Reply To: Asking About Parecon/Parsoc

ZSplash Forums AskAlbert Asking About Parecon/Parsoc Reply To: Asking About Parecon/Parsoc

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Michael Albert
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Hello, again…

> I’m no expert either, but I have had some contact with Amish settlements. The ones I’ve encountered in Misouri are pretty isolationist. They do use roads, but electricity is considered “worldly” and so most Amish communities forbid it.

And of course no one in a participatory society would prevent that, or would have any way to do so…even if for some anti social reason they wanted to…

> A lot of the roads outside Seymour are dirt, but ocasionally you’ll see a horse and buggy rolling down one of the paved roads in town. That’s been a source of conflict in the past because a lot of them refuse buy state license plate tabs and put orange stickers on their buggies.

Again, I think that all these kind of issues could arise, or not, depending on a lot of things, not least the Amish – or other “isolationist” group’s perhaps changing self assessment. My guess is that the Amish, living in a participatory society, would likely change in their views of what exists outside their community, quite a lot…

> They also get into conflicts with “the English” over things like fishing licenses. The whole concept of “a license to fish” seems ridiculous to them because it violates their god-given right to feed themselves.

It depends, doesn’t it? What if their approach to fishing was denying others access, etc. I think if you actually look at parecon, and parsoc, and ask yourself what the likely results would be for the Amish, say, and for the other folks in the world, perhaps this concern would diminish.

> Fishing has always been a way for poor people to feed themselves without stealing or initiating violence against others, so laws against it are considered completely immoral. Jesus was a fisherman and even the Romans didn’t force Him to buy a fishing license. The sheriff is actually a good christian man and stopped enforcing those kinds of laws, but the Fish and Wildlife goons aren’t nearly so nice.

Notice the premise – poor people. Well, there would be no poor people in a participatory society – none. And while someone could choose to not take from the social product even though though they were entitled to, I don’t think anyone would want to call that poverty…

> I don’t know about hospitals. Maybe during emergencies. There was a situation a couple years back where the Akron Children’s Hospital essentially kidnappyed a 10 year old Amish girl and forcefully poisoned her with chemotherapy against the wishes of her parents. The parents opted for holistic alternatives and prayer, but the court called that child abuse.

These are actually subtle issues. They would exist in any system. What you have to ask is, in some particular system will medical care be vastly better, or worse, will the situation of children and elders, be better or worse, and all people, and so on…

> Building and health code enforcers also irritate them quite a bit from what I can tell. I imagine they would’t take kindly to some city slicker with a clipboard coming in and telling them how to do a barn raising.

But ask yourself – though this really has nothing much to do with parecon or parsoc, what would you think about a community, based on some religion – or perhaps some other logic – which said, child labor is fine and we employ it, schooling is bad, and kids don’t get it, elderly should be killed past the age of 60, or who knows what? Should society as a whole say, the right of the adults of this community to do as they please trumps all other rights and norms? Or not? A participatory society could adopt that approach, or not. Take a look at discussions of participatory culture, which actually has more bearing on some of your concerns, I think.

> The issues, not solely in the form you raise, I think, but in other forms too, are real. So the question becomes does a set of economic or political institutions create a context in which we might expect the best informed and most humane approaches to occur…

> As for smelting their own metal parts and whatnot, I think the answer is no. But on the whole I’d say they’re pretty damn self sufficient.

I don’t know why we are getting into this. I think if you are serious about parecon, or parsoc, or the left, you should explore what these offer. I think your concerns might quickly dissipate.

> Most of the men are farmers, carpenters and craftsmen of one kind or another, so the basic necessities of food, shelter, and transportation can all be taken care of within the community. So what if they don’t have all the fancy iPods and TVs and whatnot. Are they any less happy? They’re not harming anyone, so why is it any of my business?

Why men? What if the community has norms and practices that violate society’s norms bearing on women? I am not really asking – but you might consider it.

It is only your business, or society’s, if, let’s say, some separate community prevents anyone from leaving. No young person who wishes to do so, can, say, go to college, or engage in some profession elsewhere, and so on. Or if they violate the rights of their young or old, say.

And even then – secession too, is an option. Or change. Etc.

> Is that too much background and additional content or not enough? I could go on.

There is no point in going on, I think. The reality is the entire population of a participatory society would have quite a lot – but not all – in common with the Amish community, I suspect, if it really does give its members control over their lives, have fair allocation of circumstances, etc. etc.

> But what’s funny about all this is that the Amish settlements I’ve seen appear to be very “pareconish”. Balanced job complexes? Check. Shared resources? Check. Decision making through concensus? Check.

Maybe, I don’t know. Does it all apply to women? And what if a young person wants to suds to be a doctor, or astronaut?

Parecon has self management, not consensus, but I suspect the Amish don’t really have consensus either – nothing can happen if one person says no. Really? I doubt it. And it shouldn’t. If a drunk says no, you can’t come in and take me away from those I am beating up, and others say yes, we can, does his veto prevent the policy… and so on. I am asking only to provoke consideration. I don’t really want to explore Amish conditions with you…

> Social norms enforced by gossip, ridicule, reprimand and scorn rather than through the barrel of a gun? Check.

