Emergence and Displacement

Imperial institutions do not democratize through voluntary internal reform. Change of such magnitute comes only when people issue an implicit declaration of independence from the imperial system and engage in creation of new institutions and ways of living that eventually displace the old system. It is much like the process of emergence and displacement by which forest ecosystems evolve toward healthy maturity. 

A New Declaration of Independence


The journey to democracy that began with the American Revolution remains unfinished.

Our current situation as a nation and a species has instructive parallels to that of the early American settlers who mobilized to win their independence from a distant king. There was no model for the democratic processes and institutions to which their rebellion led. They learned and advanced the arts of political democracy through invention and practice as they set in motion the historic process of dismantling the institutions of Empire while simultaneously creating the institutions of a new nation.

The journey to democracy that began with the American Revolution remains unfinished. We, the people of our time, must mobilize to carry the process forward by learning and advancing the arts of economic democracy as we declare our independence from Wall Street in both word and deed.

Three Strategic Interventions

The work of creating the institutions of a new and more democratic economy has three primary elements.

  1. Change the defining stories of the mainstream culture. Every great transformational social movement begins with a conversation about a new idea that challenges and ultimately changes a prevailing cultural story. The civil rights movement changed the story on race. The environmental movement changed the story about the human relationship to nature. The women’s movement changed the story on gender. Our current task is to change the prevailing stories by which we understand the nature of wealth, the purpose of the economy, our relationship to a living Earth, and the possibilities of our human nature. Through public presentations, books, magazines, talk shows, and the Internet’s many communications tools, millions of people are spreading and engaging in conversation around stories of New Economy possibilities.
  2. Create a new economic reality from the bottom up. The new stories are lived into being from the bottom up through dynamic self-organizing social learning processes. Millions of people around the world are already engaged in building strong local living economies in their communities. They are establishing and supporting locally owned human-scale businesses and family farms that create regional self-reliance in food, energy, and other basic essentials. They are moving their money to local banks and credit unions, retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, and changing land-use policies to favor compact communities, reduce auto dependence, and reclaim agricultural and forest lands.
  3. Change the rules to favor the emergent new reality. The rules put in place by Wall Street lobbyists put the economic rights of global financiers and corporations ahead of the economic rights of ordinary people, place-based communities, and even nations. As we change the story and build appropriate institutions from the bottom up, we gain the experience and political traction needed to change the rules through the power of our numbers to support democratic control and self-determination at the lowest feasible level of systems organization.

Work on each of these elements is complementary and simultaneous. The story of unrealized possibility serves as a guiding beacon for those who are working to create a new reality, which in turn creates practical new experience to guide those who are changing the rules.

The living economies essential to our common future are already coming into being through self-organizing, bottom-up processes of learning and emergence. People everywhere are embracing this epic challenge with enormous energy and creativity.