Mutualism: Building the Next Economy from the Ground Up

A way to build our next safety net in America through local organizations we know and trust
Source: Ashoka

In her book Mutualism, Sara Horowitz gives a profound analysis of the crisis of work and the collapse of the safety net, while providing a vision for a better way forward that is rooted in America’s cooperative spirit. Horowitz is an Ashoka Fellow, recipient of the MacArthur “genius award,” and founder of the Freelancers Union and the Freelancers Insurance Company.

The 20th 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.

Horowitz draws on her experience as a labor lawyer and former chair of the board of the New York Federal Reserve to propose a solution to the current crisis of work — mutualism — that is rooted in the best of American traditions. She 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 speaks to those who feel that the system is not working for them, and are looking for a new way to build collaboratively, create the new American social contract, and prosper in the 21st century. “Horowitz gives us the model to build our next progressive institutions,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Her vision provides a path forward to build the next safety net that will meet the needs of all workers in the next economy — an economy that is already here!”

Reid Hoffman, co-founder of Linkedin, calls this an essential book “to see how we can and must build the future.”