This is the introduction to the book Occupy Strategy – which is the third and concluding volume of the series titled Fanfare for the Future. In coming weeks we will follow up with more excerpts from this volume, but we hope many readers will order it from our Online Store, for yourselves, and then to pass on to others.
“I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
– Pablo Picasso
Occupy Theory (volume one of Fanfare) developed a conceptual toolbox for thinking about existing conditions and history. Occupy Vision (volume two) developed vision for a better world. Now we consider strategy.
You can get print versions of the earlier books or you can check online for a free version. But even if you don’t opt for a full version, below we offer a summary of earlier developments regarding theory and vision.
“Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
– Leonard Cohen
The idea that society is an outgrowth of only economic (or gender, race, or power) dynamics with all else emerging on the basis of one fundamental driving sphere of life is bankrupt and has always been bankrupt. Unlike orthodox – marxists, feminists, and nationalists, and even sometimes anarchists – we should not think in terms of a single core aspect of society driving all of history. We should highlight that at least four spheres (community/culture, kinship/gender, economy/class, and polity/power), and two contexts (ecology and international relations), interactively centrally define social life, and that each sphere acts in its own right as well as entwined with the others.
Four Spheres and Two Contexts
“An invasion of armies can be resisted;
an invasion of ideas cannot be resisted.”
– Victor Hugo
The four spheres and two contexts centrally define what is possible in any given society. A revealing way view it is that each of the four spheres emanates a field of influence that pervades all people’s lives and prospects, including affecting the evolution and character of the other three spheres and historical possibilities.
These four spheres of life emerge because humans require and inevitably construct institutional means to address economic, political, cultural, and kin dynamics, without which life would be incredibly impoverished. The institutions of these four social spheres then generate relations of power, wealth, privilege, and status that enormously influence who we can be and how society operates.
Both the institutions of the four spheres and also people as we manifest the affects of those institutions and of our own intrinsic natures, critically affect all things social and historical.
For example, surrounding institutions present people with roles that we can either fill to gain certain benefits or we can not fill. losing those benefits. We typically become members of classes, kin groups, cultural communities, and political sectors by virtue of occupying positions in the array of institutions of those four social spheres. We fill various roles they offer.
We may be an owner or we may work for an owner. We may be a mother or father, or a son or daughter. We may be of one religion, race, or nationality, or of another. We may be a political official or a citizen. Which combination of attachments we have depends on the roles we fill in society’s defining institutions. The attachments we have in turn contour our life situations and prospects. In short, in societies we confront an institutional boundary of options and possibilities that, in turn, affect who we are and what we can and cannot do in society.
We also have certain innate and historical personal attributes that help determine our thoughts, preferences, and habits. These to acclimate us to our social situations, or, at times, cause us to resist or even rebel against those situations.
Thus in any society both the particular institutional boundary with its role offerings, and the particular population with its diverse human attributes, especially as the institutions and the people affect each other, critically define life possibilities.
Regarding the four spheres of social life, we can usefully borrow familiar activist approaches from past schools of thought for addressing three of them – kinship, polity, and culture – but more caution is required in borrowing from past approaches to economics.
Concepts Sphere by Sphere
“It is the theory that decides what we can observe.”
– Albert Einstein
Feminism, anarchism, and what we can call culturalism, address three spheres and the circumstances that they impose on actors and the fields of force they emanate throughout society. They highlight and let us address many basic institutional and personal features of life related to kinship and gender/age/sexuality, politics/citizenship, and culture/racial/ethnic or other community relations.
The main failing that arises when using the current conceptual tools of these three familiar frameworks is that they sometimes leave us with incomplete comprehension of their entwinements, something we need additional concepts to help with. However, other than that, the basic perceptions and insights these three schools of thought convey are powerful, effective, and able to be adopted as part of a useful conceptual toolbox for social change.
In contrast, however, the most familiar activist approaches for understanding the fourth sphere, economics, are seriously flawed. The points developed in the first volume regarding this matter are many and hard to summarize, but the essence is this.
Not only should we enlarge typical activist approaches to understanding economics by concepts that highlight connections with the other three defining spheres of life and their influences, but more basic additional problems plague old economic concepts, the most important having to do with our understanding of class.
Most left economic thinking utilizes a two class framework that highlights relations of workers and owners. Many of its insights are powerful and relevant. Owners profit off and control means of production. Workers sell their abilities to work to owners for wages. This gives workers and owners very different and opposed life situations and prospects.
However, often ignored in these two class views is that between the two familiar classes there is a third centrally important coordinator class defined not by ownership relations, but by position in the division of labor. Their monopoly is not on property, but on empowering work.
In capitalist economies, doctors, lawyers, engineers, managers, financial officers and other highly empowered employees, called the coordinator class, have within their economic roles overwhelmingly empowering tasks and, as a result, their economic activities convey to them confidence, knowledge of the workplace, social skills, and habits of rule. More typical workers, called the working class, in contrast, do overwhelmingly disempowering tasks that diminish their confidence, knowledge of the workplace, and social skills, and induce habits of obedience. The coordinator class, which is about 20% of the whole workforce, has much higher income, much greater status, and much more control. The working class of about 80% winds up relatively subordinate, not just to owners, but also to coordinators.
Even more important, when private ownership is eliminated and capitalism is transcended, if the old division of labor persists so that roughly 20% of all employees continue to monopolize empowering work, then that coordinator class will alone set agendas, determine outcomes, enrich itself, and, in sum, be a new ruling class above workers.
This means that economic analysis that is undertaken with the purpose of aiding activist efforts to immediately mitigate economic injustices and also ultimately eliminate class rule must highlight not only property relations but also empowerment relations. Analysis must highlight not only two classes but also a third, and this has profound implications for almost all observations, causing need of conceptual overhaul, as discussed in Occupy Theory.
Society and History
“Human history becomes more and more
a race between education and catastrophe.”
- G. Wells
Beyond the four social spheres, there is also ecology and international relations, each of which establishes a context in which societies operate and develop, dramatically affecting prospects – not least by such phenomena as global warming and wars.
It follows that any society can be understood in its broad contours by examining its four spheres of social life and their interrelations, and also the two overarching contexts within which it exists and their interrelations. We must focus on the institutional boundary of society, but also on its human center – the population and its consciousness, habits, etc. – and thus on the associated hierarchies of privilege and the groups occupying positions in those race, gender, power, class, and other hierarchies.
A society is characterized by a combination of defining institutions in the four spheres. More, a society is stable when each sphere is compatible with the others and is internally stable as well. A society is unstable if one sphere or another is seriously contrary in what it requires from people to what another sphere requires from those same people, or if one sphere is internally contradictory.
