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5 Questions for the International Project for a Participatory Society (IPPS)


Below is my response to 5 questions posed to the International Project for a Participatory Society (IPPS). The IPPS Mission Statement and Project Definition states:

The International Project for a Participatory Society (IPPS) is a group of people concerned with inspiring, facilitating, and supporting efforts to develop, share, and promote vision and strategy for attaining a new participatory society.

IPPS stands for a classless economy based on self-management and equality, for democratic and participatory politics, and for the elimination of patriarchy, racism, and all other hierarchies and oppressions.

IPPS seeks to elaborate a vision of a participatory society in order to demonstrate that there is an alternative to current race, gender, political, environmental, and other injustices.

The purpose of the 5 questions was to…

(1) continue the first stages in the process begun last June at the Z Sessions on Vision & Strategy in Woods Hole, MA. to help identify where member goals and aspirations converge and depart…

(2) clarify and refine commonalities and differences…

(3) and to facilitate an interactive process to develop some initial ideas for how to collectively work towards strategy and vision goals and aims.

Those who have responded to the questions so far are:

Michael Albert: Five Questions…

Patrick Bond: Five Questions…

Mark Evans: Five Questions…

Betsy Hartmann: Five Questions…

Cynthia Peters: Five Questions…

Milan Rai: Five Questions…

Tom Wetzel: Five Questions…

Greg Wilpert: Five Questions…

and myself which I’ve posted just below. It’s hoped that everyone will respond to the questions and then reply to each others comments as well. You can find out more and follow any further developments here.

(1) Could you please identify what you think are the core defining features and institutions of society that need to be changed i.e. economic, political, cultural, gender/sexual, ecological, etc.?

For the institutions of the economy I think private ownership of productive property, markets, hierarchical divisions of labor and wages should be abolished. For politics, current structures and processes of developing local, regional, national and international law, social policy and its adjudication also need attention. For kinship and family structures of child rearing, care giving and socialization, we could benefit from a drastic transformation. For the social and institutional core of our cultures and communities, changes in social and material relations within and between religions, spirituality, ethnicities, and races need to be envisioned. And finally, regarding ecological changes, most generally, we need to change those institutions which act as barriers to sustainability and which threaten the planet.

(2) What are your goals for this change, do you seek to reform them, if so with what changes, broadly? Do you seek to fundamentally replace these institutions with some others? If so what do the replacement structures look like, what are their defining features, of course in brief?

For the economy, I advocate Albert and Hahnel’s Parecon with its balanced job complex, remuneration for effort and sacrifice, and decentralized participatory planning. For politics, I’m inclined to think that Stephen Shalom’s "Parpolity" vision with its nested council structure is worthy of much more exploration. For gender, sexuality and kinship, it’s still very unclear for me, other than some basic initial thoughts like diversity of family arrangements and a sharing of parental roles among male, female, queer parents, communities and/or "co-parents" so as to have divers sets of familial socializing influences and outcomes for children. More discussion and debate is needed but I think the work done by Cynthia Peters is on the right track. For culture, I like the concept of "intercommunalism", which over simplified here, proposes to remove the material and social conditions which create hostile competition between communities. Rather, communities are guaranteed the resources necessary for their reproduction — interacting among and with each other creating a rich diversity of cultures, ethnicities and religions. Individuals within these communities choose the religions, cultures and communities they themselves identify most with. For ecological vision, we could imagine ways in which societal institutions could affect our consciousness toward our built environment and enable Just, judicious and sustainable interactions between people, our built environment and our planets ecological foundation.

(3) Who do you think the strategic actors are in achieving these goals i.e. political parties, workers, women, queers, immigrants, particular countries or regions, etc?

I think people themselves are the strategic actors, but it is societal institutions and the roles people play within them that mostly determine who they identify with and the kinds of struggles they engage in to change society. Because of this it makes sense that there is a diversity of strategic actors because, even though I may care about the environment, global warming and other serious problems like ending patriarchy, I also care about ending wars, doing alternative media work and advocating an alternative to capitalism. It is a good thing that there are people working on those things which we cannot, simply for the lack of time in our lives or circumstances that we may be in. However, in the short run, if there is good evidence pointing towards putting our strategic weight behind one or two movements, say workers and immigrants, or women and political parties, then we do that, but not everybody has to, nor should they. In the long run lasting progress made on any one of these fronts depends on lasting progress made on all of these fronts.

(4) What tactics do you see being centrally used in achieving these changes i.e. voting, direct action, media action, strikes, demonstrations, etc.?

I think coordination of all these tactics as part of a broad strategy is what would make forward movement on a grand scale possible. But the problem is that there is no shared vision of where it is we want to go. For instance, we could all agree that the global economic structure needs to be reformed so that trade between and within countries is more equitable. There have been movement gains made in this direction. But we could be much more effective if there was better coordination with each other and with shared strategic targets, demands and timelines using demonstrations, strikes, direct actions, militancy, media and political parties. And it could be done in such a way that moves us further forward with an orientation to giving people more popular control over the economic, and other, decisions that affect their lives. And further still, a movement this coordinated could have shared vision about what kind of national and international economic, and other, institutions, structures and decision making process and protocols we would want.

(5) How do other perspectives, which have different ideas about societal change, fit into your strategy and vision?

In addition to developing and refining a shared orientation towards strategy and vision we should also be seeking to interact precisely with those people that we do not agree with and who disagree with us. We should be able to listen and learn from others and we should also be able to convincingly, confidently, rationally and passionately argue our points. People, who do not believe that societies defining institutions can be transformed, who do not believe in the capacity of people to self-manage their own lives, who do not believe in the potential to achieve equity and classlessness, need to be carefully listened to so that we can respond to their disbelief or explore their ambivalence in such a way so as to eventually bring them into our movement. And we need to do this until our movement grows to such a size that by having shared and coordinated strategy, tactics and vision, we can win. Now, of course it’s true that people may have a better proposal for the kinds of strategy, tactics and vision we seek, and so we should concede that they are right, and then join the struggle to organize along their newly proposed lines. Just as, if we are right, they should join our proposed way. As long as we’re all seeking institutional arrangements and outcomes that best facilitate and explore human potential, development and liberation then being right or wrong is simply the maze taken towards a common goal. Sure some will remain resistant because their wealth, power and privilege is an outcome of the current institutional arrangement, and so they are invested in it; or they are simply stubborn or sectarian, and so will remain in the wrong. But, if we are persistent, patient and persuasive in our efforts, I think most people will eventually come around to a hopeful and rational vision and strategy. So those left disagreeing will be those who defend the current inequities, who will be in the wrong, and will be a minority. And how we unseat them from their power is another question.

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