About Us

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:

  1. 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;
  2. 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
  3. 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:

  1. producing a regular journal with two to four issues per year, at least some of which will focus upon a theme or subject of inquiry; and
  2. hosting dinner salons and other opportunities for discussion among fellows and interested members, to learn from one another and to explore and re-examine priorities.
  3. offering structured, practical learning opportunities for activists and scholars seeking to acquire or deepen their skills and knowledge in areas such as political theory, civil disobedience, research and organizing.

Los Altos

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.