environmental benefits to stakeholders. The rules did not require a benefit corporation to operate as a democratic entity. Because each corporation’s directors created its moral vision, the projects they undertook were not necessarily reliably “progressive.” While there was an implicit assumption among most advocates that certain principles, such as labor rights or environmental stewardship, were broadly shared, this assumption came under public scrutiny when Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito claimed that the benefit corporation’s mecha­nisms could protect business leaders who wished to impose their religious principles on



employees. Savvy conservative proponents of the legislation had made this point even before the decision, and B Lab administrators acknowledged that managers had leeway to define “social benefits” as they saw fit. But for many in the movement, this interpretation was a misinterpretation of the benefit corporation’s mission and goals and a cause for concern.8 Activists were relatively successful in getting their message to the general public. The business press played a key role in disseminating the story. The Wall Street Journal ran at least seven articles on B Lab and ben­ efit corporations from 2010 to 2015. Forbes’s coverage was more positive than titles like “Capitalist Monkey Wrench?” suggest. Fortune, CNBC, and the Stanford Social Innovation Review all reported extensively on the move­ ment. The New York Times chimed in (“A New Yardstick for Socially Con­ scious Companies”), as did the New Yorker (“Companies with Benefits”). In addition, B Lab founders and certified companies gave Ted Talks and lectured at business schools around the country and at a variety of institutes and organizations promoting social enterprise. Benefit corporation supporters were part of a global movement—­ companies in forty-­seven countries participated in B Lab certification, and “communities” of certified firms operated in Africa, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. The Rockefeller Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative provided support for B Lab to globalize its reach.9 The legal issues surrounding corporate charters were separate in each nation, but the assessment practices were the same, and participants hoped that certification would provide a globally recognized “seal of approval” that would “even out” differences in labor and environmental standards across countries. Nevertheless, certification alone did not solve the problem of how to ensure good practices in international supply chains. While B Lab assessment required firms to provide a great deal of information about their major suppliers, these were some of the most difficult questions for firms to answer, since verifiable information was hard to come by. Many companies relied on a separate layer of third-­party verification of good practices as a proxy for firsthand knowledge of conditions in their supplier factories.10 It was far easier to improve worker benefits or to recycle a larger proportion of waste at home than it was to make these changes at a distance. While highly successful in all these ways, the movement around benefit corporations was a purely voluntary one. In a context where many would define the problem as the overwhelming power of business—­its ability to impose its rationality on other spheres of life and to define value—­ the notion that business itself could solve the problem gave some people


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pause. This was not the development of a “countervailing force,” but a self-­policing mechanism, entirely dependent on the goodwill of business. It sought to broaden the definition of economic value from share price to social benefit, but it left the definition of social benefit solely in business’s hands. It did not, in other words, involve a fundamental shift in the division of labor among state, market, and civil society or a meaningful check on the market’s growing power. Benefit corporation advocates readily admitted this problem and frequently responded by throwing up their hands and saying, “But where is government? Where is the support for government’s taking a larger role?” “And what do we do in the meantime?” They saw little near-­term possibility for a larger state role in matters such as regulating corporate emissions or increasing the minimum wage, and equally little chance to democratize the economy through mechanisms such as employee ownership and cooperatives (although they actively supported the latter). Most would argue that, until the larger context shifted, they were taking what steps they could to redefine economic value and good corporate behavior. Slow Money Slow Money began as a clearinghouse, convener, and promoter of the activities of the several dozen regional groups already working on local fi­ nance for food enterprises. It is difficult to say whether local movements bred a national presence or vice-­versa, but the timeline suggests that Woody Tasch, who had been working in a social impact investment firm, became aware of experiments with peer-­to-­peer investing in the food sector in places like Vermont and Maine and decided this was a model that could be taken national. Thus the task at hand was to coordinate the efforts of various local groups so they could share ideas and experiences and begin to work for broader change. The homogeneity and shared perspectives of its participants made Slow Money more like the benefit corporation movement than like public sector activism. Most were from small or midsize cities, and all were committed to preserving local farming and foodways. Most had experience in related movements such as Slow Food, anti-­GMO activism, “buy local” campaigns, and food security planning councils. They participated in farmers’ markets and community-­supported agriculture (as buyers or sellers). Thus, when representatives from local chapters came together in national meetings, it was not to hash out weighty issues about vision or



strategy. Those gatherings were more like cheerleading sessions, albeit with a few workshops providing guidance on technical and logistical issues or special programming areas. While most local groups started in places where there was vibrant food activism, they had few dedicated resources. Chapters tended to emerge in the interstices of other “buy local” and food movement organizations. They piggybacked on the resources of food councils, co-­ops, social impact investing firms, and other allies, borrowing everything from staff members to computers and office supplies. Most had websites, but few had their own offices. While this was an asset in that it fostered ties with other groups, it also limited their ability to launch and execute new projects. Despite their shared perspectives, local Slow Money groups did not like to call themselves “chapters” of a national organization because most had unique histories that predated the national movement. Although participants shared goals, they pursued them in highly variable ways. Each group experimented with its own strategies for recruiting investors and entrepreneurs and with its own investment mechanisms. The kinds of projects they undertook reflected the passions and interests of that group’s most active and committed members. This variability was consistent with the theme of allowing regional differences to thrive, but it did not produce an easily replicable model. For Slow Money activists, the economic value that needed to be reclaimed, named, fostered, and measured was to be found in the connections of place. These connections included social relationships, but also ties between people and the environment manifested in care for the soil and other resources. Because most activists had a history in the local food movement, they did not start out as investors but began as boosters of their local economy. They promoted what they called “line of sight” investing as a way to raise capital for sustainable projects that would expand opportunities for work and enhance food security and farm retention in their communities. They designed new “patient” investment practices to foster good relations with neighbors, a thriving community, a cleaner environment, farmland preservation, and a diverse local food supply. Keeping transactions local and between known parties served these goals by making negative externalities visible and responsibilities enforceable. When Slow Money activists spoke instrumentally, it was about the stability and durability of local economic ties. They argued that Wall Street investors might make mountains of money in financial transactions, but they did not build lasting enterprises in the “real economy.” Trading


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food globally threatened diets by creating food deficits in many countries that produced it and eroded food security in nations that imported it by putting farmers out of business. Building a foodshed helped people see where their food came from and made them more attentive to the health of the soil and the water. It preserved local cultivars, local landscapes, and local cuisines. Multistranded and place-­based economic relationships, in activists’ view, could be an engine for growth—­not a race car engine, perhaps, but one that would last a long time. Those who challenged these claims argued that Slow Money’s practices defied a globalization that was benefiting everyone by creating jobs abroad and providing access to an unprecedented number of products at low prices. They asked why Vermont farmers should be trying to grow amaranth when Peruvian farmers could produce it more cheaply and why small mills were grinding grain into flour when ConAgra could take care of that for them. And they argued that the global markets Slow Mon­ey advocates resisted were inevitable. The tiny changes the groups were seeking—­in the food chain, in a few places, with small amounts of mon­ey—­ were simply irrelevant to the real revolution going on in the global economic system. Like proponents of benefit corporations, Slow Money activists respon­ded to these challenges by articulating their own vision of the common good. For most advocates this could be described as akin to biophilia—­the notion that there is an instinctive bond among humans and between humans and other living systems.11 This was a version of the common good that included in its ambit the soil, plants, and other animals as well as humans. In this sense Slow Money offered a broader critique of value than the other cases, based on a more capacious vision of where value came from. The community whose good was held to be common was “planet Earth,” rather than US citizens or stakeholders in a business. The measure of whether that common good was being served was not rights, as it was for public sector activists, or the moral economy of a firm, as in the case of benefit corporations, but the sustainability of ecologically situated communities. Slow Money activists enacted a version of communitarianism that emphasized interdependence and connectivity. Like other communitarian movements, they did not look to government or to markets for solutions but sought to construct a “third way” that emphasized a community’s use of its own resources. In keeping with communitarian traditions, they tended to censure the excesses of individualism in market economy and to believe that politics should be not solely about protecting individual choice



but also about fostering social attachments. But unlike many strands of communitarianism, they did not seek to substitute community beliefs for a more universal understanding of justice. In this they adhered to a vision closer to what Wolfgang Sachs has called “cosmopolitan localism”—­a per­ spective that appreciates the value of place while keeping in mind “the rights of a multifaceted world.”12 Like the other two movements, Slow Money activists also looked backward for their models. Unlike those movements, they did not point to a single mid-­twentieth-­century institutional complex like the New Deal state or the managerial firm as the model for change but drew inspiration from a broad range of communitarian traditions in different times and places. These included Jeffersonian concepts of agrarian democracy, E. F. Schumacher’s “small is beautiful” philosophy, Gandhi’s Swadeshi movement, Za­ patista caracoles, and other experiments with back-­to-­the-­earth intentional community. These earlier ways of thinking, some relatively mainstream and others contestatory, informed their critique of investment as usual and their vision of alternative practices. But activists also claimed, in a far broader way, that the densely articulated local economies they sought to build had been the norm in rural areas of the United States in a not so distant past. They invoked Norman Rockwell versions of rural harmony, local culture, and self-­help to validate and authenticate their vision. The claim to be reviving “old-­fashioned” values and to be speaking from “hands in the dirt” experience allowed Slow Money advocates to appeal to a wide range of people who might otherwise have seen the movement as simply a fad popular with “foodies” or hipsters. The do-­it-­yourself ethos was also attractive to people who were suspicious of government and corporate power. It proved less inviting, apparently, to activists of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. This created an odd political space where people with diverse political agendas could occasionally rub shoul­­ ders—­where survivalists and communitarians could sometimes find common cause. By the modest expectations of the movement itself—­given Woody Tasch’s admonition to be content with “small solutions”—­the movement achieved a great deal. It moved substantial amounts of money in small increments to support local food enterprises. It kept many struggling businesses and farms afloat and capitalized hundreds of new ventures. While all of this is documented in the organization’s annual reports, as of 2015 there had been no attempt to measure the broader “systems effects” of such investments. There was no way to know if, through agglomeration


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effects and dense connections, this provision of capital had created the kind of local economic articulation that was more than the sum of the parts. Like benefit corporations, the movement captured the attention of re­ gional and national audiences. Hometown newspapers and television pro­ vided substantial coverage of Slow Money projects working in their com­ mu­nities, telling the story of Chatham Marketplace, locally successful pickle companies, and organic seed producers supported by its mechanisms. Tasch’s book brought the movement to national attention, and the New York Times and Forbes magazine began to cover its activities. Financial reporters for these publications showed an almost morbid fascination with the idea that an investor might willingly accept a lower return in exchange for “intangible” benefits. Slow Money was also part of, or at least in communication and solidarity with, an international network of movements working on local food sovereignty: the international landworkers movement Via Campesina; the indigenous sustainability movement Pachamama Alliance; the small farmer support group GRAIN; and, of course, Slow Food. While it seemed unlikely that the movement could channel sufficient resources to rescue local economies harmed by the 2008 recession and unclear whether it could spread to urban communities and nonfood sectors, like benefit corporations, Slow Money had “demonstration effects.” It exemplified a do-­it-­yourself approach to investment that had grown almost unthinkable in an era of exceedingly complex financial transactions. It offered a novel means of incubating small businesses that had appeal beyond the food sector. And it instigated reflection, as benefit corporations did, by suggesting that businesses and investors could stop maximizing financial returns without causing the world as we know it to end. As the movement’s ideas were circulated through the media and social networks, they connected with and reinforced a larger group of projects and voices developing a critique of globalization’s effects on place and working to craft small-­scale alternatives. Public Sector The contestatory assemblage that emerged in response to Act 10 was massive but ephemeral. It differed from the other movements in arising spontaneously (and defensively) in response to a political act. In the movement’s earliest stages, activists engaged in little planning or deliberation. Merging the embodied activism of street protest with informal walkouts and various forms of online organizing, protestors began to construct what



