Asking About Parecon/Parsoc

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  • #722810

    Michael Albert: I don’t understand not putting in a consumption rquest – it would be sort of like not shopping – okay, who is going to do that?

    This bloke…

    Robin Hahnel, ‘Of the People, By the People:’ [B]eing quite lazy about such matters, I would not bother to update my consumption proposal at all! And being very irresponsible about communication I would also, in all likelihood, fail to respond to the prompt from my neighborhood consumption council reminding me to send in a new proposal for the coming year. I would simply allow my neighborhood council to re-enter what their records show I actually ended up consuming last year as my pre-order again for this year.

    #722819
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    Site Administrator
    Participant

    For some reason this bloke gets a kick out of such formulations – trust me – he would not behave as he describes. My guess is he was trying to demonstrate that even with noodniks on the prowl, the system would work…

    #722820

    This illustrates an interesting stylistic difference between you and Hahnel. So when a critic complains that, to take the example, they’d feel coerced by the perceived requirement that they submit an individual consumption proposal, you’ll tell them them that they’re wrong to feel that way about it and give the argument for why it’d be a good thing to do. Whereas Hahnel simply tells them how the model can accommodate for such a lack of desire.

    It also comes up where remuneration is concerned. When the critic insists that they’d always want to (naively) follow ‘from each, to each,’ you argue against that view—doggedly so (your debate with Steven Johns of libcom.org e.g.)—and for the reasonableness and justice of remuneration for effort, sacrifice, and onerousness. Whereas Hahnel, again, just illustrates how that ethic would apply within a parecon, i.e., by worker councils or federations pooling all their workers’ entitlements to the social product, and consumer councils or federations allocating on the basis of (their conception of) need.

    So the Albertian approach is to argue against the critic’s value or feeling as being irrational or impractical, and argue that another value or feeling is better. The Hahnelian tact is to assure them that they’re values and feelings would have a place in parecon. It seems that the two ways of responding would leave skeptics with very different impressions of the model (and the movement for it). What’s behind this difference in presentation and debate strategy?

    #722899
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    Michael Albert
    Participant

    Jason Chaplin wrote:

    — This illustrates an interesting stylistic difference between you and Hahnel. So when a critic complains that, to take the example, they’d feel coerced by the perceived requirement that they submit an individual consumption proposal, you’ll tell them them that they’re wrong to feel that way about it and give the argument for why it’d be a good thing to do. Whereas Hahnel simply tells them how the model can accommodate for such a lack of desire.

    I doubt there is much difference about this issue. In fact, if no one wants to engage in planning because everyone hates it and would rather live in a class divided economy, with poverty, etc. etc. because registering their preferences feels to them worse than having others competitively decide outcomes or authoritatively impose them, and then foraging amidst the available options, etc., parecon wouldn’t be suitable for human beings. Workplaces must plan and so must consumption units and individuals. All Robin is saying is you could stick with you prior years consumption plan rather than give some time to pay attention to the fact that you already have enough of some things, have some new hobbies, may want some new products, etc. I don’t believe he thinks anyone would actually do that…but, yes, one could.

    That the system doesn’t fall apart when someone just keeps their preferences as they have been, spending no time seeing new options, and accounting for changes in their desires, is true. However it is also very peculiar behavior…

    — It also comes up where remuneration is concerned. When the critic insists that they’d always want to (naively) follow ‘from each, to each,’ you argue against that view—doggedly so (your debate with Steven Johns of libcom.org e.g.)—and for the reasonableness and justice of remuneration for effort, sacrifice, and onerousness.

    This is actually quite different. From each to each is simply not viable. I don’t remember the exchange you refer to, but it have written often on this matter, including. The essay, for example, querying the hung Chomsky.

    Whereas Hahnel, again, just illustrates how that ethic would apply within a parecon, i.e., by worker councils or federations pooling all their workers’ entitlements to the social product, and consumer councils or federations allocating on the basis of (their conception of) need.

    I don’t like robins approach here, you are correct and perceptive. He is trying to end run a concern by fudging and saying that something quite reasonable is sort of from each to each, but it isn’t. What he describes does have people paying attention to special needs people voice, something we have always made clear, but what he describes is actually is not at all, remotely, from each to each. I think he and hopes, in some sense, that from each to each advocates won’t realize, and will have their reflex rejection blunted, or so it seems to me.

