The World and the US

Recently on a number of occasions I have told people asking about how parecon the book and of course the model was doing, that it was an odd situation

In the U.S., I have replied, while there is a lot of progress being made, especially as compared to the past, it is still slow and difficult. The problem is that there is no wide or even moderate audience visibility about the book or model beyond on ZNet itself. Periodicals like The Nation, the Progressive, ITT, and independent newspapers, etc., are receiving reviews of the new book, for example, but are not running them, much less doing articles or debates about the vision, or interviews, etc. As a result, potential readers of Parecon or viewers of the site have to learn of the book or site by more narrow means, and have to then decide to invest reading time despite that there is no visible public clamor about the model. People are choosing to give time to the model, I note, far more than one might anticipate, but then I add that were there significant media discussion of the ideas of course many more people would take the time to judge for themselves.

In contrast, I report, the overseas situation is considerably better. I am getting requests for interviews from all over, regularly and often, and to speak at events, etc. As but one example, an article went into a German daily months back, well before a German edition had even been translated. The newspaper appears as well in Austria, and I wind up getting invited to Vienna to speak prominently about parecon to a large conference of professional architects. It is hard to conceive of something like that happening in the U.S.

As another contrast, at the U.S.-based (NYC) Socialist Scholars Conference in April, sponsored by libertarian socialists and social democrats, I wasn’t invited and to my knowledge there were no presentations about parecon and perhaps none about economic vision at all. In contrast, in mid July in London there is to be a Marxism 2004 Conference, essentially the same kind of project as the event here, only the counterpart in London tends to be about twice as large as NY’s SSC. The London conference is sponsored by the British SWP and friends, a left orientation that I routinely criticize. Nonetheless, I am not only invited to the London event, but will give four major presentations, plus doing other engagements in the city while there.

So far, I have no firm speaking engagements in the U.S. for the Fall. On the other hand, in September I will be in Italy, making major presentations at two large conferences, and also in a third city, then will go to two venues in Greece and to two in Turkey for events in those countries as well. In all these places the topic will be parecon and there will be far more media coverage and radio interviews than at any time in the U.S. In October, the same pattern repeats, only the countries are Denmark (to speak prominently at the Denmark Social Forum) and then very likely Sweden and perhaps also Finland. In the Winter, it looks like I will be going to South Africa. All this reflects growing international interest in Parecon.

In other words, I get more speaking invitations for Parecon overseas than in the U.S., by a large margin. There is more media coverage there, not only where the book is already published (in the past few months Italy, Korea, Greece, and Sweden) or where I go, but even before the publication and without a visit. More important, there are also articles appearing by other writers overseas…in Greece, Pakistan, Serbia, Italy, etc. And the book is just out or even only just coming out in these countries, as compared to being out for about fourteen months here, not to mention prior publications here, unavailable elsewhere.

Still, maybe this sounds like whining. Big deal. Parecon gets not only book reviews but interviews and articles spontaneously in Turkey, Greece, Pakistan, India, Korea, and so on…but in the U.S. Parecon can’t get a book review even in periodicals where numerous reviews are submitted, much less anything more. Still, I have to say, if I were listening to me replying to the query “how is it going,” I might suspect that the international response was being exaggerated.

Well, the book has been out in Italian for about two months. In addition to the visit mentioned above to Italy in September, I will be going back in mid October. The second trip will be to attend and speak at a major conference held there each year in Rimini. I received the invitation just a couple of days ago. Even with my already knowing – as per the information above – that attentiveness to Parecon was far greater overseas, to say this invitation took me by surprise would be an understatement.

At the conference, which is hosted by the very eclectic Pio Manzu International Research Center that is associated in turn with the UN and is centered in Rimini, Italy, I am apparently to receive what is called the medal of the President of the Italian Republic. This is given to a few people each year, from a wide range of backgrounds and political orientations. This year, for example, in addition to myself, “the medal of the President of the Italian Republic will be also received by the President of the Republic of Croatia Stjepan Mesic, the Indian leader Sonia Gandhi, the French philosopher André Glucksmann, and the economist Gary Becker.”

This makes for a quite diverse, to put it mildly, grouping. But the key point is how the award to me is explained: “The Scientific Committee wishes to recognize your praiseworthy commitment in the assertion of a new economic vision based on equity and solidarity…” This is from a letter from Giandomenico Picco, the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General.

Of course, if I deserve this award, countless others who do worthy work of all kinds deserve it as well, not least Robin Hahnel for work in the same area. But the real point here isn’t the award or the huge scale of this conference, it is that parecon is more noticed – or perhaps more accurately, more attended to — by a mainstream UN connected International Scientific Research Institute located in Italy then by progressive periodicals, for example, located in my own country.

Gary Becker is the other American getting the award, by the way. He is a University of Chicago Nobel Prize winning economist of very mainstream orientation. Andre Glucksmann, also to be awarded, is an ex leftist now right wing philosopher from France. At the events, I will speak on Parecon, and it will be published in the annals of this scientific and social Institute, as well as covered widely in Italian media, etc. So the U.S. versus international contrast is that on the one hand I get a letter from Mikhail Gorbachev, President of the Pio Manzu Scientific Research Institute, personally notifying me of the invitation, and I receive this award and chair a workshop with Noble Prize winners in economics on it, in Italy. At the same time, in the U.S. I can’t get even one review published in The Progressive (or Nation, or ITT, or MJ, and so on), nor an interview by either of two of the Progressive’s regular writers, nor any explanation of why.

It is a pretty odd picture, it seems to me.

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