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Future Hindsight is a weekly podcast that aims to spark civic engagement through in-depth conversations with citizen changemakers. American democracy is a living, breathing mechanism whose well-being deserves to be cultivated and protected, and now more than ever, the need to be an engaged citizen is critical. We explore how each of us has the power to shape our society and fulfill our shared civic responsibility.

Dec 30, 2021

Retaking The Commons

In order to repair our current social contract, we must first repair our relationship to the Commons. Our economy currently prioritizes property protection, wealth protection, and disproportionate power, while often disregarding the realities of human life. Social movements can create a sense of mutuality, of what we hold in common, and amass power to retake the Commons. Turning to each other has never been more effective.

The Solidarity Economy

Solidarity economics is a system that focuses on mutuality in the form of co-ops, community land trusts, and other social movements. The key is to create experiences that widen the circle of belonging and everyone is valuable. For example, solidarity economics aims to increase workers' power in order to get better deals from their employers. It also creates alternative economic enterprises, government regulation to prevent abuses, and rewards high road businesses.

The Benefit of Mutualism

Operating in mutuality is the opposite of operating in self-interest. In many ways, our society has been built to reward those who are powered by self-interest, but the benefit of mutuality extends far beyond personal gain. Creating solidarity means building commonality between all types of communities. Social movements are at the heart of mutuality, since they foster a responsibility to one another. The more we practice mutuality, the more normal it becomes, and the greater the rewards that are delivered.


Dr. Manuel Pastor is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. He currently directs the Equity Research Institute at USC. Pastor holds an economics Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and is the inaugural holder of the Turpanjian Chair in Civil Society and Social Change at USC.

His latest books are South Central Dreams: Finding Home and Building Community in South L.A. (co-authored with Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo) and Solidarity Economics: Why Mutuality and Movements Matter (co-authored with Chris Benner). His previous works include State of Resistance: What California’s Dizzying Descent and Remarkable Resurgence Means for America’s Future and Equity, Growth, and Community: What the Nation Can Learn from America’s Metro Areas (co-authored with Chris Benner [UC Press 2015]).

You can follow Manuel on Twitter @Prof_MPastor