1. Participatory Postcapitalist Vision – Michael Albert, 30th October 2021

Note: This is the opening 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


For me, the defining institutions of capitalism are private ownership of productive assets; authoritarian control of workplaces; production for profit; a corporate division of labor wherein empowered employees dominate disempowered employees; remuneration for property, power, and/or output; and allocation by markets and/or central planning.

To my eyes, these capitalist institutions produce obscene inequity, vile anti-sociality, and soul crushing indignity. They impose stupefying, empathy destroying, democracy defiling, and world-ravaging economic conditions.

To my mind, this poses a paramount question. What new post capitalist economic features are essential to ensure that our future selves will freely determine the details of their future lives with dignity, equity, and social solidarity? Here are the defining features participatory economics proposes:

  • A new conception of the natural and built workplaces, tools, and resources that we use to produce society’s goods and services. We call this a “Productive Commons,” and we propose it to replace private ownership of productive assets.
  • Workers and consumers workplace and neighborhood councils (and industry and regional federations of councils) that we use to convey to all a say over economic decisions proportional to the extent those decisions affect them. We call this “council self management,” and we propose it to replace authoritarian control of production and consumption.
  • Jobs composed of tasks that together provide each worker a manageable mix of responsibilities which convey by their daily accomplishment average “empowerment effects.” We call this mix “balanced job complexes,” and we propose it to replace a corporate division of labor that elevates an empowered coordinator class above a disempowered working class.
  • Equitable remuneration for how long, how hard, and the onerousness of the conditions under which we do socially valued work. We call this “equitable remuneration,” and we propose it to replace remuneration for property, power, and/or output.
  • And decentralized cooperative self-managed negotiation of production and consumption in light of personal, social, and environmental costs and benefits. We call this “participatory planning,” and we propose it to replace markets and/or central planning.

Advocates, myself included, claim that these five institutional aims, which we of course expect to see refined by future experience and augmented by diverse contextual policies and features that emerge from future practice, can together establish a classless, self managing, sustainable, and even aesthetic post capitalist economy that serves the fulfillment and development of all people.

Some advocates call this “participatory economics.” Some call it “participatory socialism.” But all its advocates, myself included, claim that these five proposed defining institutions can together serve as a flexible visionary scaffold we can refine and build on to help us traverse the road to winning a post capitalist economic vision. More, we claim that such participatory vision can inspire hope and sustain commitment. It can provide orientation to help us plant the seeds of the future in the present, win immediate gains in non-reformist ways, and traverse a trajectory of changes that avoids winding up other than where we wish to arrive.


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