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Introduction to Realizing Hope


The stupendously influential and celebrated British economist John Maynard Keynes wrote, “[Capitalism] is not a success. It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is not just, it is not virtuous – and it doesn’t deliver the goods. In short, we dislike it, and we are beginning to despise it. But when we wonder what to put in its place, we are extremely perplexed.”

Suppose we escaped Keynes’ perplexity and attained a desirable post capitalist economy. What changes would need to occur alongside this new economy? What features would the new economy have to incorporate to mesh successfully with extra-economic innovations? How would broad future prospects affect current strategies for change?

Societies must resolve disputes, deal with criminality, establish shared norms and rules, and implement collective pursuits. What impact would a new participatory economy have on political functions? How might new political structures affect a desirable economy?

Societies involve women and men being born, maturing, aging, and dying. What impact would a participatory economy (or parecon for short) have on relations between the sexes, living arrangements, methods of procreation, styles of nurturance, and the content and practice of socializing new generations? What would kinship improvements require of participatory economics?

People live extended lives and pass through different age groups. What implications would a participatory economy have for intergenerational relations and what would healthy intergenerational relations require of a parecon?

People develop diverse cultures and form racial, ethnic, and religious communities. What implications would parecon have for cultural communities? How might innovative cultural community relations affect economic structures?

Societies exist in context of other societies. Will a participatory economy foster war or peace, strife or cooperation, international equity or widening inequality? In turn, how might new international relations affect economic structures?

Economies exist in nature. Would a parecon lead to environmental disasters? Would it produce wise environmentalism? What about other species, from the smallest one-celled creatures to great elephants and whales, from bugs that kill to bugs that sustain, plants that overrun to plants that nourish, and pets we love to predators we fear? What implications would a parecon have for species other than humans, and what implications would prioritizing sound ecological and species policies have for a parecon?

Scientists have long investigated our world from its most minuscule subatomic byways to its most gargantuan extra galactic vistas. How would participatory economics affect the knowledge and activities of scientists? What would healthy scientific practice imply for a parecon?

Humanity utilizes scientific knowledge plus experiential skills to create technologies for production, shelter, locomotion, health, entertainment, etc. Would pareconish technological developments be accelerated or obstructed? What would happen to technology’s direction, content, and use? What would desirable technological innovation require from a participatory economy?

Health matters. Economies directly and secondarily influence our bodies and minds. How would a parecon affect medicine and medical care and what would having a healthy society require from a parecon?

People need education. Would a participatory economy call forth the best pedagogy we can imagine or would it limit our pedagogical imaginations? What would having desirable pedagogy require from a parecon? Would a parecon meet education’s admission and graduation requirements?

What about information? What implications would a parecon have for journalism’s content and process? What would desirable journalism require of a parecon?

Humans engage in visual, auditory, textual, and tactile arts. Would parecon facilitate artistic creation or reduce artistic quality? What would a parecon demand from artists? What would artistic creativity demand from a parecon?

Would sports be diminished or enhanced by parecon? What will become of competition in non-economic realms when we have a cooperative rather than competitive economy? What would desirable play require of a parecon?

Finally, what does participatory economics tell us about who are the agents of social change and who are likely to oppose social change? What does it tell us about the demands, arguments, evidence, and inspiration necessary to create lasting opposition? What does it tell us about the features our organizations ought to embody to win desired aims rather than results we must later disavow? What is the connection between participatory economics and Marxist, anarchist, and other approaches to economy and social change?

How does participatory economics view its own fallibility? How will parecon interact with its own advocates and critics? Will it welcome critique and innovation, including renovation? Or will it tend toward defensiveness, inflexibility, and even sectarianism?

One goal of Realizing Hope is to indicate the broader social merits of participatory economics and to readers to further explore economic vision and strategy’s interconnections with other spheres of social life. A second goal is to provoke and even modestly help inform proposals of worthy vision and strategy for each other area addressed here.

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