Is Parecon too white 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 white writers. That makes it unworthy of assessment – even – because it is a sure thing to be seriously racist.
(2) Parecon is in fact, on careful observation and consideration, very white in its essense. It is oriented to white interests and contrary to antiracist ones. For that reason, given the implications it would have for people of all cultures and communities and relations between them, it is unworthy.
The second point is coherent and could be true. But, if it were true 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 black or latino or asia or indian… interests in various important ways – and therefore to show that parecon falls seriously short of liberated economic aims. Two possibilities would result from having demonstrated that. 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 even broadly about parecon, much less intrinsically built into parecon, that is racist or otherwise culturally flawed. And it seems pretty clear why there has been no such claim. Parecon treats all people the same, but more, parecon guarantees that there can be no systematic economic hierarchy that places people of one race, culture, religion, or really, any sector above any other – in influence, status, or material well being. Parecon also recognizes the long heritage of racial 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 economics solves all problems and instead not only welcomes but urges adoption of antiracist and what it calls intercommunalist kinship vision and very explicitly clarifies the relation of that to economics and vice versa, in no way prioritizing the economy above race, 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 people of diverse and particularly repressed or subordinated cultural communities, point two above simply doesn’t exist as a real criticism.
So we are left with point (1) above, as the possible meaning of the claim that parecon is too white, and, indeed, when this criticism is raised it does typically assert point (1) as its basis and its evidence, the facts being wuite true – both Albert and Hahnel, Parecon’s initial authors, are white. Interestingly, they are whites with a long history of fighting against economism and for raising the importance of race and broader cultural issues into parity and then handling them as a first priority. But, more to the point, 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 whites, we suspect it may well be weak regarding other community’s cultural and social concerns, or even faulty, or even horrible. That is fair enough – as a worry. But then one must look, and see if it is true. And, more, one would expect that if it was found in some degree true, the next step would be to see if it could be corrected. Neither of these steps occur. Rather, it is as if being white consigns one’s efforts to be racist, and it isn’t even necessary to look, 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 white, by its origins or in its contents, to be worthy of attention, much less of adocacy, is but of course, if parecon is racist then it needs correction or dismissal – but please, before we correct or dismiss it, we need to know how it is racist. Are there any ways in which you can point to it being racist?
Pending reply, there is really nothing more to be said…because there is no substantive criticism to answer.