This is tricky – my guess would be that inside Amish communities their are in fact means to deal with violent violations of people, so to speak. I doubt the approach to a rapist is to simply verbally castigate him, and leave him free to do it again.

> If somebody violates some social norm (dressing too fancy, let’s say), basically what happens is that everyone else stops talking to them at church or something like that. That’s absolutely devastating in a small community, so nobody does it.

You might want to consider that something that is absolutely devastating may not be, at the same time, ideal… but I don’t wish to debate Amish practices.

> > Can 1,000 people say we want food from elsewhere, electricity, diverse goods and what not, but we want to contribute nothing to the broader society – we want only to have our own production for only ourselves.

> Of course not. 1000 people could not fairly say that because trying to get something for nothing is stealing.

But local production for local consumption, along with the peaceful and voluntary exchange of goods and services with neighbors is not stealing.

> Correct, about the latter, but you have described the situation not just of the Amish in participatory society, but of all communities. All will have their members doing a considerable amount of work, in sum, that rebounds inside their community, to their fellows, etc. As well, however, most will have people who do some or even all their work, that rebounds to others, beyond their community, and the fruits of some of their efforts percolating to others, too.

Honestly, there really is not an issue, I suspect. Except in the ways I described. If a community wanted to engage in practices that violate broader social norms – say, real child abuse, murder of the elderly, or perhaps their solution to getting drunk is stoning, and so on, there would be a problem. The thing to ask about a social arrangement, bearing on the issues you are raising, is – would its institutions be well suited to dealing with such cases, or not?

> Are you equally concerned about a type of economy in which no one can say I want to work and contribute to society and I want to receive from it, but I do not want to be a wage slave – or employer of wage slaves? One could give many more examples of massive scale encroachments on the options of virtually all workers and consumers that exist only to benefit a few. Do you have, I guess we might say, a proportionately greater level of concern and worry about such actual matters?

Okay, but a voluntary contract is not exactly the same thing as slavery.

I am afraid I don’t have time to deal in detail with every issue we could. Wage slavery is not the same as slavery, correct – but it is horrific. Society offers structural relations that mean the only way to survive is to work for some boss, getting horribly low wages, and giving up any say over one’s efforts – and so on. Confronting that situation, one signs the contract. That is not voluntary in any desirable sense.

> I see what you’re getting at, but that sort of thing is mainly a problem in cities where land is in short supply and people have forgotten the traditional skills of their ancestors. In the city, you’ve got no choice.

I think there is a degree of narrowness of perspective clouding this conclusion – peasants in the countryside generating food that feeds those cities and not getting a share of society’s product commensurate to their duration, intensity, and onerousness of work – are exploited, and horribly so. The same often goes for people tending the land in developed societies, in some places as horribly, or even more so. But, again, you are asking about participatory economics, and none of the conditions you refer to persist in it in cities or anywhere. There is not just socially useful work for all, but there is just remuneration and collective self management, as well.

> Working an iPad is a nice skill to have, but that doesn’t get you community. For that you need traditional skill sets, open land, hard work and strong values combined with limited or zero government interference.

Hre we disagree. The idea that the only way to have community is to live off the land may make those who live off the land feel good about their situation – but it is, honestly, complete nonsense. Working the land one can certainly have community. Or not. And the same holds for producing houses, or vehicles, or, yes, iPads, not to mention hospitals, health, etc. knowledge, art, and so on. The issue is not working hard or not, having open land or not, and having strong values or not. One can have those, or lack those, and be or not be in a state of community with others. Those are neither necessary nor sufficient. And it depends what you mean by government interference – if you mean the social whole should have no collective impact on its parts, I think that is not only not necessary for community, it would be almost the antithesis of it. IF you mean no interference by some kind of authoritarian state entity that exists above and outside the will of the populace, than of course.

> I like some of the values, but the political left really scares me when it starts talking about things like land reform and collectivised farming practices.

Well, you may need to think a bit more about it, honestly, touching on effects beyond the most direct and narrow ones you fear. Do you think there is something good about gigantic land holdings by a few, so that most have little or no land and are thus forced to “freely agree” to work for the land holders? Do you think – and you say you favor community – that working the land as atomistic individuals isolated from others doing so, makes more sense then working it in sympathy and solidarity with others also doing so, not least, to magnify effect and minimize hardship – is bad?

> What that means in practice is that multi-generational farming communities get kicked off the land, supposedly for the greater good, but instead you wind up with with some kind of communist train wreck. I could list examples, but I think you already know them.

In the world we inhabit, opposing the left out of fear of such train wrecks makes no sense because it means standing pat with arrangements that are horrific. The really worthwhile stance, I would suggest, is to favor changes that bring collective self management, an equitable share of the social product for all, dignity for all, diverse options to choose among for all, and solidarity with others – community – again, for everyone.