Civilizing the Economy A New Economics of Provision
“My goal here is not to think
outside the box, but to change
the box we think in.”
Marvin T. Brown
When a handful of people thrive while whole industries implode and millions suffer, it is clear that something is wrong with our economy.

In Civilizing the Economy, Marvin Brown traces the origin of this mistake to early capitalism aptly illustrated by Adam Smith's denial of the central role of slavery in wealth creation. In place of the Smithian property-based economics, Brown proposes a new framework for the global economy that reframes its purpose as the making of provisions instead of the accumulation of property. This bold new vision establishes the civic sphere as the platform for organizing an inclusive economy and a way to move toward a more just and sustainable world.

Marvin T. Brown photo

This book is the culmination of 30 years of teaching and writing on business and society from a communicative perspective.

Marvin T. Brown Ph.D. teaches business and organizational ethics at the University of San Francisco.

“As we humans puzzle our way to an understanding of how to live sustainably within Earth’s carrying capacity, Marvin Brown has provided a crucial piece of the puzzle. Civilizing the Economy is an important book because it expresses a keystone idea of the new economic system that must evolve if our species is to survive and live up to its potential.”

Ray Anderson
Founder and Chairman, Interface, Inc.


1 Introduction: Creating A Just And Sustainable Economy
Part 1: Creating a New Economic
2 Adam Smith's Silence and an Economics of Property
3 Reclaiming the Notions of Provision and Family
4 Making Provisions in a Dangerous World
Part 2: The Civic Option
5 From Property Relations to Civic Relations
6 Society, Civil Society and the Market
7 Restoring Reciprocity
8 Civic Norms and Market Competition
Part 3: A Civic View of Labor,
   Land, and Money
9 Labor: Employment as Engagement
10 Land: Ownership as a Concession
11 Money: Commodity or Credit
Part 4: Civilizing Economic Systems
12 A World of Systems
13 Imagining a Stakeholder Economy
14 The Ethics of Economic Systems
15 Changing Systems of Provision
Part 5: A Civic Agenda
16 The Civic Obligations of Corporations
17 Creating Circumstances for Civic Conversations
Appendix: Free Enterprise and The
   Economics of Slavery
  1. If we want to create a just and sustainable economy, we must free ourselves from the legacy of the Enlightenment’s economics of property-as illustrated by Adam Smith's silence about the role of slavery in wealth creation.

  2. We can create a new economics that is grounded in the three essential aspects of all human communities: making provisions for one another, protecting one another and creating social meaning.

  3. If we treat labor, land and money as providers rather than commodities, we can use what they provide and protect them from abuse.

  4. As global citizens we can organize civic systems of provision (food, housing, transportation and so on) that are based on civic norms, such as reciprocity, and are responsive to supply and demand.

  5. The future of our global economy depends on civic conversations in which all people are represented in deliberations on how to turn systems of provision toward justice and sustainability.

  6. We can create the conditions for such civic conversations right now at school, at work, in our neighborhoods, in our associations and in government agencies.

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