With stability, hierarchies of social groups defined by the different spheres – race, class, gender, power – each at least accommodate the rest. They respect one another’s dictates about who is to be on top and who is to be below. If kinship says men rule women, an accommodating economy will not put women above men so often as to generate a turmoil that can only resolve with one sphere or the other changing. And the same holds for polity and culture, economy and polity, and so on. We call this social accommodation.
In contrast, if one sphere propels and requires that people do and be x and another sphere propels and requires that the same people should do and be y – and if x and y are seriously contrary, then the situation is unstable. Kinship putting men above women, and the economy or polity doing the reverse, would be an example.
Accommodation comes about because the field of force emanating from kinship, say, radiates into, for example, the economy, and causes the economy to abide gender norms that kinship establishes. Likewise, the cultural, political, or economic field of force can cause kinship to accommodate relations in these spheres, and vice versa, and so on, in every pairwise combination.
Another stability inducing possibility exists as well, beyond accommodation. The field of force from some sphere of social life – let’s say kinship – may not only cause other spheres to respect the hierarchies it imposes on men and women, gays and straights, and regarding age, etc. – but may also literally cause other spheres to co-reproduce those relations. The idea is that the field of force from one sphere reconstructs relations in the other sphere so they reproduce the first sphere’s dynamics.
Suppose in some society kinship generates sexism. If other spheres accommodate that, it means they don’t place women above men in regard to income, power, etc. But if other spheres co-reproduce sexism, our new stronger concept, it means the roles in their institutions are altered so that they too actually themselves generate sexism.
In the accommodation case, the economy pays men more than women, etc. In the co-reproduction case, many of the economy’s roles are transformed so that they literally create sexism (just as the roles in the kinship sphere do).
The critically important insight about co-reproduction is that when it exists, to eliminate sexism requires not only revolutionizing the institutions of the kinship sphere that are the origin point of sexism – but also the institutions of other spheres that have come to not just abide but also reproduce sexism. The field of influence emanating from kinship alters other spheres so their fields of force also generate sexism. Just changing kinship relations, in that case, is not enough.
The ironic situation is that the stronger the impact of the kinship sphere is on society – the more likely it is necessary to not focus exclusively on kinship even if one just wants to eliminate sexism. Rather, one has to not only alter kinship, but also economy, polity, and culture, because even if kinship is transformed, if the other spheres are not, they will push toward regenerating sexism.
And the same goes if the economic sphere causes others to reproduce classism, or the cultural sphere does so for racism, say. In such cases, eliminating classes requires addressing more than the economy, and eliminating racism requires addressing more than the culture. Co-reproduction, when it exists, demands of us a holistic approach if we are to successfully and conclusively revolutionize any sphere of life, much less all of them.
History, in this four sphere, institutional boundary and human center, accommodating or co-reproducing conceptual view, emerges largely as the motion of the four spheres’ defining groups and core institutions, including special emphasis on the causes of stability and change.
Thus, a society has a combination of defining institutions in the four spheres. When there are changes that, however, preserve those institutions without changing their defining features, we call it social evolution. This is certainly history – society evolving – but without any fundamental systemic transformation of defining relations.
However, when there are changes that fundamentally alter the defining features of one or more spheres of social life, thus in turn altering the life prospects of social groups in the society in fundamental ways, including toppling old hierarchies, we call it social revolution. This too is history, not evolutionary, but revolutionary.
Revolution, in this view, is not a matter of violence, or of rapid change, or even of massive volume of change – it is a matter of a particular type of change.
If an asteroid crashes and the whole U.S. is plunged overnight into poverty and economic misery, but defining relations of institutions weren’t altered – however daunting and massive the alteration, it would not be a revolution. If there were huge violent upheavals, but defining relations of institutions weren’t altered, it would not be a revolution. If, however, defining relations were altered, even though it occurred slowly and without violence, that would be a revolution. Finally, when there is strong co-reproduction, revolution might well have to address all sides of life to successfully and permanently transform any one side of life.
The above summary of our volume one discussion of new concepts for activists is obviously too succinct to be complete, too succinct to constitute an argument, too succinct to be easy to imbibe, and thus too succinct, as well, to be convincing. Hopefully, it nonetheless provides enough of a summary to constitute a backdrop for what will follow in our strategic discussion.
But, at the risk of just a bit of repetition, what do we have so far? Think of our effort as slowly developing a conceptual toolbox. We dig into this toolbox when we need to understand existing relations and propose new relations (vision) or new paths forward (strategy).
In our toolbox, we have the idea of four societal functions essential to a society existing and persisting – economic, political, kin, and cultural. We also have the idea that societies exist influencing and being influenced by the natural environment, as well as by many other societies that all together establish international relations.
We next have the idea that each sphere has defining institutions, which in turn have defining social roles. More, we focus on institutions and their roles as a kind of institutional boundary of society, and we focus on people’s consciousnesses, values, skills, and expectations, particularly as shared by large groups defined by institutional roles, as all together constituting a human center of society.
We have in mind, too, that each social sphere often generates hierarchies – for example, of class, gender, sexual preference, race, religion, ethnic and national group, and political power or influence. Each sphere produces particular shared attitudes, interests, beliefs, habits, and expectations, typically arrayed in ways that line up from one sphere to another so that what each sphere requires and upholds does not seriously violate the requirements that other spheres require and uphold, and, sometimes even tends to reproduce and enforce the requirements born of the logic of the other spheres.
We adopt the insights that have historically emerged to serve the interests of subordinate populations in each of three spheres (feminism, intercommunalism, and anarchism) with only modest refinements to take account of mutual interconnections and influences. Anti capitalism, however, we substantially modify by incorporating a three class rather than a two class logic that highlights not only monopolies of property but also monopolies of empowering work. This establishes the concept of the coordinator class situated between labor and capital, with its own attitudes and interests.
We highlight, as well, that sometimes the requirements and implications of social spheres can get out of alignment, either internally within one sphere, or between two or more spheres, or, for that matter with innovations in any one sphere that have been proposed or enacted, sometimes even with the explicit purpose of propelling change. In these ways there ensues mostly ever present social evolution that occurs within the limits of reproducing old defining relations, but also sometimes a less frequent and more profound social revolution, replacing old roles with new and fundamentally different ones.
“At the risk of sounding ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by feelings of love.”
– Che Guevara
Volume two of Fanfare addresses vision for the four spheres of social life and for international relations and ecology. It addresses each sphere in terms of values and then also institutions that can make those values real.
The most developed formulation is the economic vision called participatory economics, or parecon for short. Less developed, as yet, but no less important, participatory polity, kinship, and culture, plus ecological stewardship and internationalism, when taken together with economics, constitute a vision for a new type of participatory society.