    I think, instead, the real issues should be made clear. We do not disagree about those.

    So the Albertian approach is to argue against the critic’s value or feeling as being irrational or impractical, and argue that another value or feeling is better.

    It is not a question of a value or feeling…this is about a particular set of behaviors as a basis for allocation. In fact, from each to each if seriously pursued would be at best grossly inferior due to not allowing investment in light of levels of desire and need…something that nine of its advocates ever seem to account for, even if magically somehow everyone had just results…which in fact would not happen unless people were basically operating in a Pareconish way despite being told they could work or not, at any tasks they wanted or not, and take from the social product whatever they wanted, with no way at all to know what would be just and fair.

    The Hahnelian tact is to assure them that they’re values and feelings would have a place in parecon.

    That you read it that way is perhaps his hope. It is not the case.

    It seems that the two ways of responding would leave skeptics with very different impressions of the model (and the movement for it). What’s behind this difference in presentation and debate strategy?

    Well, you might write him and ask him. I think he, like me, believes anarchists, which is the group that has this particular concern, ought to advocate parecon as a classless self managing economy. He, like me, also knows that a commitment by many anarchists to a kind of doctrinal axiom…anything other than from each to each is inferior and unacceptable as a part of a vision, blocks many from taking parecon seriously. They instead just dismiss it…since it doesn’t have from each to each. He tries to end run or obscure away their reaction in hopes that blunting of their concern will cause them to look closely. I try to address the concerns head on since for anyone serious they will eventually need to be addressed.

    This is actually quite different. From each to each is simply not viable. I don’t remember the exchange you refer to, but I have written often on this matter, including the essay, for example, querying the young Chomsky.

    — Whereas Hahnel, again, just illustrates how that ethic would apply within a parecon, i.e., by worker councils or federations pooling all their workers’ entitlements to the social product, and consumer councils or federations allocating on the basis of (their conception of) need.

    I don’t like robins approach here, you are correct and perceptive. He is trying to end run a concern by fudging and saying that something quite reasonable is sort of from each to each, but it isn’t. What he describes does have people who are in proximity collectively paying attention to special needs people voice, something we have always made clear, but what he describes is actually not at all, remotely, from each to each. I think he hopes, in some sense, that from each to each advocates won’t realize, and will have their reflex rejection blunted, or so it seems to me.

    I think, instead, the real issues should be made clear. We do not disagree about those.

    — So the Albertian approach is to argue against the critic’s value or feeling as being irrational or impractical, and argue that another value or feeling is better.

    It is not a question of a value or feeling…this is about a particular set of behaviors as a basis for allocation. In fact, from each to each if seriously pursued would be at best grossly inferior due to not allowing investment in light of levels of desire and need…something that none of its advocates ever seem to account for, even if magically somehow everyone had equitable results…which in fact would not happen unless people were basically operating in a Pareconish way despite being told they could work or not, at any tasks they wanted or not, and take from the social product whatever they wanted, with no way at all to know what would be just and fair.

    — The Hahnelian tact is to assure them that they’re values and feelings would have a place in parecon.

    That you read it that way is perhaps his hope. It is not the case.

    — It seems that the two ways of responding would leave skeptics with very different impressions of the model (and the movement for it). What’s behind this difference in presentation and debate strategy?

    Well, you might write him and ask him. I think he, like me, believes anarchists, which is the group that has this particular concern, ought to advocate parecon as a classless self managing economy. He, like me, also knows that a commitment by many anarchists to a kind of doctrinal axiom that anything other than from each to each is inferior and unacceptable as a part of a vision, blocks many from taking parecon seriously. They instead just dismiss it…since it doesn’t have from each to each. My impression is that he is trying to end run or obscure away their reaction in hopes that blunting their concern will cause them to look closely. I try to address the concerns head on since for anyone serious they will eventually need to be addressed.

    #722932

    Eric Wind
    Participant

    Okay, I’m still trying to get at the bottom of how money has relevance to a parecon, or what it actually serves to do, so, I hope you forgive me, I’m going to be asking questions piece meal. First, who creates the money? It would seem like to me that power would lie with the consumption council, since it’d be, arguably, one consumption council negotiating with a whole host of different workers councils.

