A profound look at the crisis of work and the collapse of the safety net, and a vision for a better way forward, rooted in America’s cooperative spirit, from the founder of the Freelancers Union
“Read this essential book to see how we can and must build the future.”—Reid Hoffman, co-founder of Linkedin
Mutualism: It’s not capitalism and it’s not socialism. It’s the future.
The twentieth century changed every facet of life for American workers: how much they could expect to earn and what they had the right to demand. But by 2027, a majority of Americans—from low-wage service workers to white-collar professionals—won’t be traditional employees. Benefits like paid sick leave, pensions, 401(k)s, disability insurance, and health care will be nearly extinct. To meet the needs of this new generation of workers, the government has done almost nothing.
In this book, labor lawyer, former chair of the board of the New York Federal Reserve, and MacArthur “genius” Sara Horowitz brings us a solution to the current crisis of work that’s rooted in the best of American traditions, which she calls mutualism. Horowitz shows how the future of our economic safety net rests on this approach and demonstrates how mutualist organizations have helped us solve common problems in the past and are now quietly driving rural and urban economies alike all over the world, inspired not by for-profit corporations but by labor unions and trade associations, religious organizations and mutual aid societies, and vital social movements from women’s suffrage to civil rights.
Mutualism is for anyone who feels that the system is not working for them, and is looking for a new way to build collaboratively, create the new American social contract, and prosper in the twenty-first century.
Horowitz (The Freelancer's Bible), a lawyer and founder of the Freelancers Union, focuses on the collective good in this expansive treatise on "economic engines with a social (rather than a profit) purpose that exist for a mutual good." Mutualism, Horowitz writes, is neither capitalism nor socialism, but is focused on "building a society based on reciprocal economic obligations between individuals and between institutions." Horowitz explores the various ways humans have historically come together for a mutual purpose, including the waterschappen of 13th-century Holland (a group focused on maintaining dams, dikes, and watermills) and Benjamin Franklin's Bucket Brigade, "one of the first all-volunteer fire departments in America." Where government and business have failed to create a safety net for American workers, Horowitz writes, mutualism can build the health clinics, childcare centers, lending circles, mutual insurance, and affordable cooperative housing that workers urgently need. She calls for tax breaks for corporations, financial institutions, and individuals that "donate to or invest in mutualism," and encourages "patient capital" that won't "make anyone obscenely rich over a short period of time." The result is an eye-opening survey and a stirring call for change.