Jeffrey Juris has labeled a “networked counter-­public.” While actions took place around the state of Wisconsin, the Capitol in Madison became the primary public venue and stage. The challenge for the movement was not to create a new organization from whole cloth, but to find ways to link and coordinate a wide range of existing political and social justice groups, each of which brought its own agendas, discursive repertoires, material and institutional resources, and ties to outside groups. The creaky but energetic alliance held from February 2011 until June 2012, when Walker won the special election held to recall him. This cobbled-­together coalition worked well enough in rousing people for street protests, but it did not have a history of substantive collaboration that laid the groundwork for establishing common goals and strategic planning. The Steelworkers and immigrants’ rights groups like Voces de la Frontera could easily show up at the same protests, along with LGBT rights groups and the Raging Grannies, but arranging for participants in all these movements to sit down in the same space and define a shared purpose was another matter. Despite the heady expressions of solidarity at public events, connections between labor and community groups were relatively shallow, not the deep, multipurpose coalitions required for long-­ term collaboration. This was particularly true where there were deep fissures of race and class, for example, between Milwaukee antipoverty activists and traditional unions. In the end, when the time came to decide a path forward, the two groups with the most organizational resources—­ the Democratic Party and the unions— ­decided to recall Scott Walker rather than to pursue a strike, engage in civil disobedience, or undertake other actions that had been discussed in various forums. Like the Occupy movement that occurred the following fall, the movement in Wisconsin received substantial support from the labor movement but gave expression to a political critique that was not determined or contained by unions. Just as Occupy focused on larger issues of inequality, the movement in Wisconsin was able to forge—­at least for rhetorical purposes—­a coalition between providers and users of public services. It crafted a message that made the connection between the loss of public workers’ bargaining rights and austerity budgets. In making this link, it echoed and foreshadowed antiausterity movements in many other parts of the world, from the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia to the indignados movements in Greece and Spain. Public sector activists demanded recognition for the state’s role in supporting the economy. They drew attention, in ways reminiscent of second-­ wave feminism, to the social reproductive labor that supported working


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people and cared for them when they were too young, old, or sick to sell their labor. While second-­wave feminists had demanded recognition for the unwaged labor of women performing these necessary tasks in private households, public sector supporters called attention to the role of the state in supporting working families. They recognized, as political sociologist Claus Offe once wrote, that accomplishing the work of social reproduction requires a societal division of labor. Offe claimed there is no past or present society where, at any one time, more than half the members are participating in the labor market. He argued that any society that does not permit children to be socialized and educated, the elderly to retire, the ill and infirm to refrain from work, and some individuals to care for others “would soon bring the institution of the labor market to an end.”13 Like Offe, the protesters insisted that care is central to society’s productivity over the long term and that the responsibility for it should be socially distributed. They challenged a market calculus that made those activities invisible and denied societal responsibility for maintaining them. Similarly, public sector activists insisted on the economic importance of government investments in social and material infrastructure. They pointed out the significance of roads and bridges, clean water and air, public schools and colleges in keeping factories running and workers healthy and educated. While small-­government conservatives sought to cut back such investments to balance budgets, protesters in Wisconsin, and those who tackled this issue in other states and parts of the world, insisted that these public goods and services were fundamental to the long-­term health and sustainability of the economy. In their defense of the public sector, activists were calling attention to the necessary interrelation of elements of the economic system, arguing that a small-­government agenda was destroying resources that were needed for the economy to function. They suggested that the current neoliberal governance project was confronting, or would soon confront, socionat­ ural limits of the type Polanyi described—­“annihilating the human and natural substance of society” and creating problems of basic subsistence for working families along with environmental harms. In pointing to the ways market rationality shortchanged the unacknowledged processes that supported the economy, this was a powerful indictment of the existing regime of value. At its most basic level, it was also an instrumental argument. In responding to conservative claims that such programs were a net cost, activists countered that they should be seen as investments necessary to create



an environment in which business could be profitable and citizens could thrive. Surprisingly, protesters were not the only ones who adopted this instrumental discourse. While they supported a different array of state investments than public workers did, a fair number of prominent business leaders also argued that much public expenditure was investment and was important to the health of the economy. The politicians and policymakers who promoted Act 10 in Wisconsin, and similar legislation in other states, countered these instrumental arguments with an equally instrumental antipolitics of austerity. They claimed that balancing the budget and lowering taxes would do more to help the economy than state programs would. They suggested that entrepreneurs responding to the invisible hand of the market could allocate resources to provide these goods and services more efficiently than the state did. And they argued that government was wasteful and that public employees were lazy, dependent, and overpaid. Public sector activists responded by appealing to a concept of “common good” premised on citizenship. They saw public services as essential to the flourishing of a citizenry made up of diverse classes, ethnicities, and walks of life. In developing this concept of the common good, protesters invoked an understanding of the state as “public household.” They spoke of government programs and resources as the common property of the state’s citizens, grounding this view not in utopian socialism or eighteenth-­century political philosophy but in mid-­twentieth-­century economic “common sense.” They used vernacular versions of Keynesianism to argue that government needed to stimulate the economy in times of recessionary crisis and to contend that consumer demand fostered economic growth. They supported their claims with New Deal ideas about investment in public infrastructure and the labor force. They invoked Franklin Roosevelt’s assertion that “a healthy and strong democracy” required jobs for those who can work and security for those who need it.14 They employed these concepts and frameworks to condemn what they saw as a market vision that had displaced all other values and was dismantling the social and physical infrastructure that previous generations had built. They sought to reinvigorate these concepts both to delegitimize the neoliberal assemblage in charge of state government and to give substance to their conception of what should exist in its place. There was an inherent tension between this vision of the common good and another higher-­order principle—­the high esteem in which Americans hold individualism. Protesters resolved this dilemma in the same way


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Alexis de Tocqueville had observed Americans doing in the first half of the nineteenth century. The French “ethnographer” of American life argued that “an enlightened regard for themselves constantly prompts them to assist one another and inclines them willingly to sacrifice a portion of their time and property to the welfare of the state.”15 Tocqueville called this principle “self-­interest rightly understood.” The idea that individuals would invest time and resources in relationships and institutions that could later redound to their benefit still followed an instrumental logic, but it shifted the time frame from immediate to long-­term and emphasized social connections among citizens and a relationship with the state rather than prioritizing market transactions. Signs at the protests conveyed this sentiment: “We all do better when we all do better” or “We’re just trying to have a society here.” But this formulation did not settle the matter, and Act 10 sparked a vigorous debate over the common good versus the individual in the market. This debate reiterated a clash between visions that Rogers Smith has characterized as a “privatized, atomistic liberal [in the classic sense of free market] society and a more communitarian, participatory republican one.”16 When public sector advocates spoke about the shared fate of citizens, small-­government conservatives countered with assertions about the need to protect individual freedoms from a predatory state and to cultivate individual responsibility. It was hard for conservatives to speak directly against community, but they could argue that those who made claims about the common good did not take the individual responsibility that characterized worthy citizens. The movement for the public sector in Wisconsin did not succeed in any of its primary goals. It did not overturn Act 10, it did not persuade legislators to modify the state budget, and it did not manage to recall the governor. But that is not to say it left no mark. It succeeded in bringing national attention to public workers and public services. Once crowds began numbering in the tens of thousands, nightly news (and late-­night comics) began to cover the unfolding events. Jon Stewart spoke movingly about his mother’s contributions as a teacher. Comedy Central’s John Oliver brought a camel to the protests (to highlight parallels with the Egyptian uprising), and MSNBC host Ed Schultz broadcast from the Capitol Square. Editorialists around the nation expressed opinions about what the ongoing struggle meant for organized labor and the public sector. Fox News covered the story too, although Bill O’Reilly made the mistake of using stock footage from a scuffle between labor protestors and police



in Sacramento. The images made the completely peaceful protests look violent, but the palm trees in the background were a dead giveaway. The next day protesters placed inflatable palm trees in the snow in front of the Capitol. For at least a few months, the events in Wisconsin captured the nation’s attention. Outside official media channels, activists from Egypt sent solidarity messages, and their counterparts from Madison traveled to Cairo to share stories. When Occupy Wall Street began in September 2011, participants adopted many of the “housekeeping” practices of the protesters at the Wis­ consin Capitol. In spring 2014 a leader of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina was asked by Wisconsin activists what they could have done differently. He answered, “From where we sat, it didn’t look like a failure. It inspired Occupy. It inspired us.” When the Ohio legislature intro­duced Act 5 in November 2011—­a bill very similar to Wisconsin’s Act 10—­activists there began their own wave of protests against attacks on public sector workers. Using a legal process not available to activists in Wisconsin, they mounted a successful referendum to overturn the law. Unlike benefit corporations and Slow Money, which mobilized individuals to participate in alternative practices, public sector activists directly challenged the actions of an existing power structure. They contested the agenda of a governing assemblage whose resources were national in scope. The neoliberal assemblage that came to power in Wisconsin in 2010 was not a project mounted solely by local political parties or business interests but was supported by Americans for Prosperity and other organizations funded by Charles and David Koch and by national donors aligned with the Tea Party movement.17 Though local activists could marshal support from national labor unions and the Democratic Party, they could not put together a coalition strong enough to prevail against those forces.

Incorporated Comparison of the Cases Inequality and the End of Embedded Liberalism The years following the Great Recession of 2008 saw a public outcry about inequality in the United States, which had been growing for decades but worsened after the crisis. Economists and others measured changes to inequality in wages, income, and wealth; they showed the divergence between productivity and wages; and they tracked the fortunes of the top


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percentiles of the population compared with those below. Thomas Piketty’s seven-­hundred-­page Capital in the 21st Century, which provided dense documentation of these trends, hit number one on Amazon’s sales list and sold hundreds of thousands of copies. But few observers attended to the underlying structural shifts that shaped these trends. It was as though observers were measuring water flows without mapping dikes and channels, aquifers and dams. Rising inequality could not be ascribed to a single institutional change. But one significant contributing factor was the profound shift in the division of labor among state, market, and civil society that unfolded in the United States (and many other nations) beginning in the 1970s. During this period, as neoliberal political rationality gained sway, state and federal legislators used austerity doctrines to justify significant cuts and changes in a wide range of government programs: ending the means-­tested entitlement to welfare, cutting budgets for Medicaid and education, allowing funding for housing supports and many other social programs to dwindle, and privatizing schools and other state services. At the same time, legislators rolled back regulation of private sector businesses in areas from financial transactions to labor practices, enabling business to focus on share price at the expense of commitments to its other stakeholders. They also gave businesses new legal tools to oppose unions. The result was the withdrawal of many employer-­provided benefits and supports for workers and their communities and a decline in the rate of unionization. Jacob Hacker characterized this transformation of the societal division of labor as a “great risk shift” in which “more and more economic risk [was] offloaded by government and corporations onto the increasingly fragile balance sheets of workers and their families.”18 Some researchers and commentators have framed this shift as part of a process of “class secession.” Many years ago, economist Albert Hirschman warned about the consequences of “the exit option,” in which wealthy cit­ izens who could afford to turn to the market would cease to rely on ser­ vices provided by the state. He wrote about Nigerian business owners who were frustrated with state-­owned trains and hired private truck drivers instead. This weakened the railroads by reducing the revenue they had to reinvest and by depriving them of the critical voices that could motivate performance improvements. In a prescient few paragraphs, Hirschman pointed to the possibility that this shift would spread to public schools and other services as well.19 The exit option redistributes responsibilities among state, market, and civil society along lines structured by class, with



state services no longer being the collective resources of the polity but becoming the last resort of the poor. More recently, sociologists Robert Perrucci and Earl Wysong have argued that when the wealthy earn their fortunes with overseas labor, sell to overseas consumers, and manage global financial transactions, they may feel they have little reason to pay taxes to support infrastructure and social programs at home. They are able, as one Wisconsin labor organizer put it, to say “to hell with Reedsburg.” Perrucci and Wysong wrote that the 99 percent and the 1 percent may live in the same regions, but their fates are tied to processes that play out at different scales and in different parts of the world. They are also tied in different ways to the health and vitality of the public sector. That their success no longer depends on a labor force living in their communities explains why, at the same time business owners are seeking to roll back their responsibilities for workers and other constituencies, they are not willing to pay taxes for government to take them on. That becomes a responsibility to be managed in other parts of the world.20 Public sector activists in Wisconsin responded to these shifts by calling for the state to respect the bargain it formerly had struck with state workers, as well as to restore to all citizens state services that the budget eroded or ended. Promoters of benefit corporations were building a model designed to encourage businesses to take back many of the responsibilities they had sloughed off over the preceding decades. Slow Money also responded to this shift, but differently. Its activists worked to create new mechanisms and resiliency in civil society that would make it easier to absorb the risks being off-­loaded by government and business. By enhancing the capacity of places to absorb the economic uncertainties of global markets, and by offering a “third way” to build local economic capacity, they sought to adapt to the neoliberal agenda rather than fundamentally alter it. While each of these movements responded to conditions that had been developing over decades, the 2008 recession intensified their concerns and stimulated them to action. In profound ways, the recession shaped both the content of their criticism and their ability to have it heard. A society reeling from the meltdown of big banks and a housing market crash, with consequent high unemployment and loss of confidence in economic institutions, was open to new ideas, at least in theory. The crisis was a moment of reckoning when the failure of market relations to safeguard the economy’s social and natural conditions became apparent.