    #723043
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    James
    Participant

    “The theorist Michael Albert has worked out a detailed plan for how a modern economy could run without money on a democratic participatory basis.”

    The above is a David Graeber quote from his book The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement. Irrespective of Graeber’s opinions on Parecon, I also tend to see Parecon as a non-money economy. There is remuneration for effort and sacrifice, correlated with consumption and production plans of goods and services given prices that carry qualitative and quantitative information of the social costs and benefits, but I don’t see that as “money” in today’s sense. It is merely a way of carrying information in order to balance and coordinate consumption and production. A numerical figure, a credit system, that equates with one’s consumption plan and effort and sacrifice, or indicates a degree of borrowing or saving.

    Sorry Eric, I’m not Michael, but I thought it interesting that Graeber sees Parecon as an economy without money and even Michael as a “theorist”! Perhaps, in part, he is.

    #723056
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    Michael Albert
    Participant

    Hi,

    I am chuckling…theorist? How is that different from, well, person who tries to understand and communicate abut things he or she considers important?

    The problem with money, in fact even theorist, is using words that have more than one meaning and often even trying to intentionally manipulate the multiple meanings. As an example, if someone says a market is a place to have transactions…then any economy has markets. It is, however, a strange use, since you don’t need to have the word market for this, why not, well, transaction. Yet this is the meaning, more or less, that gets tons of people to think markets are unavoidable. If one uses the word market, however, to refer to an institution in which actors seeking to buy cheap and sell dear for personal advance by that behavior determine transactions…then markets are not inevitable and parecon has no markets.

    People who want everyone to believe that competitive allocation is the only possibility will use the word in the first way to get folks hooked on markets being inevitable, and will then draw on the second meaning to have everyone who ratified markets meaning transactions be counted as ratifying competitive allocation…

    Money is similar. Used to refer to coins and bills, or even just written records, that have all the attributes of money in current societies, it is one thing. It doesn’t talk, it swears. Used to refer to having income and budgets/prices, only, it is another thing.

    Did Graeber have anything more to say about parecon?

    #723057
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    James
    Participant

    The rest of the above quote goes,

    “I think this is an important achievement- not because I think that exact model could ever be instituted, in exactly the form in which he describes it, but because it makes it impossible to say that such a thing is inconceivable. Still, such models can only be thought experiments. We cannot really conceive the problems that will arise when we start actually trying to build a free society.”(p283, kindle version)

    He says soon after the above quote,

    “Myself, I am less interested in deciding what sort of economic system we should have in a free society than creating the means by which people can make such decisions by themselves.” (p284,kindle version)

    Earlier he mentions Parecon in relation to democratic workplaces as such,

    “In the past the concept of workers’ control had most often been applied, as it’s name suggests, to the organisation of workplaces, but as a basic principle, it can be applied anywhere. The basic principle boils down to the idea that anyone actively engaged in a certain project of action should be able to have an equal say in how that project is carried out. This is the principle, for instance, that lies behind theorist Michael Albert’s proposed system of participatory economics (or Parecon), which tried to answer the question: what kind of work organisation allows for a genuinely democratic workplace? His answer was “balanced job complexes”- organisations in which everyone would have to do a certain share of physical, mental and administrative labor. The basic idea of workers control is that if you are involved in a project, you should have an equal voice in how it is executed.”(p230,kindle version)

    That was about it.

    • This reply was modified 7 years, 5 months ago by avatar James.
    #723059
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    James
    Participant

    Oh, and in answer to the rhetorical question you posed Michael, regarding you being called a “theorist”, I don’t think it is different. I found it a little odd when I read it I must admit.

    • This reply was modified 7 years, 5 months ago by avatar James.
    #723062
    avatar
    Michael Albert
    Participant

    “I think this is an important achievement- not because I think that exact model could ever be instituted, in exactly the form in which he describes it, but because it makes it impossible to say that such a thing is inconceivable. Still, such models can only be thought experiments. We cannot really conceive the problems that will arise when we start actually trying to build a free society.”(p283, kindle version)

    People get a lot of mileage out of this type of statement – but I am damned if I can see why. What it says is true but also false depending on how we take the words. And the true part is trivial. If we propose anything at all for the future, including, say, a new building or any policy, much less core features of a new type economy, etc. etc., we can’t know, in advance, for certain, everything it might entail, arouse, or require. That is a truism. So?

