What’s in a revolution? If you asked Abbie Hoffman in 1968, he’d tell you it was a series of “boycotts, strikes, sit-ins, pickets, lie-ins, pray-ins, feel-ins, piss-ins” on election day. But every dollar we spend is a vote, of sorts--the kind that elects the entities that represent a big portion of our economy. And clearly a person can’t piss on everything.
That’s where the idea of an alternative economy comes in. Last month, Freelancers Union founder Sara Horowitz wrote about a “quiet revolution,” the type that arrives by wielding the power of the purse. Even though freelancers choose to live at the whims of an economy that rewards conviction, meaning, and creativity with a paycheck only occasionally (and often two weeks late), Horowitz argues that freelancers don’t have to support systems they detest with what little money they have.
“What am I spending my money in anyway? Once that question is posed to a person, it doesn’t make them necessarily go shopping at Walmart and try to get the lowest common denominator stuff,” Horowitz says. “It makes people say, ‘What do I believe in?’”
The New Mutualist map aims to highlight small businesses that share those values. Freelancers Union is seeking out non-venture backed co-working spaces, food coops, credit unions, and social justice hacking spaces that focus on building up local economic power. Horowitz and her team have released one map of New York City, and they’re currently working on one for Oakland.
The Freelancers Union isn’t the first to try and map out an alternative economy you can vote for with your cash money. Advocates of the “solidarity economy” have been mapping activist-minded communal businesses in several cities all over the globe. There’s a lot of overlap, though. Maybe the way to consider “new mutualism” is “solidarity” for people who have never gotten pepper-sprayed.
Horowitz says that the movement is certainly meant to be inclusive. “This isn’t boutique. It’s not niche. It’s here and it’s impacting people’s lives,” she says. “It’s a process where people are really, profoundly beginning to rethink their lives in an economy that’s just not fitting them.”