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In the public sector, the recession provided an opening for defenders of a strong state role in the economy to gain an audience for their views. Some economists began to look closely again at Keynesian solutions like fiscal stimulus and expansionary monetary policy. Paul Krugman called on small-­government advocates to admit they were wrong and embrace Keynesian concepts and tools.21 In 2009 the Wall Street Journal declared Keynes “The New Old Big Thing in Economics.” The Financial Times chimed in with “The Undeniable Shift to Keynes,” as did the Economist, which ran an article titled “The Keynes Comeback.”22 Pundits on the left declared that neoliberalism had gotten it wrong and that small government was an idea that had worn out its welcome. Many were confidently predicting a radical change in attitudes and public policy. By 2010, however, this brief introspective moment was over. That year the Wall Street Journal recanted its flirtation with Keynesianism, declaring it a “dead end” that had “gone out of style” once again.23 As tax revenues plummeted as a result of business failures and unemployment and budget deficits rose, small-­government advocates began to call for austerity—­ rather than state spending—­to solve the crisis. As historian of economic thought Philip Mirowski has written, neoliberal political rationality survived the crisis intact. By 2010, attacks against government intervention and the global drive for austerity had reemerged unscathed. Mirowski notes, “The crisis, otherwise so virulent and corrosive, didn’t manage to kill even one spurious economic notion.”24 This failure to hold failed paradigms accountable left public sector activists in something of an Alice in Wonderland world where small-­state policies that had arguably contributed to the economic meltdown were now being prescribed as the remedy for it. And activists found that while economic suffering motivated some people to protest, it could just as easily be channeled into “beggar thy neighbor” animosity toward state workers and those who received state services. The crisis provided more of an opening for the benefit corporation movement. There was no doubt that business in general, and Wall Street in particular, needed to reestablish its credibility in the wake of the recession. Activists spoke of 2007–­8 as a turning point in their disillusion with finance-­driven decision making and shareholder value thinking. The failure of the banks and the corruption in the housing market clearly motivated them to pursue a different path, rebuilding relationships between corporations and their stakeholders and introducing new measures of, and time horizons for, economic success. At the same time, for business



as a whole, newspaper stories about new forms of socially responsible enterprise were a welcome counterpoint to stories about Wall Street excesses or executives who were not being held accountable for their roles in the crisis. The financial press that gave the movement ample coverage seemed pleased to have some “good news” to report. Many Slow Money participants mentioned the failure of Wall Street banks and the recession as motivating factors in their activism, but their motives were not the same as those of the activists who built the benefit corporation movement. They saw the meltdown as evidence of the fragil­ity of a finance-­driven economy and of global market logic, and it motivated them to construct what they saw as tangible and durable alternatives. They promoted densely connected local economies as a way to protect against the vagaries of uncertain markets. They worked to build a set of institutions and practices that, though not yielding returns as large as those offered by Wall Street, would sustain local communities over the long term. In this sense the movement was less a protest than a retrenchment, as participants drew on the material and social resources of localities to weather the risks of a frightening economy. Power, Voice, and Citizenship Reading these three movements together not only illuminates a shifting societal division of labor but clarifies how power shaped the ability of contestatory assemblages to challenge societal conventions. The case of public sector workers in Wisconsin illustrates how “contractual citi­ zenship” worked to undermine the voices of certain citizens—­in this case both people who rely on public services and those who provide them. The story of how small-­government conservatives were able to “disqualify” the claims of public sector workers and their allies cannot be understood apart from the legacies of race and gender oppression associated with domestic labor. Public sector activists presented themselves as citizens, workers, or teachers. They did not claim special knowledge, status, or expertise but spoke as average working-­class or middle-­class Americans standing up for mom and apple pie and doing work that was useful for everyone. But Scott Walker and media outlets successfully stigmatized them as dependents whose easy jobs and generous benefits were paid for by (other) hardworking taxpayers. In making this argument about dependency, public sector critics implicitly referenced the fact that the public sector in the United States historically has disproportionately employed white women and men


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and women of color. And, although it is not true, they exploited a widespread public belief that public services disproportionately serve people of color. Politicians and the media drew on these racial and gender associations when they condemned public workers with a dependency discourse that they had so often applied to those who received welfare. This broadening of the definition of dependency to include public workers (as well as the working poor) was reflected in Mitt Romney’s 2012 diatribe against the 47 percent of Americans who, in his words, were “dependent on government, who believe that they are victims, who pay no taxes, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-­name-­it.” Journalist Ta-­Nehisi Coates summed up Romney’s point with the apothegm, “We are all welfare queens now.”25 Such claims about dependency were effective in branding public workers as corrupt and self-­ interested and in undermining their claims to speak on behalf of the common good. But it was not just the race and gender demographics of those who worked in the public sector that structured this perception—­the nature of the work they performed mattered as well. Although, during the protests, recognition of the role public workers played in supporting the livelihood of working classes formed a basis for solidarity between state employees and those who relied on their services, for some observers it disqualified these workers from speaking. The race and gender history of caring tasks—­performed both by women in their own homes and by domestic workers in the market—­structured public perceptions of the state employees who now provided many of these services. Historically, housework was unpaid, and the homemakers who provided it were assumed to be “dependent” on their husbands. When women of color provided these same services on the market, the low value society placed on this work resulted in their low pay, exclusion from labor law, and poor working conditions. In a similar way, as public workers took over some of this work and demanded recognition for the services they performed, the nature of those services—­and the race and gender history of social reproductive labor—­marked them as unworthy and unreliable advocates for the cause. Ironically, providing care was so undermined by stigmas of race and gender inequality that the very act of advocating for its recognition disqualified the speaker. As in the case of the public sector, power relations affected the success of the benefit corporation movement—­activists’ social locations in-



fluenced their ability to speak credibly about the issue. As entrepreneurs, promoters of benefit corporations had clearly met the “contractual obligation” that neoliberal citizenship entails. Unlike public sector activists, the benefit corporation’s supporters did not speak as “average citizens” but claimed special status based on their experience as entrepreneurs. They emphasized their expertise in starting and nurturing small business—­a status especially revered in the United States. In the wake of the Great Recession, even as respect for big business declined to near historic lows, over two-­thirds of Americans said they had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in small business.26 Small-­business owners also played a pivotal role in dominant neoliberal political rationality. Conservative politicians reliably invoked the virtues of small businesses in creating jobs and demonstrating American values of hard work and ingenuity. For these reasons, this critique of business as usual from within the corporate world had more clout than if academics, unionists, or global justice activists had delivered the same message. Unlike the public sector’s supporters, promoters of benefit corporations were able to position themselves as credible and worthy insiders who were not pursuing their own interests but were seeking the betterment of society as a whole. Perhaps ironically given the power they held and the resources they commanded, the entrepreneurs who promoted this new corporate form were far more persuasive than public workers in advancing claims to speak on behalf of the common good. Benefit corporation activists qualified to weigh in on the issue of corporate responsibility because they had demonstrated their market worth. But the reception of their ideas might have been different had they called for universal changes in how business was regulated or for mandatory adherence to new norms of conduct. In establishing a set of voluntary practices for interested business owners, they did little to threaten the vast ocean of business as usual. What remained to be seen was whether these alternative practices, through their demonstration effect, could contribute to a more significant fissure in the doctrine of shareholder value. Slow Money advocates too had shown themselves to be worthy citizens through farming, running small businesses, and amassing enough money to invest in their neighbors’ operations. Unlike public sector supporters who spoke as citizens and benefit corporation activists who spoke as entrepreneurs, Slow Money advocates positioned themselves as community members. To the extent that they made a claim to expertise, it was as a result of their practical experience and direct connection to land, food, and local culture. Their self-­presentation wove together distinctly American


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themes of entrepreneurship, independence, self-­help, and hard work. In interviewing California activists in the 1990s, sociologist Nina Eliasoph identified a pattern of self-­presentation that she called “mom discourse.” She noticed that even highly educated activists would often choose to speak about the changes they were seeking not as experts but as parents who were concerned for their families.27 Slow Money activists followed a similar pattern but expanded the circle of their concern to include the entire community. By invoking themes of locality and community in an open-­ended way, Slow Money activists were able to position themselves as advocates for a valued American tradition and to gain an audience for their cause, if not widespread conversion to it. This (and their embodiment of the values of overwhelmingly white, nonethnic communities) gave them the powerful social capital they needed to be heard. And like promoters of benefit corporations, they were not proposing changes to existing institutions or new rules for business. Their model too was voluntary. They created opportunities for people to invest something—­not everything—­in local enterprises that appealed to them and provided a compelling rationale for why this would contribute to local economy. But they did not ask business as a whole, or government, to do anything. In fact, by fostering the absorption of risk and mitigating negative externalities within communities, and by increasing the resilience of local economies, they arguably contributed to the neoliberal project of shifting risk to civil society. Revaluation and Class Because value is about the necessary interrelations among elements of an economic system, it is also about power. Public sector advocates struggled for recognition of the role the state plays in the social reproduction of labor. Since the grand bargain of embedded liberalism at mid-­twentieth century, government had provided protections designed to keep people from perishing from the “effects of social exposure.” This safety net was incomplete and imperfect, but it constituted recognition of the need for such protections. The valuation project mounted in response to attacks on the public sector called attention to the state’s support for members of working classes both while they labored and in youth, old age, and disability. Drawing on vernacular Keynesianism, it also demanded acknowledgment of the state’s role in smoothing the often-­tumultuous shifts of the global economy and in supporting the economy’s social and material infrastructure.



Benefit corporation advocates advanced a different revaluation project. They called on businesses to change their balance sheets and accounting practices to incorporate the costs that a prevailing cultural consensus allowed them to consider as externalities. They challenged the widespread belief that the interests of shareholders were paramount and created new legal forms that protected business owners who reinvested more than a bare minimum of their earnings in the well-­being of their workforce, the environment, or their community. Slow Money activists pointed to the unrecognized costs associated with investments made at a distance and through complex financial instruments. They argued that when investors could not trace the flows of money they invested to specific places, they could not track the consequences for workers, communities, and environment, nor could they be held responsible for those effects. In their project, “local” became a proxy for “knowable” and “accountable”; valuing line o ­ f ­sight economic practices and regional development was a way of ensuring that projects would respect the socionatural limits of the system. As revaluation projects, each of the movements responded to a governing market fundamentalism that, in the view of the activists, failed to secure the basic conditions required for the economy to function. The political movements they launched did not follow traditional configurations of class or some other demarcation of difference. They claimed to represent the “common good,” framed as the sustainability of the economy as a whole. If, as George Henderson has written, we can think of value as the name for “how productive, social activities get divided up within societies,” yielding “the assemblages of humans and non-­humans that are necessary to sustain life as well as to spark new life,”28 then each of these movements claimed current valuation systems were not doing the job. Far from sustaining life or sparking new life, by channeling so much of the social surplus to elites rather than to workers and their communities and to protection of the environment, these arrangements threatened the sustainability of the whole system. In this sense the argument about the circulation of value in the economy was also about class. Through their “diagnosis of the problem” and the rhetorical and practical frameworks they built to address it, each of these movements offered a different angle of insight into the erosion of the midcentury bargain of embedded liberalism. Each spoke to a different set of consequences that resulted from the unraveling of that bargain. The groups mounting this struggle were not among the most marginalized or those who have felt


chapter six

these impacts most sharply. Rather, they spoke as citizens troubled by what they perceived to be the loss of countervailing forces that could balance the power of markets. They grappled with doctrines that supported unconstrained markets—­austerity, shareholder value, and global market logic—­and tried to replace them with other calculative devices. In taking these actions, they raised profound questions about what “counts” for the economy and what does not count. They worked to inscribe more expansive definitions of economic value grounded in recognition of the market’s embeddedness in the natural world, in human labor, and in social relations. Through this “calling to account,” they drew attention to insolvencies that fueled the growth of inequality, harming many, and ultimately threatened the sustainability of existing social arrangements.

