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From Head Shops to Whole FoodsThe Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs$
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Joshua Clark Davis

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780231171588

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231171588.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM COLUMBIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.columbia.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Minnesota Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CUPSO for personal use.date: 21 September 2021

Activist Business

Activist Business

Origins and Ideologies

(p.9) 1 Activist Business
From Head Shops to Whole Foods

Joshua Clark Davis

Columbia University Press

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.

Keywords:   Intellectual origins, New Left, profits, criticisms, small business, alienation

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