You can now download the first chapter, the table of contents, and the index of Jobs of Our Own as a PDF (2.3 MB). For your convenience, here's some of that info here. (The PDF has the full chapter.)
Jobs of Our Own: Building a Stakeholder Society, Alternatives to the Market and the State Race Mathews. New foreword by Thomas Storck. Distributist Review Press, 2009, $22.95. Order now.
Part I: British Distributism
- Chapter 1: Distributism
The Socialist Seedbed, the Catholic Harvest, and the Public
- Chapter 2: Why Are the Many Poor?
Conscience and the Rejection of Poverty
- Chapter 3: Precursors and Converts
Henry Manning and Cecil Chesterton
- Chapter 4: The Originator
Hilaire Belloc and the Idea of Distributism
- Chapter 5: The Missionary, the Doctrine and the Debates
- Chapter 6: Putting Distributism on the Map
The Distributist League and the Weeklies
Part II: Distributism Reborn
- Chapter 7: The New Distributism in Nova Scotia
- Chapter 8: The Antigonish Movement and the Limits of Rochdale Co-operation
- Chapter 9: Mondragon
The Role and Signifiance of José Maria Arizmendiarrieta
- Chapter 10: Mondragon
The Structure and Operation of the Co-operatives
- Chapter 11: Evolved Distributism
The Performance and the Promise
JimmyTompkins, Moses Coady and the Origins of the Antigonish Movement
Chapter 1: Distributism
The Socialist Seedbed, the Catholic Harvest, and the Public Benefit
This book is about a political philosophy called distributism. The basis of distributism is the belief that a just social order can only be achieved through a much more widespread distribution of property. Distributism favors a
society of owners where property belongs to the many rather than the few, and correspondingly opposes the concentration of property in the hands either of the rich, as under capitalism, or of the state, as advocated by some socialists. In particular, ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange must be widespread.
Distributism emerged as one element of the widespread revulsion and agony of conscience over poverty in late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain. Its current importance is the greater because circumstances reminiscent of those which produced it are again evident. Distributism has assumed a new relevance and urgency in the light of the current substantial abdication of former government functions to the vagaries of globalization, the free market and largely unfettered competition—and of the consequent further widening of the gap between the rich and the poor, the reappearance of great numbers of beggars and homeless people in cities like New York and London, the creation of a growing underclass whose members are effectively social outcasts and other adverse developments which in key respects vividly recall Britain in the 1880s.
The similarities between the 1880s in Britain—to which distributism was a response—and the 1990s cannot be too strongly emphasized. What is being witnessed currently is a managed reduction in the living standards of working people throughout the developed world. The relentless assault on wages, working conditions and job security—in conjunction with the crushing of the capacity of trade unions to protect the well-being of their members, and the dismantling of the welfare safety net built up during the twentieth century—is recreating the permanently dispossessed strata within society which late-Victorian Britain referred to as, respectively, the working poor and the residuum. Nor are large parts of the middle class any more immune to rampant insecurity today than in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
In the advanced industrial societies, writes the British scholar and former prominent M.P. David Marquand,
one of the central themes of the golden age was 'embourgeoisement': the spread to the working class of the job security, career ladders and lifestyles which had formerly been the prerogatives of the middle class. Furthermore, he notes,
Now the engines have gone into reverse . . . The de-casualization of labor, which a generation of trade union leaders saw as its life's work, has given way to recasualization—and in what used to be the middle class as well as the working class. Down-sizing, delayering, outsourcing and reengineering haunt the suburbs as well as the inner cities, mocking the commitments and hollowing out the institutions which were once the lodestars of the salariat.
is off the leash. Not surprisingly, it is behaving much as it did before its tamers put it on the leash during the extraordinary burst of institutional creativity which followed the Second World War.
What is no less troubling is the perceived absence of credible alternatives. The failure of state socialism has left behind it a vacuum which nothing currently on offer seems likely to remedy. Astute and compelling as are analyses of the current situation from sources such as the communitarian and associative democracy movements, they have to date been handicapped by the lack of measures such as would comprise a meaningful program. There is no agreed body of policy—no clear model or blueprint for action—behind which those who share the communitarian and associative viewpoint can unite.
Broadly social-democratic reformism finds itself with a near-total dearth of useful new ideas—or at least experiencing extreme diffiulty in reconciling its abiding values with the currently dominant free market paradigm—and it could do worse than backtrack and reevaluate other possible routes to its goals, from the rich storehouse of its history. One such route is via the idea of mutualism, which gave rise to the great friendly society, mutual assurance society, credit union and co-operative movements. Distributism in its current evolved form builds on and enriches mutualism, so as to hold out the promise of a new beginning. Where distributism points in practical terms is to a third way between the statist and market visions of society, which captures what is best from both of them.
The distributist emphasis—like that of communitarianism and associative democracy—is squarely on liberty, equality, democracy and sociability. Distributism counters the destructive onward march of ever greater concentrations of corporate power, loss of economic sovereignty of nations and the relegation to marginal status of major sections of the community. It is wary of statism, but insists that free market solutions are only reproducing the key social problem of poverty. It is squarely on the side of active citizenship, and embraces the ideal of civil society. It freely acknowledges the need to reconcile the moral case for greater democracy in the workplace with the requirements of productivity: to have productive organizations which are fair as well as efficient.
Consistent with these attributes, distributism looks less to the state than to initiative at the local and regional levels. Distributism is not something which can be handed to people or imposed from above. People have to set it in motion for themselves. It grows and spreads by example. Distributism is a big idea about small beginnings and what can come of them. It answers the need to build from below the just social order which can no longer be hoped for from above.