Notes Chapter One 1. New York Times, “Louisiana: Lawmakers Refuse to Add More Working Poor to Medicaid,” April 29, 2015, -poor-to-medicaid.html?_r=2. 2. U.S. News and World Report, “Is a College Degree Still Worth It?” Novem­ ber 17, 2011, /debate-club/is-a-college-degree-still-worth-it. 3. “Bringing money back down to earth” is an informal slogan of the Slow Money movement. See Woody Tasch, Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2010). 4. Jonathan Cohn first used this term in discussing the controversy over public sector pensions in New Jersey, in an article titled “Why Public Employees Are the New Welfare Queens,” New Republic, March 8, 2010, /76884/why-­your-­fireman-­has-­better-­pension-­you. 5. Jane Collins, “Theorizing Wisconsin’s 2011 Protests: Community-­Based Unionism Confronts Accumulation by Dispossession,” American Ethnologist 39, no. 1 (2012): 1–­15. 6. Daniel Miller, “The Uses of Value,” Geoforum 39, no. 3 (2008): 1123. 7. For an overview of the ways our current accounting systems misrepresent value, see Raj Patel, The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy (New York: Picador, 2009). 8. Massimo De Angelis, The Beginning of History: Value Struggles and Global Capital (London: Pluto Press, 2007), 24–­25. 9. David Graeber, “It Is Value That Brings Universes into Being,” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3, no. 2 (2013): 222. 10. Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (1944; New York: Beacon Press, 2001), 74.


notes to pages 9–13

11. See, for example, James Ferguson, The Anti-­politics Machine: Development, Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), and Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-­ politics, Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001). 12. Nancy Fraser, Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse, and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 169. 13. Mark Blyth, Great Transformations: Economic Ideas and Institutional Change in the Twentieth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 44. 14. Nancy Fraser, “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Cri­ tique of Actually Existing Democratic Society,” in Habermas and the Public Sphere, ed. Craig Calhoun (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), 120. 15. Judith Shklar, American Citizenship: The Quest for Inclusion (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991). 16. Margaret Somers, Genealogies of Citizenship: Markets, Statelessness, and the Right to Have Rights (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 89. 17. See, for example, Rogers M. Smith, Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citi­ zenship in U.S. History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997); Evelyn Nakano Glenn, Unequal Freedom: How Race and Gender Shaped American Citizenship and Labor (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002); Alice Kessler-­Harris, In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th Cen­tury America (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). 18. John Dewey, Logic: Theory of Inquiry (New York: Henry Holt, 1938); Douglas McAdam and Sidney Tarrow, “Introduction: Dynamics of Contention Ten Years On,” Mobilization 16, no. 1 (2011): 1–­10. 19. The concept of assemblage is derived from Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987­). Michel Callon developed the concept within economic sociology; see Michel Callon, Cécile Méadel, and Vololona Rabeharisoa, “The Econ­­ omy of Qualities,” Economy and Society 31, no. 2 (2002): 194–­217. For empirical ap­­ plications, see Iain Hardie and Donald Mackenzie, “Assembling an Economic Actor: The Agencement of a Hedge Fund,” Sociological Review 55, no. 1 (2007): 57–­80; Aihwa Ong and Stephen Collier, “Global Assemblages: Anthropological Problems,” in Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics, and Ethics as Anthropological Problems, ed. Aihwa Ong and Stephen Collier (New York: Wiley-­Blackwell, 2008), 3–­21; and Tania Li, “What Is Land? Assembling a Resource for Global Investment Transactions,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 39, no. 4 (2014): 589–­602. Networks: Rethinking Socio-­ 20. Martin Müller, “Assemblages and Actor-­ material Power, Politics and Space,” Geography Compass 9, no. 1 (2015): 27–­41, /web /20160315192020/ /doi /10.1111/gec3.12192/full. 21. Gilles Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness: Texts and Interviews, 1975–­1995 (New York: Semiotext[e], 2007), chaps. 11 and 22.

notes to pages 13–20


22. Tania Li, “Practices of Assemblage and Community Forest Management,” Economy and Society 36, no. 2 (2007): 264. 23. Michel Callon and Fabian Muniesa, “Peripheral Vision: Economic Markets as Calculative Collective Devices,” Organization Studies 26, no. 8 (2005): 1229–­50. 24. William H. Sewell Jr., Logics of History: Social Theory and Social Transformation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 84. See also Donatella della Porta, Social Movements in Times of Austerity (Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2015), 108. 25. Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977). 26. Philip McMichael, “World-­Systems Analysis, Globalization, and Incorporated Comparison,” Journal of World Systems Research 6, no. 3 (2000): 672. 27. John Kenneth Galbraith, American Capitalism: The Concept of Countervailing Power (1952; New York: Transaction Publishers, 1993). 28. De Angelis, Beginning of History, 155; George Caffentzis, “Immeasurable Value: An Essay on Marx’s Legacy,” Commoner 10, Spring/Summer (2005): 87–­114.

Chapter Two 1. See Jane L. Collins, “Expanding the Labor Theory of Value,” Dialectical An­ thropology 40, no. 2 (2016): 1-­21. 2. Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot, On Justification: Economies of Worth (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006); David Stark, The Sense of Dissonance: Accounts of Worth in Economic Life (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009); Arjun Appadurai, “Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value,” in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Arjun Appadurai (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 3–­63; “Toward a Value Theory of Anthropology,” special issue, Anthropological Theory 8, no. 1 (2008); (Terence Turner’s article in this special issue, discussed below, is an exception to the trend toward the study of value as a discourse); “Value as Theory,” special issues, HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3, nos. 1 and 2 (2013). 3. Barbara Bradby, “The Remystification of Value,” Capital and Class 6, no. 2 (1979): 114–­33. 4. Ian Steedman, Marx after Sraffa (London: New Left Books, 1977). 5. Karl Marx, Capital (1867; New York: Penguin Classics, 1992), vol. 1, chap. 1, sec. 1 (p. 44). 6. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, originally published 1689, chap. 16, par. 40, /founders/documents/v1ch16s3.html. 7. Diane Elson, “The Value Theory of Labour,” in The Representation of Labour in Capitalism, ed. Diane Elson (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1979), 123.


notes to pages 20–25

8. Friedrich Engels, The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State (New York: Penguin, 2010), 35. 9. Bradby, “Remystification of Value,” 125. 10. The first view was put forward by Margaret Benston (“The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation,” Monthly Review 21 [1969]: 13–­27), but it was made most famous by Heidi Hartmann (“The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and Feminism: Towards a More Progressive Union,” Capital and Class 3, no. 2 [1979]: 1–­33). The second was espoused by John Harrison (“The Political Economy of Housework,” Bulletin of the Conference of Socialist Economists, Winter 1973, 35–­52); the third was associated with the work of Jean Gardiner (“Women’s Domestic Labor,” New Left Review 89 [1975]: 47–­59); the fourth with Wally Seccombe (“The Housewife and Her Labor under Capitalism,” New Left Review 83 [1974]: 3–­24). For an overview of these arguments, see Jane Collins and Martha Gimenez, eds., Work without Wages: Comparative Studies of Domestic Labor and Self-­Employment (Albany: SUNY Press, 1990). 11. Bradby, “Remystification of Value,” 125. 12. Maxine Molyneux, “Beyond the Domestic Labor Debate,” New Left Review 116 (1979): 20. 13. Murray Bookchin, Post-­scarcity Anarchism (Berkeley, CA: Ramparts Press, 1971); Aidan Foster-­Carter, “Neo-­Marxist Approaches to Development and Underdevelopment,” in Sociology and Development, ed. Emanuel de Kadt and Gavin Williams (London: Tavistock, 1974), 94. 14. James O’Connor, “Capitalism, Nature, Socialism: A Theoretical Introduction,” Capitalism: Nature: Socialism 1, no. 1 (1988): 22, 28. 15. Terence Turner, “Marxian Value Theory: An Anthropological Perspective,” Anthropological Theory 8, no. 1 (2008): 46. 16. Karl Marx, “Letter to Kugelmann in Hanover,” London, July 11, 1868, Marx-­ Engels Correspondence, Marx /Engels Internet Archive, 2000, /web/20160315192700/ /works/1868/letters/68 _07_11-abs.htm. 17. David Graeber, Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001), 68. See also Grae­ ber, “It Is Value That Brings Universes into Being.” 18. Massimo De Angelis, The Beginning of History: Value Struggles and Global Capital (London: Pluto Press, 2007), 25. 19. Michel De Vroey, “On the Obsolescence of the Marxian Theory of Value: A Critical Review,” Capital and Class 6, no. 2 (1982): 34–­59. 20. George Henderson, Value in Marx: The Persistence of Value in a More Than Capitalist World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013), ix. 21. Fred Block, “Introduction,” in Polanyi, Great Transformation, xxiii. 22. Polanyi, Great Transformation, 60. 23. Ibid., 3.

notes to pages 25–31


24. Ibid., 211. 25. Ibid., 76. 26. Jacob Hacker, The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). 27. John G. Ruggie, “International Regimes, Transactions, and Change: Embedded Liberalism in the Postwar Economic System,” International Organization 36, no. 2 (1982): 379–­415. 28. Jacqueline Best, “From the Top–­Down: The New Financial Architecture and the Re-­embedding of Global Finance,” New Political Economy 8, no. 3 (2003): 363. 29. Hannes Lacher, “Embedded Liberalism, Disembedded Markets: Reconcep­ tualising the Pax Americana.” New Political Economy 4, no. 3 (1999): 343. 30. Dani Rodrik, The Globalization Paradox (New York: W. W. Norton, 2011), xviii. 31. Ibid., 18, 19. 32. Dani Rodrik, “The Debate over Globalization: How to Move Forward by Looking Backward,” Working Paper, Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington, DC, April 15, 1998. 33. Ibid., 81. 34. Dani Rodrik, Has Globalization Gone Too Far? (Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics, 1997). 35. Rodrik, Globalization Paradox, 56. 36. Ibid., xvi. 37. Alfred D. Chandler Jr., The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1977). 38. Karen Ho, Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009), 3. 39. Hacker, Great Risk Shift, 6–­8. 40. US Government Accounting Office, Health, Education, and Human Services Division, Report to the Chairman of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, US Senate: “Private Health Insurance: Continued Erosion of Coverage Linked to Cost Pressures,” GAO/HEHS, 97–­122, July 1997, /web/20160315193048/–122. 41. Hubert Janicki, “Employer-­Based Health Insurance: 2010,” US Census Bureau, Household Economic Studies, February 2013, /20160319175513/ -based-health-insurance; US Government Accountability Office, Health, Education, and Human Services Division, 1997, “Private Health Insurance.” 42. Emily Bazar, “Bartering Booms during Tough Economic Times,” USA Today, February 26, 2009, /tech/webguide /internetlife /2009 – 02 –25-barter_N.htm; Nicholas Riccardi, “Local Currencies Cash in on Recession,” Los Angeles Times,


notes to pages 31–37

August 11, 2009,; Andrea Chang, “Flea Markets, Swap Meets Draw Crowds,” Los Angeles Times, May 30, 2009, https://web.archive .org/web/20160319175839/ -markets30. 43. See, for example: Joan Smith and Immanuel Wallerstein, Creating and Transforming Households: The Constraints of the World Economy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992). 44. Matthew Dolan, Stephanie Desmond, and Andrea K. Walker, “Court Voids ‘Wal-­Mart Law,’ ” Baltimore Sun, July 20, 2006, /20160319175922/ – 07–20/news/0607200134 _1_wal-mart-employee-health-care-new-law. 45. National Employment Law Project, “The Politics of Wage Suppression,” Issue Brief, February 2013, /uploads/2015/03/NELP-ALEC-Wage-Suppression.pdf. 46. “Oklahoma Governor Signs Minimum Wage Hike Ban,” U.S. News and World Report, April 15, 2014, -oklahoma.

