Second Reply Regarding Parecon
Michel, I will confine my reply to points of disagreement, or confusion, for brevity, after addressing, again, one overarching issue that seems to inform your entire reaction. But even at that, I apologize that this last reply regarding parecon is quite long. I have cut thousands of words from what I first wrote, but it seems that your confusions, perhaps due to my lack of clarity, are abundant, and I can't help but offer a full set of comments.
You say, again, that you are "opposed to monological blueprints as a matter of principle and instead, favor pluralist ... structures that grow organically from within the old." Why does saying this bear on our discussion? I have addressed this issue before and yet it recurs.
Regarding seeking new social relations that "grow organically from within the old" - where else can new relations come from than within existing societies plus human innovation? Do you think parecon utilizes instead extra societal or even extra planetary experiences or impositions from non humans?
Monological? If I proposed a detailed blueprint as your words imply, you might have a point. But parecon addresses only the broad features of four aspects of economy - decision making, equitable remuneration, the division of labor, and methods of allocation. More, even for those aspects, parecon's goal is to achieve self managing councils, remuneration for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued work, balanced job complexes, and participatory planning in ways that convey to participants self managing say in a solidaritous manner, and in forms that anticipate and welcome diverse implementations varying from society to society, from place to place inside societies, from workplace to workplace, and even from neighborhood to neighborhood as preferences and situations require. If you think that favoring parecon precludes favoring some other structure which should be welcomed in a good society, why not say what that structure is?
Monological? In fact, parecon, unlike p2p, literally elevates diversity to a central value, and, what's more, favors freedom and participation for all citizens, not just for a particular sector and not solely as a reward for their being volunteers, but as an unbridgeable universal right. So why am I monological, but you are pluralist? You might say it is because I reject more currently common structures than you, but we both in fact reject a very long list including diverse kinds of coercion, child labor, ignoring ecological implications, slavery, personal theft, authoritarian management, central planning, state control of workplaces, fraud, and on and on. I include a few more items in my list than you include in yours, but that is not a qualitative difference translating to my being monological as compared to you being pluralist.
Okay, if that difference isn't it, then you might say I am monological while you are pluralist because I strongly advocate a positive alternative whereas you just say that you prefer peer to peer and then say you want pluralism too. But isn't that disingenuous? You don't just favor peer to peer, you frown mightily on information operations that violate its norms and you would like to see such operations embrace p2p, just like I don't just favor parecon but would like to see pareconish institutions embraced in a good economy. You reject the logic of private ownership and control of information, but are still pluralist because there is still room for many other features in your views. I reject the logic of private ownership of any means of production, and also reject class rule, remuneration for power, etc. Why aren't I also pluralist due to there still being room for many other features in my views?
P2p advocates are not pluralist as compared to pareconists being monological. That is sophistry. Rather p2p-ers and pareconists have different proposals for positive outcomes, neither of which constitute a massive blueprint, and these actual proposals should be weighed on their actual merit for involved populations and society, not dismissed tout court by branding one set monological and the other set pluralist.
You even add that you "obviously believe that the next stage [of economic development] will coalesce around the peer to peer logic, i.e. it will have at its core open design communities related to an ecology of 'more equitable and sustainable production organizations'."
Why is that less monological than my saying I hope that the next stage of economic development will coalesce around pareconish logic, i.e., that it will have at its core self managing workers and consumers councils, equitable remuneration, balanced job complexes, and participatory planning, all permitting and enhancing classless, equitable, sustainable, and self managed social life for all?
In other words, how is your approach to proposing improvements in the human condition so different from my approach, on the axis of being open to diversity versus being regimented, that it warrants your labeling you pluralist and me monological? I say the real issue at stake is whether proposed institutions deliver self management, justice, diversity or other desirable aims we may have, and we ought to be discussing that.
Now, to your more specific comments.
First you say, "participatory planning: as part of a pluralist economy, sure."
What does this statement even mean? How about including slavery, would that make an economy more "pluralist"? How about child labor? How about the monopolization of information for personal gain? If those potential economic attributes can be ruled out without violating pluralism, and I assume you would agree that they can be, why can't we also rule out wage slavery, class domination, etc., without violating pluralism?
Put differently, what does parecon rule out which makes you feel it is not "pluralist"? Or even, what does having participatory planning for allocation throughout an economy rule out which makes you feel it violates being pluralist? If you have no answer to that, your comments are sophistry. If you do have an answer, please provide it.
Your accepting participatory planning "in a pluralist economy" implies that you believe a desirable future economy should have other types of allocation too. Well, in some sense I agree, such as for allocation inside living units, or inside workplaces, or for friends giving gifts. But in the broad exchanges between and among production and consumption units, the reality is that having two kinds of allocation mechanism, where one kind diminishes all sorts of desirable outcomes and imposes all sorts of restrictions and injustices, as markets or central planning do, while the other kind is compatible with our highest ideals, as with participatory planning, would not increase pluralism. So the issue is not abstract but concrete. Does participatory planning within a participatory economy propel our highest ideals? Would including markets and central planning in a new type economy trample those ideals? You don't address such claims and questions.
Next you say, still with zero reference to any actual features of participatory planning, "First, I do not think that exchange can be abolished as long as we have relative or absolute scarcity, and see the market as one possible way that humanity has devised to deal with exchange."
But of course exchange can't be abolished, nor should anyone want to abolish exchange, whatever that might mean, regardless of the level of technological or social productivity. And of course humanity has devised markets as one way of allocating exchange - just as humanity earlier devised slavery as one way of getting cotton picked, among other tasks, or it devised central planning as one way of allocating resources and labor, or it devised cannibalism as one way of avoiding starvation. Why is the observation that something was devised by humans relevant to assessing its merit?
