Reply To: Asking About Parecon/Parsoc

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

Michael Albert


Thanks for the kind words, and raising your concerns. You mentioned some problems with balanced job complexes – perhaps you could raise them? Happy to hear…

As to “productivity” the first thing is to ask why the person who is concerned thinks parecon would be less productive? And also, what the person thinks constitutes productivity, while we are at it. Why does the person think he or she, working in a parecon, would either work less effectively, or less hard, or less long – those being the main reasons why he or she would be less productive – given that doing any of that leads to lower income? If they have no reasons, then you can’t address their reasons. If they do, you can.

If you will give me some reasons they raise, I will try to address them. But parecon, you should keep very much in mind, is not JUST self management.

Herb is a friend of mine, and was a teacher of mine, too. But we haven’t had contact in a long time, now. It is interesting to hear that he has criticisms though I believe he has never broached any publicly, or to me…

So, regarding your concern, is parecon less conducive to experimentation and innovation than a market system? Well, again why would it be? The first thing to notice is that in a market system almost all the fruits of a successful innovation go to owners, not those who actually conceive, test, and implement the ideas. So the owners have an incentive to push workers, I suppose you might say – but that is not highly desirable, to say the least, and workers tend to resist – and that is best case, when, in fact, owners want to innovate in some useful manner – which is actually rather rare.

Second, in reality, that is, most innovation, by far the lion’s share, I suspect, in market systems comes from the largely or even entirely planned sectors – like NASA, research institutes, etc., and from the human curiousity and drive of individuals. It is actually where risk is relatively low – due to financing and insurance from the government – that innovation occurs, I bet, so that market competition has nearly nothing to do with generating it. Likewise for hierarchical oversight, which barely plays an y role at all, say, in labs.

But still more, capitalism, in fact, incredibly distorts and circumvents innovation and experiment – because the idea is to profit and there are lots of ways to do that without, in fact, risking failure. Innovate to fragment workers and control them, sure, but not to make their work day more fulfilling. This is no small observation.

In a parecon there are workers whose job is to do research, innovate, etc. They are in institutes, and also workplaces. Their income depends on doing their labors well enough to merit receiving resources, and income. The benefits accrue to all. There is no bias to distort the pursuits to reproduce profit and power, instead of well being, exactly the opposite.

The idea that workers would resist innovations that would, on balance, disrupt and otherwise harm them – which in a parecon actually means via balanced job complexes and equitable remuneration, harm everyone, is certainly true – just as it ought to be. If we have a system which is exploiting workers for a small class of beneficiaries of consumer goods, then that resistance will be stamped out by power. Sure. But that is not good. Nor are the result even of the innovations good.

Really, there are endless ways to see this but consider vehicles, which means cars, boats, trains, planes, etc. What, 100 years of massive concentrations of power and wealth, market organized – and you tell me. Innovations that matter? It is estimated that commute time is longer now than in the late 1800s. The world is being poisoned. I think it is 50,00 in the U.S., yearly, dead in accidents, and so on. Market dictate accumulation – in part that does include some drive to innovate, but within narrow and horrendously distorting boundaries.

On the small scale, yes, if ten of us have a nice viable working situation and someone says lets switch it thusly – and there is only a small upside and potential pain for us (meaning worsening of work overall) but some benefit in market share or cost savings for the owners, should we do it, or not? Well, in capitalism, or a market system, we do it or get fired – terrific. In parecon, it isn’t in fact just a personal choice, because if not doing it would make our work socially unproductive compared to norms in society, we would no longer get paid. What turns out is that the calculation undertaken makes sense – will innovating generate enough benefit over all, which when spread to all offsets any associated costs – so that the pursuit is wiser than other pursuits we might otherwise undertake.

What compels workplaces to innovate, when we are talking about innovations of value – labor saving, less polluting, really generating well being via better products, etc. – is that in some industry, if you don’t do that, you are not doing socially useful work, so you will do it. But why take the initial leap – well, because that is what the reasearch department earns its income for, it is what gives them a sense of accomplishment. Tenured professors don’t innovate ideas because of competition…

The underlying issue here, though, is what is a good innovation? You tell me, in a workplace, what type innovation should be implemented, what type should be rejected – then it is possible to ask whether parecon or a market coordinator or capitalist system would function better.