“You, you may say I’m a dreamer,
but I’m not the only one.”
– John Lennon
Parecon is a proposal for a new way of carrying out production, consumption, and allocation. It is classless and equitable. It delivers to each actor self managing say. It produces not only desired goods and services but also desirable solidarity and diversity.
Parecon is not a comprehensive blueprint but is, instead, only a description of the key attributes of four institutions deemed essential if economics is to be both worthy and desirable.
First, workers and consumers self managing councils are the venues through which people determine their actions in accord with other people doing likewise.
Self management means each actor has a say in decisions proportionate to the impact of the decided issue on them. If the issue is what socks I wear to work tomorrow – the impact is almost entirely on me, so I decide, essentially alone. We do not have a majority rules vote, or a consensus vote, or any other kind of vote of the whole workers council about my socks. I just decide. If, however, the issue is a new hire, then perhaps everyone will be affected, though maybe the work team where the person would spend time will be affected more than others. If the decision is about the schedule of work, perhaps all in the workplace are comparably affected. Based on such differences, sometimes a few decide in context of overarching decisions by the whole council. Sometimes the whole council decides. Sometimes decisions are by majority vote, or by consensus, or by other means. The point is to best approximate people having a say proportionate to the effects on them.
The second structure has to do with work. How do we arrange it? In the usual pattern, about 20% of the workforce does overwhelmingly empowering tasks. 80% does overwhelmingly disempowering tasks. The former do work that conveys to them confidence, social and conceptual skills, knowledge of the workplace and its possibilities, decision making habits in daily life relations at work, etc. The latter do work that diminishes confidence, reduces social and conceptual skills, reduces knowledge of the workplace and its possibilities, instills habits of obedience, and exhausts them.
Two problems require attention. Some have better conditions, meaning more enjoyable and engaging work. This could be offset by income considerations, so we will set it aside for a moment. Second, some become ready to govern, others to be governed. In the workers council – and for that matter also in the broader society – the 20% who do overwhelmingly empowering work set agendas, make proposals, dominate discussions, and, ultimately, get their way. The 80% steadily become bystanders. We are talking, here, about a difference between two types of worker due to their position in the division of labor. The former – who parecon’s advocates typically call the coordinator class – rule over the latter, the working class.
To get rid of this class hierarchy one must break the relative monopoly on empowering circumstances that gives the coordinator class its dominant position. To do this, rather than put the empowering tasks all into few jobs that few people hold, we spread the empowering tasks through all jobs by creating what we call balanced job complexes.
Each person does a mix of tasks – at which they are capable and comfortable, of course – such that the mix that you do, and the mix that I do, and the mix that everyone else does are balanced from one person to the next for the empowerment effect of work on the worker doing it. This is called balanced job complexes, and in parecon the balancing occurs not only inside each workplace, but across workplaces as well. The result is that we all have comparably empowering work. We are all comparably prepared to participate in workers and consumers councils. Self management is not rendered moot by class rule.
The third feature of parecon is called equitable remuneration. What is each person’s rightful claim on the social product? How much do you get? How much to I get? What is responsible and fair? What works?
Parecon says people who are too young or old, or who are otherwise unable to work, should get a full income anyhow. But people who can work should have an income share that depends on the duration, intensity, and onerousness of their socially valuable labor.
I can’t be remunerated as an athlete, a singer, or anything else for which my abilities don’t allow me to produce outputs that others will want to have. But I can be remunerated for anything I can do well enough for my efforts to be socially valuable. And if I want to consume more out of the total social product, I can do so by working more hours, or more intensely, or perhaps doing some more onerous tasks, as long as I work in a balanced job complex overall, and as long as I arrange my activities with my workers council.
This type equitable remuneration is not only fair, but also facilitates consumption matching production and vice versa. It conveys to workers and consumers indicators of the preferences of others for leisure and work and for different kinds of work and different products.
The fourth and last key feature of parecon is called participatory planning. It replaces markets and central planning with self managed cooperative negotiation by the workers and consumers councils carried out in light of true and full social costs and benefits. As compromising of parecon as it was to offer the first three components as succinctly as was done above, it would be even worse to make believe we can usefully describe participatory planning in just a very few words. Still, on balance, it is a system of cooperative negotiation among workers and consumers councils. Each offers desires, each mediates their offers in light of what others offer. Various structures help with assessing costs, benefits, and preferences. There is no center and periphery, no top and bottom. Actors self manage in light of emergent measures of personal, social, and environmental costs and benefits. Personal motives and behaviors mesh seamlessly with those of self managed councils and fit with balanced job complexes and particularly remuneration for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor.
The claim of parecon, whose features are spelled out more fully in many texts, interviews, essays, etc., is to be an economy that accomplishes production, consumption, and allocation without class division and in accord with people’s needs and desires, ecological sustainability, and social harmony. If the claim is true, parecon is a worthy alternative to capitalism and also to what has been called market or centrally planned socialism – which pareconists instead call coordinatorism. Parecon can and should inform strategy and program.
Participatory Polity / Anarchism
“You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’
But I dream things that never were;
and I say, ‘Why not?’”
– George Bernard Shaw
For polity we can start with values. Surely a polity should produce solidarity not anti-sociality and should value and generate diversity rather than homogenized outcomes. Political institutions should advance each citizen via the advance of all. Political institutions should protect and celebrate diversity of views and respect multiple paths forward as much as possible, not seeking one right mind or one right path.
Polity should also generate justice regarding the distribution of rights and responsibilities, including the need to redress violations of social agreements. Justice is about fairness of outcomes over time, including redressing past imbalance and preventing future imbalance.
Finally, valuing self management says politics should facilitate actors influencing decisions in proportion as those decisions impact them.
Any polity includes legislation, adjudication, and collective implementation.
For legislation, parpolity advocates nested councils where the primary-level councils include every adult in the society. Some folks are in turn elected to higher level councils as well. And this proceeds again, for another layer, and another. The delegates to each higher council try to reflect the views of the council they came from.
The number of members on each council should be small enough to guarantee that people can be involved in face-to-face discussions, yet big enough for adequate diversity of opinion and so the number of layers of councils needed to accommodate the entire society is manageable.
Contrary to most people’s intuitions, a council size of 50 could accommodate 625 million people by the fifth level and with a sixth level, even 25-person councils could accommodate about half a billion people so that layered councils are flexible and well within practical possibility.
Councils are deliberative and public. The idea is to utilize them to approximate as much as possible within a sensible time frame and in accord with the importance of particular issues, self managed decision making.
