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Seymour Melman and the New American Revolution

On December 30, 1917 Seymour Melman was born in New York City. The 100th anniversary of his birth helps bring his intellectual legacy into focus. Melman was the most significant reconstructionist thinker of the 20th Century, championing alternatives to militarism, capitalism, and social decay by advancing a systematic counter-planning program for disarmament and economic democracy […]

On December 30, 1917 Seymour Melman was born in New York City.  The 100th anniversary of his birth helps bring his intellectual legacy into focus.  Melman was the most significant reconstructionist thinker of the 20th Century, championing alternatives to militarism, capitalism, and social decay by advancing a systematic counter-planning program for disarmament and economic democracy.  His legacy remains of critical importance because today the United States is currently a society in which the economic, political and cultural systems are spiraling into an abyss.  Economic and social reconstruction is the idea that planned alternatives to the incumbent mechanisms for organizing economic, political and cultural power exist in alternative institutional designs and matching systems to extend these designs.

The economic realities are well-known, defined by an economic system in which the richest 1% of the population controlled 38.6% of the nation’s wealth in 2016 according to the Federal Reserve.  The bottom 90% controlled only 22.8% of the wealth.  This wealth concentration is well-known and is linked to financialization of the U.S. economy which is matched by deindustrialization and the decline of the “real economy.” Melman analyzed this problem tied to Wall Street hegemony and managerial attacks on worker’s power in his classic 1983 study Profits without Production.  Here Melman illustrated how profits –and thus power—could be accumulated despite the decline of industrial work and manufacturing.  In fact, the rise in administrative overheads associated with the over-extension of managerial power actually helped reduce both the competiveness and competence of U.S. firms.

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