3: Equitable, Negotiated, Classless Self Management

Note: This is the third entry in an ongoing debate
between Michael Albert and Yanis Varoufakis titled:
Envisioning a postcapitalism worth striving for.
Each entry will be 500 words or less.
Each will appear as a stand alone ZNet article, but each will link
as well to a cumulative essay containing all the submissions at ZNet’s
Cumulative document and at Meta’s Cumulative Document


Yanis, you say our differences begin beyond our both rejecting capitalism, advocating a productive commons, favoring participation in planning, and seeking to replace the “coordinator class.” But do we agree that to end coordinator class rule we need to replace the corporate division of labor with jobs balanced for empowerment? Do we agree that we should all decide our lives up to where our choices impinge on others, but from there on, others should have their self managing say, as well?

You express alarm that I use the words “equitable” and “negotiation.” You worry that these words may hide new forms of domination. But “equitable” means we receive income for how long, how hard, and the onerousness of the conditions under which we do socially useful work. Why would that alarm you? The only thing equitable remuneration has in common with market remuneration is that in each you get an income. But with markets you get what you have the bargaining power to take. With equitable remuneration, you get what you and your fellow workers decide accords with your duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued work.

And regarding “negotiation,” I assume you agree that any economy will and should involve people acting jointly with other people. Doesn’t it follow that in worthy post capitalism, a worker won’t just do or get whatever they alone choose? Call what they do together exploration, conversation, or negotiation, what’s the alternative? One person or a small class decides? Competition decides?

You don’t want people telling you what to do. Okay, but people telling you what to do seems a strange way to characterize decisions that you participate in. In any event, do you think there could or should be a society where each person would decide their own remuneration, their own consumption, and their own work, with no concern for others?

You say you find suffocating ”the prospect of having to reach via negotiation a common understanding of what [you] must do and of what an equitable reward is for [you] to do it.” In participatory economics no one tells you what you must do and you are part of who decides what is an equitable reward. You are a participant in society not atomistically aloof from it.

You have a job. Suppose your workers council, of which you a full member, decides when the work day starts. It sets council agendas, it determines the composition of balanced jobs, and it decides how to apportion income among its workers. Assume mutually agreed sensible deliberation plus self managed decision making procedures. Would that be suffocating? To achieve “a degree of autonomy from the collective,” participatory economics makes diversity a prime value and emphasizes the need to respect and even preserve minority positions. But shouldn’t post capitalist division of labor, decision making, remuneration, and allocation deliver goods and services but also solidarity, diversity, equity, self management, and sustainability? We haven’t yet explored how all that can happen, but can we agree it needs to happen?

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