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[Michael Albert and Yanis Varoufakis , members of mέta’s Advisory Board , take part in an ongoing debate on what a postcapitalism worth striving for could look like. Here is the seventh 500 word contribution. The whole discussion, to be constantly updated and enriched, can be found here .]
Yanis: I don’t think we have fully addressed each other’s views on self management or on people being free to do whatever they like. You say you “dread” the “tyranny of the majority.” I propose to preclude tyranny by minorities, by structures, or by majorities with self-managing institutions. You ask “can democracy-at-work be made compatible with a degree of personal autonomy from what the majority thinks?” I ask “what institutions can facilitate informed self-managed, classless decision-making as well as solidarity and autonomy?” To answer, I propose:
- A commons of productive assets to eliminate capitalist rule;
- Workers and consumers self managing councils to eliminate coordinator class rule;
- A participatory division of labor to prepare all to self manage;
- Remuneration for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor to achieve equity;
- And participatory planning to allocate in accord with well being.
I claim these features provide an institutional scaffold on which anti-capitalists can add diverse refinements based on experience and circumstance.
You describe workplace “democratic planning” by which workers will propose activities for their own workplaces. I welcome your particular steps as possible interim goals on the way to a post capitalism. I agree they could also persist in some participatory economic workplaces where participatory planning would allow them to account for effects on and desires of other workplaces and consumers. Without that addition, however, I believe your workers would have no good way to mesh their proposals with others throughout the economy. If they were to instead use markets or central planning to promote a mesh, they would suffer horrible constraints and pressures.
For “autonomy” you propose that any work team should freely do anything they think appropriate. But surely each team’s and each workplace’s actions need to accord with what other teams and other workplaces do. I propose participatory planning to provide the needed information and context to attain that result.
For remuneration you propose steps workers could seek in a transition and could even choose for a particular participatory economic workplace, though of course other workplaces might reasonably opt for other steps. But don’t you agree that rewarding talents or bargaining power would have neither economic nor moral benefit and would create major income inequalities? Also, don’t we need to explain what determines the total income available for workers in a firm to disperse among themselves? In a participatory economy, the total available would equitably reflect the duration, intensity, and onerousness of the totality of socially valued work done in that workplace. Do you agree with that or favor some other basis for remuneration?
Participatory economy of course agrees with you that people should be free to quit a workplace and still receive an average income while they arrange for new employment elsewhere. Likewise, of course anyone who can’t work should get average income, and everyone should get medical and other agreed-on free goods. We agree too that workers councils can fire employees for good cause, but shouldn’t listening and correcting often preclude the need to quit or terminate?