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  • Madeleine Frey

What is "the system?" And why does it need to be dismantled?

Updated: Mar 23

Hii!!! Yes, I am sitting around reading this book on a Friday night and it is exactly what I want to be doing! It's called The Revolution Will Not Be Funded and damn it's good.

And, I think it's a great description of what I mean by "the system." I don't mean democracy - I totally agree with Stacy in her podcast that my friend Elaine sent (thank you Elaine!!) that we need to be working to make democracy work for everyone. She said if something's not working you need to either break it or build it. YES.

The system I am talking about is our economic system of capitalism, which, when unchecked due to the current deregulation our democracy has allowed, creates massive inequity and poverty, and entrenches white supremacy. This results in the prison industrial complex, the military industrial complex, and institutionalization of other oppressions in order to keep profits high.

For many years I have been critical of philanthropic organizations who weaken our democracy through wealth hoarding and amassing resources in the hands of a few. I see foundations (even more after reading the preface and first chapter of this book) as a very real, very evil part of that system. Essentially they "give" money to nonprofits (ie the double whammy my friend Zanne talks about) to:

  • monitor and control social justice movements;

  • divert public monies into private hands through foundations;

  • manage and control dissent in order to make the world safe for capitalism;

  • redirect activist energies into career-based modes of organizing instead of mass-based organizing capable of actually transforming society;

  • allow corporations to mask their exploitative and colonial work practices through "philanthropic" work;

  • encourage social movements to model themselves after capitalist structures rather than to challenge them

We are participating in this structure, it's just much harder to see it from where we sit as nonprofit/academic types. And, there are parts of nonprofits and academia that we want to survive the revolution (whereas we don't want any part of the Prison Industrial or Military Industrial complexes to survive)


This book also says:

"While paying critical attention to differences within the AIC (Academic Industrial Complex) and the NPIC (nonprofit industrial complex), we also must be cautious not to mistake the individuals in those settings for the institutions themselves. Life within the NPIC and AIC requires constant negotiation of how those complexes constrain and enable transformative work. In those negotiations, individuals are not only shaped by their institutional locations but also push back and shape their organizations, universities, and broader contexts. One way to attend to these dynamics is to consider that most people are positioned within the AIC or the NPIC as workers and as such find themselves caught between their own exploitation and the promises and pitfalls of their schools and organizations. Workers in non-profit organizations, like any workers, navigate the demands and restrictions of their jobs and the conditions of their workplaces. Non-profit workers are often members of the same communities that their organizations address, and as people of color, women, queer and trans people, and immigrants are also targeted and made vulnerable by the same systems of exploitation and oppression that they challenge in their work. To the extent that non-profit organizations maintain the status quo, these forms of violence, including racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and ableism are reproduced internally in these settings."

I found that passage incredibly insightful as to why we are so frustrated with our current jobs and clients. To me this feels like the consciousness raising of the 1960s - this is our moment of realizing that we are both oppressed by AND reinforcing the system at the same time.

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