The Decline and Rise of the Consumer: A Philosophy of Consumer Cooperation

The Decline and Rise of the Consumer: A Philosophy of Consumer Cooperation

The Decline and Rise of the Consumer: A Philosophy of Consumer Cooperation

The Decline and Rise of the Consumer: A Philosophy of Consumer Cooperation

Excerpt

Shortly after I published A Free Society, the Editor of the Christian Century, Mr. Charles Clayton Morrison, invited me to discuss consumer coöperation in that bravest and most forthright of religious periodicals. "What is needed," he wrote, "is that consumer collectivism should get itself stated in terms of a fundamental philosophy. . . . Your distinction between consumer and producer, which derives from the fact that consumption is a natural function involving values and ends, whereas production is an acquired function derived from necessity . . . together with your proposal to organize this consumption function into the structure of the social order . . . will come nearer to satisfying the religious mind, which is seeking social expression, than the orthodox socialistic conception."

Out of the articles composed for the Christian Century grew this survey of the principles and practice of consumer coöperation and exposition of the philosophy of life which underlies them, nurtured by the interest of Mr. Morrison and the urging of Mr. E. R. Bowen, Secretary of the Coöperative League of the United States of America.

Fundamentally, the philosophy is as simple and obvious as Columbus' egg, and as surprising.

Its point of departure is the fact that first and last human beings are not employers and employees, capitalists and laborers, carpenters or clerks or undertakers or farmers or physicians or miners or machinists, but human beings, simply living men of flesh and blood. As living men of flesh and blood we are organic individuals; we are persons. In our feeling of ourselves, in our living, we do not split off into vocations or professions. We do not define ourselves by special functions or by this or that separate and distinct set of social or institutional relationships, each tending to overrule and exclude the others. To one neighbor we may count as carpenter, to another as patient, to another as customer, to another as Elk, to another as Christian . . .

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