Is Parecon too male to be worthy of attention?
This question has actually come up rather often – but is in fact hard to fathom. It can mean two things.
(1) Parecon was set out and initially advocated primarily by two men. That makes it unworthy of assessment – even – because it is a sure thing to be seriously sexist.
(2) Parecon is in fact, on careful observation and consideration, very male in its essense. It is oriented to male interests and contrary to feminist ones. For that reason, given the implications it would have for women and men and relations between them, it is unworthy.
The second point is coherent and could be true. But, if it were true, then rather than simply asserting it, a real ciriticsm would be to explain it. A real criticism would be to show that parecon is contrary to women’s interests in various important ways – and therefore to show that parecon falls seriously short of men and women’s economic needs. Two possibilities would result from having demonstrated that claim. Parecon, flawed, could be fixed, and should be. Or parecon, flawed, could not be fixed, and should therefore be jettisoned.
In fact, however, no one has at any time suggested there is anything broadly about parecon, much less intrinsically built into parecon, that is sexist. And it seems pretty clear why there has been no such claim. Parecon treats men and women the same and guarantees that there can be no systematic economic hierarchy that places men above women, or really, any sector above any other – in influence, status, or material well being. Parecon also recognizes the long heritage of gender imbalance and can easily accommodate efforts to offset that while in transition, including caucuses, affirmative action, etc. And, as well, and perhaps most important, parecon doesn’t claim that economics solves all problems and instead not only welcomes but urges adoption of feminist kinship vision and very explicitly clarifies the relation of such vision to economics and vice versa, in no way prioritizing the economy above kinship, or vice versa.
Pending some argument or evidence for why classlessness, equitable remuneration, cooperative rather than competitive or authoritarian allocation, self management, and parecon’s other key features would do anything other than benefit women, point two above simply doesn’t exist as a real criticism.
We should say there is one issue on which there is even debate between some advocates of parecon and some feminists. Some of the latter think that household labor – broadly, taking care of the living unit and birthing or at least raising children – should be deemed work and part of the economy. Parecon could accommodate that desire, in fact, but both its authors and likely many other of its advocates think it would be a mistake to do that – denegrating household activity, not elevating it, and introducing all manner of unneeded and unwise systemic incursions into family life to accomplish something just – that men and women contribute equally in homes and in a manner that doesn’t elevate the latter over the former – by a formal economic means that introduces new problems rather than by an explicitly feminist means that gets to the source of the issues. But even for this one ara of possible debate, dealt with elswhere in this q/a, in fact, the key point here isn’t that a difference over policy options exists for some feminists and some pareconists – although also among feminists and among pareconists – but that parecon per se can abide either contending viewpoint and has nothing intrinsically sexist about it.
So we are left with point (1) above, as the possible meaning of the claim that parecon is too male, and, indeed, when this criticism is raised it does typically assert point (1) as its basis and its evidence, the facts being undeniably true as both Albert and Hahnel, Parecon’s initial authors, are indeed men. Interestingly, they are men with a long history of fighting against economism and for raising the importance of gender issues into partiy and then handling them as a first priority. But, more to the point, even if this weren’t the case, the criticism lacks substance if it can’t be given legs. That is, it is perfectly fair to say something like, since so and so vision has come into being primarily off the pens of men, we suspect it may well be weak regarding women’s concerns, or even faulty, or even horrible. That is fair enough, as a worry. But then one must look to see if the worry is true. And, more, one would expect that if the worry was found in some degree true, the next step would be to see if parecon could be corrected. Neither step occurs. Rather, it is as if being male consigns one’s efforts to be anti famale, and it isn’t even necessary to look at the substance, because it must be true, and, more, there is nothing to be gained by knowing the manner in which it is true. Hopefully, it will be evident how strange a stance this is.
The answer to the worry that parecon is too male, by its origins or in its contents, to be worthy of attention even, much less of adocacy, is: but of course, if parecon is sexist then it needs correction or dismissal – but please, before we correct or dismiss it, we need to know how it is sexist. Are there any ways in which you can point to it being sexist?
Pending reply, there is really nothing more to be said on this point…because there is no substantive criticism to answer.,