Participatory Economy produces, consumes, and allocates to meet people’s needs
and develop their capacities. It also promotes equity, solidarity, diversity,
and self-management. Its central features are workers’ and consumers’
councils, remuneration according to effort and sacrifice, balanced job
complexes, and participatory planning. Yet, however high we may rate a parecon,
a good society needs more than just a good economy.
a society with a participatory economy but sexist kinship institutions that
subordinate women to men. What happens?
structures would violate a sexist household hierarchy by not subordinating women
to men and by giving women and men expectations contrary to male supremacy.
Sexist kinship arrangements would violate balanced job complexes by apportioning
tasks unfairly in the home and by giving women and men expectations contrary to
universal equity. The parecon would produce equitable expectations that the
kinship sphere would violate. The kinship sphere would impart expectations of
female subordination that the economy would violate. But if an economy produces
people to not fit their households and households socialize people to not fit
their economy, the economy or households must change.
light of this, suppose a feminist movement favors genderless parenting instead
of mothering and fathering. Or maybe it rejects patriarchal marriage and the
nuclear family. Whatever its preferences, a new feminist vision would certainly
require that a compatible economy not violate kinship values. Likewise, a
compatible kinship vision would have to respect parecon’s economic
we understand this reciprocity, we see that building a participatory economy
impacts building a feminist kinship sphere and vice versa, and therefore need to
be compatible. And similarly, for a good economy to fit with desired innovations
in education, or the state, or culture, or international relations, it must
incorporate structures that respect the new aims of those other realms–and vice
versa. This is the logic of “economics and the rest of society” and here are
some indicative examples.
wants to convey information and skills suited to each individual meeting their
own agendas. “Be the best you desire to be.” But education also wants to
convey information and skills suited to people filling available roles in the
society. “Be what society needs you to be.”
ideal educational institutions, we would want these two aims to be mutually
consistent and supportive. Education for people to be what they desire should be
precisely what’s needed to also prepare them for positions that society will
willingly remunerate. Education that prepares people to fit a good society’s
roles, should imply addressing people’s fulfillment and development. A good
society, in other words, offers people diverse role options in tune with their
true desires and inclinations.
think about capitalism. It often needs compliance, passivity, and a willingness
to obey orders and endure boredom. Thus capitalism violates education for human
fulfillment and development, and capitalist schools dumb most people down.
in contrast, needs schools to educate people to deal well with information, to
make smart decisions, and to utilize their special talents and capacities as
they prefer and are able. Parecon not only doesn’t conflict with good
educational priorities, it fosters them.
relationship between parecon and the environment is a little trickier. Any
economy says to any effort to address the ecology, “fine, but do it in a way
consistent with business as usual.” A market system thus says to those
concerned about ecology, “fine, worry about the ecology, but don’t distort
ecologically unsound market prices or curtail ecologically unconcerned market
transactions or otherwise disrupt ecologically dismissive market logic.”
contrast, participatory planning intrinsically properly values resources and
ecological diversity in terms of their impact on human well-being and
development. But beyond this, some people might also value various species or
even natural formations independent of implications for humans. A parecon can
accommodate rules about impact on other species, but only if it is compelled by
its intrinsic logic, that is, a parecon values economic choices in terms of
their implications for humans. It automatically accounts for resource depletion
or pollution or extinctions or other ecological outcomes insofar as these in
turn impact human well-being and development. Additionally, in response to an
external advisory, a parecon can also not displace or kill rhinos, snail
darters, smallpox bacteria, or anything else, even if displacing or killing
rhinos, snail darters, smallpox bacteria, or anything else would benefit humans.
In other words, when society deems an ecological constraint on economic options
desirable, its imposition on a participatory economy will not disrupt the
economy’s logic or efficiency.
what about influences in the opposite direction? How does a parecon impact
ecological concerns and sensibilities?
a parecon communicates to people focusing on ecology a strong impetus to not
ignore the human dimension. Indeed, it literally compels all actors, including
those who are primarily motivated by ecological priorities, to account for the
human implications of their economic choices. And second, a parecon requires
that ecological goals be realized without compromising balanced job complexes,
remuneration according to effort and sacrifice, council self-management, and
implication of parecon for the state is that political functions will be enacted
in balanced job complexes and be remunerated only for effort and sacrifice. For
any vision of adjudication, legislation, and political implementation, this
means that whatever political values we seek, they must not violate pareconish
economic values. Thus we won’t have politics elevating some people to
disproportionate power, rewarding some with unbalanced job complexes, or giving
some unjust income. Nor will the ideological or behavioral implications of
political institutions obstruct producing and consuming in a pareconish way.
legal system of a society is one typical political component we might consider.
Currently U.S. attorneys for opposed parties do whatever they can get away with
to win. Neither is primarily seeking truth or justice, yet truth and
justice are supposed to emerge from their competition. This may remind us of the
even more ridiculous but quite similar idea that economic buyers and sellers
being greedy anti-social individualists will maximally promote just economic
outcomes. In any event, I suspect that a serious political vision won’t
dispense with adjudication or policing but will, instead, define these functions
more sensibly and find ways to accomplish them that also meets broader
political, economic, and other priorities. Do we get rid of police or court
trials and have everyone in the society do whatever policing is called for and
resolve their disputes only informally or locally? I doubt it. I suspect we will
instead recognize that like for piloting planes, or doing medical operations, or
handling a big crane at construction sites, some folks being specially trained
in police and courtroom functions with other folks not having to prepare for or
worry about these particular tasks, will yield better skills and better utilize
them than having everyone do these tasks without specialization, not to mention
enhancing diversity. But however we come to understand police and courtroom or
other political responsibilities, we will require balanced job complexes and
participatory self-management for those doing them, of course.
we aspire to a parecon nationally, the consistent international economic goal
seems pretty obvious. Why should a child born in a country with fewer resources
or with a history of being dominated by colonialism have a worse life than a
child born in a resource-rich country or a country that has colonially exploited
others for decades? People born in different parts of the world should not
suffer (or benefit) due to accidents of geography or past history. Thus a
particular society with a parecon should deal with other nations in ways that
reduce unjust differences in average income and circumstance as rapidly as
possible without disrupting lives so much as to do more harm than good. A
minimal but important step is that in trading with other countries a
participatory economy would favor whichever price – the international market
price or the parecon valuation within the parecon society – that most
benefited the worse-off trade partner. Beyond this, it could offer various forms
of aid, etc.
the above discussion is limited. Yet, nonetheless, many readers will easily
agree that a good society should have equity of circumstance and income between
men and women, respect for diversity of sexual and social choices, freedom for
cultural communities to exist without fear of penalty and a general social
respect for diversity, full political participation and full dissemination of
information and skills essential to universal participatory self-management,
respect for the natural environment as it affects humanity and also in its own
right, and a steady equalization of wealth and circumstances internationally.
But I suspect many readers would also easily agree that to answer the question
“what do you want” and inform our strategic choices, we need more detailed
and convincing descriptions of positive cultural, kinship, political,
ecological, and international values and institutions.
limited point of this commentary, therefore, is that if these new visions are to
be compatible with parecon, they must not abrogate and ideally will even help
promote parecon’s economic priorities and norms. Likewise, if parecon is to be
compatible with these needed new visions, parecon’s economic implications must
not abrogate and ideally will even help promote their kinship, sexual, cultural,
political, ecological, and international priorities and norms.