Then you say, "But markets need to be divorced from the infinite growth mechanisms of capital, and need to be more equitable; where markets do not work, we certainly need other mechanisms, and voluntary federations could practice participatory planning. It can and should be applied to the public sectors. But a general and obligatory planning, however participatory, of the whole economy under one system, that could only be coercively imposed, no, I do not favour it."
First, markets in themselves impose a competitive dynamic propelling accumulation beyond what peoples' needs and desires warrant, and also drastically misprice ecological implications no matter the surrounding property relations. So extricating markets from ecological violations is like extricating dictatorship from authoritarianism. You can impose restrictions that reduce the violations, but the intrinsic problems remain. The accumulation dynamic of capitalism is part and parcel of markets and exists even if the private ownership is removed. More, the same is true for markets violating equity, unless by equitable we mean getting what your bargaining power permits you to take, the ethic of the thug.
You say where markets "do not work - we certainly need other mechanisms..." I say markets don't work anywhere, if by work you mean deliver equitable outcomes, convey self managing influence, accurately account for environmental and social relations, promote or even just permit classlessness, engender solidarity, etc. If I am right that markets always fail regarding broad social criteria, then by your own words "we should not use markets where they don't work" - we should be market abolitionists. If you don't think that, then you would have to defend markets not as just another option contributing to pluralism, which no more justifies markets than saying the same thing about slavery or cannibalism would justify them, but in their actual social, ecological, and material implications.
More, I claim participatory planning does not have the flaws that markets have and also has quite wonderful benefits such as generating true costs and benefits, promoting solidarity, fostering classlessness, delivering self management, etc. Again, my claim is either right or wrong - but to decide which, you would have to look specifically at participatory planning's structures and logic - a step you seem to be avoiding.
I will assume you know what participatory planning entails and accomplishes, since you say we should have participatory planning for "public sectors." But why should we have participatory planning for public sectors? Is it because participatory planning allows people to decide economic allocation in a self managed way in light of accurate valuations while fostering classlessness? Is it because participatory planning has better implications than market allocation for motivations, personality development, distribution of income and circumstances, and class relations? If these are why you favor participatory planning for the "public sector," why wouldn't you want these benefits for all of allocation and not solely the "public sector?"
Also, despite your desires for pluralism and my desires for diversity, the reality is that having multiple allocation systems in one economy is highly problematic rather than desirably pluralistic. An economy can't sensibly have central planners deciding one price, markets arriving at another price, and participatory planning cooperatively negotiating a third price, with the whole thing operating well. And that isn't just because we can't sensibly have three different allocation systems generating three different contradictory prices for the same good. Even if you only have different allocation systems setting prices for different goods, people's choices about what to produce and consume will be counterproductively based on clashing measures of social cost and benefits.
There is plenty of room for pluralism in allocation if society adopts participatory planning at its core - though an honest advocate of participatory planning will point out, as I do, that once participatory planning exists and is arriving at full and true estimates of social and ecological costs and benefits, the only reason to use different prices than those that cooperative negotiations arrive at, or to violate the cooperatively negotiated plan for some production level, would be the existence of norms, preferences, or emergencies that arise outside the economy, since in the absence of outside factors, violating the self managed plan would only waste resources or outputs and curb freedom.
You also say that participatory planning could only be "coercively imposed." I am not sure what you mean. Markets, which you seem to be largely okay with, or at least don't dismiss, are coercively imposed every day, not only by bombs and violent threats, but by disparities in property and power and oppressive legal structures. More, market outcomes in turn coercively delimit most people's options every minute they exist.
In contrast, once a participatory planning system exists, as best I can see, there is no need to coercively impose or protect it, nor would it be coercive itself, because there is no bottom sector exploited or made subordinate and no top sector given undue influence and income.
Michel, given that you are against economic coercion in every form, wouldn't parecon advocacy rather than worrying about the fact that in transition some people will obstinately oppose reducing coercion and increasing equity make sense for you, rather like freedom loving people becoming abolitionists despite that abolition certainly imposed unwanted changes on slave owners.
Michel, to me, saying parecon is monological or coercive is rather like saying that advocating natural selection against creationism is close minded, or that interfering with a bully in the least aggressive manner possible, is coercive.
About balanced job complexes, you say, "I see this as a very difficult issue."
So do I. Why is that relevant to assessing merit? You do not refer to actual features of balanced job complexes, nor the logic supporting advocating those features. You don't say what balanced job complexes deliver isn't essential to self management, or that they would have adverse effects that would offset gains. Those type of comments would be substantive, and we could discuss them.
You point out that overcoming gender divisions of labor has been slow and difficult. True. But, however we rate the pace of gender change, presumably that the elimination of sexism is difficult wouldn't cause you to think sexism should be welcomed, or even just accepted as part of a better future - to make it more pluralist. If I rightly said that Bill Gates and nearly all other capitalists don't want eliminate up copyrights, nor do most coordinator class people desire to do their labors as volunteers, so that getting rid of copyrights or producing without remuneration, will be difficult, would you see it as a reason to forego p2p advocacy, nor even as a comment bearing on the issue?
This isn't nit picking. You don't suggest that parecon is wrong in thinking that broadly equilibrating the empowerment effects of work is essential for accomplishing classlessness or that balanced job complexes do this without nasty side effects. You say only that you think those "who have spent their whole life fighting to escape the dreary tasks now devolved to the low-paid workers will be loathe to [accept balanced job complexes]; so, I don't really see it happening without coercion on a large scale."