    If someone says, for example, long experiences shows that predicted time frames for programming projects will bear tiny resemblance to the reality that follows – well, we can test that claim, see if it is true, then try to explain it, perhaps by the pressures on programmers and their mindsets in making predictions – and keep it in mind when judging programmers predictions.

    What is false, though, is that Graeber’s words, perhaps unintentionally, imply that proposing for the future is just announcing hopes, or something like that – whereas it can be taking great care to use available knowledge and insights to propose structures that are consistent with values that we decide we favor. In the latter is the case, pronouncements about not knowing everything aren’t helpful, I think. What would be helpful is to show flaws, if one can, in the arguments offered, or to describe even hypothetical possibilities that might not be accounted for, but might matter. In lieu of that, one should either support or oppose the proposal based on ilking or not liking the values and outcomes it would engender.

    When he says, not that he thinks it could be implemented, I think that that is arguably irresponsible, especially in a book length work, honestly. What reason has he for saying that, if any at all? He should offer the reason. If the reason is simply because this would occur in the future and we don’t have crystal balls, that would mean he would have to say the same thing about having justice, equity, gender equality, an end to racism, no private ownership, anything anarchistic – in fact anything proposed for the future – and he would not have to provide the slightest reason – not that I think anything anyone proposes could be instituted – heaven forbid…

    The second quote is simply wrong…

    Having an equal say means what: probably one person, one vote, and majority rule. And yes, that can sometimes best deliver self management. But often, in fact way more often, it wouldn’t. Instead, what I propose is that we opt for structures that deliver, as well as sensible, a say proportionate to the impact on the person in question… That is quite different.

    I don’t know, but my guess is Graeber hasn’t read anything much about parecon, and thought much about it. This stance is quite consistent with his first quote – why bother, it is a proposal for the future. But it leads to the second quote – misunderstanding what is, in fact, proposed.

    #723063
    avatar
    James
    Participant

    Michael,

    Graeber actually prefaces the more general quote on parecon with the observation that, when conventional wisdom that the current economic and political system is the only possible one is challenged, the first reaction one usually gets is a demand for some alternative or blueprint for a new system, in some detail, and then a strategy to bring it about. He makes the rather strident assertion that “[h]istorically, this is ridiculous. When has social change ever happened according to someone’s blueprint. It’s not as if a small circle of visionaries in Renaissance Florence conceived of something they called “capitalism,” figured out the details of how the stock exchange and factories would someday work, and then put in place a program to bring their visions into reality. In fact, the idea is so absurd we might well ask ourselves how it ever occurred to us to imagine this is how change happens to begin.”

    Just before the very first quote I made above, “The theorist Michael Albert has worked out a detailed plan for how a modern economy could run without money on a democratic participatory basis.”, he writes,

    “All this is not to say there’s anything wrong with utopian visions. Or even blueprints. They just need to be kept in their place.”

    Suffice to say, I do not think he is enamoured of the idea of offering up alternative economic models. He sounds like a learn and try as you go person. Experiential learning. Like his experiences of horizontalism and direct democratic processes from the occupy movement.

    • This reply was modified 7 years, 5 months ago by avatar James.
    #723092
    avatar
    James
    Participant

    Michael,

    I just wish to pursue this notion of using certain words to describe things that could create confusion.

    To your point regarding the use of the word “market”, Graeber actually makes the assertion that a “market” within a future free society may not look like or have most of the qualities that we ascribe to what we call “markets” today. To your point, I think this merely creates confusion and the idea that anyone who comes along suggesting that “markets” are an insidious way of allocating goods and services isn’t thinking hard enough, particularly if they are suggesting an alternative participatory planning procedure. I wonder, that if a description or knowledge of a future allocation procedure in a free society is unknowable or beyond one’s imagination, which is what Graeber suggests, whether the word “market” should be used at all. It is similar to Chomsky’s notion that it is arguable whether the word “reference” should be used to denote a technical notion connecting a term and it’s association with some external object on the occasion of sense, when it’s commonsense usage is quite different. Graeber’s suggestion that “markets” in a future free society may be unrecognisable to the type commonly referred to today makes his idea of future markets incoherent.

