Your Freedom Is A Condition for My Freedom and Vice Versa

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Michael Albert and Yanis Varoufakis , members of mέta’s Advisory Board , take part on an ongoing debate on how a postcapitalism worth striving for could look like. Here is the fifth 500 word contribution. The whole discussion, to be constantly updated and enriched, can be found here.


Yanis, self-management doesn’t mean Tom can’t do things that impact others. It only means everyone should influence decisions in proportion as they are affected. For self-management an affected group that decides some issue may be a whole council, a team, or even an individual. For different issues, self-management may need more or less deliberation and require different ways to tally preferences into decisions. You ask who will determine what decision-making methods and procedures workplaces use. The workers council, of course.

Make telegraph machines no one wants? Make wheels for vehicles no one drives? Consume all you want oblivious to what others want and to the size of the social product? No society can allow each person to decide these sorts of things on their own. So how do we make sure everyone gets a say proportional to how decisions affect them? If just you are affected, you decide. If just a group is affected, the group decides. And decision-makers always use procedures that best convey proportionate say.

So of course Harriet decides what job Harriet wants to do. But how? Harriet’s workers council assesses workplace tasks and apportions them into jobs balanced for empowerment. Harriet applies for a job she likes. If Harriet is ill-equipped for her preferred job, Harriet’s council won’t accept her application because her working at that job would be socially irresponsible. So, yes, Harriet chooses her job, but she chooses it from among jobs the workplace offers that she can do well.

Do you really think Harriet should instead “pursue projects without anyone’s permission”? That would imply that Harriet can utilize resources, inputs, and tools however she pleases. She need not be competent. She need not fit the environment of her workplace. She can waste tools, time, and space making telegraph machines no one wants. She can produce wheels for vehicles no one has. And what about other people with other ideas for how to use the tools, time, and space Harriet would be commandeering? I wonder, do we differ about how to combine individual freedom and creativity for each with individual freedom and creativity for all?

Switching to remuneration, you ask, “who will decide what constitutes socially useful work?” Well, does anyone want the product? If not, producing it was not socially useful. Did the production responsibly utilize resources, tools, labor, and other inputs? If not, not all the work was socially useful. Thus the whole population together decides what is socially useful via allocation we have yet to discuss.

Finally, the guaranteed basic income you favor is possible but not necessary in a participatory economy, though getting a full income while moving between jobs or if you can’t work is necessary—but a full income, not a “basic income.” I wonder if the democratic planning you favor is markets plus democratically chosen policies to mitigate market failings. If so, I instead prefer participatory planning without markets at all.

1 comment

  1. Elizabeth Marxsen December 30, 2021 2:16 pm 

    This discussion is a great format/tool foranalyzing the features of Parecon. I’m really liking it.

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