First, those who benefitted from slavery, or from patriarchy, or from apartheid, or from dictatorship, of from monopolies over information, didn't like the prospect of eliminating their privileges either, but I hope you agree that that would not have been a compelling or even a morally tenable argument against restructuring social relations to abolish slavery, institute feminism, eliminate racism, establish democracy, or liberate information. So why would the fact that 20% of the population will have problems with instituting balanced job complexes be a compelling or even a morally tenable argument against seeking balanced job complexes on the road to classlessness?
More, there is good reason to think a large portion of the 20% who now hold coordinator class positions will in time see the benefits of attaining a just and fair society without alienation, class division, etc. There is also good reason to believe that a significant proportion of coordinator class folks will in time develop a sense of solidarity with those below. Indeed, we saw both trends quite dramatically in May 1968, in the French uprisings.
Peer to peer asks people, largely in or near the coordinator class, to work for nothing to get some dignity. Surely asking people to work for an equitable share of the social product and of society's desirable conditions, to get dignity and to also get rid of alienation and class division, poverty, profit seeking, and war would also find some favor, even among folks who would in part lose some benefits, though nothing remotely comparable to having to work for nothing, wouldn't it?
Then you add, "but can we make progress towards [balanced job complexes]? Probably yes, if a community of equals decides to create a parecon company, they may want to proceed that way, it's a matter of social experimentation, but I'm assuming rather slow progress on this front."
First, do you want slow progress - are you just an observer? Or do you want faster progress, and it is worth trying to bring it about?
Second, what "community of equals" do you have in mind? Equal in their assets, their confidence, their opportunities and circumstances? In current society members of one class are not equal in the mentioned attributes to members of other classes. I suspect you have in your mind a self selected community of coordinators, managers, and programmers and not other folks - which is to say not most of humanity. So what about people who work in corporations, subordinate to managers and bosses? Do you think it is wrong for them to collectively advocate and even demand that their managers and owners institute changes on the road to balanced job complexes? If you would support that, why do use phrases that imply that you would only support a group of equals who create a new workplace adopting the approach?
A real community of equals is what parecon generates, not what it is premised on. We start, sadly, from grotesque inequalities. If the only way we can have a change away from that harsh condition is if a community of equals advocates the change, how does a large corporation become a just place to work? How does a geographic region become a just place to live? Each includes people who will oppose such changes.
Differently put, what if a community of working people advocates balanced job complexes against the desires of owners of the place where they work, and also against the desires of a significant proportion of managers, engineers, etc. Are they precluded from demanding the change, struggling for it, etc. due to it not appealing to everyone?
You add, "Now, in the last part of your text, you actually go in greater detail about how you want to achieve it, and indeed I see there that you imagine different pathways, indeed in the context of a non-coercive emergence."
So why do you keep repeating adjectives and attributions you admit you know don't apply, to the exclusion of actually talking about the substance of parecon's features?
Anyone sane prefers non violence and reduced coercion to more violence and enlarged coercion - but for me the matter is contextual. We live in an incredibly coercive and violent world and if constantly delimited and subjugated populations could attain justice, equity, dignity, and appropriate influence by exerting force and even violence - I admit I would be for it, since given that we are assuming their choice would succeed, it would certainly eliminate far worse force and violence. In fact, however, I doubt that there is a successful path toward better social relations that incorporates significant violence or coercion in most places, at most times.
You say, "equitable remuneration: yes, we may want to proceed with a ceiling and progressive taxation, and upping the minimum wage, with also a basic income; right now the political power to do this is absent, but voluntary parecon institutions could proceed right away."
We "may" want to proceed in a more equitable direction? Why do you have such a hard time being definitive other than regarding information? Why do you imply it is okay in new institutions, but not to fight for in old persisting ones?
Parecon's approach to remuneration is of course militantly supportive of changes that move toward more equity now and more equitable relations in the future, but you don't address such matters. Do you think people ought to be remunerated for the output of privately owned property, for their bargaining power, for their own personal output, or remunerated only for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor? And is it desirable to seek equity not only in "voluntary new institutions" but also, against their owners, in existing corporations?
You say, "self management: again a very difficult issue, the record of self-managed companies is very mixed, but some are successful; but as a general principle, I favour it, though again, in a pluralist economy."
I suspect we might differ in our judgements about the cause of problems for a self managed company being increased participation and democracy on the one hand, or lack of assets and the debilitating context of market pressures on the other hand. But that aside, what does phrase about pluralism mean this time? Do you think it would be nice to have some self management but necessary if we are claim the label pluralist to augment it with some authoritarianism? I am not being flippant. It is a serious question.
In your discussion of how social change occurs, aside from mentioning only productivity and not people gaining control, integrity, etc., which are also often driving motives and factors, you emphasize that change is more likely if elites support it, or if they at least finally give in to it - which is of course quite true.
I add that that is what movements are for, to raise pressures that compel elites to succumb to demands that are contrary to their unpressured preferences. If you rule out such pressure as coercive, then you rule out change that is contrary to elite preferences. Is my logic wrong?
Elites don't, by the way, opt for productivity per se, but only for productivity that is consistent with their remaining on top. It isn't productivity that they seek, but elite power and wealth. Parecon would be incredibly more productive than capitalism, especially if we don't measure the size of the pile of outputs, but instead their implications for human well being and development. Elites will not advocate parecon on those grounds.