Sometimes higher level councils vote and decide. Sometimes they deliberate and report back and lower level councils vote and decide. The exact combination or range of combinations of voting at the base versus voting in higher level councils, and of procedures for presenting, deliberating, debating, and tallying viewpoints, and of how precisely council members are chosen, are all determined in light of experimentation and experience.
Suppose we are choosing between one person one vote majority rule and consensus for decisions at some level, on some type of issues. Or suppose we are deciding the mandates of representatives and their responsibilities. Or we are settling on the procedures of debate and evaluation, or the means of voting, tallying, and then reconsidering. How do we arrive at a preference for one approach compared to another at particular levels, and for particular types of decision recognizing that favored methods are highly likely to differ in different contexts? The answer is we try to achieve self management and to facilitate arriving at wise calculations. We try to protect and pursue diversity. We try to maintain solidaritous feelings and practices, And finally, we try to get things done without undo delays.
What if some choices and gains compromise pursuit of others? That is what happens when reasonable people disagree not only due to seeing facts differently, or to some people calculating wrong while others are accurate, but simply due to having different priorities or intuitions about complex implications. The trick of legislative structure and methods is to have a system that allows self managed choices in which everyone agrees that the choices are reached fairly for all and are either excellent or in any event flexibly subject to review – even while alternative choices, as much as there remains interest in them, are still explored. And this is what the nested council system guided by commitment to self management, solidarity, and diversity seeks to achieve.
What about shared executive functions? Think of delivering the mail, of investigating and trying to limit outbreaks of disease, or of providing environmental protection. All of these pursuits involve a production and allocation aspect handled by the structures of participatory economics, including balanced job complexes, remuneration for effort and sacrifice, and participatory decision making. The worker’s council delivering mail would in these respects not be particularly different from the workers council producing bicycles, nor would the center for disease control worker’s council be very different in its economic aspects from a typical hospital, and likewise for the Environmental Protection Agency and a typical research institute.
But in another sense the three examples are different from their parecon counterparts that have non political functions. The future Post Office, CDC, and EPA operate with the sanction of the polity and carry out tasks that the polity mandates. Particularly in the case of the CDC and EPA, executive agencies act with political authority that permits them to investigate and sanction others where typical economic units would have no such rights and responsibilities.
It follows that the executive branch is largely concerned with establishing politically mandated functions and responsibilities that are then carried out according to the norms of the participatory economy insofar as they involve workplaces with inputs and outputs, though a political aspect defines their agendas and perhaps conveys special powers.
What role would a judiciary have in a parpolity?
Judicial systems often address judicial review (are the laws just?), criminal justice (have specific individuals violated the laws?), and civil adjudication (how are disputes between individuals resolved?).
For the first, parpolity offers a court system that would operate with hierarchical levels adjudicating disputes arising over council choices. Is this the best approach we can imagine, and can it be refined or transformed to further enhance self management? Experimentation will tell.
For criminal matters and civil adjudication, parpolity proposes a court system modestly different from what we have now, plus a police force with balanced job complexes and remuneration for effort and sacrifice.
A police force? There will be crimes in a good society, sometimes violent and sometimes even horribly evil, and investigation and capture of criminals will require special skills. Some people will do that kind of work, with special rules and features to ensure they do it well and also consistently with social values – just as some people will spend some of their time flying airplanes or treating patients or doing other difficult and demanding jobs that require special skills and have special rules to ensure they are done well and consistently with social values.
Sure, in a good society many reasons for crime would be eliminated and criminal acts would likely be far fewer, but that doesn’t mean there will be no crime at all. And the idea that policing can be done on an entirely voluntary basis makes no more sense than saying flying planes or doing brain surgery can be done entirely on a voluntary basis. It fails to realize that desirable policing, like desirable piloting or dooctoring involves special skills and knowledge. It fails to recognize the need for training and disciplined attention to special rules to avoid misuse of prerogatives.
Beyond the powerful implications of pareconish workplace structure and decision making for preventing police or any other workers from accruing undo benefits, might there be a special limited duration for police work due to its particular pressures and requirements? Might there be empowered community review mechanisms to oversee specific rules of police operations and evaluation? Sure, and such things might exist for various other jobs, too.
Why does the above formulation inspire outrage in some very sincere leftists who desire a better society? Police very often now act in ways that hurt rather than help all but narrow elites. This being so, we must, in a new society, many think, do away with police. If this formulation said, just a little differently, we must do away with police as we now know them, it would be fine. But going from rejecting what is vile, to rejecting underlying functions and all possible institutional means to accomplish those functions, even when the functions in question are essential to social life, is suicidal.
Take a parallel argument. Government very often now acts in ways that hurt rather than help all but narrow elites. Must we therefore get rid of all political/government functions? Or let’s take another example. An ecological activist might say workplaces very often now spew pollution and in doing so hurt rather than help all but narrow elites. Must we get rid of not just current workplace structures, but work in any structured institution at all? Or, someone might argue, families today, cultures today, schools today, journalists today, doctors today… all impose on people horribly restrictive and destructive habits and beliefs. Must we get rid of all institutional structures for addressing nurturance, socialization, education, celebration, and communication?
The problem in all these examples is going from a rightful rejection of horrible contemporary means of accomplishing some function to rejecting any institutional means of addressing even refined versions of the function. In any event, it is not the police part of the judicial system, it seems to me, but the courts part, the legal advocates part, and the jury part, that may be most difficult to dramatically improve in a better society.
On the one hand, the advocate model in which lawyers work on behalf of clients regardless of guilt or innocence makes considerable sense. We don’t want people having to defend themselves so that those who are good at it have a tremendous advantage over those who are not good at it. We therefore need well-trained lawyers and prosecutors available to all disputants.
We also want these advocates to try hard, of course. But at the same time, the injunction that prosecutors and defense attorneys should seek to win favorable verdicts regardless of their knowledge of the true guilt or innocence of the accused and by any means that they can muster – because that approach will yield the greatest probability of truthful results – strikes me as about as believable, in certain respects, as the injunction that everyone in an economy should seek selfish private gain as the best means of benefiting society as a whole and engendering sociality.
Of course the ills of the judicial methodology are incredibly aggravated by role structures in which benefits and losses are a function of gaining sought verdicts regardless of justice. Yet, even when those involved in jurisprudence are bound by equitable incomes, still, it seems that the pursuit of worthy justice will entail many alterations from current practices. However, as to how to adapt or replace the combination of courts, judges, juries, and aggressive advocacy with different mechanisms other than concerning matters of new norms of remuneration and job definition that economic innovations indicate and that would certainly be highly beneficial in curbing anti social motivations and outcomes, future practice will likely have to decide.
Participatory Kinship / Feminism
“The place of the father in the modern suburban family
is a very small one, particularly if he plays golf.”
