JCDA as a Framework for Visionary Thinking
The JCDA framework as a point of departure for developing a polity model to accommodate and be accommodated by Parecon
Michael Albert, in his book Parecon: Life After Capitalism (2004), asks, “can a parecon accommodate and be accommodated by other institutions?” (Albert 2004, 286). Concluding this chapter of his text, Albert posits the question in a slightly more elaborate form…
“So are the people parecon presents to the rest of society the kind of people who will be compatible with and thrive in institutions designed to eliminate racism, sexism, heterosexism, political authoritarianism, environmental degradation, and global imperialism? Models for such institutions still await development, but we believe that we can provisionally answer this question in the affirmative, given that people in parecon feel solidarity, are used to participation, expect and seek equity, have practice with and value self-management, and anticipate and appreciate diversity” (ibid, 288; italics added).
In this essay, I hope to begin to fill the void which Albert points to in the passage above, by laying out a logical foundation upon which a virtuous polity model, to accommodate and be accommodated by parecon, can be established and fleshed out in necessary detail. The foundation delineated in this essay will serve not only as a logical point of reference for constructing a virtuous polity model, but can also be used as a lens through which economic models can be evaluated as well. Although the logical foundation which I will posit in this essay is not itself a polity model, I see this logical framework well-suited to allow for the development and/or refinement of a polity model to accommodate parecon, perhaps within a larger context of the libertarian mixed economy (1).
I will refer to this logical foundation as JCDA, an acronym representing the framework’s essential formula for social progress: Just law + Consensus + Devolution = Anarchy. Progress via the JCDA framework would look something like this: First, the state would have developed into its more perfect, ethical form which is both sustainable in its pragmatism, and justified in the constellation of laws and policies which it upholds. At this point, the state will have come to serve its intended, rational purpose of upholding the public good. I refer to the state in its more perfect form as the ethical state. Following the realization of the ethical state, the people living within this ethical state will have come to achieve a widespread understanding of and compliance with the ethical state’s system of just laws and norms, such that ignorance or defiance of the system of laws and customs would be widely seen as irrational. I refer to this diffusion of popular understanding of and compliance with the laws and norms of the ethical state as the achievement of popular ethics. Popular ethics are realized via consensus building, the second component of the JCDA framework. Following the realization and sustainment of popular consensus towards the laws and norms of the ethical state, the state will be in a position, I would argue, where it can entertain the possibility of devolving its power upon that more local level of governance which has achieved and sustained such compliance (2).
I should be clear about what I mean by “levels of governance.” There are perhaps six levels of centralization, which I identify as follows, from the most central, to the most local: At the global level, we find the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, and the World Social Forum, for instance. Next, we arrive at the continental level, which consists of the European Union, the African Union, as well as “trade agreements” such as NAFTA and MERCOSUR. Following the continental level of governance, we arrive at the national level, which includes nation-states such as the U.S.A., England, South Africa, Japan, Germany, et cetera. Next, we move down to the state or regional level, which includes, for example, the fifty individual states of the U.S.A., the E.U. regions, the Basque region of Spain, and Northern Ireland. Moving on, we arrive at the local/municipal level of governance, which consists of cities and towns. Finally, we observe, at the most local level of governance, that of the family and/or individual, which would include households as well as individual persons either atomized or part of a particular family unit. The locus of state discretion and/or power, as it is conceptualized within the JCDA framework, will move up and down among these six levels of government, more or less closely approximating its arrival at the ideal level of self-governance (3). The summum bonum of this devolutionary process will be the achievement of anarchy, or the full devolution of power to the individual level, wherein each individual is self-governing.
To illustrate how compliance with just law can lead to devolution and/or a reduction in the need for state law enforcement, consider the following historical example. In the United States, during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the federal government forcefully intervened in the affairs of southern states such as Arkansas in order to see that the desegregation of public schools could proceed. Had the people of the South understood the rightness of the federal desegregation laws, and had they voluntarily implemented such policies, there would not have been a need for the federal government to enforce that law, and so the autonomy of the South would have been preserved. However, because the desegregation policy was being blocked in the South, the Federal Government was justified in using force to see that the desegregation policy proceeded. Hypothetically speaking, one can picture a similar dynamic taking place at more devolved levels of governance: just as the federal government could potentially cease forcing laws upon the states when the states voluntarily abide by federal laws, so too can the individual states relax their law enforcement efforts to the extent that the more local regions within those states voluntarily comply with the laws of those states, and so forth, all the way down the chain of government levels, until power has been devolved to the individual level of governance.
Competing anarchist views on the state and anarchism
While I argue that the JCDA framework truly is an anarchist idea, there are aspects of it which are inconsistent with core features of both classical and contemporary anarchist thought. The most obvious dissimilarity, is that the JCDA framework recognizes the state as having an essential role in the movement towards anarchy. Anarchists have traditionally held that all governments, as well as the laws they produce and enforce, are ess