It is fine for you to be have doubts about popular movements transforming society - though it has happened, of course, in virtually every instance of progressive change. I put far less weight on forces of production, technology, and productivity as arbiters of social possibilities than you do. But regardless of that, there is an immense difference between hoping for popular movements to transform society while having doubts they will be able to, and simply accepting (ala Thatcher and it seems you too) that since desirable change won't happen without elite support, we have to seek only changes that can garner elite support.
You note that you are not saying "that the people 'at the bottom' should nicely 'ask permission' from those at the top, or only do things that are agreeable to them."
No, but I do think you are saying that those below should do things that put pressure on those at the top that pushes them to support changes that flow from the dictates of productivity, and I think for you, and p2p, this includes not openly demanding changes that would fundamentally challenge those at the top.
I say, in contrast, movements from below can and should pressure those at the top to create a context that makes it wise for them to succumb even to changes counter to their desires. This indicates a critical difference between us about the agenda of movements and about how worthy change can be won, but it is not a difference about parecon per se.
If you would agree that a workforce holding a strike and demanding higher wages and then winning their demands because the owners submissively decide that it is better to give in then it is to resist and risk ever greater worker activism and militance, is good, "voluntary," "congruent" and not "coercion," then we are both advocating, in that case, the same route to winning changes: pressuring elites by raising the social costs of their sticking to old patterns so high that elites must relent and accept new patterns, as well as creating new structures of our own.
But if you are talking instead about elites deciding in light of what they consider their unpressured interests that a course of action we favor is desirable for them as well - that is very different and has the problems of limiting our options to being elite amenable, as noted above. However, none of this addresses parecon per se. Indeed, despite continually saying that you are an open minded pluralist in these formulations, you seem to be constantly taking stances which rule out even having to seriously look at parecon's proposals for a better society.
Should a workforce drop their anti capitalist aspirations when an owner says, I don't like what you are seeking and I never will like it?
Should the Venezuelan Bolivarians pack up and quit because about 20% of the Venezuelan population, including virtually the entirety of its old political and economic elite, is aggressively and even violently opposed to the innovations and will at most live with them if they have to, but will not like them?
Let me be brutally forthright about my suspicions, so you can hopefully dispel them. Your main constituency is programmers, software designers, etc., in the p2p community. This group is very eager for an end to copyrights, for free information, etc. But this group is also, in considerable part, at least up until now divorced from concerns about the plight of others in society or even the plight of people with lesser jobs in their own operations. More, this group of people is very driven by notions of privacy, individual choice, etc. and is also quite dependent on corporate support and doesn't wish to alienate potential sources of it.
I fear that your repeatedly using terms like monological and coercive is playing to this community's prejudices and biases. Otherwise, why not explain what seeking classlessness, solidarity, diversity, self management, etc. excludes - and why not rail far more aggressively against the kinds of incredibly violent coercion that others suffer all the time?
I think you have in mind your constituency - and by monological you really mean, well, honestly, going beyond or including ideas other than those my community ratifies. But if you said that, it would not galvanize support and further p2p agendas. This may sound harsh, but it fits the evidence, I think.
And by coercive I suspect you mean contrary to various current inclinations of the p2p community, who you think would not want to work in a balanced job complex, or be remunerated less than they can take via their bargaining power or than the value of their output, and so would feel a change leaving those as the only ways to participate in economic life as coercive - though they don't seem to regard a situation in which most of humanity has virtually no say, no dignity, and a pauperish income for their labors, as coercive. But again, if you were to say that, it would not play well in the p2p community, or in part of it, at least, though I am guessing it might be a healthy discussion to open.
Hoping you will correct my reading, above, let me ask a few very succinct questions, for your concluding comment on parecon.
Do you accept workers and consumers self managed councils as a worthy, viable, and desirable venue of economic decision making - and not corporate boards, owners, coordinator class elites, etc.?
Do you accept remuneration for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valuable labor as an equitable norm for determining income (plus meeting needs for those who cannot work), and not remuneration for property, power, or output, as prevails more typically now?
Do you accept balanced job complexes rather than corporate divisions of labor for workplace organization as a means to full participation and self-management, in place of class domination via hierarchy?
Do you accept participatory planning for allocation among producers and consumers in place of central planning and/or markets, whatever other additional "logics" might make sense inside living groups, or among friends and people giving gifts, etc.?
If you accept all the above and are inclined to believe that parecon would be a classless economy and something wonderful that you hope we can win, but a long way off, that would be fine. In that case, we would no longer have to talk about the merits or debits of parecon as a vision.
If you instead have a problem with one or more aspects of parecon feeling it would be unviable or unworthy even if we did attain it - okay, please say that, and then we can try to see if you are right in your concern or not.
As to a conflict between what you call "netarchical capital and peer communities" - I wonder at the ease with which you leave out most of humanity in what you are willing to address. If you want to reply, that that's not fair because you see p2p extending, in time, to the whole economy, okay, wonderful but then please explain how p2p addresses decision making, remuneration, division of labor, and allocation - but in the other thread of the discussion.
You add still saying nothing about parecon, "And I say [p2p] will happen because a section of capital sees its advantage in a new way of producing that is hyper-productive compared to traditional capital."
But capitalists would only feel increased productivity was desirable for them if they also felt that they were going to accrue most of the increased output so that their overall condition was enhanced compared and so that the conditions of those below were not improved sufficiently to permit them to seek still more.
