This week at In The Past Lane, the American history podcast, I interview historian Joshua Clark Davis about his new book, From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs. Davis takes us through a fascinating examination of 4 types of what he calls activist entrepreneurship: African American bookstores, feminist businesses, head shops, and organic food markets. His work challenges the notion that political activists on the left rejected capitalism and the market.
Rather, they sought to use the market to further political change; and to demonstrate that businesses could be run in ways more humane, democratic, and community-oriented than traditional businesses that focused primarily on profits and growth. One of centerpiece features of this book is the story of the rise of Whole Foods in the late 1970s as an activist, alternative business that was dedicated to social change and how over time it morphed into a more traditional profit-seeking corporation.
Among the many things discussed in this episode:
Why some activists on the left in the 1960s and 1970s turned to small business enterprises as a way to build community and promote social change.
How the growth of African American bookstores in the 1960s and 1970s was closely tied to the Black Power movement.
Why the growth of head shops in the 1960s and 1970s represented more than merely the rise of marijuana use.
How some feminists in the 1970s founded businesses like book stores and publishing houses to promote feminism, women’s voices, and independence.
How activist entrepreneurs established bookstores and other enterprises to promote more a humane, democratic, and community-oriented business model that stood in contrast to traditional profit seeking one
How Whole Foods turned from being an activist, alternative business dedicated to social change to become a more traditional profit-seeking corporation.
How large corporations have co-opted the language (“organic” and “artisan”) and image (“local” and “mission-driven”) of independent activist entrepreneur enterprises.
How gentrification played a key role in reducing the number of independent activist entrepreneur enterprises like bookstores and organic food suppliers.
About Joshua Clark Davis – website
Joshua Clark Davis, From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs (Columbia University Press, 2017)
John Mackey and Rajendra Sisodia, Conscious Capitalism (2013)
Music for This Episode
Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)
Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)
Lee Rosevere, “Going Home” (Free Music Archive)
Jon Luc Hefferman “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)
The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)
Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer
Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson
Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions
Photographer: John Buckingham
Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci
Website by: ERI Design
Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too
Social Media management: The Pony Express
Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates
Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight
© Snoring Beagle International, 2017