Los Altos Institute: Mandate and Mission
Founded in September 2012, Los Altos Institute is a small non-profit institute or “think tank” based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Geographically situated at an intersection between the US and Chinese imperial spheres, Los Altos seeks to engage with both global and local issues with an eye to the dynamics of empire and its accidents at this particular place and time. Los Altos seeks to create a space that encourages and facilitates lay dialogue on major contemporary political and cultural questions, while respecting the principle of empiricism and practices of peer review. Looking away from knowledge-creation that all too often becomes elite technocratic discourse, we aim to generate and mobilize ideas that will be available to all citizens.
The Los Altos Institute has three overlapping purposes:
- to create a social and institutional space to support people without advanced degrees in the humanities and social sciences participating in advanced, scholarly exchange in the humanities and social sciences;
- to gather a left-leaning intellectual and social community engaged in a broad and dynamic discussion of the project of creating a post-capitalist society that is not tied to any specific anti- or post-capitalist ideology; and
- to engage in shifting public discourse about politics, knowledge and culture in the long-term, rather than focusing on issues of the moment, except insofar as these serve to dramatize or expose deep, structural issues.
The Los Altos Institute currently has three spheres of operation:
- producing scholarly articles and delivering papers at academic conferences offering a left analysis of key issues; and
- hosting reading groups, book clubs and salons to facilitate substantive, sophisticated engagement with major issues from a theoretically-informed perspective; and
- seeding strategic interventions in electoral politics, both through established political coalitions and through new political organizations.
Our names is inspired, in part, by the Republic of Los Altos (Spanish for “the Highlands”), which declared independence from the United Provinces of Central America in 1838. With an indigenous and mixed-race majority population who were committed to maintaining their developed systems of collective land tenure in the face of privatization, this state struggled to maintain its independence for the next decade until finally being forcibly annexed by the adjacent Guatemalan dictatorship. More broadly, Los Altos represents just one of many attempts on the Americas’ Pacific Slope – from communities of aboriginal peoples and escaped slaves in colonial Spanish America, through Salvador Allende’s government in Chile, to British Columbia’s 1980s Solidarity Coalition – to put forward socially and politically courageous alternatives to elite-driven orders of various kinds.
Our Artist and Designer
Los Altos Institute is the proud recipient of original art donated by Victoria, BC artist Alison Parker, trained at the Ontario College of Art and Design and daughter of renowned wildlife artist Ron Parker. The designer of our other masthead, Brian Morgan, serves as Art Director of Walrus Magazine and resides in Montreal.
Masthead Quotation Footnote
 This quotation comes from a biography of the putative founder of an ancient Mediterranean social movement, called the Ebionim or Ebionites, literally translated as “the poor.” The Ebionim traced their origins to a Judean man who split publicly with the John the Baptist movement and founded his own group; the historical record is unclear on what he called his movement but after his death, it came to be known as the Jesus Movement (after his first name) and later, Christianity. The Ebionim first appear in the historical record with their authorship. sometime between 60 and 90 CE, of the biography from which our masthead quotation is taken, which later came to be called the “Gospel of Matthew.”
The Ebionim, in their rendering of their movement’s founding, placed considerable emphasis on opposing economic inequality and the abuse of power by elites. Because their movement’s centre was based in Palestine during the suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt, and due to their early loss of and subsequent rivalry with their main recruiting agent for Greek-speaking converts, the original Ebionim fell into obscurity and may have ceased to exist altogether sometime in the second century CE.
However, their founding document has remained a highly important text in Christianity up to the present day, resulting in periodic attempts to reorient society based on its radical critique of self-interest, capital accumulation and legitimacy of social elites. The fourth-century Ebionim who opposed the successful efforts of the Jesus movement’s dominant faction to merge with the Roman state are an example of these efforts, as are the early generations of the Franciscan movement, the nineteenth-century Abolitionist movement and present-day Liberation Theology. Los Altos identifies itself as an ally of these movements and their efforts.