In other words, the idea that a process enlarging the advantages of the rich and powerful is going to provide a basis for justice, equity, self management, or anything else fundamentally transformative for the poor and weak more than stretches the imagination, particularly if wanting that elite involvement prevents p2p advocates from overtly and aggressively even generally advocating and incorporating in their own projects self management, redistribution, etc.
You wrote, in this discussion of parecon: "…classes, the state, (and the human ego for that matter), are not things that can be abolished, only outgrown, and the way they can be outgrown is to engineer relative scarcity into relative abundance."
Parecon doesn't suggest abolishing political or economic structures, much less human ego. More, our need to allocate scarce inputs, outputs, and conditions, is permanent. If you do x with some resources, energy, labor, or outputs, you cannot do y with those same assets, instead. How we choose what to do, however, and then the effects of what we choose, can be more or less self managing, equitable, consistent with dignity and solidarity, etc.
Since you suggest there is merit in "combining open design with equitable exchange and market mechanisms (including participatory planning ...), why are you so unwilling, it seems, to explicitly discuss the actual character and viability or desirability of parecon's features, as in the other thread we talk about the claims of p2p?
I had previously written, at the conclusion of a long argument, that you should not be dismissing parecon "based on name calling - which is honestly what I think saying parecon is `pulled out of an ethical dream amounts to.'"
And in this most recent contribution you replied: "That is indeed my general impression of Parecon, and indeed I could be wrong in this interpretation."
What is worse than being wrong is that your interpretation seems to be based either on a prior belief or on an inclination to say things p2p audiences will find congenial. Thus, it appears to make no difference to you that parecon emerges from decades of experience and struggle on the part of its authors and advocates, and before that centuries of experience and struggle by others - and that it derives from detailed assessment of diverse historical experiences of varied sorts, as well as from assessing experiments of a parecon sort. This is irrelevant to you - as are the actual features of parecon, about which you have said virtually nothing so far. Rather, what causes you to feel it is pulled from a hat, it seems to me, is that parecon goes well beyond p2p in directions that owners and coordinator class members, including many p2p advocates, will have difficulty with.
Then you add: "So let me ask you a very plain question…what are the signs, emergent patterns, which show that any of the Parecon proposals are making progress? What would you say to your troops to give them strength and hope that things are or could move in that 'right direction'? Where is the directory of Parecon companies and institutions?"
First, projects and movements don't start by being at their end point. So even if, say fifteen years ago, there were only a handful of people who even knew what parecon was, and perhaps only ten serious advocates in the whole world, and even if no one had at that point spent considerable energy assessing parecon's merits, much less trying to organize advocates and projects, the lack of motion and support would of course not have been a basis to reject it. I am sure you understand that since you realize that twenty years ago, and certainly thirty years ago, there was no p2p, which obviously did not mean there could never be p2p. Beyond that, there are a few central steps, without going on too long, that are part of making a case for the desirability of advocating parecon.
(1) Demonstrating and making known that parecon is worthy and desirable - since, if not, there is no point in supporting it. This first step has occupied most time to date and involves books, essays, interviews, public talks, etc. etc.
(2) Demonstrating a plausible scenario for attaining parecon, since, if not, there is no point fighting for it. I and others have taken on this task, but still need to do better, I quite agree. The proposed scenario encompasses developing growing support leading both to experiments in creating firms and council organization in neighborhoods and workplaces, and to waging struggles in existing institutions to win changes that not only improve people's lives now, but also create aspirations and capacities to win still more changes later, all in an on-going trajectory finally reaching sufficient scale and success to usher in the new social relations.
(3) Making a case, and this is again something I and others have taken up numerous times, though more needs to be done, that advocating and seeking parecon not only doesn't detract from the more immediate effort to improve relations and outcomes in the present, but, instead, that such longer term revolutionary work can enhance short term efforts by adding to the social costs movements threaten elites with as well as providing insights that can propel wider participation and support for activism.
(4) And finally your point - for spirit, momentum, to mutually learn, and to create ties, determining and indicating instances of progress, such as noting that from a couple of guys writing a book in 1990 we now have admittedly small groups in about ten countries, plus quite a few institutional experiments many of which proceed rather invisibly even unknown to the rest, plus additional people all over the world interested, organizing, etc. though admittedly it all still exists in horribly low numbers compared to our ultimate aims. We also have, however, on a larger scale, diverse efforts around the world that sometimes implicitly and other times explicitly seek pareconish changes, not least in Latin America, but not exclusively there.
You wonder "how to obtain a thing like balanced job complexes" without coercion.
Take a workplace. Suppose as is often the situation, about 80% of the workforce is working class and about 20% is coordinator class. Suppose - and this is real, right now, in Venezuela, for example - there is a push in that workplace (or perhaps throughout society) to institute balanced job complexes as a solution for a division of labor that is obstructing equity, dignity, self-management, etc. Some in the workplace (or society) respond, okay, we should keep pushing until the 20% sign on before we change over. We want consensus. Others say, no, we should win over some of the 20%, but then transform the workplace based on the high level of support for doing so. We can give everyone the option, of course, to leave or to stay, but if they stay, it will be in a balanced job complex.
This debate about what level of support to attain before making the change involves many variables, of course. But I wouldn't call either solution coercive in the sense you mean that term - which I take to be fear that some top down authority will impose its sense of just or fair relations on people for their own good - unless it was to say that not making the change permits the continued coercive subordination of all workers do only rote and obedient tasks (which is the opposite of your concern).