– Bertrand Russell
A problem with discussing participatory kinship, is that we as yet have very little clarity about what revolutionized kinship relations will be like in a new society. What institutions will organize procreation, nurturance, and socialization? How will the structures we fill to accomplish upbringing and home life change so as to eliminate the roots of gender and sexual hierarchies?
Our values imply that accomplishing kinship functions should enhance solidarity among the involved actors, preserve diversity of options and choices, apportion benefits and responsibilities fairly, and convey self managing influence – all as makes sense in this sphere of life, taking into account issues of age, etc.
So with that set of broad desires, will there be families as we now know them? And whatever families we have, what else will exist? Will upbringing diverge greatly from what we now know? What about courting and sexual coupling? How will the old and young interact with what we now call adults and how will adults react with the elderly and the young?
To fulfill our values of course we will require that desirable kinship structures liberate women and men rather than causing the former to be subordinate to the latter, and likewise for other hierarchical or degrading relations.
In these matters, we are therefore talking about liberating a side of life where the gain will be removing the features that produce sexism, homophobia, and ageism, plus gaining an array of positive improvements that we can only guess at until we have experimented with more complete proposals for visionary kinship institutions, but which will at the very least include the benefits of additional people reaching their fullest potentials.
It isn’t that all problems associated with gender will disappear in a good society, or that all unmet desires or un-manifested capacities will be always and everywhere perfectly addressed without any pain and with maximum benefits for all. Even in a wonderful society, we can confidently predict that there will still be unrequited love. Sex will not lack turmoil. Rape and other violent acts will occur, albeit far less often than now. Social change can’t remove the pain of losing friends and relatives to premature death. It can’t make all adults equally adept at relating positively with children or with the elderly or vice versa.
What we can reasonably expect and demand, however, is that new forms of engagement will eliminate the systematic violation of women, gays, children, and the elderly which causes these whole groups to suffer material or social deprivations.
We can demand that innovations eliminate the structural coercion of men and women, of hetero and homosexuals, and of all adults and children into patterns that have for so long manifested and preserved systematic violations of solidarity, diversity, equity, and self management.
How will all this happen? What will the institutions defining a vastly better kinship future look like?
I can find very little in the way of a proposed answer in the contemporary literature of the left, though in the past mainly women have attempted to provide some visionary sex-gender insights and I would like to mention some of those attempts as being worth trying to elaborate into a gender related vision.
In contemporary societies that elevate men by consigning women to less empowering and fulfilling options, what are the defining structures that intrinsically produce a sexist ordering and therefore need to be profoundly altered to remove that ordering?
By a sexist ordering we of course mean men dominating women in income and circumstance, in opportunities and quality of life, and in control over social outcomes.
Sexism takes overt form in men having dominant and wealthier conditions. It takes more subtle form via long standing habits of communication and behavioral assumptions. It is produced and reproduced by institutions that differentiate men and women, including coercively as in rape and battering, but also more subtly via what seem to be mutually accepted role differences in home life, work, and celebration as well as by the cumulative impact of past sexist experiences on what people think, desire, and feel, and on what people habitually or even self consciously do.
If we want to find the source of gender injustice, it stands to reason that we need to determine which social institutions and which roles within those institutions give men and women responsibilities, conditions, and circumstances, that engender motivations, consciousness, and preferences that elevate men above women.
One structure we find in all societies that have sexist hierarchies is that men father but women mother. That is, we find two quite dissimilar roles which men and women play vis a vis the next generation, with each role socially defined and in only very minor degree biologically fixed. Thus one conceptually simple structural change in kinship relations would be to eliminate this mothering/fathering differentiation between men and women.
What if instead of women mothering and men fathering, women and men each parented children? What if men and women each related to children in the same fashion, with the same mix of responsibilities and behaviors (called parenting), rather than one gender having almost all the nurturing as well as tending, cleaning, and other maintenance tasks (called mothering), and the other gender having many more decision-based tasks, with one gender being more involved and the other more aloof? The argument behind this proposal is that mothering is a role that is socially and not biologically defined and that as mothers, women produce daughters who in turn not only have mothering capacities but want to mother.
As Nancy Chodorow put it,
“The sexual and familial division of labor in which women mother and are more involved in interpersonal affective relationships than men produces in daughters and sons a division of psychological capacities which leads them to reproduce this sexual and familial division of labor…. all sex-gender systems organize sex, gender, and babies. A sexual division of labor in which women mother organizes babies and separates domestic and public spheres. Heterosexual marriage, which usually gives men rights in women’s sexual and reproductive capacities, and formal rights in children, organizes sex. Both together organize and reproduce gender as an unequal social relation.”
So perhaps one feature of a vastly improved society vis a vis gender relations will be that men and women will both parent. There will be no mothering versus fathering, just parenting.
Another typical structure that comes into question for many feminists thinking about improved sex-gender relations is the nuclear family. This has to do with whether the locus of child care and familial involvement is very narrow, such as resting with only two biological parents, or instead involves many more people – perhaps an extended family or friends, community members, etc.
It seems highly unlikely a good society would have rules that required a few typical household organizations and family structures such that everyone must abide only those. We wouldn’t expect adults would by law have to live alone or in pairs or groups in any single or even any few patterns. The key point is likely to be diversity and that whatever multiple and diverse patterns exist, each option embodies features that impose gender equity rather than gender hierarchy.
We can at least say that the men and women that are born, brought up, and then themselves bear and bring up new generations will be full, capable, and confident in their demeanor and also lack differentiations that limit and confine the personality or the life trajectories of either – whether to some kind of narrow feminine or narrow masculine mold.
The same can be said about sexuality and intergenerational relations. We don’t know what fully liberated sexuality will be like in all its multitude of preferences and practices or what diverse forms of intergenerational relations adults and their children and elders will enter into. We can say, however, that in future societies no few patterns will be elevated above all others as mandatory though all options will preclude producing in people a proclivity to dominate or to rule, or to subordinate or to obey, based either on sexual orientation or on age (or on any other social or biological characteristic, for that matter).
We have very little idea what specific sex-gender patterns will emerge, multiply, and continually develop in a better future – for example, monogamous and not, hetero, homo, or bi-sexual, and involving transformed care giving institutions, families, schools, and perhaps other political and social spaces for children as well as for adults and the elderly. But we can guess with confidence that actors of all ages, genders, and engaging in non oppressive consensual sexual relations will be free from stigma.
Participatory Culture / Intercommunalism
“When I hear anyone talk of culture,
I reach for my revolver.”
– Hermann Goering
We will not be magically reborn in a desirable society, free of our past and unaware of our historical roots. On the contrary, our historical memory, sensitivity to past and present social process, and understanding of our own and of our society’s history will all very likely be enhanced during the process of reaching a desirable society. Rather than our diverse cultural roots being submerged, therefore, on the road to a better world, they will grow in prominence.
