The Modern Money Movement with Andrés Bernal


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We are joined by Andrés Bernal, policy advisor to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and doctoral student at the New School for Public Engagement, Division of Policy Management and Environment. We speak with Bernal about his history with political organizing and the critical role he has come to play in the Modern Money movement, including the struggle for a Green New Deal. He also sketches out his dissertation project, which focuses on the Green New Deal as a site of collective action, political communication, and policy analysis.

Additionally, Bernal is a research fellow with the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity, and lecturer Urban Studies at CUNY Queens College. For more from Bernal, check out the article “We Can Pay for a Green New Deal,” which he coauthored with Stephanie Kelton and Greg Carlock.


The following was transcribed by Richard Farrell and has been lightly edited for clarity

William Saas: Andrés Bernal, welcome to “Money on the Left.”

Andrés Bernal: Pleasure to be here.

William Saas: Let’s start. Can you tell our listeners a bit about your personal background and scholarly training?

Andrés Bernal: Yeah, sure. I was born in Bogota, Colombia and immigrated to the U.S. when I was four years old. I spent my childhood in the suburbs of Chicago and, at around 10 or 11, moved to south Texas to the Rio Grande Valley. That’s where I have spent most of my life and it has been my home since college. During my undergrad, I studied philosophy, which has informed

my ideas and intellectual curiosities. Mostly, I was interested in two themes, which keep coming back to my life in different ways. One of them surrounds questions about the meaning of life and existentialism, experience and phenomenology, and psychology and psychoanalysis. The other is a deep interest in questions of politics, social theory, and political philosophy. [Such as], why is the world the way it is? Why are hierarchies the way they are? What are political and social structures? What are social systems? That sort of thing. Those two themes are kind of the foundation of my life.

After my undergrad, I did a Masters in Leadership Studies at the University of San Diego. That’s an interesting part of my journey because I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. Since I was 17, I had been very influenced by this nonprofit institute called the National Hispanic Institute. They run these leadership development programs for high school Latinos and Latinas across the country. We would build our own government, participate in debate tournaments, and develop skills around understanding systems, logistics, government processes, and institutions. It really left a mark on me and contributed to this whole narrative around who I am versus why is the world this way. Yet, I wasn’t exactly sure where to take that. I don’t know if I was as confident with myself as a thinker or writer at that time in my life.

At USD, I found this very interesting program in Leadership Studies, which focused a lot on organizations and group life–the way that people construct authority relationships and identities within groups and organizations. [The program] had this one practitioner side to it where we would learn a lot of coaching skills and consulting skills. And then it also had this other dimension, where you could study policy and nonprofit management skills. It had this one particular class that, ultimately, made me decide to go to the program. It was a summer class that you could take in Spain at the Mondragon Cooperative. For listeners, Mondragon is a worker-owned firm in Spain. It makes several billion dollars in profit per year with thousands of employees democratically owning and managing [the firm]. We went over there, spent some time at Mondragon, listened to the worker-owners, got toured, and heard a lot of presentations. It was a great experience. Overall, I spent two years in San Diego. After that, I took a year off. I lived in Austin, Texas. I did independent contract work with an organization that no longer exists called Cooperation Texas. They helped expand worker-owned businesses in central Texas. I interned and did research for them as I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. I also did an internship for a startup that was putting together leadership development experiences for employees and staff of various nonprofits and hospitals [in the area]..

Then, I found this program at The New School in Public and Urban Policy. In that department, they have an organizational change management program, an environmental sustainability program, and a policy program, to name a few. I was like, “Wow, this is really interesting. This is everything I’ve been doing.” Both [in terms of] my practitioner’s side and also those theoretical questions. Because, at that point, I felt the best path forward towards systemic change involved democratizing economic life. [This path] became very important to me because I wanted to explore why so many big social movements, or attempts to systemically transform society, didn’t reach their full potential. I felt that, while maintaining a lot of the same ideals from progressive democratic socialist movements and social democracy itself, introducing another layer of economic democracy, worker ownership, and a cooperative sector would be an important thing.

So that’s where I was going into my doctorate. I applied to the doctoral program at The New School. It was the only program I applied to and got in. I decided to go. At the start, I studied an initiative in New York City that was being led by the city council to use discretionary funding to expand worker ownership in New York. That’s what led me there and began that journey.

Maxximilian Seijo: Over the past few years, you’ve been swept up into this whirlwind at the heart of contemporary politics and economics. How did this happen? How do you see your role in contemporary political struggles and intellectual debates because of it?

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