In any case the switch to balanced job complexes of course arises due to a social project of debate, exploration, experimentation, and also struggle. It is not about coercive imposition, though, yes, some workers who just don't want the disruption of learning new things and who doubt the benefits of balanced job complexes will be hesitant, as today in some large firms in Venezuela. And yes, and far more so, some coordinators who don't want to do their share of rote labor, will oppose the change and will have to accept an outcome they don't like, when the change is enacted. And yes, almost all owners will resist without end. The alternative to this level of "coercion" that only eliminates unjust advantages would be for huge populations to continue to suffer incredible injustice.
But the level of support sought before change is fully implemented is open and depends on many variables, not least the rapidity with which one wants to improve the circumstances of 80%, not losing the momentum of their activism, as against the patience with which one wants to continue seeking as many other supporters as possible. If you look at Venezuela you will see the Bolivarians are bending over backwards in the direction that you favor - debate, discussion, etc. - permitting the maintenance of oppressive relations from the past while slowly amassing more and more support for change, and avoiding fierce confrontation, even to the point of risking alienating the base of the project. The point is, more than one route into future relations is possible and such matters are overwhelmingly to be determined as conditions unfold. The goals we want to attain, in contrast, are more a matter of principle.
You write, referring to people advocating balanced job complexes and self-management: "there is not much evidence that it is happening..."
But of course there is a tremendous body of evidence that in times of struggle working people - though not their employers - move toward these goals. We see it all over the world, most recently very prominently in Argentina, Bolivia, and Venezuela, but also in coops that arise even in stable capitalist societies, and dare I say it, I hope in many p2p operations, as well.
You say, that you can only imagine pareconish transformation happening "by a revolution, and one that is under the exclusive control of say the bottom 20%, since the others would want to escape from it."
Of course transforming some part of society, economy or otherwise, in a fundamental way that creates wholly new relations, is a revolution, by definition. And while whether it can be done with overwhelming rather than merely majority support is an open question - I see no reason to presume as you do that the answer is negative. On the contrary, there are excellent reasons for thinking it is positive.
For example, why would the next 60% above the bottom 20%, all of whom would benefit tremendously in work conditions and empowerment and in social and material living standards without losing at all, want to "escape the process," other than perhaps due to not yet fully understanding it, or still doubting its sincerity, etc., so that there is more organizing to be done?
More, let's even take the next 20%, the coordinator class itself. Some of them are in the p2p constituency and you think they are going to do voluntary labor in order to gain some self-managed and otherwise non-subordinate and dignified work relations for themselves. Okay, in that case why wouldn't a lot of them, while pursuing those aims for themselves, notice the plight of others who are worse off, understand the gains for themselves from removing from society the conflicts between themselves and others, and understand the justice of benefits for all, finally aligning with massive movements that were seeking to deliver equity, self-management, dignity, for all, with no need to do for anyone to do labor for nothing?
You say, "[Your] argument is really about radical ideas that go 'against the grain' of generalized human practice."
For some reason - which you do not offer but you seem to simply take for granted, pandering, I fear, to your constituency's biases - you apparently think that solidarity, equity, diversity, and self management, including classlessness, go against the grain of generalized human practice. But that is nothing but prejudice, no different than saying, earlier in history, that gays having rights, or women having rights, goes against generalized human practice, as a way to deflect movements for those rights.
All new things are by definition different from and even contrary to old things. Your comment can't refer to just that fact. It seems, therefore, that your comment implies that you think council based self management, equitable remuneration, balanced job complexes, and participatory planning, which by now you know are the components of parecon, are themselves contrary to the innate interests of the bulk of humanity - or, alternatively, contrary to the interests of a sector of humanity powerful enough to forbid such changes. About both those claims, as compared to these things just being new, each of which are certainly stop signs to progress, we will have to agree to disagree.
You say while again telling me about p2p rather than addressing parecon, "since at some point a basic income would make sense, automatically, the lower end jobs [in p2p economics] would get higher pay... The difference is one between a gradual approach based on relative maturation of the social system, versus instituting them 'by fiat'."
Now we have another scare term, unsubstantiated - "fiat." But first note, all of a sudden your programmers and other information workers, all of whom are in the 60% who just a minute ago were going to fight against balanced job complexes so much that it would have to be coervicely imposed, are here going to pay those doing lower end jobs more then themselves? In contrast, I believe if there are lower end jobs, the higher end jobs will convey great power, and the occupants of those higher end jobs will see themselves as more worthy and will as a result use their greater power to pay themselves more. Thus the need for balanced job complexes to get equity as well as self management.
So what about the word "fiat"? Well, there is no place, in millions of words, where I say anything about "instituting changes by fiat," only the contrary. Again, I think that word slips in because it will work with your audience, or at least those in it who know nothing about parecon, not because you think it describes parecon.
Instead of obeying orders from above, you quite sensibly desire for people to arrive at new views due to circumstances, education, practice, etc., and to then change their lives in light of those new views, cohering together communities of folks including working to increase their numbers, etc., while becoming p2p practitioners. Well, we don't differ about that except that I see it happening for parecon and you see it happening for p2p.
That is, you imagine new relations emerging from large numbers of people becoming advocates, teaching new approaches, implementing new approaches, and presumably also demanding changes in existing structures, and so do I.
In your case the advocacy moves from relatively few folks to many folks to most folks, you hope. Same for me.
In your case there will be opponents who don't like the new trends and proposals, and who keep not liking them even after implementation, unto death. Same for me.
In your case, for the changes to happen, these recalcitrant folks will in the end have to be overruled. Same for me.
That won't preclude democracy, or even self management, if the resistance of these recalcitrant folks is based on their aggrandizing themselves at the cost of others as is true for capitalists or coordinators resisting parecon, or for copyright holders resisting p2p.