So while as Einstein pithily put it, in its current incarnations, “nationalism is an infantile sickness. It is the measles of the human race,” still, the point of cultural vision is not to erase diverse cultures or to reduce them to a least common denominator.
As Arundhati Roy argued referring to fundamentalist inclinations to homogenize India,
“Once the Muslims have been ‘shown their place’, will milk and Coca-Cola flow across the land? Once the Ram Mandir is built, will there be a shirt on every back and a roti in every belly? Will every tear be wiped from every eye? Can we expect an anniversary celebration next year? Or will there be someone else to hate by then? Alphabetically: Adivasis, Buddhists, Christians, Dalits, Parsis, Sikhs? Those who wear jeans, or speak English, or those who have thick lips, or curly hair? We won’t have to wait long… What kind of depraved vision can even imagine India without the range and beauty and spectacular anarchy of all these cultures? India would become a tomb and smell like a crematorium.”
In other words, instead of homogenizing cultures, in the transition to a better world the historical contributions of different communities should be more appreciated than ever before and there must be greater rather than lesser means for their further development, occurring, however, without destructive mutual hostilities.
Trying to prevent the horrors of genocide, imperialism, racism, jingoism, ethnocentrism, and religious persecution by attempting to integrate distinct historical communities into one cultural niche has proved almost as destructive as the nightmares this approach sought to expunge.
“Cultural homogenization” whether racist, fundamentalist, or even leftist, ignores the positive aspects of cultural differences that give people a sense of who they are and where they come from. Cultural homogenization offers few opportunities for variety and cultural self-management, and proves self-defeating in any event since it heightens exactly the community anxieties and antagonisms it seeks to overcome.
Yes, in a competitive and otherwise mutually hostile environment, religious, racial, ethnic, and national communities often develop into sectarian camps, each concerned first and foremost with defending itself from real and imagined threats, if necessary even waging war on others to do so.
And yes, in other contexts, more subtle and less overt racist expressions occur as Al Sharpton notes, commenting on racism’s changing face in the U.S. after the gains of the civil rights movement, “We’ve gotten to an era where people are much more subtle and more manicured. Jim Crow is now James Crow, Jr., Esquire.”
But the near ubiquitous presence of racial and other cultural hierarchies throughout society and history no more means we should eliminate cultural diversity than the existence of gender, sexual, economic, or political hierarchies means we should eliminate diversity in those realms. The task is to remove oppression and achieve liberating conditions, not to obliterate difference.
Racism certainly often has a very crass and material component. Consider Desmond Tutu commenting on the South African experience,
“When they arrived, we had the land and they had the Bible and they told us to close our eyes to pray. When we opened our eyes, they had the land and we had the Bible.”
But theft is not always the dominant theme of cultural violation and, even when it is highly operative, it is generally only one part of the whole cultural picture. Much and even most of racism, ethnocentrism, nationalism, and religious bigotry is based on and reproduced by cultural definitions and beliefs other than and even beyond material differences.
Dominant community groups rationalize their positions of privilege with myths about their own superiority and the presumed inferiority of those they oppress. But these often materially motivated myths in time attain a life of their own transcending material relations. The effects are brutal. For the oppressed, in the American novelist Ralph Ellison’s words,
“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids–and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination–indeed, everything and anything except me.”
Some sectors within oppressed communities internalize myths of their inferiority, and attempt to imitate or at least accommodate dominant cultures. Einstein wrote,
“It seems to be a universal fact that minorities–especially when the individuals composing them are distinguished by physical peculiarities–are treated by the majorities among whom they live as an inferior order of beings. The tragedy of such a fate lies not merely in the unfair treatment to which these minorities are automatically subjected in social and economic matters, but also in the fact that under the suggestive influence of the majority most of the victims themselves succumb to the same prejudice and regard their brethren as inferior beings.”
Others in oppressed communities respond by defending the integrity of their own cultural traditions while combating as best they can the racist ideologies used to justify their oppression. But as W.E.B. Dubois notes,
“It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.”
And as Frederick Douglass wrote in another context,
“For a white man to defend his friend unto blood is praiseworthy but for a black man to do precisely the same thing is a crime. It was glorious for Americans to drench the soil and crimson the sea with blood to escape payment of three penny tax upon tea; but it is a crime to shoot down a monster in defense of the liberty of a black man and to save him from bondage one minute of which (in the language of Jefferson) is worse than ages of that which our fathers rose in rebellion to oppose.”
In any event, cultural salvation does not lie in trying to obliterate the distinctions between communities. Instead the only lasting solution lies in eliminating racist institutions, dispelling racist ideologies, and changing the environments within which historical communities relate so that they might maintain and celebrate difference without violating solidarity.
An alternative to racism, ethnocentrism, religious bigotry and other forms of community oppression is therefore what we might call “intercommunalism,” which emphasizes respecting and preserving the multiplicity of community forms we are blessed with precisely by guaranteeing each sufficient material and social resources to confidently reproduce itself.
Not only does each culture possess particular wisdoms that are unique products of its own historical experience, but the interaction of different cultures via intercommunalist relations enhances the internal characteristics of each and provides a richness that no single approach could ever hope to attain. The point is that negative inter-community relations must be replaced by positive ones. The key is eliminating the threat of cultural extinction that so many communities feel by guaranteeing that every community has the means necessary to carry on their traditions and self definitions.
In accord with self management, individuals should choose the cultural communities they prefer rather than have elders or others of any description define their choice for them, particularly on the basis of prejudice. And while those outside a community should be free to criticize cultural practices that in their opinion violate humane norms, external intervention that goes beyond criticism should not be permitted except to guarantee that all members of every community have the right of dissent and to leave at no material or broader social loss.
Most important, until a lengthy history of autonomy and solidarity has overcome suspicion and fear between communities, the choice of which community should give ground in disputes between two should be determined according to which of the two is the more powerful and therefore, realistically, the least threatened.
Intercommunalism of the sort envisioned here, therefore, would make it incumbent on the more powerful community with less reason to fear domination to unilaterally begin the process of de-escalation of disputes. This simple rule is obvious and reasonable, despite being seldom practiced to date. When need be oversight and enforcement could occur by way of an intercommunal legal apparatus specializing in conflict resolution, of course including balanced job complexes and equitable remuneration, etc.
