Tag Archive: parecon

What happened to dreams?

I miss democracy.  Sure, America was never as democratic as our high-school textbooks would have us believe.  We were founded on land secured by genocide, build off the labor of slaves in the South and poor, mistreated white laborers in the North.  “All men were created equal” actually meant men, and property owning white men at that.  But over time the people who had been shoved aside and stepped on picked each other up.  Over time, slavery ended, women fought for the vote, property qualifications on voting were abandoned, workers could form unions, and currently our Queer brothers, sisters, and transters are fighting for equality.  The revolutionary ire of the 60’s became mired in the liberal conception of freedom–doing whatever one wants without thinking too much about what one wants–and despite the beauty of the ideals of peaceful, happy, free societies, rampant drug use immobilized portions of the hippie movement from creating structural changes.  The gains of the 60s were followed with the consolidation of global capitalist power, leaving us a neoliberal train wreck of an economy–one that pits workers against each other, destroys the environment, replaces living wages with debt, and responds to its lack of profitability with layers of financial tricks stacked precariously on the edge of a very large cliff, and we all may be faced with looking into that abyss. . . or we may not.

We could make it–but we need to dream.  Mainstream economists will tell you that prices have to rise if everyone has a job.  Politicians will tell you the government can’t make jobs (let somehow the government gave them a job–I guess they just mean jobs for us).  And both of those statements are false.  If everyone gets a job, no one’s desperate for a job, so they have to be good–and wages rise.  So they raise prices to maintain a profit.  And profits are nothing other than money we earn and they keep.  Profits are bull–the purpose of job availability and pricing should be to meet needs.  And the government can invest to create jobs same as private companies–but doesn’t because it would compete with a company’s ability to make money off our needs and inadequate government.

We can do better.  What is stopping us from creating communities build around our happiness and needs? In tune with the environment and each other?  Why can’t we co-manage our own workplaces?

The Chamber of Commerce wants to wage war against whatever democracy we’ve fought for over time, hoping that corporate financing of our candidates skews our system in their favor, just as such groups hope corporate financing of NGOS skews our attempts to change the world.

If the moneyed interests want so bad to control our society, I suggest a version of what the Paris Commune tried, and so many intentional communities have tried or are trying ever since. . . I suggest we pull out of their labor markets, their consumption patterns, their apartment complexes.  We form our own worker and consumer co-ops and coordinate production and consumption with each other, and outside of the market.  Different models have been suggested, Parecon and the model developed in Towards a New Socialism–and I’m not suggesting I’m committed to either of those visions in total.  But we can take inspiration, and we can create a new world, a Post-Capitalist world from a process of creating Exo-Capitalist modes of production, consumption, LIVING.

Capitalism: A Love Story

Michael Moore’s newest documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story, is scheduled for wide release in early October.  From the reviews that I’ve read, it is an excellent movie, and Moore goes straight to the point of our modern social ills: capitalism.  That being said, I urge everyone to see it, and to convince everyone they know to do so as well.  The fact that a good, thoughtful, and sound piece of media is getting such wide release and positive publicity, from someone in the popular consciousness, is something I never expected to see.  That said, after I see it I will have much to say.

To make this short, his conclusion is that we need to replace capitalism with a democratic economic system, and shows examples of worker-owned factories.

In the mean time, for those looking for proposals for what democratic economic system we should have, here’s a short bibliography for you.

Here is a list of some models of decentralized, participatory planned socialisms.

The three biggest models right now are:
(1)   The Parecon model, whose primary theoreticians are Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel (and which is associated with Z Communications, including Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn).  Z Communications has a space on their site specifically for it at http://www.zmag.org/znet/topics/parecon, where different theorists working to develop its implications in economics and in the wider society.  Their whole model is founded upon their argument that resources should be distributed according to effort, tempered by need.
As for books:
Michael Albert has a book called Parecon from 2004 which is a great summary of the position; it’s available at http://www.zcommunications.org/zparecon/pareconlac.htm.
Robin Hahnel has another book from 2005 called Economic Justice and Democracy: From Competition to Cooperation, and I personally like it better than the Albert book. . . it has some really important discussions of egalitarian intentional communities as well as a good presentation of their overall critiques of capitalism.
More of their books are available online here:  http://www.zcommunications.org/zmi/readparecon.htm
(2) The Cottrell/Cockshott model:
The original model is presented in Cottrell and Cockshott’s book Towards a New Socialism, published in 1993, and is fully available at their website: http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/socialism_book/.  In addition, many of their subsequent essays expanding on the book are available there, too.  You might especially enjoy their advocacy of direct democracy, and rejection of representative government as a hidden extension of class rule masquerading as democracy.  They propose how direct democracy can be feasible given our current technology (even as of 16 years ago).

(3) The Adaman/Devine model:
Of the three primary models of participatory planned socialisms, I know least about the proposal of Adaman and Devine.  I only know that it’s grouped with the Parecon and Cottrell/Cockshott models as a fellow model of democratic, participatory planned socialism.  It’s initial book is Pat Devine’s Democracy and Economic Planning: The Political Economy of a Self Governing Society (1988), and expanded in the articles “Socialist Renewal: lessons from the calculation debate” in Studies in Political Economy 43 (spring): 63-77 (1994); “A response to Professor Foss” in Studies in Political Economy 49 (spring) 163-8 (1996); “The economic calculation debate: lessons for socialists” in the Cambridge Journal of Economics 20(5): 523-37 (1996); and “On the economic theory of socialism” in New Left Review 221 (Jan-Feb): 54-80.

Finally, (4) Science and Society Vol. 66:1 has a series of articles by all the major proponents of democratic, participatory planned socialisms, expanding their theories in certain ways and/or addressing critiques.  Additionally, each article is followed by comments from some of the other theorists, and then replies.  Albert, Hahnel, Cottrell, Cockshott, Adaman, and Devine are all here, as well as some other advocates of such an economic system.

This is a lot of reading, but as Moore’s movie was meant to critique the system and propose guidelines for solutions, not the solutions themselves, I wanted to fill that in a little, for all of us.  Again, go see the movie when it’s widely released, and comment on my blog with what you think.

In Solidarity,

The Practical Utopian

This post is just a plug for some excellent books and authors I want to share with everyone. –comment if you have one you want to add, or have a comment on one I’ve added.

Rodney Peffer- Marxism, Morality, and Social Justice

Charles Andrews – From Capitalism to Equality


Michael Albert – Parecon

Cockshott and Cottrell – Towards a New Socialism


 Erich Fromm – To Have or To Be, The Art of Loving, the Sane Society

Michael A. Lebowitz – Build it Now

Meszaros – Socialism or Barbarism