The differences that you think separate p2p and parecon in fact do not exist. What does separate p2p and parecon is the breadth of audience they seek to address and to benefit and the scale of changes they seek to win. P2p is confined to a part of the economy. Parecon addresses the whole economy.
You write, "I agree with the need for equitable remuneration."
By equitable remuneration I have spelled out, over and over, that I mean remunerating for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued work. If you agree with this, excellent. I hope you will advocate it within p2p institutions. If not, what don't you like about the pareconish norm?
You follow up: "If a large pareconish movement would exist that could instantiate such equitable remuneration, it would be naturally welcomed by important segments of the peer producing communities as a natural extension of the p2p ethos."
Great, but why not take more initiative? Why wait on parecon organizers? Why not advocate equitable remuneration now, openly? Not least, it would permit finding a worthy solution to issues of payment to creators of information.
I agree with you about linking p2p with parecon. I think parecon can potentially contribute to p2p's clarity about how p2p can internally attain self-management and remunerative equity, as well as inform its understanding of the obstacles both internally and in society. Even more, I think parecon can contribute to p2p advocates increasing their solidarity with other efforts at changes and with associated oppressed constituencies, thus curbing the possible tendency for p2p to become elitist.
In response to my earlier saying I thought it was "scare tactics to use words that verge on dictatorial, regimented, etc., but offer zero explanation of why you use those words,." you replied: "I use [the words] in a very specific sense, you are offering a full system for the whole economy; while I see p2p occurring amongst a plurality of economic forms."
So anyone who talks about a whole economy is monological? And is coercive? You talk about p2p efforts now, within capitalism, so of course you are talking about them occurring alongside diverse structures. The same is true when I and others talk about pareconish institutions coming into existence now, inside capitalism.
You continue: "This difference stems from your belief in the attainment of a classless society from the get go; while I see a rather long transition process, in which different class configurations will continue to exist, but nevertheless, substantial social progress can be achieved."
This is still another non difference. I don't know how long it will take to attain classlessness. Sooner would be better, but I agree it will likely take a long time, so that attaining parecon will likely be a long process, involving winning new structures within the existing system, alongside existing institutions, and winning partial gains, as well, within those institutions, and then also involving a long transition even after a broad transfer of power occurs.
You continue: "So my problem with Parecon is that I can't see any realistic transition from here to there, apart from a necessarily violent takeover."
This seems like a complete non sequitor to me, at best. Because it will be hard and may take a long time or even a very long time, it must be violent? That certainly doesn't follow.
Do you think it must be violent because one can't produce parecon in its entirety, tomorrow? I don't understand how you can not see any possible road forward other than coercion, violence, etc.
Look, now, today, at Venezuela. There is a struggle there, inside a still capitalist society, with owners, coordinators, etc., still in place and still wielding huge power. So here is a scenario. Suppose tomorrow the Venezuelan's announce that Bolivarian economics and 21st century socialism are participatory economics and participatory society. This is not inconceivable, by the way, but whether it happens or not, surely you can imagine it happening.
Then imagine, also, they continue with the process of creating 50,000 communal councils (they have about 30,000 in place, already) which in turn mature to become, as intended, the infrastructure of the new polity, overriding the old mayors, governors, and even legislatures and president with a self managing political apparatus.
Imagine they then continue, as well, the process of sequentially transforming old economic units and simultaneously creating new ones, with more and more of them incorporating equitable remuneration and over time, including providing training, etc., balanced job complexes, workers councils, and self management.
Likewise imagine they continue setting up, as they have been, means of direct cooperative negotiation of production and consumption between various units at many levels, with these growing more and more comprehensive, and replacing, finally, market allocation.
This is a plausible scenario that is largely dependent in Venezuela on the commitment of an elected federal government, plus avoiding external intervention. One can easily conceive scenarios even where that kind of government aid is absent, though it certainly does facilitate things and some might think it is essential.
You add: "I'm not denying revolutions won't or can't happen, they obviously have in the past and will in the future, but I question where the social agent is that will want to impose over the whole society, the whole gamut of parecon solutions, which is an integrated system."
It would be the beneficiaries of the new system, but not until, I agree, they understand the vision and have made the vision their own, including refining and enriching it, all of which occurs partly through the lessons of the process of struggle for changes, partly through the lessons of the process of developing new structures, and partly through just plain old education and organizing.
None of the above is hard to imagine. All of it is hard to do - but we are talking about creating a new world, not something minor. Of course it is hard to do.
Parecon can certainly exist in partial incarnations, even in single institutions, even in parts of single institutions, even within the confines of hostile capitalism, as can p2p. It is harder to preserve and expand than p2p, not because parecon as a whole will be an integrated system where the logic of each part will benefit from the rest - which is true - but because parecon's existence is far more threatening to capital than the existence of, say, linux, or more to the point, a particular linux workplace that barely escapes traditional organizational and class norms, if at all.
I agree that we don't know the future. That's why we decide what we like and we seek it, refining our judgments as we learn more.
You add: "Since I cannot clearly see any pareconish emergence, but see plenty of evidence of p2p-related emergence, I clearly believe the new meta-system will emerge from the presently existing innovative patterns."
Actually, it is just as easy to say that all the p2p-ish manifestations are pareconish as to say they are not. They go part way, regarding some aspects of information allocation, for example, whether they go further will be up to those involved. And as to why you don't see other indicators, I suspect it has more to do with where and how you are looking then with what is out there.