The goal is to create an environment in which no community will feel threatened so that each community will feel free to learn from and share with others. But given the historical legacy of negative intercommunity relations, it is delusional to believe this can be achieved overnight. Perhaps even more so than in other areas, intercommunalist relations will have to be slowly constructed, step by step, until a different historical legacy and set of behavioral expectations are established. Nor will it always be easy to decide what constitutes the “necessary means” that communities should be guaranteed for cultural reproduction, and what development free from “unwarranted outside interference” means in particular situations.
But the intercommunalist criterion for judging different views on these matters seems to me likely to be that every community should be guaranteed sufficient material and communication means to self-define and self-develop its own cultural traditions, and to represent its culture to all other communities in the context of limited aggregate means and equal rights to those means for all, just as all of its members, by virtue of participatory economic, political, and kin relations, are equitably remunerated, self managing, etc.
Participatory Society and Ecology
“What is the use of a house if you haven’t
got a tolerable planet to put it on?”
– Henry David Thoreau
When asking the implications of participatory society/socialism, or parsoc, for the ecology, the main issue is economics since it is via production and consumption that by far the largest social impact on ecology occurs. Economies add pollutants to the environment. They deplete natural resources from the environment. They alter the arrangement and composition of attributes in the environment or the way in which people relate to the environment, such as by building dams or creating changed patterns of human habitation, among countless other possibilities. And each of these and other possible ways of an economy affecting the environment can, in turn, have ripple effects on nature’s composition and via those changes, back again on people’s lives.
Thus, for example, an economy can add economic byproducts to the environment as in exhaust spewing from cars or smoke stacks, thereby accumulating chemicals in the atmosphere. In turn these effluents can impede breathing or alter the way the sun’s rays affect atmospheric temperatures. Both these economic implications can have ripple effects on people’s health, or on air currents which impact sea currents, in turn affecting polar ice caps, and then altering weather patterns, sea levels, and crop yields, in turn dramatically impacting human options and conditions.
Or an economy can deplete oil, water, or forests, leading to people having to reduce their use of depleted resources and affecting the total level of both production and consumption around the world, or affecting the availability of nutrients essential to life, or building materials needed for creating dwellings.
Or an economy can alter the shape and content of the natural environment’s dynamics, as for example when by reducing forests we reduce the supply of oxygen they emit into the atmosphere; or when by increasing the number of cows and affecting their eating patterns (to produce more tasty steak for ourselves) we increase the methane they expel, leading to greenhouse effects that in turn alter global weather patterns; or when we alter human living patterns and thus transportation and other consumption patterns and attitudes, affecting people’s on-going relations to mountains, rivers, air, and other species.
In the above cases and countless others affecting the supply or quality of weather, air, water, or even noise, globally or regionally, or affecting resource availability, or the availability of enjoyable natural environments, what we do in our economic lives affects, either directly or by a many-step process, how we environmentally prosper or suffer in our daily lives, now or in the future, as well as how the environment itself adapts.
In other words, economic acts have direct, secondary, and tertiary affects on the environment, and the changed environment in turn has direct, secondary, and tertiary affects on our life conditions.
Sometimes these effects are horrifying, as in seas rising to swallow coastal areas and even whole low lying countries, or as in crop, resource, or water depletion that causes starvation or other extreme widespread deprivations. Or maybe the effects are slightly less severe but still horrific as in tornados, hurricanes, droughts and floods devastating large swaths of population, or inflated cancer rates caused by polluted ground water or escalated radiation cutting down large numbers of people early in life, or dams eliminating whole villages due to their footprint. Or maybe the effects are limited to smaller areas suffering loss of enriching environmental surroundings when natural environments are paved over or when noise pollution arises from loud production or consumption.
It follows from all these possibilities that the relations of an economy to the surrounding natural environment are deadly serious and that to fail regarding relations to the environment, even if succeeding on all other criteria, would be a damning weakness for any proposed economic model or new society.
Will a participatory economy be any better for the environment than capitalism? The answer is yes, for a number of reasons.
First, in a parecon there is no pressure to accumulate. Each producer is not compelled to try to expand surplus regardless of human benefits in order to compete with other producers for market share, but, instead, the level of output reflects a true mediation between desires for more consumption and desires for a lower overall amount of work.
In other words, whereas in capitalism the labor/leisure trade off is biased heavily toward more production at all times due to the need for overall growth to avoid shrinkage that brings on failure, in parecon it is an actual, real, unbiased trade off.
In a parecon, that is, we each face a choice between increasing the overall duration and intensity of our labor to increase our consumption budget, or, instead, working less to increase our overall time available to enjoy labor’s products and the rest of life’s options. And since society as a whole faces this exact same choice, we can reasonably predict that instead of a virtually limitless drive to increase work hours and intensity, a parecon will have no drive to accumulate output beyond levels that meet needs and develop potentials, and will therefore stabilize at much lower output and work levels – even if ecology were not taken into account – say thirty hours of work to produce social products a week, and eventually, even less. Interestingly, and revealingly, some mainstream economists criticize that in a parecon people will decide their work levels and will likely decide on less than now saying that this is a flaw rather than celebrating it as a virtue, which advocates of parecon of course take it to be.
The second issue is one of valuation. Again unlike in capitalism, as well as with markets more generally, participatory planning doesn’t have each transaction determined only by the person who directly produces and the person who directly consumes, with each of these participants having structural incentives to maximize purely personal benefits regardless of the broader social impact. Instead, every act of production and consumption in a parecon is part of a total overall integrated economic plan. The interrelations of each actor with all other actors and of each action with all other actions are not just real and highly consequential in the material plane – which is of course always true – but are also properly accounted for at the decision point.
In a parecon, production or consumption of gas, cigarettes, and other items with either positive or negative effects on people beyond the buyer and seller take into account those wider effects. The same holds for decisions about larger projects, for example, building a dam, installing wind turbines, or cutting back on certain resources. Projects are amended in light of feedback from affected councils at all levels of society, from individuals and neighborhoods through countries or states.
The key point is relatively simple. By eliminating the market drive to accumulate and to have only a short time horizon, and by eliminating market-compelled ignorance of economic effects that extend beyond buyers and sellers (such as on the environment) and the consequent market mispricing of items, parecon properly accounts costs and benefits and provides means, as well, to sensibly self manage environmental impacts.
It isn’t that there is no pollution in a parecon. And it isn’t that no non-renewable items are ever used. These norms would make no sense. You can’t produce without some waste and you can’t prosper without using up some resources.
Rather, what is necessary is that when production or consumption generates negative effects on the environment, or depletes resources that we value and cannot replace, the decision to do these things ought to be made taking into account the implications.
We should not transact when the benefits don’t outweigh the detriments. And we should not transact unless the distribution of benefits and detriments is just, rather than some people suffering unduly.
