Alternatives to Capitalism

I was chatting with a friend today, and here’s something that’s been weighing on her mind lately:

  • What are alternatives to capitalism?
  • How do we get there?

It’s pretty apparent now more than ever that our current economic and societal system doesn’t benefit the vast majority of people who have to live in it.

What are your thoughts on this?


Looking at the Mutual Aide models that popped up overnight in my area (and have elsewhere for other disasters) as well as the Buy Nothing “Giving Economy” models, what do they have to teach us?

If we don’t change the entire structure, what changes can we make at a community level that will make a difference?


I spend way too much time thinking about the fact that the best way to build wealth in this economy is to participate in either:

  • Landowning
  • Buying shares of companies that post profits based on rampant consumerism and treat their labor that makes these products poorly

I enjoy looking at alternatives to capitalism that aren’t rooting in tearing up the whole system, but working within/around it. I think co-ops for both housing and purchasing are very interesting alternatives.

  • Group equity housing co-ops, where the land is owned by a trust that keeps it as housing, but everyone who lives in the house runs and shares in the owning of it, they do not have to put any capital in though
  • Shared equity housing co-ops, where resources are pooled but each person owns their individual piece of it and could cash out at sell to a new person - often run as apartment buildings or large intentional communities
  • Workers co-ops where the labor runs the business and one can buy into the profits with sweat equity not just capital
  • Consumer co-ops, where people get part of the profit revenue from the products they buy (like grocery co-ops or REI)
  • Community Supported agriculture, where consumers of food support the farmers upfront when they need the cost, and share in the risks and bounties of crops

This. One of the reasons I don’t join in my local socialist groups (despite being a socialist) is that folks there are often pro-revolution, including pro-violent revolution, and I think that we have to kinda… not do that. I really like setting up structures that are functionally outside the capitalist system as much as that is possible.

I’ve been really interested in co-housing.

Also love worker/consumer co-ops and CSA to bits, though I’m not in any in my town right now – I should probably rectify that.


I agree with you and @anomalily for sure. I don’t think that additional mass violence on top of the every day mass violence is going to improve people’s lives tangibly and within the timeframe it would matter most.

That’s the reason I’ve begun to look closer at policy changes at a city, county, state level rather than focusing all my energy at the federal level.

I really wish there were more housing co-ops in my area. I took a tour of one a while back, and was a little disappointed by how involved you were required to be in order to live there. I prefer for a lot of those things (shared childcare, shared meals) to grow more organically than to be mandated. I haven’t had the opportunity to interact with any others since then.

I’m now a fairly active member of my local Buy Nothing group. For the longest time I thought these were just free stuff groups, but that’s not the case:

They call your interactions participation in a Giving Economy.

So far I’ve delivered food to neighbors, picked up some pots and ant traps, gifted batteries and coffee.

It makes me wonder how wide-spread these groups are and if they can help make a social shift.


Buy Nothing is huge these days, all over the world.

Prior to that there was a group called Freecycle that is similar, I was pretty involved with them about 14 years ago.


Freecycle was pretty sweet back in ye olde daye.

Illathrael, you might be interested to look for a free skool in your town too, once things get less crazy, or anarchist spaces – there’s a lot of homegrown good stuff in those spaces.


Hmmm this does sound interesting.

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A lot hinges on how we define capitalism. Are we talking extractive industrial market capitalism or just the use of money as a medium of exchange? Something else?

Capitalism, the way I see it, is something that only works well when it as checks and balances. Money as the fundamental medium of exchange is a ridiculously efficient tool that you’ll be hard out to ever adequately replace. To use an analogy it’s like the engine of a car, but that engine needs suspension, wheels, etc. to get the job done.

There are so many historical intentional communities where people tried to exit capitalist society for various reasons and to various extents. Learning about their failure points is very instructive when trying to do thought experiments. It’s also worth noting how the long-terms successes all rely on the market system to survive - either via charity (donation of excess profits) or by selling commodities and finished goods into that market economy.

Money/exchanging a symbol of value for a good or service does not equal capitalism. It’s a system that, as you indicated, has been around in various forms for thousands and thousands of years.

Capitalism is prevalent because it spread, not because it grew organically across the globe. Just a quick thing to remember. It’s very very very very tied to colonialism.


I am personally talking about the economy of the United States as it operates currently. The money, who controls said money, the societal impacts and results. The whole damn thing. Not theory.

I’m talking about massively controlling and inflating prices of drugs, tuition, housing. The resulting poverty, lack of access to healthcare, lack of access to basic necessities.

I’m talking about being indebted to an employer and paying them with more than just your time. For example, heavily curating your social media, hiding your identity, white washing your wardrobe and every word in order to remain employed or employable to keep a roof over your head (if you’re “lucky” enough to have an employer and a roof to begin with).

If we’re discussing theory, sure, I could potentially get behind that. But that’s not what we’re living in, and we don’t have checks and balances. Kind of similar to how people say “Communism doesn’t work!”


I would describe all European countries as still fundamentally capitalist systems but they have a better system of checks and balances, the best being perhaps the Nordic countries.

The reason I asked this is that strict communism (of the sort usually only found in small intentional communities whether secular or religious) critiques the very concept of money and private property.

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Something I want to throw in here are Certified B Corporations

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Feel free to throw it in, but please also expand on why. You don’t have to teach a lesson, but it would give folks a general idea before having to Google/Bing/AskJeeves everything about it.

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The elevator pitch version of a B Corp is a company that‘s for profit but blunts the profit motive with explicit rules dedicating itself to good labor practices, donating to charity, ethical practices, etc


Cool, that would be great, but it would require heavy 3rd party moderation. Are you proposing that B Corps be a part of an alternative model, or that they be more widespread in the current system?


This is likely still off topic from what you are looking for @Illathrael but I wanted to put this out there, some examples of non capitalistic/non European capitalistic uses of money:

  • Potlatch (indigenous north Americans) where wealth is ritualistically destroyed (wiki overview:
    • This is still being done
    • It’s not outside of currency
  • Trobriand Island gifts/trade
    • This was written about in the book “The Gift” by Mauss which outlined the importance of physical goods in exchange for social connection, and made the comparison from this set of ritualized trade routes and gift giving and social obligation in European/American gifts. Caveat that this text is dated and written from a “European observer” prospective, as it was written in 1925.
    • Here’s a wiki overview:

These are just what I remember from the literal top of my head from anthropology classes 10 years ago.
There are lots of non-European examples of ways of being.


I think it could be either/both? Because once B corporations became, say, a supermajority of all corporations, it would in effect make a new system.

I will note that I have not done much research into the certification process and what the reality on the ground is with various B corps so it’s entirely possible it’s an idea that sounds good but in practice is not as good as I think it is.

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Yet another subtopic would be how debt is handled. Do you allow interest at all or is interest itself usurious? Do you allow interest, but only rates below ___ are non-usurious? Do you have a debt forgiveness element, like (for example) the ancient Jewish 50 year debt Jubilee?

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Or if debt would exist altogether.

Ideally, I would prefer for basic needs to be met in a different system, which would eliminate most of the current consumer debt as we know it.

  • Less mortgages (or none altogether) because everyone has access to housing
  • No medical debt because healthcare is accessible and affordable
  • No student loans because education is completely accessible