Chapter Three 1. CSR Wire, “Maryland First State in Union to Pass Benefit Corporation Legislation,” April 14, 2010, -Corporation-Legislation. 2. Herrick Lidstone, “The Long and Winding Road to Public Benefit Corporations in Colorado,” Colorado Lawyer 43, no. 1 (2014): 41, available at http://papers 3. 4. William Lazonick and Mary O’Sullivan, “Maximizing Shareholder Value: A New Ideology for Corporate Governance,” Economy and Society 29, no. 1 (2000): 13–­35. 5. Lynn Stout, “On the Rise of Shareholder Primacy, Signs of Its Fall, and the Return of Managerialism (in the Closet),” Seattle University Law Review 36 (2012): 1171. 6. Jeffrey N. Gordon, “The Rise of Independent Directors in the United States, 1950–­2005: Of Shareholder Value and Stock Market Prices,” Stanford Law Review 59, no. 6 (2007): 1465–­1568. 7. Robert Boyer, “From Shareholder Value to CEO Power,” Competition and Change 9, no. 1 (2005): 9.

notes to pages 37–41


8. Greta Krippner, Capitalizing on Crisis: The Political Origins of the Rise of Finance (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011), 8; Wendy Nelson Espeland and Paul Hirsch, “Ownership Changes, Accounting Practice, and the Redefinition of the Corporation,” Accounting, Organizations, and Society 15 (1990): 77–­96; Neil Fligstein, The Transformation of Corporate Control (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990); Gerald Davis, Managed by the Markets (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). 9. Krippner, Capitalizing on Crisis, 8. 10. These options allowed executives to purchase stock at the current price for a specified period. At a future point when the price was high, they could sell for a riskless profit. See Krippner, Capitalizing on Crisis, 9. 11. Ibid. 12. Stout, “On the Rise of Shareholder Primacy,” 1172. 13. British Broadcasting Corporation, “The Mayfair Set: Four Stories about the Rise of Business and the Decline of Political Power,” parts 1–­4, July 1999. 14. Michael C. Jensen and William H. Meckling, “Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs and Ownership Structure,” Journal of Financial Economics 3, no 4 (1976): 305–­60. 15. Eileen Appelbaum and Rosemary Batt, Private Equity at Work: When Wall Street Manages Main Street (New York: Russell Sage, 2014), 20. 16. Ibid., 24. 17. Ho, Liquidated, 145. 18. Boyer, “From Shareholder Value to CEO Power,” 9. 19. Appelbaum and Batt, Private Equity at Work, 24. 20. Ibid., 16. 21. Ibid., 21, 241–­43; British Broadcasting Corporation, “Mayfair Set,” part 2, 1999. 22. Appelbaum and Batt, Private Equity at Work, 16. 23. Boyer, “From Shareholder Value to CEO Power,” 1; Stout, “On the Rise of Shareholder Primacy,” 1175–­76. 24. Donald Tomaskovic-­Devey and Ken-­Hou Lin, “Income Dynamics, Economic Rents, and the Financialization of the U.S. Economy,” American Sociological Review 76, no. 4 (2011): 556. 25. International Labor Organization, Global Wage Report 2012/13: Wages and Equitable Growth (Geneva: International Labor Organization, 2013), 50, https://web /global-wage-report /2012/lang— en/index.htm. 26. Appelbaum and Batt, Private Equity at Work, 28. 27. Lynn Stout, The Shareholder Value Myth (San Francisco: Berrett-­Koehler, 2012), 20 and interview. 28. Ho, Liquidated, 36. 29. Stout, “On the Rise of Shareholder Primacy.” 30. Boyer, “From Shareholder Value to CEO Power,” 7.


notes to pages 41–44

31. Shawn Langlois, “Warren Buffett’s Drunken Psycho Is Another Man’s Falling Dominoes,” Market Watch, January 7, 2015, /warren-buffetts-drunken-psycho-is-another-mans-falling-dominoes-2015 – 01– 07. 32. Daniel Bell, “The Public Household: On Fiscal Sociology and the Liberal Society,” National Affairs 37 (1974): 65. 33. Ryan  Honeyman, “A  Look  at  the  History  of  the  B  Corp  Movement,” Triple, August 19, 2014, /?doing_wp _cron=1425048579.7634921073913574218750. 34. Ibid. 35. Knowledge@Wharton, “B Lab’s Bart Houlahan: Building More Socially Responsible Corporations,” Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, November 7, 2012, /article /b-labs-bart-houlahan-building-more-socially -responsible-corporations; Susan Adams, “Capitalist Monkey Wrench,” Forbes, March 25, 2010, rate-citizenship-green-incorporation-mixed-motives.html; Ashley Pileika, “B Lab’s Attempt to Create a New Sector of the Economy Based on Social Enterprise: A Study of the Social, Environmental and Financial Effectiveness of B Corporations,” honors thesis, University of North Carolina, Kenan-­Flagler Business School, Center for Sustainable Enterprise, May 2012. 36. Knowledge@Wharton, “B Lab’s Bart Houlahan.” 37. Steve Hendershot, “Is Being a ‘Good’ Business Good for Business?” Crain’s Chicago Business, October 25, 2014, /ISSUE02/310259996/is-being-a-good-business-good-for-business. 38. Ilana DeBare, “ ‘B Corporation’ Plan Helps Philanthropic Firms,” SFGate, May 18, 2008, /business/article/B-corporation-plan-helps-philanthropic-firms-3212992.php. 39. Ibid.; Amy Westervelt, “A New Corporation for a New Economy,” B Corps website, net /sites/all/themes/adaptivetheme/bcorp/pdfs/2009AP-New-Corporation.pdf. 40. Peter Van Allen, “Third-­Party Certification Combats ‘Greenwashing,’ ” Philadelphia Business Journal, June 5, 2008, /stories/2008/06/09/focus4.html?page=all. 41. 42. B Lab and the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship, Duke University. “B Corp Index Report 2012: Comparable Metrics on Corpo­ rate Impact” (draft), 2012, /casei3/files/2014/12/B-Corp-Index -Report-2012_Draft080512.pdf. 43. William H. Clark and Larry Vranka, “The Need and Rationale for the Bene­ fit Corporation,” B Corp Institute website, 2013, / The_Need_and_Rational_for_Benefit_Corporations__11–16_version.pdf.

notes to pages 44–49


44. DeBare, “ ‘B Corporation’ Plan Helps Philanthropic Firms.” 45. William H. Clark Jr. and Elizabeth K. Babson, “How Benefit Corporations Are Redefining the Purpose of Business Corporations,” William Mitchell Law Review 38, no. 2 (2012): 818–­51. 46. Ibid. 47. Larry E. Ribstein, “Critique of the Uniform Limited Liability Company Act,” Stetson Law Review 25 (1995): 311–­40. 48. Benefit Corporation Information Center website, /web/20160319173558/ /policymakers/state-by-state-status. 49. For up-­to-­date information on the number of chartered benefit corporations, see /busi­nesses/find-a-benefit-corp?field_bcorp_certified_value =&state=All&title=a&op=Go&sort_by=title&sort_order=ASC. 50. Tim Moore, “House Votes Down Benefit Corporations,”, Raleigh, NC, /house-votes-down-benefit-corporations/12451435. 51. Benefit Corporation Information Center, Legal FAQs, https://web.archive .org/web/20160319173933/ /faq. 52. Dodge v. Ford Motor Co., 179 N.W. 668 (Mich. 1919). 53. Stout, Shareholder Value Myth, 27. 54. Steven  Davidoff  Solomon, “What’s  Next  for  eBay,  Craigslist, and Poison Pills?,” New York Times, September 13, 2010, / -pills/?_r=1; Gordon Smith, “eBay v. Newmark: A Modern Version of Dodge v. Ford Motor Company,” Conglomerate, September 9, 2010, /20160319174353/ /2010/09/ebay-v-newmark-a -modern-version-of-dodge-v-ford-motor-company.html. 55. Clark and Vranka, “Need and Rationale for the Benefit Corporation.” 56. Unocal Corp. v. Mesa Petroleum Co., 493 A.2d 946 (Del. 1985); Revlon, Inc. v. MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings, Inc., 506 A.2d 173 (Del. 1986). 57. Appelbaum and Batt, Private Equity at Work, 15. 58. Cooperative Home Care Associates, B Impact Report, 2014, https://web /community/coop erative-home-care-associates; Cooperative Home Care Associates website, http://; Laura Flanders, “How America’s Largest Worker Cooperative Lifts People out of Poverty,” Yes!  Maga­zine, August 14, 2014, /web/20160319181447/ -america-s-largest-worker-owned-co-op-lifts-people-out-of-poverty; Sarah Jaffe, “When Will We Stop Exploiting Home-­Care Workers?” Dame Magazine, May 11, 2015, /2015/05/11/when-will-we-stop-exploiting-home-care-workers. 59. Greyston Bakery, B Impact Report, 2012, /20160319181821/ /community/greyston-bakery-inc;


notes to pages 51–69

Greyston Bakery website,; Greyston Bakery, Annual Report, 2014, .com/wp-content /uploads/2014/09/greyston_annual_report_2014.pdf. 60. Clark and Vranka, “Need and Rationale for the Benefit Corporation,” 15. 61. Ibid., 21. 62. United States Supreme Court, “Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.,” 13–­354, June 30, 2014, accessed at /supremecourt /text /13 –354. 63. Robert Esposito and Shawn Pelsinger, “The Supreme Court’s First Brush with Social Enterprise,” Stanford Social Innovation Review, July 21, 2014, http://ssir .org/articles/entry/the_supreme_courts_first_brush_with_social_enterprise. 64. Lidstone, “Long and Winding Road to Public Benefit Corporations in Colorado,” 42. 65. B Lab and the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship, Duke University, “B Corp Index Report 2012.” 66. Li-­wei Chen, and Peter W. Roberts, “Founders and the Social Performance of B-­Corporations,” Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings, August 2013, 665–­73. 67. Cascade Engineering, B Impact Report 2014, /20160319182356/ /community/cascade-engineering. 68. Jennifer Hu, Melanie Lowenberg, and Rohini Chojnacki, “Cascade Engineering: Building Frontline Employee Programs for Triple Bottom Line Impact,” Aspen Institute Business and Society Program, October 10, 2012, 69. Colin Mayer, Firm Commitment: Why the Corporation Is Failing Us and How to Restore Trust in It (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014). 70. Stout, Shareholder Value Myth, 107. 71. Timothy Mitchell, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-­politics, Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 5, 8. 72. James Surowiecki, “Companies with Benefits,” New Yorker, August 4, 2014, /2014/08/04/companies-benefits. 73. John Kenneth Galbraith, American Capitalism: The Concept of Countervail­ ing Power (1952; New York: Transaction Publishers, 1993). 74. Ralph Gomory, and Richard Sylla, “The American Corporation.” Daedelus 142, no. 2 (2013): 102–­18, 108.

Chapter Four 1. Carol Peppe Hewitt, Financing Our Foodshed: Growing Local Food with Slow Money (Gabriola Island, BC: New Society, 2013), 157–­62; David Fellerath, “How

notes to pages 70–77


Carol Peppe Hewitt and Slow Money Are Raising Funds for Farmers, One Loan at a Time,” IndyWeek (Raleigh-­Durham, NC), May 22, 2013, https://web.archive .org/web/20160319201519/ -hewitt-and-slow-money-nc-are-raising-funds-for-farmers-one-loan-at-a-time/Content ?oid=3641656. 2. Slow Money website, “Slow Money Principles,” /20160319201649/ 3. See Jack Kloppenburg Jr., John Henderson, and G. W. Stevenson, “Coming into the Foodshed,” Agriculture and Human Values 13, no. 3 (1996): 33–­42. 4. Woody Tasch, Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2010), xix. 5. Ibid., 80. 6. Amy Cortese, Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit from It (New York: Wiley, 2011), 149. 7. In community-­supported agriculture, customers pledge to support one or more local farms, with growers and consumers sharing the risks. CSA members or subscribers pay at the beginning of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest; once harvesting begins, they periodically receive shares of produce. 8. Cortese, Locavesting. 9. Slow Money, State of the Sector Report 2014: Investing in Small Food Enter­ prises, 43, /uploads/2014/11/Slow-Money-State-of-the-Sector-Report.pdf. 10. Ibid., 5–­14. 11. Samir Amin, Unequal Development: An Essay on the Social Formations of Peripheral Capitalism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1976); W. Arthur Lewis, The Theory of Economic Growth (1955; New York: Routledge, 2003); Albert O. Hirschman, Strategy of Economic Development (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1958); Alain de Janvry, The Agrarian Question and Reformism in Latin Amer­ ica (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983). 12. American Independent Business Alliance, “The Multiplier Effect of  Independent Local Businesses,” /resources/multiplier-effect; Business Alliance for Living Local Eco­no­ mies, “The Benefits of Locally Owned Businesses,” /20160319214128/ /planet-protection /benefits-of-locally-owned-businesses. 13. Tasch, Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money, 62–­63. 14. Allen J. Scott, “Regional Push: Towards a Geography of Development and Growth in Low and Middle Income Countries,” Third World Quarterly 23, no. 1 (2002): 137–­61; Michael Storper, The Regional World: Territorial Development in a Global Economy (New York: Guilford Press, 1997); Michael E. Porter, “Regions and the New Economics of Competition,” in Global City-­Regions: Trends, Theory, Policy, ed. Allen J. Scott (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 139–­57.


