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Dollars and Sense : Records 1974-1997 (Bulk 1982-1992)


The records of Dollars and Sense were donated to the Archives and Special Collections Department in 2000 by Alejandro Reuss, Co-Editor, Dollars and Sense.


The first Dollars and Sense, published in November 1974 and sponsored by the Union for Radical Political Economics (UPRE), had a stated goal “to offer clear and concise interpretations of current economic events from a socialist perspective.” Begun when the U.S. economy was in a deep recession and the unemployment rate high, the journal attempted to fulfill a need by providing instructive and useful economic information not found in mainstream publications and in a form palatable to everyone from the beginning student to the most seasoned economist.

Although the publication did not remain affiliated with UPRE, a collective has always run it. Based in Somerville, MA, and consisting of journalists, professors, graduate students and activists, the volunteer-based collective provides much of the production work for the magazine, including writing, editing, layout, and fundraising. Through weekly meetings the collective discusses the contents of upcoming issues, the business of operating a magazine, and editorial policy. Collective members are chosen for their political beliefs, which must mirror those of the magazine, and their willingness to dedicate between two and ten hours a week to the production of the journal. The collective struggled through the years to establish a diverse organization, one that differed from the traditional world of upper-class, white, male economics. In the past the group has periodically put a moratorium on accepting new men into the group until the sex ratio was fifty-fifty and organized a task-force to establish ideas on how to encourage minority membership in the collective.

The first magazine was a sixteen-page bulletin that sold for fifty cents. By its fifteenth anniversary issue it boasted of having worked towards “exposing the roots of financial instability, promoting economic justice, providing a forum for left debate, and reporting on grass roots organizing efforts.” The publication, which relies heavily upon grants, loans, and donations from readers for operation costs, weathered many rocky years – including the conservative 1980’s, which fostered an unfriendly atmosphere towards small, non-profit organizations. Dollars and Sense magazine celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1999, and although it is still run in much the same way as when it began in 1974, it has expanded to a forty-four page issue and is published six times a year instead of twelve, with circulation of about 8,000. In addition to the journal, the collective began publishing classroom readers in 1983 to aid professors and teachers in the educational use of the magazine. Titles include Real World Micro and Real World Macro, both of which have been through several editions since they were originally published.

Scope and Content

The records of Dollars and Sense magazine and collective range from 1974-1997 with the bulk found between 1982 and 1992. The collection documents the operation of the Socialist economic magazine and collective. It has been organized into the following five series. Some folders were relocated to fit into the appropriate series, which slightly changed the original order of the collection. Most of the folders retain the original heading given by the institution, but some were renamed for clarity. The new name is indicated in brackets:

 I.    Administrative files

II.     Financial Records

III.    Promotions

IV.   Production and circulation

V.    Anniversaries and awards

 In some sense, each series concerns itself with the day to day operation of the magazine. Because of the collective nature of the magazine, however, documents that may appear to be only about magazine production often include interesting information about the collective and its history. The collective’s purpose and objectives are expressed in many of the series, especially in the administrative files, financial records (in the grant proposals), promotions and anniversary celebrations. Generally the production and circulation series and much of the financial records series focus mainly on successful publication and distribution of the magazine through files that indicate Dollars and Sense’s renewal statistics, desire to maintain quality standards and customer satisfaction, and accounts and budgets, amongst others.       

Series I. Administrative files

The administrative files of the Dollars and Sense magazine and collective include personnel files about staff and collective members, meeting minutes, and editorial history of the magazine. Most of the sub-series within the administrative files offer an informative glimpse into the operations of the collective and the magazine. Editorial and article ideas, membership goals and hiring information, and the aims and goals of the collective are some of the topics explored in the series. 

Series II. Financial records

This series includes bank deposits, grants, loans, and fundraising files. Dollars and Sense is a magazine and therefore a business, but it is also in the unique position of being run collectively and as a non-profit. Because of this, the bulk of the financial records relate to the magazine’s pleas for funding and ideas for fundraising. In these files much information about the objectives of the magazine and collective and information about the financial ups and downs of a small organization is found. 

Series III. Promotions

The Promotions series includes ideas for and examples of promotions conducted by Dollars and Sense. The bulk of the promotions are conducted within schools, encouraging economics professors and teachers to use Dollars and Sense as an alternative educational tool in their classrooms and also to promote the classroom primers designed for schools and sold by the magazine; with labor unions; and gift subscriptions. The series also includes data on the success of some of the promotions, ideas for promotions and feedback from readers of Dollars and Sense. 

Series IV. Production and circulation

This series deals with production and circulation operations of the magazine. Included is information about the cost of distributing the magazine and issues in dealing with the mail houses, bulk distributors, circulation prices, legal issues and renewal /non-renewal decisions of subscribers. 

Series V. Anniversaries and awards

This series includes plans for and results of the celebrations of the magazine’s tenth, fifteenth, and twentieth anniversaries. It also includes awards given to Dollars and Sense from the Utne Reader’s annual alternative press awards, praise for the magazine and requests to reprint articles.