Parecon and Aspirations

This essays is excerpted from the Zed Press book, Realizing Hope

Leftists throughout the world today, and in all past times, have sought what are actually conceptually simple outcomes: each person should be as free as all others and as able to enjoy the fruits of labor and the virtues of social engagement in an environment that optimally supports and furthers such pursuits for all.

Leftists have sought an end to illegitimate authority, illegitimate inequality, and illegitimate hierarchy of all kinds, as well as an end to the prejudices that were previously thought to justify such structures. These prejudices have included those about race and other cultural differences, gender differences, national differences, age differences, sexual differences, differences in ownership, and differences in occupation.

When people have battled against classism, exploitation, authoritarianism, patriarchy, sexism, heterosexism, ageism, racism, ethnocentrism, religious persecution, and inequality and hierarchy of all kinds, their best efforts have always been in the name of just or equitable outcomes, diversity, solidarity, and enabling people to have control of their own lives.

Parecon arises from and respects these historical and contemporary aspirations. Rank and file activists and citizens who have risen over and over, very often in grassroots council organizations and movements, have always sought the broad economic results parecon seeks to embody. It is not only repressive obstacles and forces from without, but also our own confusions often due to manipulations, our own ineffective methods, or our own overtly contrary class interests or other contradictory views that have skulked and even been nurtured within our projects, that have impeded our attaining real liberation.

I have tried to argue that while parecon doesn’t itself answer visionary questions bearing on race, gender, polity, and other social concerns, it is at least compatible with, and even in some cases, perhaps necessary for doing so. Hopefully, in the future, stronger and better conceived movements than we now have will prevail in all these domains. To conclude this discussion, however, a summary is in order.

Suppose beyond economics we want a new society to have a new set of political institutions to accomplish legislation, adjudication, and the implementation of shared and otherwise collectively mandated projects in a just and liberatory rather than in an authoritarian way.

Suppose too that we want a new society to have a new set of kinship institutions to accomplish procreation, nurturance, socialization, sexual relations, broader gender relations, and the daily functions of home life in a feminist and liberatory way rather than in a sexist, homophobic, and ageist way.

Suppose we additionally want a new society to have a new set of cultural institutions to accomplish community identification, communication, celebration, and exploration of moral and social group relations in a multicultural and liberatory way rather than in a racist, ethnocentric, bigoted, or otherwise mutually derogatory (or even genocidal) way.

Suppose also that we want a world of new societies to have a new set of global institutions to accomplish international exchange of resources, material products, cultural ideas, and even people and social relations in a peaceful, mutually beneficial, and liberatory way rather than an imperial, colonial, or even warring way.

Suppose we also want our new society to relate to nature mindful of resource depletion and of the impact our choices have on the environment and on us and other species, rather than in a polluting, self destructive, and even unsustainable way.

Suppose we want our society to explore the content of the cosmos and employ the ensuing insights in new technologies benefiting human well being and development rather than subordinating people to narrow interests or prejudice.

Suppose we want our society to have the means to avoid illness and to treat disease and disorder when they arise, with each person having equal rights to these benefits and capacities rather than having a society that systematically produces ill health and dispenses care unequally.

Suppose we want a society to have a minimum of theft, fraud, and violent negation of one or more parties by others rather than an epidemic of all these anti-social phenomena, and to deal with the results in ways that are just and don’t abrogate rights and priorities, rather than repressively and without dignity and hope.

Suppose we want a society to have a new set of educational institutions that enable all citizens to discover and fulfill their potentials in accord with all others having room and opportunity to do likewise, rather than restraining and restricting most citizens to be subordinate, and elevating only a few citizens to be informed and confident.

Suppose we want a society to have a new set of media institutions to accomplish journalistic and entertaining communication in a truthful manner sustaining both social awareness and dissidence rather than in a manner designed to enforce and reproduce existing social biases and submerge dissent.

Suppose we want a society to have artistic, athletic, and all diverse creative and engaging human pursuits carried out at an optimal level of accomplishment but also in accord with social solidarity and self management, rather than at a stunted commercialized biased level of accomplishment and in a manner dividing people into competitive opposition.

Parecon, I have claimed, is a vision of defining economic structures of a new post capitalist and post coordinator economy that efficiently meets needs and fulfills potentials while furthering solidarity, diversity, equity, and self management in a classless manner – and that would match well with and even facilitate all the above agendas.

Parecon is not a blueprint of a whole economy, much less of a whole society. But it is an institutional proposal for how economies can exist in accord with our highest aspirations for economic life and also for other social spheres and practices revolutionized in their own ways.

Insofar as social movements seeking a better world need, among other visions, an economic one, parecon is a proposal to that effect. Parecon’s assessment in theory and practice will let us know the extent to which we should become intellectual advocates for it and practical activists to attain it, or the extent to which we should devote ourselves to refining it or coming up with some better alternative because it fails to meet our widest needs.

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