Origins and Ideologies
Chapter one investigates the intellectual and political origins of activist business and analyzes them within the context of the New Left, earlier leftist thinkers, and an even older tradition of social movement businesses. These thinkers charged that a wide range of Americans were excluded from a postwar consumer culture that celebrated the white, suburban, heterosexual, obedient, and conventional family of four as the normative social and economic unit. Unlike most conventional businesses, activist entrepreneurs responded by seeking to achieve three fundamental non-financial goals: to advance and disseminate the ideologies and values of a range of social movements; to offer an alternative to chain retail by making small business more democratic, participatory, collaborative, and spiritually fulfilling; and to create “free spaces” where marginalized people and activists could publicly assemble and collaborate. Some activist entrepreneurs sought to challenge capitalist imperatives of management ownership and profit maximization and believed that they could create businesses that were minimally capitalist or even non-capitalist. This chapter also addresses the criticisms activist businesses faced.
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