You note that "the majority of the working class tries to relatively escape the worst kind of work." That is a very strange comment to counterpose to efforts to win parecon. First, the majority of workers have no avenue whatever to escape subordinate work - it is all that is available to them, rote and repetitive. On the other hand, of course all workers would like to do less rote, tedious, and otherwise debilitating work, which is why they will respond well to a movement that makes a convincing case that this work could be dramatically reduced and also, likely even more important to worker motivations, apportioned justly, rather than dumped entirely on them.
You say: "Your example of private ownership is a good one. I think abolishing it is indeed a recipe for extreme social strife. At least in the West, most people, including especially workers, are very protective of their private ownership."
After all this discussion, this is, I am sorry, Michel, an incredibly odd thing to write. Parecon doesn't oppose workers owning things, as you well know. It opposes anyone owning means of production. Why write the above other than to pander to uninformed biases and fears.
The issue is whole workforces rejecting the idea that their workplaces and the resources under the ground, and so on, should be privately owned.
You say we should not assume or provoke "an all-out class war that is detrimental to everybody."
Why do you persist in thinking I can't and don't agree with minimizing conflict? Really, you know better. And again, to assess something beyond my personal inclinations, look at Venezuela, among other possible sources to study. They may or may not be truly seeking, and may or may not actually attain the kind of participatory structures I advocate or others of comparable benefit, but they are most certainly hell bent on avoiding the "all out class war" you reasonably fear.
I wrote in the prior round of our exhange: "If markets persist, if private ownership persists, if remuneration for property and power persist, they will imperially subsume and contour most all economic life and ruling elements will rule. A `not in my backyard approach' is possible, up to a point, for certain sectors, at certain times - especially if they are willing to suffer considerable costs for very partial gains. But for information workers to engage in market relations and wage slavery - or domination - to get their incomes - plus to engage in volunteerism regarding their craft, all with little or no attention to material production and allocation more broadly, would in my view be barely progressive at all. On the other hand, if p2p projects embraced the idea of p2p as a contextually dependent set of practices aimed ultimately at generalized social change, perhaps toward parecon, then p2p could be socially and morally responsible, rather than narrowly elitist."
You replied: "P2P is a really existing practice, and indeed, most practitioners do not really care about the larger social context, or at least do not see it as necessarily directly connected to their p2p practice. They adhere to various philosophical and ideological paradigms, even as they are engaging in free software, open design, etc. Paradoxically, I see this as a strength rather than a weakness, since it means that the practice is not growing because they think it is a 'ethically nice thing to do', but rather as a practical necessity that delivers results."
First, there is no practical necessity for programmers to work on linux for nothing. That's absurd. Michel you may think that it is paradoxical, but I would have to say it is instead sad to think that being devoid of social concerns is a good thing. You doubt the desirability of p2p communities overtly supporting parecon - even though you seem to agree parecon would be classless, etc., because parecon might entail struggle against recalcitrant elites. On the other hand, you are perfectly happy to not only identify with but be uncritical of and even praise a community for cutting itself off from the conditions of others who are incredibly violated and self interestedly pursue only (quite limited) personal advance.
You add: "And this is precisely why I think it will grow, beyond my or your wishes."
Porn sites grow. Growing is not the sole criteria of value. P2p has some important virtues, and could have many more, but it depends very much on the project developing a social conscience and connection plus a wider comprehension of social relations than the awareness which arises only from noticing that new technologies facilitate nearly free dispersal of some outputs.
You say: "I propose a next step, which is the one you call for, i.e. I connect this really existing practice, with the overall necessity for social change towards more equitable and sustainable society."
Very good. Indeed, I think it is a worthy path.
You say: "The question is: will those proposals and that vision be taken up, and that is indeed an open question."
Of course it is an open question, but the likelihood will be enhanced if people like you address projects like parecon without the baggage of terms like monological, coercive, and fiat, and without presuming, before the fact, that failure is inevitable.
You add: "Overall, as I said before, I see the emerging p2p movement not as a sole player, but as one that will influence the social justice and sustainability movements, as part of a global coalition for change."
Indeed, and assuming it develops an outward socially concerned aspect, I think can play an important and positive role.
And you note: "Unless Parecon becomes a mass movement or a real practice itself, it will be one of the marginal players in this global transformation, inspiring some of the actors to go further in the creation of alternatives modes of social organization, and thus part of a wide panoply of social experimentation. But nothing more and that will be an achievement in itself."
Unless parecon succeeds it won't have succeeded. I agree.
And finally, "Albert, with this contribution, I hope to have finally engaged more with the details of your own Parecon proposals."
To have "finally engaged more with the details of parecon proposals" would mean addressing their substance. They are all formulated in light of values sought, structures proposed, and claims about those structures.
The values are solidarity, diversity, equity, self management, efficiency at meeting needs and developing potentials without wasting things valued or having other harmful effects, and classlessness.
The institutions are workers and consumers self managing councils, remuneration for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor, balanced job complexes, and participatory planning.
The claims for these institutions are that they are essential for attaining the favored values. Some critical ancillary claims are that private ownership of productive assets, class domination of decisions, remuneration for property, power, or output, corporate divisions of labor, and market or centrally planned allocation are destructive of the values.
I don't think you addressed, honestly, any of that. I think you only implied that parecon was not pluralist, that it was monological, that elements of it would not appeal to various people and therefore it would be hard to win, and thus, in your view, would have to be coercively imposed. Okay, I will take that reaction, pending further discussion, as assent on the aims of parecon, but concern only about the means.