Reacting To Parecon


First of all, thanks for restating and actualizing your Parecon philosophy and proposals in the context of this debate with peer to peer philosophy.
 
But though there is a lot to agree with in term of principles and aspirations, before I start tackling any details, I want to explain how our approaches are fundamentally different, and why I find yours problematical to a certain extent.
 
My own approach is like yours, born out of a critical analysis of reality, and of the failures of the alternatives, such as 20th century socialism.
 
My analysis of change dynamics is quite different. I do not think the human mind can capture the full complexity of social life, and that any approach that starts from ethical principles and then seeks a world that mirrors them, can be successful. I’m not suggesting that we abandon our ethical principles, but that we hold them, look at reality, and seek out all the patterns that go in the direction of those ethics. By identifying these patterns, seeking to combine and enrich them, we can eventually start to discern the seeds of the new system in the old. We also need to see which social forces can bring such a phase change forward. My reading is that all deep and transformative social change, i.e. phase changes from one system of life to another, have always been the result of both longstanding new social practices, born out of a different structure of desire of new human groups, and a congruent change both from the top and the bottom. For example, for slavery to change to feudalism, both slave owners needed to convert to domain holders, and slaves to serfs; similarly, for the successful transition from feudalism to capitalism, serfs needed to become workers, and sections of the nobility needed to convert to capitalism. It is only after a long process of mutual and congruent transformation, that the phase change can occur. So for p2p theory, I have identified the patterns, am documenting the multiple social practices exemplifying them, and trying to inter-relate them through a common platform, so that partial patterns can converge to form the seeds of an alternative system, while observing the change from industrial working to peer producing, and the congruent transformation of sectors of capital into netarchical capitalist practices.

It seems to me that your approach proceeds from a very different premise, i.e. an idealized utopia based on ethical principles, which it then seeks to carry out in a recalcitrant reality. This is the bias from which I proceed, when reading your contribution.
 
Let’s start with your four ethical principles, i.e. your aim.

First let’s note that there are many ethical principles in the world, most religiously inspired, and that they differ in different degrees from your own, many of them in very sharp and fundamental ways.  So, this already means that either you offer them for the minority that is ready, so it becomes a solution for intentional communities sharing your value set, or you would have to coerce the world in following your solution.

Personally for example, I agree with your first principle, but disagree with your second one. Applying your second principle for example, which is the method of social exchange called socialism by Marx (the first phase of post-capitalism that he described, communism or non-reciprocal exchange being the second, the latter corresponding to the peer to peer exchanges of already existing peer production), actually excludes the second, and would for example make peer production, which is based on such non-reciprocal exchange, impossible.

So, while I would favour a pluralist economy that enables both your choices and mine, you seem to offer only a monological choice. Of course, if it is freely chosen by intentional communities, I have no problem with it, since these people would have voluntarily accepted your proposed rules.

I share your third value, but like Marx, I do not think the world is ready to change into a classless society (which would not function on your conditional second principle, but on the principle of non-reciprocal sharing) directly or any time soon, and in fact may never attain that ideal state, but rather, will move through transitional stages (which may last forever).

I then move to your sections with more concrete proposals. I note that you say "Parecon delivers", but does it really do that. Can you point to substantial realizations, or are you rather just proposing, that if applied, it may deliver these points. I indeed believe you mean the latter.
 
Let me note that I do support self-management, but do not necessarily favour a monological system that runs the whole of society, but rather pluralist forms of economic production and governance.

Next, I really appreciate your concept of the coordinator class, which makes a lot of sense to me and indeed explains for example the situation that developed in the Soviet Union.

But here is also where I see a problem. For example, how would you achieve balanced job complexes? Most of us are loathe to do certain jobs, and would not do them without coercion. Again, apart from intentional communities, how would you achieve it? This means that those currently doing the most abject work (I mean of course the work that most people consider abject, as most of these tasks are actually necessary and dignified) would have to take power, against the coordinator class itself. I find such a class movement unlikely, because of the very organization of a transformative social movement requires its own coordinating leadership. So any social movement would for me entail a necessary alliance between many different layers, making a victory of the lowest rungs alone unlikely, and therefore, a coercion of balanced job complexes unlikely.
 
Let me summarize the p2p approach as an alternative. We see today emerging a new set of social practices, where people are self aggregating for the creation of common value through highly complex social artefacts. They are doing this in a way that is hyperproductive in economic terms, in political terms (achieving self-governance in production), and in terms of universal availability of the results (equality in output). These practices are moving from knowledge production, via complex free software, to open designs for physical products.

But the problem is, because these dynamics only work for non-rival immaterial products, and material production needs cost-recovery mechanisms, they are obliged to compose with capitalist production of the physical products.

This however, is only a temporary historical necessity. As distributed infrastructures emerge for energy, money, and machinery, self-aggregation becomes increasingly possible in the physical field. In such a context, it becomes possible for peer producers to create alternative governance structures for physical production, one of them which could be parecon "companies". If Parecon proves a successful pattern in that context, it could perhaps become more important, but I personally suspect it will be one of the plural forms emerging in that field, along with cooperatives, open capital partnerships, and many more possibilities.

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