    The point “should” be, and I don’t like the word should, to isolate, discuss and debate, what that notion of “market” or allocation system could be. What, for instance, would be the characteristics, the institutional structure and possible procedural operations of an allocation system within a free society, rather than just say it could be a “market”, but one like no other we have seen or know of. That is rather useless and unhelpful and could play into the hands of the “enemy”!

    He seems to be opening the door to the idea of discussing and debating such things but stubbornly refusing to walk through it.

    It is similar with Takis Fotopoulos’s use of the phrase “artificial market” when referring to the procedure of allocating non-basic goods using a voucher system. Apart from the institutional difference of separating goods and services into basic and non-basic(problematic to say the least), the more I think about his system, the more it appears not dissimilar to Parecon’s planning procedure. He just doesn’t elaborate or give more info about how information would be collated and used to provide the neccessary planning (IFB’s, federated workers and consumer councils, iterations, etc.).I see his system as a planning procedure and the use of the word “market” is a rhetorical device used to suggest that “freedom of choice” is maintained, I think, because he is falling back on the idea that people commonly conflate “markets”(today’s kind), with democracy.

    At least market socialists like Schwieckart are clear about what a market is. Although I do wonder whether, allowing pay differentials of up to 3 to 1 between order givers and order takers, regardless of the democratic nature of the workplace, wouldn’t lead to, or is in a subtle way maintaining, some kind of “labour market”, one of the “markets”, along with the financial kind, Schwieckart would do away with.

    • This reply was modified 7 years, 5 months ago by avatar James.
    #723157
    avatar
    Michael Albert
    Participant

    Imagine someone said dictatorship in a future society may not look like or have all the same qualities that we see in dictatorship today. There is a sense in which it is true. Imagine the future society has, or does not have, apartheid. Dictatorship will look different in the two cases – and that matters – but in both cases it will be dictatorship only if in each the system retains key defining features that cause us to use that label. And, if it does, then we will be able to say various important things about what we will find.

    Now, if some people mean by dictatorship merely any system of governance – then the statement that it could look different in different future societies would mean more. It could be completely different – retaining only that it gets decisions made.

    For some people market means any mode of allocation that includes exchange. For other people, including every economist in the world, it means a particular type of allocation based on separate units competing. And for some people – worst of all – it means the former when they are trying to enlist support that it is inevitable, and then it means the latter after one has enlisted that support so as to establish that competitive market behavior is inevitable.

    The word market – or lets say – competitive unit allocation – has a meaning, as does the word allocation system. It makes sense to use them both – being clear on the difference – as it makes sense to also use the label central planning, or participatory planning, or, for that matter, dictatorship.

    I think we agree on all this.

    Artificial dictatorship/market?

    #724378

    Steven
    Participant

    Hi

    It seems to me that Parecon criticism of markets is directed against some sort of laissez faire markets, and if that is the case, the criticism seems to fail to address a possible mixed system with a regulated market. And common objections against markets per se can be fairly easily done away with if one advocates regulated markets mixed with nationalized/ municipalized firms (presumably democratically managed in some manner). What would a pareconist say to the question of why he would reject such a system for one that is entirely planned?

    #724379
    avatar
    Michael Albert
    Participant

    You can find a lot about this in many parsecon presentations. Markets can be made less bad by having some regulation, of course, just like dictatorship or any bad thing can be. But markets have an intrinsic logic, just like dictatorship does, which is vile and spreads through the economy. Vile because markets mis price everything causing calculations to be skewed away from collective benefit toward private and away from ecological sense toward immediate material benefit, even if markets didn’t also impose horrible motivations on buyer and seller and a short time horizon, as well. Thus just as we would prefer dictatorship that is successfully mitigated regarding some ill effects by some regulation, so too we would prefer markets that are successfully mitigated regarding some ill effects by some regulation. One way to look at it is, to the extent we just keep on regulating markets until we have eliminated all ill effects, we will wind up with participatory planning.

    Another odd problem is that well motivated regulations in market allocation can at times have very odd and pernicious effects, other than their intended desirable effects.

    Finally, for a vision, what we really want, why would argue for a structure that has a logic and dynamic that is horrendous, plus regulations and some other features to somewhat reduce the harm done, when, instead, we can opt for a completely different approach which not only gets rid of all the ill effects, but instead has a logic and structure compelling values and outcomes we desire?

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