This is what parecon’s participatory planning ecologically accomplishes and really all that we can ask an economy to do by its own internal logic. We don’t want the economy to prejudge outcomes deciding by the pressure of its institutional dynamics results that humans as a result have no say in, as, for example, the capitalist accumulation drive propelled by markets which decides the labor/leisure trade-off regardless of participant preferences. We want a good economy to let people who are affected make their own judgments with the best possible knowledge of true and full costs and benefits by bringing to bear appropriate self managing influence. If the economy presents this spectrum of possibility and control to its actors, as parecon does, what is left to assess is what people will then likely decide, and on that score all that we can ask of an economy is that people not be biased by institutional pressures or made ignorant or ineffectual due to institutional biases. Parecon guarantees both these aims. Parecon provides for people to be free and self managing, and simultaneously ensures that the logic of the economy is consistent with and possibly even conducive to the richest possible human comprehension of ecological connections and options.
Similarly, we can ask of the rest of society – its culture, its kinship relations, and its polity – that these too, by the implications of their roles for people’s beliefs, desires, habits, and interests – not bias people against the environment or future generations. This means a polity manifests people’s wills and has no institutional inbuilt bias regarding ecology. It means kinship occurs in context of environment and attuned to respecting it. And the same for culture. This last can have many forms – ranging from respecting norms from other spheres but otherwise having marginal specific attitudes to ecology to the more typically indigenous type cultures with very rich and detailed ecological attitudes – but, in any event, it means there will not be disdainful, polluting attitudes within cultural norms.
Of course we can refine our understanding of participatory kinship, community, and polity beyond the fledgling descriptions in our vision above, and thus also their ecological interface, yet even as they are now, I suspect readers will agree that they would yield people with sensible care-taking attitudes toward their surroundings and with nurturant attitudes toward future generations.
Under these circumstances, it is reasonable to think that parecon’s and parsoc’s citizens will not only make wise choices for their own interests, but for their children and grandchildren as well, regarding not only direct production and consumption and daily life celebrations, but also the myriad ripple effects of economic and social activity on the environment.
Participatory Society and International Relations
“…what if the enemy isn’t in a distant land,
what if the enemy lies behind the chain of command,
the sound of war is a child’s cry,
behind tinted windows, they just drive by,
all I know is that those who are going to be killed,
aren’t those who preside on capitol hill,
I told him, don’t fill the front lines of their war,
those assholes aren’t worth dying for…”
– Ani Defranco
First, the pressure of capitalism to conquer ever expanding market share and to scoop up ever widening sources of resources and labor is removed. There is no drive to accumulate per se, and there is no tendency to endlessly expand market share or to exploit international profit-making opportunities, because there is no profit-making. The sources of imperialism and neo colonialism, not merely some of their symptoms, are removed, at least in the country with the parecon.
If the whole world has participatory economies, then nothing structural prevents treating countries like one might treat locales – neighborhoods, counties, states – within countries. And likewise, there is no structural obstacle to approaching the production side similarly, seeing the world as one entwined international system.
Whether this would occur or not, or at what pace, are matters for the future and also affected by other dimensions of social life. However, a participatory polity writ large into international relations, leads toward equitable and participatory international adjudication and legislation, and similarly intercommunalism and feminism writ large into international relations, tends to mitigate and remove the traffic in women and racial and ethnic bases for nation attacking nation.
It certainly seems that the natural and logical international long-run extension of domestic advocacy of participatory economics, kinship, polity, and community would favor internationalism, not imperialism. If balanced job complexes and equitable distribution in light of the total social output and self management and justice, and feminist and intercommunalist relations are morally and economically and socially sound choices in one country, why not across countries?
Likewise, if it makes sense to plan each country’s economic life in a negotiated participatory manner, and to govern its polity in a self managing way, why wouldn’t it make sense to do these things, as well, for interactions from country to country?
Of course, even with the structural obstacles emanating from capitalist relations of production gone, and even assuming cultural and political forms would also welcome internationalism and even extending the logic of domestic parecons and parsocs to a worldwide participatory economy, the remaining difficulty is the magnitude of the inter-nation gaps that would need to be overcome.
Even if one wanted to, one simply cannot sanely equilibrate income and job quality between a developed and an underdeveloped society, short of massive and time consuming campaigns of construction, development, and education. Moreover, if there are some parecons and some capitalist economies operating side by side, the situation is still more difficult, with gaps existing in development and also in social relations.
So the real issue about parecon and parsoc and international relations becomes: as countries become participatory societies domestically, what happens to their trade and other policies with still capitalist countries?
No outcomes is inexorable. We can conceive, I suppose, of a country with a participatory economy that is rapacious regarding the rest of the world, or with a participatory polity that is authoritarian toward the rest of the world, or with feminist kinship that is sexist toward the rest of the world, or with intercommunalism that is racist toward the rest of the world. It is very difficult to imagine, yes, but is not utterly inconceivable. What we are assessing is a policy choice.
How should a parecon interact with other countries who do not share its logic of economic organization and practice?
A good answer seems to me to be implicit in the whole earlier discussion of international global policies. The idea ought to be to engage in trade and other relations in ways that diminish gaps of wealth and power while respecting cultural integrity and adjudicating and legislating in self managing and just manner.
One obvious proposal is that the parsoc trades with other countries at market prices or at parecon prices, depending on which choice does a better job of redressing wealth and power inequalities.
A second proposal would be that a parsoc engage in a high degree of socially responsible aid to other countries less well off than itself.
A third proposal would be that a paresoc supports movements seeking to attain participatory relations elsewhere.
There is every reason to think the citizens of a parsoc would have the kind of social solidarity with other people that would drive them to embark on just these kinds of policies… but such actions would involve a choice, made in the future, and not reflect an inexorable constraint that is imposed on society by a systemic pressure.
The long and short of this discussion is that seeking just international relations leads, rather inexorably, toward seeking just domestic relations and vice versa. A participatory society fulfills both agendas.
“Hungry man, reach for the book: it is a weapon.”
– Bertolt Brecht
There is arguably something very odd occurring when an introduction, such as the one you are just finishing reading, is hugely long, and yet never mentions the content of the current book that is being introduced and when it is harder to read than the rest of the book due to extreme concision, and finally, when it even needs its own conclusion.
Well, what is wrong is that this is the third volume of a set, and this introduction had the thankless task of trying to replace the first two volumes for those who don’t wish to or are not in position to examine them directly. For those who do examine them directly that journey will yield a richer array of concepts and, in particular, additional explanation and exemplification than this summary provides.
That said, we now proceed to matters of strategy. We have called this volume you are about to read, Occupy Strategy – which means making strategy our own, making strategy a tool with which to win a better world. The word occupy, used as a verb, also hopefully emphasizes that generating strategy is an ongoing task.