Review of Parecon

I once saw a protest sign which asked a possibly-not-premature question: “Communism is dead.  Is capitalism next?”  If the answer is “yes,” what decent economic scheme might take its place?

Parecon: Life After Capitalism by Michael Albert offers an
answer: PARticipatory ECONomics, an economy which includes the sharing of empowering and disempowering tasks, and allocation through a series of participatory planning rounds. Albert, an author and manager of Z Magazine’s website (
www.zmag.org), culminates twelve years of writing and thought about parecon with Parecon.

Albert first addresses some basics, then he consistently tips over sacred economic cows on the right (markets ignore important externalities) and on the left (central planning is dictatorial, bioregionalism is too vague).  He then describes parecon in detail, spells out some examples of life in parecon, then addresses various criticisms against parecon.  Throughout the book, Albert refreshingly ignores assorted taboos as he forges a vision of a better tomorrow.  That vision is grounded in many current and past examples, some of which appear at parecon’s website (www.parecon.org).

Reading Parecon, I was curiously reminded of Milton Friedman’s manifesto Capitalism and Freedom even though Friedman and Albert are politically light-years apart and Parecon is much easier to read.  Friedman’s book fanned the worldwide flames of neoliberalism (rampant markets).  With translations in 11 languages already, Parecon may fan the flames of a growing worldwide anti-neoliberal backlash.  If the global economy continues to unravel while people hunger for better alternatives, Parecon might be mandatory reading for some time.

Leave a comment