notes to pages 81–90

15. Ron Lieber, “A Financial Plan for the Truly Fed Up,” New York Times, August 3, 2012, /2012/08/04/your-money/asset-allocation /a-financial-plan-for-the-truly-fed-up -your-money.html?_r=0. 16. Organization for Economic Co-­operation and Development, Multifunctionality: The Policy Implications. 2003, / 17. Patricia Allen, “Realizing Justice in Local Food Systems,” Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 3, no. 2 (2010): 295–­308; Rachel Slocum, “Race in the Study of Food,” Progress in Human Geography 35, no. 3 (2011): 303–­27; Julie Guthman, “ ‘If They Only Knew’: Color Blindness and Universalism in California Alternative Food Institutions,” Professional Geographer 60, no. 3 (2008): 387–­97. 18. An online nonprofit organization that provides zero percent interest micro­ loans, 19. Brooke Jarvis, “Slow Money: Bringing Money down to Earth: An Interview with Woody Tasch,” Yes! Magazine, November 16, 2009, /20160319214638/ -woody-tasch. 20. Wolfgang Sachs, The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power, 2nd ed. (London: Zed Books, 2010), 121. 21. Dani Rodrik, The Globalization Paradox (New York: W. W. Norton, 2011), 56–­58. 22. Mary Bottari, “NAFTA’s Investor Rights: A Corporate Dream, a Citizen Nightmare,” Multinational Monitor 22, no. 4 (2001), /20160319214752/ 23. Michael Barbaro, “Court Rules for Wal-­Mart in Maryland Suit,” New York Times, January 17, 2007, 24. Paul Harris, “Monsanto Sued Small Farmers to Protect Seed Patents, Report Says,” Guardian, February 12, 2013, / /environment /2013/feb /12/monsanto-sues-farmers -seed-patents. 25. Gary Paul Nabhan, “A Tale of Two Foodsheds: Why Slow Money Strategies Matter,” blog post, November 13, 2014, / 26. Sallie A. Marston, John Paul Jones III, and Keith Woodward, “Human Geography without Scale,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 30 (2005): 421, 426. 27. Doreen Massey, “Geographies of Responsibility,” Geografiska Annaler 86 (2004): 5–­19. 28. Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975).

notes to pages 91–100


29. M. Thomas Inge, Agrarianism in American Literature (Lewis Center, OH: Odyssey Press, 1969). 30. E. Melanie Dupuis, Jill Lindsey Harrison, and David Goodman, “Just Food?” In Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability, ed. Alison Hope Alkon and Julian Agyeman (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011), 288. 31. See Micaela di Leonardo, Exotics at Home: Anthropologies, Others, and American Modernity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 155–­56. 32. Sachs, Development Dictionary, 124. 33. Lauren E. Baker, “Tending Cultural Landscapes and Food Citizenship in Toronto’s Community Gardens,” Geographical Review 94, no. 3 (2004): 303–­25; Monica M. White, “D-­Town Farm: African American Resistance to Food Insecurity and the Transformation of Detroit,” Environmental Practice 13, no. 4 (2011): 406–­17. 34. Tasch, Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money, 11. 35. E. F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (1973; New York: Harper Perennial, 2010), 72–­75. 36. Alisa Smith and McKinnon Smith, The 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating (New York: Random House, 2007); Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (New York: Harper Perennial, 2008); Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein, No Impact Man: The Documentary (New York: Shadow Box Films, 2009). 37. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful, 70–­71. 38. Lindsey Day-­Farnsworth, Brent McCown, Michele Miller, and Anne Pfeiffer, Scaling Up: Meeting the Demand for Local (Madison: University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension, Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, 2009); G. W. Stevenson, Kate Clancy, Robert King, Larry Lev, Marcia Ostrom, and Stewart Smith, “Midscale Food Value Chains: An Introduction,” Journal of Agriculture, Food Sys­­ tems, and Community Development 1, no. 4 (2011): 27–­34. 39. Jarvis, “Slow Money.” 40. G. W. Stevenson, “Agrifood Systems for Competent, Ordinary People,” Agriculture and Human Values 15 (1998): 199–­207. 41. David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1989).

Chapter Five 1. Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–­79 (London: Palgrave-­Macmillan, 2008), 46, 65. 2. Daniel Bell, “The Public Household: On Fiscal Sociology and the Liberal Society,” National Affairs 37 (1974): 1. 3. Nin-­hai Tsing, “Tom Coburn: Government Employees Are a Drag on the Economy,” Fortune, March 7, 2011,


notes to pages 100–103

/ -the-economy. 4. Manhattan Institute, President’s Year-­ End Update, 2010, 6, https://web /web /20160319215424/ /pdf /2010 _end-year_update.pdf; Manhattan Institute; President’s Year-­End Update, 2011, 6, /pdf/2011_end-year_update.pdf. 5. Dan Balz, “The Republican Takeover in the States,” Washington Post, November 14, 2010, /article/2010/11 /13/AR2010111304276.html; Andy Kroll, “The Republicans Dark-­Money-­Moving Machine,” Mother Jones, January/February 2012, 0319215755/ /politics /2012/01/republican-governors -association-perry-michigan. 6. Tania Li, “Practices of Assemblage and Community Forest Management,” Economy and Society 36, no. 2 (2007): 264. 7. Manhattan Institute, President’s Year-­End Update, 2011, 6. 8. Robert Pollin and Jeffrey Thompson, “State and Municipal Alternatives to Austerity,” New Labor Forum 20, no. 3 (2011): 22. 9. It also required public employees to pay more of the cost of their health care and retirement benefits, a concession unions quickly agreed to. 10. Wisconsin Budget Project, “Wisconsin State and Local Government Employ­­ ment Levels,” April 20, 2011, 11. Amanda Becker, “U.S. Union Membership Steady at 11.3 Percent,” Reu­ ters, January 24, 2014, 12. In 2007 the Wisconsin Taxpayer noted, “Along with job security, above average benefits are frequently cited as an advantage of working in the public sector. . . . [E]xcellent health insurance and retirement plans can offset wages that are sometimes lower than those for comparable private sector jobs.” The newsletter pointed out that this was because the state had offered benefits in lieu of wage increases during periods of tight budgets. 13. Steven Pitts, “Black Workers and the Public Sector,” Research Brief, University of California, Berkeley, Labor Center, April 4, 2011, https://web.archive .org/web/20160319220223/ /pdf/2011/blacks_public _sector11.pdf; Nina Martin, “Who Are Those ‘Greedy’ Public Workers? Blacks and Women,” New America Media, March 1, 2011, /0103151040/ /2011/03/who-are-those-evil-public -workers-blacks-and-women.php; Thomas B. Edsall, “The Politics of Austerity,” New York Times, November 5, 2011, / 14. Jessica Van Egeren, “Why Farmers Are Driving Their Tractors to Protest at the Capitol,” Capitol Times, March 12, 2011,

notes to pages 103–107


0319221854/ /news/local/govt-and-politics/article_d3110 dfa-4c5d-11e0 –9e5a-001cc4c002e0.html. 15. For overviews of the Wisconsin uprising of 2011, see Jason Stein and Patrick Marley, More Than They Bargained For: Scott Walker, Unions, and the Fight for Wisconsin (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2013); John Nichols, Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest from Madison to Wall Street (New York: Nation Books, 2012); Collins, “Theorizing Wisconsin’s 2011 Protests”; Erica Sagrans, ed., We Are Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Uprising in the Words of the Activists, Writers and Everyday Wisconsinites Who Made It Happen (Minneapolis: Tasora Books, 2011); Mari Jo Buhle and Paul Buhle, eds., It Started in Wisconsin: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Labor Protest (New York: Verso, 2011); Michael D. Yates, ed., Wisconsin Uprising: Labor Fights Back (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012). 16. The bill singled out these specific groups because they received the right to bargain collectively from the state rather than through federal legislation (the National Labor Relations Act). 17. Wisconsin State Senate Bill 11, February 14, 2011, /web /20160319222232/ /proposals /jr1 _sb11. 18. According to James Cavanaugh of the South Central Federation of Labor, there were 375 actions in response to Act 10 outside Madison. 19. Steven Verburg, “Labor Group Calls for General Strike If Budget Bill Is Approved,” Wisconsin State Journal, February 23, 2011, /web/20160319222323/ bor -group-calls-for-general-strike-if-budget-bill-is/article_64c8d7a8 –3e8c-11e0 –9911 – 001cc4c002e0.html. 20. Walker won the recall election, which took place on June 5, 2012. 21. Stein and Marley, More Than They Bargained For. 22. Jeffrey Juris, Networking Futures: The Movements against Corporate Glob­ alization (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008). 23. At its founding the union was called Wisconsin State Employees Association. It adopted the name AFSCME in 1936. 24. Steven Verburg, “With Dues Depleted, Wisconsin’s Three AFSCME Coun­ cils Merge,” Wisconsin State Journal, May 1, 2015, /20160319222424 / /news / local /govt-and-politics /with -dues-depleted-wisconsin-s-three-afscme-councils-merge /article_136e2e6e-c63a -503b-8aa5-ad4586ba9e1d.html. 25. Kirsten Adshead, “Public Union Membership Plummets Two Years after Act 10,” Wisconsin Reporter, July 17, 2013, 222523/ -after-wi-act-10; Sean Higgins, “Wisconsin Public Sector Unions Still Losing Members,” Washington Examiner, November 12, 2014, 0319222852/ -still-losing-members/article/2551945.


notes to pages 107–120

26. Erin Richards, “Diminished in Wake of Act 10, Two Teachers Unions Explore Merger,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, January 7, 2014, https://web.archive .org /web /20160319223007/ /news /education /diminished -in-wake-of-act-10 –2-teachers-unions-explore-merger-b99174118z1–239150441 .html. 27. United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, News Release, “Union Membership in Wisconsin-­2015,” /news-release/unionmembership_wisconsin.htm. 28. David Schaper, “Collective Bargaining Curbs Spread across the U.S.,” Na­­ tional Public Radio Broadcast, May 24, 2011, 10879/collective-bargaining-curbs-spread-across-the-u-s; National Conference of State Legislatures, “Collective Bargaining and Labor Union Legislation Data Base,” http:// /research/labor-and-employment /collective-bargaining-legislation -database.aspx. 29. Bell, “Public Household,” 29. 30. Wisconsin established the first Workers’ Compensation program in the United States in 1911. 31. Institute for Wisconsin’s Future, “Unintended Consequences: The Economic Im­pact of Cutting Public Sector Wages and Benefits,” Research Report, February 2011. 32. Jamie Peck, Constructions of Neoliberal Reason (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 4. 33. Foucault, Birth of Biopolitics, 76 and throughout. 34. Jane Mayer, “Ayn Rand Joins the Ticket,” New Yorker, August 11, 2012, -desk/ayn-rand-joins-the-ticket. 35. Paul Ryan, House of Representatives, Committee on the Budget, Speeches and Statements, “Remarks of Congressman Paul Ryan (R-­WI),” January 25, 2011, /web /20160320200841/ /docu mentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=221354. 36. Scott Walker, Office of the Governor, “2011 Budget Address,” March 1, 2011, /web /20160319223636 / /speech/2011-budget-address. 37. Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee, Remarks Prepared for Delivery by RNC Chairman: “Principles for American Renewal,” October 2, 2014, /web /20160320200719/http://www.p2016.0rg /parties /rnc 100214sp.html. 38. United States Government Accountability Office, “About State and Local Government Fiscal Conditions,” /state_local_fiscal_model /interactive_graphic /about _state_local_fiscal_conditions. 39. Channel, “Walker Renews Call for Union Concessions,” December 7, 2010, .com/news/ Walker-Renews-Calls-For-Union-Concessions/8312034.

