Published on Zmag, by Michael Albert, June 26, 2009.
Michel, I will confine my reply to points of disagreement, or confusion, for brevity, after addressing, again, one overarching issue that seems to inform your entire reaction. But even at that, I apologize that this last reply regarding parecon is quite long. I have cut thousands of words from what I first wrote, but it seems that your confusions, perhaps due to my lack of clarity, are abundant, and I can’t help but offer a full set of comments.
You say, again, that you are “opposed to monological blueprints as a matter of principle and instead, favor pluralist … structures that grow organically from within the old.” Why does saying this bear on our discussion? I have addressed this issue before and yet it recurs.
Regarding seeking new social relations that “grow organically from within the old” – where else can new relations come from than within existing societies plus human innovation? Do you think parecon utilizes instead extra societal or even extra planetary experiences or impositions from non humans? …
… Anyone sane prefers non violence and reduced coercion to more violence and enlarged coercion – but for me the matter is contextual. We live in an incredibly coercive and violent world and if constantly delimited and subjugated populations could attain justice, equity, dignity, and appropriate influence by exerting force and even violence – I admit I would be for it, since given that we are assuming their choice would succeed, it would certainly eliminate far worse force and violence. In fact, however, I doubt that there is a successful path toward better social relations that incorporates significant violence or coercion in most places, at most times.
You say, “equitable remuneration: yes, we may want to proceed with a ceiling and progressive taxation, and upping the minimum wage, with also a basic income; right now the political power to do this is absent, but voluntary parecon institutions could proceed right away.”
We “may” want to proceed in a more equitable direction? Why do you have such a hard time being definitive other than regarding information? Why do you imply it is okay in new institutions, but not to fight for in old persisting ones?
Parecon’s approach to remuneration is of course militantly supportive of changes that move toward more equity now and more equitable relations in the future, but you don’t address such matters. Do you think people ought to be remunerated for the output of privately owned property, for their bargaining power, for their own personal output, or remunerated only for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor? And is it desirable to seek equity not only in “voluntary new institutions” but also, against their owners, in existing corporations?
You say, “self management: again a very difficult issue, the record of self-managed companies is very mixed, but some are successful; but as a general principle, I favour it, though again, in a pluralist economy.”
I suspect we might differ in our judgements about the cause of problems for a self managed company being increased participation and democracy on the one hand, or lack of assets and the debilitating context of market pressures on the other hand. But that aside, what does phrase about pluralism mean this time? Do you think it would be nice to have some self management but necessary if we are claim the label pluralist to augment it with some authoritarianism? I am not being flippant. It is a serious question.
In your discussion of how social change occurs, aside from mentioning only productivity and not people gaining control, integrity, etc., which are also often driving motives and factors, you emphasize that change is more likely if elites support it, or if they at least finally give in to it – which is of course quite true.
I add that that is what movements are for, to raise pressures that compel elites to succumb to demands that are contrary to their unpressured preferences. If you rule out such pressure as coercive, then you rule out change that is contrary to elite preferences. Is my logic wrong?
Elites don’t, by the way, opt for productivity per se, but only for productivity that is consistent with their remaining on top. It isn’t productivity that they seek, but elite power and wealth. Parecon would be incredibly more productive than capitalism, especially if we don’t measure the size of the pile of outputs, but instead their implications for human well being and development. Elites will not advocate parecon on those grounds.
It is fine for you to be have doubts about popular movements transforming society – though it has happened, of course, in virtually every instance of progressive change. I put far less weight on forces of production, technology, and productivity as arbiters of social possibilities than you do. But regardless of that, there is an immense difference between hoping for popular movements to transform society while having doubts they will be able to, and simply accepting (ala Thatcher and it seems you too) that since desirable change won’t happen without elite support, we have to seek only changes that can garner elite support.
You note that you are not saying “that the people ‘at the bottom’ should nicely ‘ask permission’ from those at the top, or only do things that are agreeable to them.”
No, but I do think you are saying that those below should do things that put pressure on those at the top that pushes them to support changes that flow from the dictates of productivity, and I think for you, and p2p, this includes not openly demanding changes that would fundamentally challenge those at the top.
I say, in contrast, movements from below can and should pressure those at the top to create a context that makes it wise for them to succumb even to changes counter to their desires. This indicates a critical difference between us about the agenda of movements and about how worthy change can be won, but it is not a difference about parecon per se … (full long text).