The Plentitude Economy: Less Work, More Social Capital

by douglas reeser on October 15, 2011
In these times of social unrest and widespread protest, it feels like the time for real change is upon us. The ways that we have structured our social, political and economic lives are struggling (if not crumbling), but it can seem overwhelming when we attempt to think of a new path forward. The above video from the Center for a New American Dream may help put us on that path. The center aims "to cultivate a new American dream—one that emphasizes community, ecological sustainability, and a celebration of non-material values, while upholding the spirit of the traditional American dream of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Their proposal for a "Plentitude Economy" certainly aligns with these goals.

In short, a Plentitude Economy would seek to reduce the ecological impact of all sectors, including our personal lives, corporate production, and governmental activity. A Plentitude Economy would work to get us off of our dependence on fossil fuels, and look to alternatives for our energy sources. But such an approach also critiques the concept of growth, claiming that continued growth will result in the continued degradation of natural resources. At the same time the new economy will need to create jobs, and get the many of the 14 million people out of work in the U.S. (as of September 2011) back to work.

An increase in the availability of work is integral to the success of any path forward, and the Plentitude Economy argues that if we change how we spend our time - as a society - work will become available, and we may be able to satisfy many of our needs outside of the traditional market. If we reduce the amount of time that we work, say from a five day work week, to a four day week, work will become available for others - more people working fewer hours. And now comes the personal changes, which are already evident in the increasingly popular DIY (Do It Yourself) movement. In the time freed up with the switch to a four day work week, we must focus on engaging with and supporting our local communities. This is a call for us to develop our social capital. Grow food, brew beer, make art, build and create - and then share it with those around you - develop relationships and build a local community and a local economy that can buffer against larger global fluctuations in the market and economy.

This is the Plentitude Economy. It's a simple approach, but one that begins to offer a new vision of a way forward.
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  1. The past few years they have been suggesting a four day work week for the schools around here. I keep thinking of all the awesome things I could do with that extra day.

  2. Yeah - I think the 4-day week offers the chance for a different kind of production. In theory, each individual would produce less at work, but have the time to produce more at home.
    I think it's key though, that there be a more visible push for the community building/DIY movement at the same time. I fear that otherwise, the TV could be the the great winner in the move for a shorter work-week.


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