Civilizing the Economy A New Economics of Provision

Thinking from the Street

Posted Oct 9, 2011 by Marvin Brown in Uncategorized, No Comments

Can we think our way out of the mess banks have put us in?  No way.  Can we get out of the mess without thinking?  Impossible.  We need to think from the street—the street that runs through Wall Street.  It’s like a river.  The question is whether the riverbanks control the river’s flow, or can the river’s flow change the river’s banks?  Actually, the street is a public and civic space.  The street does not belong to the banks, but to the members of cities: to citizens.  To think from the street is to think as members of a common, global, civic community.

So how should we think?  I’m not sure, but I have some suggestions.  First of all, we need to think as citizens; which is to say we need to think as members of this generation who demand to be represented in designing our life together.   We have a right to be part of the plan and we have an equal right to the basic goods that everyone desires.

We need to think together.  In dialogue with differences and disagreements, we learn how to move forward.  We need both creative and critical thinkers.  We do not need true believers.  We need believers in our capacity together to discover the truth.

We need to think contextually.  Banks and corporations are not isolated institutions, but belong to various social systems—to systems that provide us food, housing, entertainment, and so on.  They should find their place in our communities instead of trying to control them for their profit.  We need to think about what a good bank would do for our communities and then push them into accepting this role.

Finally, we need to think collectively, in union with the people who have already put themselves on the streets and are staying there while our friends, families, and enemies wake up, recognize, and respond to the mess we have created.  Part of collective thinking is to think in gratitude to those who have sounded the trumpet that calls us to think more deeply.

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

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

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