New Mutualism: Mutual Support for the Information Age
The problems at first seem overwhelming. Full-time jobs are disappearing. Government entitlements are shrinking. We’re even running out of oil. Fortunately, America has a long tradition of fixing big problems with creative solutions.
Freelancing – once a euphemism for unemployment – has grown to be a dominant force in the economy, with 42 million independent workers (more than the total number of autoworkers, teachers, and doctors combined) driving the U.S. economy. Entrepreneurial organizations are figuring it out by developing market-oriented models that build collective solutions to society’s problems. Across the globe, people are building a collaborative/DIY/cooperative culture: online marketplaces like Craigslist and Etsy, peer-to-peer lending like Lending Club, smart food consumption through CSAs and urban farming, and other cost-conscious, socially-minded movements that promote mutual exchange.
We believe that this phenomenon, which we’re calling ‘new mutualism’, is not just a fad. Rather it’s the beginning of a movement that relies on sustainable, community-driven solutions to solve seemingly intractable problems.
Mutual support is nothing new. The first wave of mutualism saw the spread of worker and farmer cooperatives, credit associations, friendly societies, and similar groups. The government-sponsored programs of the New Deal supplanted the need for many of these groups, but as government and business sponsored supports are dwindling, interest in mutualism is growing, and advances in technology make it easier for communities to stay connected.
Underpinning the philosophy of new mutualism is the belief that political and economic life flourishes in social networks, and that social change requires individuals to shift their thinking from ‘I’ to ‘we.’ At the core of this new movement is a culture of interdependence, mutual support, and affinity, with building sustainability, rather than maximizing short-term profit, as a goal. That’s why we’re working with our members to build a new social support system that makes sense now and two generations from now.
For more information about the Freelancers Union, click here.