Comparing Capitalism and Parecon

Comparing Capitalism & ParEcon Workplace Organization

How are workplaces structured and what implications does it have for people’s say over their own work lives? This page compares capitalist and parecon workplace organization.

Next Entry: Comparing Regarding Jobs

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“The Scream”
by Edvard Munch

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“Descending”
by M.C.Escher

Introducing Capitalist Workplace Organization

In a capitalist economy, with a corporate division of labor, workplaces are either corporations or closely modeled on corporations. Thus, there is a sector of owners who have ultimate legal power. There is a sector of highly informed and skilled employees who have very substantial control over daily decision making and the ebb and flow of outcomes in the workplace. And there is a large sector of employees who do largely rote labor, at the behest of others, and with little to no say about their own conditions or the conditions of anyone else in the workplace. The design and organizational chart of each workplace reflects the above. Some have opulent work environemnt, some quite pleasant and empowering work environment, and some have a loud and fragemented, often even dangerous work environment. Information flows in the workplace are private lines of subtlely authoritative inter communication across the higher levels, and grossly authoritative lines of command downward.

There are gathering places for people to develop their viewpoints, attach themselves to agendas, and make a case for them — these are called board room and other such names, and are entirely off limits to all but select higher level employees. For most employees there is only a place of exercize of subordinate, generally manual, labor — and all communication about policy is curtailed.

Decisions are made, ultimately, by owners and high level employees who monopolize critical information and skills. Everyone else simple obeys. In different board rooms, and different contexts, and for that matter different instances of corporations, different procedures are invoked. Ultimate rule by those who own is enshrined but often decisions are actually taken, at the highest level, with votes, even with a consensus approach. The mark of rule is that the modest level of mutual regard for opinions that exists, exists only over the heads of most of those who are most affected by outcomes.

Introducing ParEcon Workplace Organization

In a parecon, with balanced job complexes, workplaces are classless. The key structure is the workers council — and its many component layers of individuals, team, divisions, etc. Each worker has a balanced job complex and is able to exercize their capabilities at a range of tasks suited to their talents and interests, but also involving its fair share of less empowering activity. Decisions are taken at various levels, in light of more encompassing decisions at broader levels — teams operate in light of division level priorities, in turn in light of whole workplace policy, etc. The deciders, always, are the workers. There is no one who is anything other than what everyone else is — a worker with a balanced job complex.

Overall, each worker has comparable conditions, comparable empowerment, comparable reinforcing of capabilities on the job. Information flows are designed to convey knowledge so that each actor is in position to have an informed opinion about decisions that impact hi or her.

There are gathering places for people to develop viewpoints, attach themselves to agendas, and make a case for them — at every level of the workplace, and even during the normal give and take of daily work itself. They are entirely public, as is all information.

Decisions are made, ultimately and always, by all those affected (including say for those outside the workplace by other institutional means) in proportion as they are affected, and with access to all needed information. Voting procedures vary from case to case — sometimes one person one vote, fifty percent plus one makes sense, other times more may be needed to decide a new position up to ful consensus in some cases. The number of people involved in decisions will vary too, in accord with who is most affected, or not affected at all.

 

Evaluating Capitalist Workplace Organization

If the aim is to enshrine and defend hierarchies of power and privilege as the highest priority, then historical experience and reason both suggest that capitalist workplace organization is optimal, or very nearly so. But if the aim is to have the most efficacious and just use of productive potentials of a whole workforce, while respecting the dignity and integrity of each member, and while conveying means of best utilizing the creative and productive capacities of each member, and while plumbing the best insights of each member with appropriate decision making power accorded to each member — then the capitalist workplace organization is an abomination.

At its best, working as it is conceived to work, and without suffering flaws due to all manner of legal and interpersonal vendettas of interpersonal scorn at the top, it utilizes the talents of a subset of the workforce — roughly 20% — but squanders a substantial part of even those not on producing valued outputs in light of the broad social implications (including pollution, etc.) but on ruling over those employed below and preserving the dominance of those employed above. And it totally squanders the more creative and initiating potentials of the completely subordinate part of the workforce, shoehorning them into slots that demand only subservience and endurance of boredom — again to ensure hierarchies of power and income and not on behalf of quality output.

Evaluating ParEcon Workplace Organization

If the aim is to enshring and defend hierarchies of power and privilege as the highest priority, then the parecon workplace design, in any of its many varients, is an abomination. But if the aim is to have the most efficacious and just use of productive potentials of a whole workforce, while respecting the dignity and integrity of each member, and while conveying means of best utilizing the creative and productive capacities of each member, and while plumbing the best insights of each member with appropriate decision making power accorded to each member — then the capitalist workplace organization is optimal, or very nearly so.

Parecon workplace organizations utilizes the talents of the entire workforce, in the manner they are inclined and willing to provide, in accord with the needs and desires of consumers of products, and in accord with delivering self management and equity while preserving diversity and extending mutual solidarity.

 

 

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