This month the prominent radical thinker Michael Albert is coming over from the USA for a speaking tour of Britain, hosted by Project for a Participatory Society UK (PPS-UK). He will be speaking at Cardiff University on Monday 25th October at 12noon in the council chamber of the Glamorgan building (there's also a talk in Birmingham).
The talk is entitled "Participatory Economics: Imagining a Humane, Efficient, and Sustainable Economy". The author of several books on political economy, strategy for social change and societal vision, Participatory Economics (Parecon) is the economic vision that he and Robin Hahnel collaborated in putting together.
A veteran of the Students for a Democratic Society, he went on to co-found South End press, incorporating the features of Parecon into the workplace whilst publishing books to encourage critical thinking and constructive action on the key political, cultural, social, economic and ecological issues.
One of the founders of Z magazine, he is still part of a small group that runs Zcommunications, which has regularly featured contributions from a who's who of North American radicals, including Noam Chomsky, Ward Churchill, Howard Zinn and Naomi Klein as well as the likes of Robert Fisk and John Pilger from further afield.
Whilst many anti-capitalists rightly communicate about what we need to react to now, Albert emphasises the importance of doing not only this, but also thinking through where we want to end up in the long term. Albert argues why a certain word needs resurrecting:
"We can’t win what we won’t even name. We can’t orient today’s reforms to furthering tomorrow’s victories if we refuse to define what tomorrow’s victories need to be. Blind strategy is no strategy at all. Resistance is good. But to get to liberation, in speaking, writing, thought, and action—resurrect the R word.”The R word if you didn't guess is revolution, a fundamental change in power or organizational structures, which is what Parecon provides a vision for.
Parecon is an alternative to capitalism and centrally planned socialism. It replaces their defining institutional structures that create atomisation, competition, greed and waste, with features that elevate the values equity, solidarity, self management, diversity and efficiency. Making it possible to have a truly classless and participatory economy.
Parecon includes features as alternatives to:
The corporate division of labour, private ownership and top down decision making
It replaces them instead with self managed worker's councils where each person has a balanced job complex - meaning a fair mix of both empowering and un-empowering work. This enables all workers to take part in decision making - not just a subsection of the workplace, those whom Albert terms the co-ordinator class (replacing the term professional class).
Instead replaced with participatory planning, which involves worker and consumer councils putting forward proposals for what it is they want to produce/consume for a coming period. Then, through a refining iterative process both groups of councils resubmit updated proposals, taking into account the other groups previous proposal, until a final optimal plan is reached.
Remuneration for ownership, power (leverage) and output (productivity)
In Parecon the means of production are socially owned, so no one can receive income from owning something (no more capitalists). People are remunerated for the intensity at which they work, the duration of work and the sacrifice they make at work (how onerous or harmful work conditions might be).
A further benefit of having vision is that it allows those engaged in social struggle insight into how we could structure our organisations now, so that we are operating according to our true progressive values, meaning that we do not oppress each other in our day to day workings, that we are non-hierarchical, non-racist, non-male centered and non-classist.
The Wales area group of PPS-UK was set up over two years ago. We have previously run study groups on Radical Theory and Participatory Society. If you would like to be added to our contact list for events or to get involved get in touch we are also available to do book stalls and give presentations on Participatory Society.