notes to pages 120–123


40. Steven Malanga, The New New Left: How American Politics Works Today (New York: Ivan R. Dee, 2005); E. J. McMahon, “Government Workers in New York: Empire State’s Favored Class?” Empire Center for New York State Policy, Research Bulletin 1.1, September 1, 2006, 224018/ /publications /government-workers-in-new -york-empire-states-favored-class; Manhattan Institute, President’s Year-End Update, 2010, 6; Manhattan Institute. President’s Year-­End Update, 2011, 6. 41. Ron Lieber, “The Coming Class War over Public Pensions,” New York Times, August 6, 2010, 42. Stephane Fitch, “Gilt-­Edged Pensions,” Forbes, January 29, 2009, http:// 43. Rush Limbaugh Show transcript, “Public Sector Workers Conspire to Steal Money from Their Neighbors,” February 23, 2011, 0319224252/ _conspire_to_steal_money_from_their_neighbors. 44. Manhattan Institute, President’s Year-­End Update 2011. 45. United States Department of Labor, The African American Labor Force in the Recovery, Report, February 29, 2012, 4405/ .pdf; David Cooper, Mary Gable, and Algernon Austin, “The Public Sector Jobs Crisis,” Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper #339, May 2, 2012, https://web /web /20160320205649/ /publication /bp339-public -sector-jobs-crisis; Martin, “Who Are Those ‘Greedy’ Public Workers?” 46. Jonathan Cohn, “Why Public Employees Are the New Welfare Queens,” New Republic, March 8, 2010; Paul Krugman, “Schoolteachers Driving Cadillacs,” New York Times, August 10, 2010, / 47. Stein and Marley, More Than They Bargained For, 36. 48. Bradley Foundation. “The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation 2013  An­­ nual Report,” .org/Portals/0/pdfs/Report2013/2013%20Annual%20Report%20(I).pdf. 49. Keith A. Bender and John S. Heywood, “Out of Balance: Comparing Public and Private Sector Compensation over Twenty Years,” National Institute on Retire­ ment Security, April 2010, _out_of_balance_report_april_2010.pdf; John Schmitt, “The Benefits of State and Local Government Employees,” Center for Economic Policy Research, May 2010, /web /20160319225114/ /documents /publica tions/benefits-state-local-2010 – 04.pdf; Jeffrey Keefe, “Debunking the Myth of the Over-­compensated Public Employee,” Briefing Paper No. 276, Washington, DC, Eco­nomic Policy Institute, _myth_of_the_overcompensated_public%20employee. 50. Katherine Cramer Walsh, “Why Many Americans Resent Public Employees,” Scholars Strategy Network, April 2012,


notes to pages 124–128

5309/ /sites /default /files /ssn_key_findings _walsh_on_resentment_toward_public_employees.pdf. 51. White House, Office of the Press Secretary, “Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event in Roanoke, Virginia,” July 13, 2012, /web /20160319225645/ /2012/07/13 /remarks-president-campaign-event-roanoke-virginia. 52. Lucy Madison, “Elizabeth Warren: There Is Nobody in This Country Who Got Rich on His Own,” CBS News, September 22, 2011, /web /20160319231320/ /news /elizabeth-warren-there-is -nobody-in-this-country-who-got-rich-on-his-own. 53. Paddy Ryan, “GOP: ‘We Built This!’ Live from Government Funded Con­ vention Center,” Daily Kos, August 22, 2012, 0319231426/ /story/2012/08/22/1122641/-GOP-We-Built -This-live-from-government-funded-convention-center. 54. See, for example, Margaret Benston, “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation,” Monthly Review 21 (1969): 13–­27); Barbara Laslett and Johanna Bren­­ ner, “Gender and Social Reproduction: Historical Perspectives,” Annual Review of Sociology 15 (1989): 381–­404; Evelyn Nakano Glenn, “From Servitude to Service Work: Historical Continuities in the Racial Division of Paid Reproductive Labor,” Signs 18, no. 1 (1992): 1–­432; Feminist Fightback Collective, “Cuts Are a Feminist Issue,” December 15, 2011, 55. Suzanne Mettler, The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011). 56. Pollin and Thompson, “State and Municipal Alternatives to Austerity.” 57. Susan Thistle, From Marriage to the Market: The Transformation of Women’s Lives and Work (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006). 58. Michael Barber, Alastair Levy, and Lenny Mendonca, “Global Trends Affecting the Public Sector,” Transforming Government (McKinsey and Co.), June 2007, 4–­12. 59. Glenn, “From Servitude to Service Work.” 60. Nancy Fraser and Linda Gordon, “A Genealogy of Dependency: Tracing a Keyword of the U.S. Welfare State,” Signs 19, no. 2 (1994): 309–­36; Ange-­Marie Hancock, The Politics of Disgust: The Public Identity of the Welfare Queen (New York: New York University Press, 2004). 61. Daniel J. Mitchell, “The Moocher Index,” June 16, 2010, https://web.archive .org/web/20160319231539/ 62. William Baldwin, “What’s Your State’s Moocher Ratio?,” Forbes, Novem­ ber 12, 2009, .html. 63. Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, vol. 1 (New York: Vintage, 1990), 27.

notes to pages 128–132


64. David Harvey, Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution (New York: Verso, 2012), 133. 65. Bell, “Public Household,” 65. 66. James Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 94. 67. David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 44–­47; Ida Susser, Norman Street Revisited: Claiming a Right to New York City (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); Micaela di Leonardo, Exotics at Home: Anthropologies, Others, and American Modernity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). 68. Jamie Peck, “Pushing Austerity: State Failure, Municipal Bankruptcy, and the Crises of Fiscal Federalism in the United States,” Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 7, no. 1 (2014): 17–­44. 69. Alice O’Connor, “The Privatized City: The Manhattan Institute, the Urban Crisis, and the Conservative Counterrevolution in New York,” Journal of Urban History 34, no. 2 (2009): 333–­53. 70. Schaper, “Collective Bargaining Curbs Spread across the U.S.”; National Conference of State Legislatures, “Collective Bargaining and Labor Union Legislation Data Base.” 71. Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 16. 72. Peck, “Pushing Austerity.” 73. State of Wisconsin, Office of the Governor, Scott Walker, 2011 State of the State Address. February 1, 2011, 74. State of Wisconsin, Office of the Governor, Scott Walker, 2011 Budget Address. March 1, 2011, .gov/newsroom/speech/2011-budget-address. 75. Mike Ivey, “We Do Have a Budget Problem, but Not a Crisis,” Capitol Times, February 18, 2011, .com/news/local/govt-and-politics/analysis-we-do-have-a-budget-problem-but-not-a /article_90196216 –3b66 –11e0-a327– 001cc4c03286.html. 76. Jason Stein, “State’s 2-­Year Budget Deficit Grows to $3.6 Billion,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 7, 2011, / 77. Ivey, “We Do Have a Budget Problem.” 78. Wisconsin Taxpayer, September, 2011. 79. Ivey, “We Do Have a Budget Problem.” 80. See, for example, Ezra Klein, “Unions Aren’t to Blame for Wisconsin’s Budget,” Washington Post, February 18, 2011, /ezra-klein/2011/02/unions_arent_to_blame_for_wisc.html; Ezra Klein, “Wisconsin’s


notes to pages 132–136

Fiscal Condition,” Washington Post, February 19, 2011, http://voices.washington 81. Ivey, “We Do Have a Budget Problem.” 82. United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Local Area Unemployment Statistics: Wisconsin, 2004–­2014,” accessed January 14, 2015, /LASST550000000000003?data_tool=XGtable. 83. John Schmid, “American Workers Losing Ground on Wages: Wisconsin Workers among the Hardest Hit,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 26, 2013, https://web /web /20160319232938/ /business /american -workers-losing-ground-on-wages-b9914759z1–208979131.html. 84. Scott Walker, “2011 Budget Address.” 85. Frédéric Lordon, “La force des idées simples: Misère épistémique des comportements économiques,” Politix 13, no. 52 (2000): 183–­209. 86. Kevin Drum, “It’s the Austerity Stupid: How We Were Sold an Economy-­ Killing Lie,” Mother Jones, September/October 2013. 87. Blyth, Austerity, 8. 88. Nancy Fraser, Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse, and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 168. 89. Annysa Johnson, “Religious Groups See Budget through the Eyes of Faith,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 7, 2011, /20160319233051/ 90. Tamarine Cornelius, “The Wisconsin Values Budget: Better Choices Based on a Balanced Approach,” Wisconsin Budget Project Blog, May 19, 2011, https:// -wisconsin-values-budget-better-choices-based-on-a-balanced-approach.

Chapter Six 1. Massimo De Angelis, The Beginning of History: Value Struggles and Global Capital (London: Pluto Press, 2007), 191. 2. J. K. Gibson-­Graham [Julie Graham and Katherine Gibson], The End of Cap­­ italism (as We Knew It): A Feminist Critique of Political Economy (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), 179. 3. David Harvey, The New Imperialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); Sharryn Kasmir and August Carbonella, “Dispossession and the Anthropology of Labor,” Critique of Anthropology 28, no. 1 (2008): 5–­25; Michael Perelman, The Invention of Capitalism: Classical Political Economy and the Secret History of Primitive Accumulation (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000); Massimo De Angelis, “Marx and Primitive Accumulation: The Continuous Character of Capital’s ‘Enclosures,’ ” Commoner, September 2001.

notes to pages 137–152


4. C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, 40th anniversary ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 5. 5. William Lazonick, “Stock Buybacks: From ‘Retain and Reinvest’ to ‘Downsize and Distribute,’ ” Paper 22 in The Initiative on 21st Century Capitalism series, Washington, DC, Brookings Institution, Center for Effective Public Management, April 2015, /web /20160320174220/ /~/media /research/files/papers/2015/04/17-stock-buybacks-lazonick/lazonick.pdf. 6. Angus Loten, “With New Law, Profits Take a Back Seat,” Wall Street Journal, January 19, 2012, /articles/SB10001424052970203735304577168591470161630. 7. Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot, On Justification: Economies of Worth (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006). 8. Jane L. Collins and Walker N. Kahn, “The Hijacking of a New Corporate Form? Benefit Corporations and Corporate Personhood,” unpublished manuscript, March 20, 2016, available from the author. 9. Melissa Ip, “B Lab and Sistema B Partner to Take B Corps Global,” Social Enterprise Buzz, September 26, 2012, / -take-b-corps-global. 10. For a critique of these kinds of third-­party certification, see Gay Seidman, Beyond the Boycott: Labor Rights, Human Rights, and Transnational Activism (New York: Russell Sage, 2009). 11. Edward O. Wilson, Biophilia (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984). 12. Wolfgang Sachs, The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power, 2nd ed. (London: Zed Books, 2010), 121, 124. 13. Claus Offe, Disorganized Capitalism: Contemporary Transformations of Work and Politics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1985), 26. 14. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “Four Freedoms,” Annual Message to Congress, January 6, 1941, /pdfs/fftext.pdf. 15. Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, vol. 2, sec. 2, chap. 8, Amer­ ican Studies Program, University of Virginia, 1997, /20160320174720/ /~hyper/DETOC /ch2_08.htm. 16. Rogers M. Smith, Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in U.S. History (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997), 2. 17. Patrick Healy and Monica Davey, “Behind Scott Walker, a Longstanding Conservative Alliance against Unions,” New York Times, June 8, 2015, https://web /behind-scott-walker-a-longstanding-conservative-alliance-against-unions.html ?_r=3. 18. Jacob Hacker, The Great Risk Shift: The New Economic Insecurity and the Decline of the American Dream (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), ix.


notes to pages 152–159

19. Albert O. Hirschman, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970), 44–­45. 20. Robert Perrucci and Earl Wysong, New Class Society: Goodbye American Dream? (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008), 65. 21. Paul Krugman, “How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?” New York Times, September 2, 2009, 22. Sudeep Reddy, “The New Old Big Thing in Economics: J. M. Keynes,” Wall Street Journal, January 8, 2009,; Chris Giles, Ralph Atkins, and Krishna Guha, “The Undeniable Shift to Keynes,” Financial Times,  Decem­ber 29, 2008; “The Keynes Comeback,” Economist, October 1, 2009, /web/20160320175821/ 23. “The Keynesian Dead End,” Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2010, https://web 8703615104575328981319857618. 24. Philip Mirowski, Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste: How Neoliberalism Survived the Financial Meltdown (London: Verso, 2014), 14. 25. Ta-­Nehisi Coates, “We Are All Welfare Queens Now,” Atlantic, Septem­­ ber 18, 2012. 26. Gallup Poll, “Confidence in Institutions,” June 2–­7, 2015. https://web.archive .org/web/20160320180211/ .aspx. 27. Nina Eliasoph, Avoiding Politics: How Americans Produce Apathy in Every­­ day Life (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998). 28. George Henderson, Value in Marx: The Persistence of Value in a More Than Capitalist World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013), xii.

