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parecon

Northeastern Anarchist #12, Winter 2007

Montpelier Downtown Workers’ Union
Zanon: Class Consciousness Through Self-Management
Resistance in Pyeongtaek
Anarchist Study of Iroquois
Solidarity with Six Nations
Workers, Management, and Worker-management
and more...

Workers' Liberation and Institutions of Self-management

We live under a system with a series of oppressions woven together: domination and exploitation of workers by elite classes of owners, managers and professionals; a system of gender inequality that disadvantages women; a racial hierarchy that places people of color at the bottom; oppression of gay people by a rigid heterosexist culture. And over it all, protecting elite interests, is a top-down state apparatus, not really controllable by the people even in so-called "democratic countries."

Parecon and the Nature of Reformism

The second most important problem for anticapitalist radicals is how to get from here to there; that is, how to get from a capitalist society to a good society. The first problem is where do we want to go--what we mean by a good, noncapitalist, society. Working together with Michael Albert, Robin Hahnel has spent years on this first problem, developing a model of what a good society might be like, or at least how its economy might work. In a series of books and essays (e.g., Albert 2000, 2005; Albert & Hahnel 1983, 1991), they have thought out how an economy might function which is managed by its people rather than by either private capitalists or bureaucrats--an economy managed through bottom-up democratic cooperation, rather than by either the market or centralized planning. They call this "participatory economics," or "parecon" for short. Their model involves coordination by councils of workers and consumers to produce an economic plan. I will not go into it now; it is further discussed in Hahnel’s current book. In my opinion, their model has enriched the discussion of what a socialist anarchist society might look like.

Anarchist Debate of Participatory Economics

Some have described Participatory Economics (Parecon) an anarchist economy because of its principles of Self-Management and equity, which are intended to challenge hierarchy and other authoritarian apparatus. Northeastern Anarchist has hosted a debate among anarchists around Participatory Economics.

Debating Economic Vision for a Society without Classes

The working class is a subjugated and exploited group within capitalism. As class struggle anti-authoritarians, we believe that the working class has the potential to emancipate itself from class oppression, and in doing so it creates a new social structure without a division into classes. But how is this possible exactly?

As I see it, participatory economics (often abbreviated as parecon) is an attempt to specify the institutions of a new economic system in which class oppression no longer exists.

The Sad Conceit of Participatory Economics

Participatory Economics (parecon) was proposed in two books (The Political Economy of Participatory Economics, and Looking Forward: Participatory Economics for the Twenty First Century) and has some support among anarchists and autonomists. It is a system for managing the economy of (present and) future society based on a fairer relationship between producer and consumer. While it continues to make use of a (modified) market, it seeks to abolish the power of capitalists to dictate the value of our work and the cost of consumption (i.e.

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