Week 2 (May 11-15, 2020) - Theorizing Economic Democracy (Modules 3 and 4)


Week 2 Lecture PPT

“It is time to change the conversation. The past had better be large and

demand little. The future had better come closer. Let’s enlarge the present

and the space of the world. Let’s move on. Let’s travel with crude maps. …

We will not necessarily reach the same place, and many of us will not

necessarily reach any recognizable place, but we share the same starting

point, and that’s enough.”

~Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Epistemologies of the South: Justice
Against Epistemicide
(2014, p. viii)

Are the socio-economic ills wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic spelling the end of capitalism? It might indeed be the end of the neoliberal variety of capitalism as we have known it. But will capitlism itself die so easily? Or will another, perhaps more autocratic and surveillance-riddled form it take over? Capitalism is resilient and has morphed into new ways of accumulating in the past. What form of capitalism will emerge after COVID, and what can we propose as alternatives to it?


We know this much by now: neoliberalism's structures of globalization and the global division of labor are broken, and COVID-19 has blatantly exposed this variant of capitalism's deep flaws. It can't readily react to a virus that is experienced in communities, that affects us locally, and that is further sickening or killing more and more of capitalism's key ingredient for making, distributing, and valorizing its commodities: working people. Moreover, the US , Canada, and the rest of the global North have so dismantled its industry and productive capacity and exported it to cheaper labour markets in the global South that, today, we cannot even produce enough masks and other medical supplies to meet the needs of the current moment, and our food system is at grave risk. too. The pandemic has exposed for all to see the deplorable ways that capitalism has treated people and the planet, and how trully inefficient it is at distributing our necessities and creating social wealth for all.


The 19th century political economist David Ricardo's theory of the comparative advantage of nations has finally and decisively been exposed as a grave error ... and it took a viral pandemic to prove it to orthodox economists. It is clear we now have to be self-sufficient, that we need to base economic life on the local, on what has been called "subsidiarity." Heterodox economist Michael Schuman has called, instead, for comparative advantage to be replaced by the "comparative resilience’" of localities, which will be vital for Canada’s post-pandemic rebuilding process. The various proposals for economic democracy show  pathways to comparative relience.

Module 3 of Week 2 unpacks the key theories and (much debated) contemporary proposals for economic democracy today. Module 4 then moves on to explore the structural, socio-cultural, and socio-political prerequisites to workplace, organizational, and economic democracy, with an urgent reconsideration of these prerequisites for our current COVID-19-crisis moment.

Module 3 - Economic Democracy: Perspectives and Foundations

Required Reading

Malleson, Tom. (2014). Economic Democracy in the 21st Century. openDemocracy (Aug. 15).

Gibson-Graham, J.K. and the Community Economies Collective. (2016). Cultivating Community Economies: Tools for Building a Livable World. The Next System Project. (Feb. 2017). 

Required COVID-19 Reading

Packer, George. (2020). We Are Living in a Failed State. The Atlantic. (Apr. 20).

Saad-Filho, Alfredo. (2020). Coronavirus, Crisis, and the End of Neoliberalism. The Bullet. (Apr. 17).

Themes Covered in the Stanford Text

Stanford, Jim. (2015). Part 3, Capitalism as a System. In Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism. London: Pluto.

Supplemental Reading

Cumbers, Andrew. (2020). The Case for Economic Democracy. London: Polity.

Gibson-Graham, J.K. (2005). Surplus Possibilities: Postdevelopment and Community Economies. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, 26(1) (pp. 4-26).

Gibson-Graham, J.K, Cameron, Jenny, & Healy, Stephen. (2013). Introduction, Take Back the Economy: Why Now?; Ch. 1, Reframing the Economy, Reframing Ourselves; Ch. 2: Take Back Work: Surviving Well. In J.K. Gibson-Graham, Jenny Cameron, & Stephen Healy (Eds.), Take Back the Economy: An Ethical Guide for Transforming Our Communities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (pp. xiii-xxiii, 1-48).

Hahnel, Robin. (2005). Ch. 8, Participatory Economics. In Economic Justice and Democracy: From Competition to Cooperation. London: Routledge (pp. 187-214).

Pateman, Carole. (1970). Ch. II, Rousseau, John Stuart Mill, and G.D.H. Cole: A Participatory Theory of Democracy. In Participation and Democratic Theory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press (pp. 22-44).

Escobar, Arturo. (2001). Culture Sits in Places: Reflections on Globalism and Subaltern Strategies of Localization. Political Geography, 20 (pp. 139-174).

Reich, Robert. (2020). COVID-19 Pandemic Shines a Light on New Kind of Class Divide and Its Inequalities. The Guardian. (Apr. 26).


Listen to Bernie Sanders talking to Michael Moore on the podcast Rumble (April 23, 2020).

Listen to The Munk Debates on the Sharing Economy, Parts 1 and 2. (Ideas, CBC Radio 1, Dec. 2014).

Module 4 - The Prerequisites of Workplace, Organizational, and Economic Democracy (and Considerations for Our COVID-19 Times)

Required Reading

Macpherson, C.B. (1985). Ch. 3, Prospects of Economic and Industrial Democracy. In The Rise and Fall of Economic Justice and Other Essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press (pp. 35-43).

Bernstein, Paul. (1982). Ch. 2, Necessary Elements for Effective Worker Participation in Decision-Making. In F. Lindenfeld & J. Rothschild-Whitt (Eds.), Workplace Democracy and Social Change. Boston: Porter Sargent Publishers (pp. 51-81).


Required COVID-19 Reading

Shuman, Michael. (2020). Comparative Resilience: 8 Principles for Post-COVID Reconstruction. Resilience. (Apr. 7).

Boffey, Daniel. (2020). Amsterdam to Embrace “Doughnut” [Economic] Model to Mend Post-Coronavirus Economy. The Guardian. (Apr. 8).

Supplemental Reading

Malleson, Tom. (2014). Introduction; Ch. 1, Economic Democracy: Beginning Orientations. In After Occupy: Economic Democracy for the 21st Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press (pp. xi-xxiii, 1-24).

Bianchi, M. & Vieta, M. (2019). Italian Community Co-operatives Responding to Economic Crisis and State Withdrawal: A New Model for Socio-Economic Development. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) Sustainable Development Goals conference. Geneva, CH (Jun. 26-27).


Attend Universal Basic Income webinar - Lift the floor: Would a Universal Basic Income guarantee a good life for all Canadians? (with Simon Black, Professor and activist, Brock University Centre for Labour Studies; Armine Yalnizyan, Economist and Atkinson Fellow on the Future of Workers. (Injured Workers Online/Atkinson Foundation, Thurs., May 14, 2020). (NOTE: This is not in the PDF version of the syllabus.)

Attend the virtual book launch Ending Despotism at Work After the Coronavirus (with author Alex J. Wood). (Fri., May 15, 5:30 pm British time/12:30 pm Toronto/Eastern time).