Index Abert, Grant, 78, 79, 80, 92 AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees), 107, 111, 175n2 ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), 101 Alito, Samuel, 51, 140 Allen, Patricia, 84 American Independent Business Alliance, 77 Americans for Prosperity, 101, 151 Americans for Tax Reform, 101, 113 antipolitics, 9, 11, 41, 96–­97, 129–­34, 139, 149 Appadurai, Arjun, 163n2 Appelbaum, Eileen, 40 Aspen Global Leadership Network, 137 assemblage, 13–­14, 40, 59, 64, 71, 96–­97, 101, 117, 128, 135–­38, 146, 149, 155, 159; con­­testatory, 13–­14, 59, 64, 71, 96, 101, 105, 128, 135, 136–­51, 155; defined, 13, 162n19 austerity politics, 5–­6, 8–­9, 32, 100, 102, 118, 129–­35, 147, 149, 152, 154, 160 Babson, Elizabeth, 35, 47, 51, 56 BALLE (Business Alliance for Living Local Economies), 77 Batt, Rosemary, 40 Bauer, Kurt, 99, 114–­16 Bauer, Renee (Rabbi), 133 Bell, Daniel, 42, 108, 129 benefit corporations, 3, 4, 12, 34–­68, 137–­42, 154, 157, 159; certification requirement,

35, 43, 44, 53, 60–­64; entity statute, 3, 34, 35, 44–­45, 52–­53, 137; history, 42–­44;  op­­ position to, 45, 52, 67, 139–­40; passage of legislation, 34, 45; shareholder role, 64. See also B Lab Berry, Todd, 116 Berry, Wendell, 70 Best, Jacqueline, 28 B Lab, 35, 43–­44, 46, 48–­49, 53–­55, 58, 61, 63, 67, 137–­38, 140–­41 Block, Fred, 25 Blyth, Mark, 9, 129–­30, 132 Boltanski, Luc, 17, 140, 163n2 Bookchin, Murray, 21 Boyer, Robert, 34–­38, 41 Bradby, Barbara, 21 Bradley Foundation, 101, 114, 121–­22 Bretton Woods, 27–­29 “Budget Repair Bill.” See Wisconsin Act 10 (2011) Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores (2014), 51 Callon, Michel, 13, 162n19 care work. See labor: care work Cascade Engineering, 44, 54–­55 Cato Institute, 114, 127 Cavanaugh, Jim (James), 111 Chandler, Alfred, 30 Chatham Marketplace, 69, 73, 148 Chicago School of Economics, 25, 112 Clark, William, 52–­53, 57–­58, 67 class secession, 152 Clinton Global Initiative, 141 Coates, Ta-­Nehisi, 156


184 Cooperative Home Care Associates, 44, 47–­49 corporate governance, 8; fiduciary responsi­ bilities, 3, 44, 46, 47, 72; LBO (leveraged buy out) movement, 38–­40; managerial firm, 30, 36–­37, 65–­66, 139, 145; private equity movement, 39–­41, 59 Cortese, Amy, 74, 78, 85, 87–­88, 90, 94, 95 De Angelis, Massimo, ix, 7, 23, 136 deindustrialization, 88 Deleuze, Gilles, 13, 162n19 de Tocqueville, Alexis, 150 development economics, 76–­77 De Vroey, Michel, 23 Dodge v. Ford Motor Company (Mich. 1919), 46 domestic labor. See housework Drum, Kevin, 132 eBay v. Newmark (Del. 2010), 46 economic crisis of 2008. See Great Reces­ sion of 2008 economic embeddedness, 5, 7, 18, 24–­26, 30, 47–­59, 76–­87, 108–­17, 160 economic externalities, 4, 7–­8, 24, 27, 61, 65, 81–­82, 87, 98, 139, 143, 158–­59 Elson, Diane, 20, 22 embedded liberalism, 27–­28, 30, 32–­33, 151, 158–­59 Engels, Friedrich, 20 environmentalism, 7, 8, 9, 18, 21 feminism, 1, 8, 9, 18–­20, 23, 26, 101, 125, 128, 147, 148, 164n10 financialization, 3, 38–­40, 90 foodshed, 70, 78, 86–­87, 90, 95, 144 Fordism, 28, 56, 65 Foster-­Carter, Aidan, 21 Foucault, 99–­100, 113, 128 Frailey, Tina, 73, 89 Fraser, Nancy, 9, 10, 133 Frick, Tim (Timothy), 50, 51, 53, 56, 62, 67 Friedman, Milton, 3 Galbraith, John Kenneth, 15, 66 Gandhi, Mohandas, 70, 145 Gibson, Katherine, 136 Gilbert, Jay Coen, 34, 42, 43, 44, 50, 58, 64 Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, 26

Glenn, Evelyn, 126, 162n17, 178n54 globalization, 5, 9, 27–­32, 64, 70–­72, 78–­79, 84, 87–­94, 96–­98, 101, 144, 146, 155 global justice movement, 64 Gomory, Ralph, 66 Graeber, David, 7, 23 Graham, Julie, 136 GRAIN, 146 Gramsci, Antonio, 132 Great Recession of 2008, 2–­4, 31, 34, 63, 81, 87–­89, 93, 103, 113, 120–­21, 130–­32, 146, 151, 153–­57 Greyston Bakery, 48–­49 gross domestic product, 1, 2 Guthman, Julie, 84 Habermas, Jürgen, 10 Hacker, Jacob, 27, 30, 152 Haney, James, 114, 115 Harvey, David, 96, 128 Hayek, Friedrich, 25, 112 Henderson, George, 23, 159 Heritage Foundation, 114 Hernke, Michael, 79, 80, 83 Hewitt, Carol Peppe, 80, 81, 86, 94 Hirschman, Albert O., 76, 152 Ho, Karen, 30, 41 Houlahan, Bart, 42, 43, 44 housework, ix, 7, 19–­21, 103, 125–­27, 155–­56, 164n10 incorporated comparison, 15, 33, 137, 151 inequality, 8, 23, 40, 85–­86, 101, 147, 151–­56, 160 Jim Crow laws, 28, 86 Johnson, Tera, 76, 82, 86, 89 Juris, Jeffrey, 107, 147 Kassoy, Andrew, 43 Keillor, Doug, 109, 118, 123 Kennedy, Bryan, 108, 118 Keynesianism, 5, 28, 77, 101, 111–­12, 130, 132, 139, 140, 154 Krippner, Greta, 37 Krugman, Paul, 87, 121 labor: care work, 7, 20, 24, 103, 110, 117–­20, 124–­28, 164n10; collective bargaining rights, 5, 32, 99, 102–­4, 106, 107, 122,

index 130, 134. See also AFSCME; public sec­ tor: unions; SEIU; WEAC Lacher, Hannes, 28 Lewis, W.A. (William Arthur), 76 Li, Tania, 13, 101 Lidstone, Herrick, 52 local economy: agglomeration effects, 77; and biophilia, 93, 144; definition of, 90–­ 93, 158–­59; economies of scope, 71, 75–­ 76; face-­to-­face economic relationships, 4, 70–­72, 75, 84, 86, 87, 92, 98, 143, 159; forward and backward linkages, 4, 71, 77; multifunctionality, 82; multi-­stranded relationships, 65, 71, 98, 144 Locke, John, 19 Lordon, Frédéric, 132 Luddites, 26 MacIver Institute for Public Policy, 101, 122 Manhattan Institute, 102, 120, 121, 130 Marx, Karl, 18–­23 Massey, Doreen, 90 Matthews, John, 112 Mayer, Colin, 56 Mayfair Set, 38 Mayfield, Reed, 63 McCamish, Boyd, 111, 118 McKinsey Global Institute, 137 McMichael, Philip, 15 Mettler, Suzanne, 125 Miller, Daniel, 6 Mills, C. Wright, 137 Mirowski, Philip, 154 Mitchell, Timothy, 59, 162n11 Molyneux, Maxine, 21 Mont Pelerin Society, 25 moral economy, 10, 63, 136, 140, 144 multifunctionality (of agriculture), 82 Nabhan, Gary, 89 NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), 88 neoliberalism, 5, 8–­11, 15, 25–­26, 28–­29, 32, 39, 47, 66, 71, 78, 88, 90, 96–­97, 101, 103, 113, 130, 136, 148–­49, 151–­54, 157–­59 New Deal, 5, 25, 28, 111, 112, 145, 149 Obama, Barack Hussein, 111, 113, 121, 124–­25 Occupy movement, 64, 98, 105, 147, 151 O’Connor, Alice, 130

185 O’Connor, James, 19, 21–­22 Offe, Claus, 148 Pachamama Alliance, 146 Peacock, Jon, 110, 132, 133 Peck, Jamie, 113 Perrucci, Robert, 153 Peterson, Robert, 123, 127 Piketty, Thomas, 152 Polanyi, Karl, 8, 18, 24–­27, 77, 148 Pollin, Robert, 102, 125 Priebus, Reince, 114 private equity movement. See corporate governance: private equity movement public sector, 5, 6, 12, 99–­135, 146–­51, 153, 158; and dependency discourse, 100, 120–­ 23, 127–­28, 134–­35, 149, 155, 156;  employ­­ ment characteristics, 102, 103, 121, 122, 135, 155, 156, 174n12; as public house­­ hold, 100, 108–­17; and social reproduc­ tion, 117–­28, 134, 135, 148, 156, 158, 161n4; unions, 99, 101, 102, 104, 106, 107 Raskin, Jamie, 34, 47, 53, 65, 66 Reagan, Ronald, 32, 38, 112, 113, 114 Reif, Adrian, 64 Revlon v. MacAndrews & Forbes (Del. 1986), 47 Rockefeller Foundation, 141 Rodrik, Dani, 28–­30, 32, 87, 88 Ruggie, John, 27–­28 Ryan, Paul, 113 Ryan, Rebecca, 61, 80, 85 Sachs, Jeffrey, 87 Sachs, Wolfgang, 87, 91, 145 Schultz, Theodore, 76 Schumacher, Ernst Friedrich, 70, 92, 93, 145 Scott, James, 129 SEIU (Service Employees International Union), 107, 111 Sewell, William H., Jr., 14 shareholder value, 3, 9, 14, 31, 36–­41, 43–­44, 46–­47, 57, 59, 65, 96, 139–­40, 154, 157, 160, 167n8 Slocum, Rachel, 84 Slow Food, 70, 142, 146 Slow Money, 4, 5, 12, 69–­98, 142–­46, 155, 157, 158, 159; and communitarianism, 91, 97, 144, 145; history, 72–­76; investment

186 Slow Money (cont.) mechanisms, 69, 71–­75, 80, 85, 98;  invest­­ ment types, 76, 79, 94–­95; philosophical antecedents, 70, 144; returns, 75, 79–­83, 87, 98; risk, 69, 71, 75, 77, 79, 84; scaling up, 75–­76 Smith, Adam, 20, 112 Smith, Rogers, 11, 150 Somers, Margaret, 10, 11 Sraffa, Piero, 19 Stark, David, 17 State Policy Network, 101 Steedman, Ian, 19 Steiner, Rudolf, 70 Stevenson, G. W. (Steve), 96 Stiglitz, Joseph, 87 Stinchcomb, Matthew, 60, 63, 66 Stout, Lynn, 38, 46, 57 Summers, Lawrence, 87 Surowiecki, James, 65 Sweezy, Paul, 19 Sylla, Richard, 66 Tasch, Woody, 72, 75, 86, 92, 94, 95, 142, 145, 146 Tea Party movement, 101, 114, 122, 151 Tellus Institute, 137 Thévenot, Laurent, 17, 140, 163n2 Thistle, Susan, 125 Thomas, Michael, 107, 111 Thompson, Jeffrey, 102, 125 Tolstoy, Leo, 70 Trapani, Kevin, 49, 50, 54, 55, 58, 60, 65, 67 Treaty of Detroit, 28 Trojian, Eric, 46, 59 Turner, Terence, 22, 163n2 University of Wisconsin Teaching Assistants Association (TAA), 104–­5 Unocal Corp. v. Mesa Petroleum (Del. 1985), 47

index value: and class, 7, 8, 9, 11, 127, 136, 152–­ 53, 155–­60; definitions, 6–­8, 19–­24; and gen­­der, 7, 9, 11, 126–­28, 135, 136, 155–­ 58; labor theory of, 17–­24; market value, 2, 3, 6–­9, 18, 24, 26–­29, 32, 79, 87, 88, 93, 97, 155, 160; and materiality, 6, 8, 13, 18, 26; and race, 7, 9, 11, 125–­28, 135, 136, 155–­58; and social division of labor, 7, 11, 15–­17, 23–­24, 26–­33, 151– ­55, 158, 159, 160. See also shareholder value Vangelisti, Mario, 74, 85, 93 Veblen goods, 18 vernacular economics, 2, 8, 9, 71, 111, 112, 117, 128, 139, 149, 158 Via Campesina, 146 von Mises, Ludwig, 25, 112 Walker, Scott, 99–­105, 108, 109, 111–­16, 118, 120–­23, 127, 130–­32, 135, 147, 155 Walmart Corporation, 31, 78, 97, 103 Walsh, Katherine Cramer, 122 Warren, Elizabeth, 124, 125 WEAC (Wisconsin Education Association Council), 107, 122 Williams, Raymond, 14, 90 Wisconsin Act 10 (2011), 5, 99–­104, 106–­7, 111–­12, 116, 120, 127, 130–­32, 134–­35, 146, 149, 150–­51 Wisconsin Economic Development Corpo­ ration, 114, 115 Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, 99, 114, 115 Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, 121 Wisconsin state budget, 5, 6, 105, 108, 109, 110, 118–­20, 130–­34, 147, 149, 150, 153 Wisconsin Taxpayers Association, 114, 131 Wisconsin Uprising (2011), 5, 13, 99, 102, 104–­8, 111, 112, 117–­19, 122, 131, 133–­ 34, 146, 147, 150, 151, 175n15 Wysong, Earl, 153