As always, you can add or remove addresses to our free updates list at
ZNet's top page...which is at www.zmag.org/weluser.htm
And also as usual we have many new articles since our last update,
including essays about this weekend's tumultuously successful events
from Robert Jensen, William Blum, Judy Rebick, Robert Fisk, John Pilger,
and myself, among others.
But the bulk of this update has a different focus. It continues our
policy of introducing ZNet Update Recipients to new books by ZNet
Howard Zinn comments:
"I can't count the number of times
when serious critics of our social system
would say to me: 'Why can't we come up
with a vision of what a good society
would be like?' This is what Mike Albert
boldly does in Parecon: Life After Capitalism,
and the result is an imaginative,
carefully reasoned description,
persistently provocative, of how we might
live free from economic injustice."
And this time the new book we are introducing is by me. It is called
Parecon: Life After Capitalism (author Michael Albert, publisher Verso
Books -- http://www.zmag.org/pelac.htm.) This is uncomfortable, me
sending a mailing about my own book, but, I have steeled myself to do it
for weeks now, and so here goes.
Noam Chomsky comments:
"There is enormous dissatisfaction,
worldwide, with prevailing socioeconomic
conditions and the choices imposed by
the reigning institutions. Calls for change
range from patchwork reform to more
far-reaching changes. Michael Albert's work
on participatory economics outlines in
substantial detail a program of radical
reconstruction, presenting a vision
that draws from a rich tradition of
thought and practice of the libertarian
left and popular movements, but adding
novel critical analysis and specific
ideas and modes of implementation
for constructive alternatives.
It merits close attention, debate, and action."
Bookstore buyers, particularly in the U.S. and England, aren't exactly
afficianados of visionary economic radicalism, much less of books that
wish to replace capitalism. The World Social Forum has as its slogan
"Another World Is Possible." Barnes and Noble doesn't.
Unless ZNet's users help generate online momentum for Parecon: Life
After Capitalism, its American and British sales will likely be modest.
Without online momentum very few copies will even enter stores in the
U.S. and Britain for people to assess. On the other hand, if ZNet users
do generate considerable online momentum, stores and media outlets may
take note, and this may win the book a chance to reach out widely.
Cynthia Peters comments"
"As an organizer, writer, and union-based
educator, there is a certain refrain I hear
over and over again. That is, `Why bother
struggling for social change? We can't really
do any better than this.' Too often our reply
is simply that `another world is possible.'
But we don't say what might this world
look like. How would we design institutions?
How would we structure society? These are
reasonable questions, and progressives
lose credibility when we have no real answers.
Michael Albert's (and Robin Hahnel's) conception
of a participatory economy (parecon) offers
a detailed vision of how we might organize
production, consumption, remuneration and
distribution in ways that foster the values
we believe in, such as justice and solidarity.
Albert gives us what we need to imagine
and debate what another world would look like.
Albert's writing is clear, and his case for parecon
is fine-tuned. This is an important book,
not just because it does economic vision so well
and so credibly, but because it is a model for all the
vision work that needs to be done. Parecon is
the most serious effort I have seen to date to
shift our thinking towards asking and
answering the question: What would a
better world look like?"
To give some evidence of long-run potential, I want to let you know that
versions of the book Parecon: Life After Capitalism are already
contracted and being pursued in eleven languages and being negotiated in
sixteen more languages.
There is therefore plenty of reason for international optimism, but,
ironically, in English, my home language and also the initial
publisher's language, the battle for visbility will be most difficult
because it is exceptionally hard to get English language radical titles
noticed in the American and British media and available in our stores.
Carl Boggs comments:
"In Parecon, Michael Albert has built extensively
and creatively upon his earlier work
on participatory economics and democratic
politics understood in the most radical,
transformative sense. What he provides is
nothing less than an urgent agenda for the
twenty-first century, one that would move us
toward the kind of collective empowerment,
deep citizenship, and civic engagement needed
to reverse the present slide toward barbarism.
The model Albert proposes and so convincingly
articulates goes well beyond failed systems of the
past - market capitalism, the command economy,
social democracy - while also pointing toward
a much needed alternative to the present-day
ravages of capitalist globalization. More than a
discourse on economics, the book offers a broad
vision of radical transformation grounded in the
very best elements of previous emancipatory theories
and movements. It will be essential reading for
anyone interested in fundamental social change."
The online page for the new book is at http://www.zmag.org/pelac.htm.
There are links on that page to purchase the book, as well as a table of
contents and some excerpts.
Ezequiel Adamovsky comments:
"I believe the Argentinean social movements
I am part of that are trying to build alternatives
to capitalist irrationality --such as the barter markets,
piquetero productive projects, workers
self-managed factories, independent distribution
centers, etc.-- will surely find inspiration in
Michael Albert's book. Will the future be exactly
as he envisions it? That's not the question.
What matters is that Parecon helps us imagine
how we can organize society after we get
rid of capitalism. Parecon makes utopia look feasible."
There are also many more pre-publication quotes online at
http://www.zmag.org/pelac.htm, very much like those I took the liberty
of interspercing in this email. Can they all be wrong? I hope not.
The book has just gone onto the Amazon.com site for purchase. Today the
book is 2,423,754th in sales on Amazon. That's not so good, I have to
admit, but then no one knew the book was there until you got this
message, so I guess that is how many books they have for sale, and that
Parecon is dead last.
Getting online momentum that impacts store and media response requires
climbing up Amazon's charts. Can we get a book on economic vision into
their top 100,000, top 10,000, top 1,000, top 100, top 10?
Here is the author interview for Parecon: Life After Capitalism. After
the interview, to give it substance relating to current events this ZNet
free update concludes with an article about current movement trends and
prospects called Showdown.
Can you tell ZNet, please, what your new book, Parecon: Life After
Capitalism, is about? What is it trying to communicate?
Parecon: Life After Capitalism is about an economic system called
Participatory Economics that seeks to accomplish production,
consumption, and allocation to efficiently meet needs consistent with
the guiding values: equity, diversity, solidarity, and self-management.
When people ask what do you want for the economy, I answer: parecon.
Parecon features workplace and consumer councils, self-managing
decision-making norms and methods, remuneration for effort and
sacrifice, balanced job complexes, and participatory planning. This is a
set of institutions very different from those of capitalism as well as
from what has been called market socialism.
The book, Parecon: Life After Capitalism, first briefly examines
existing systems, revealing their incompatibility with guiding values we
hold dear. Then the book presents defining institutions for the new
economy. It describes new institutions for workplaces, consumption, and
allocation. Next the book details the daily life implications of the
proposed new institutions. Finally, the book deals with a host of broad
concerns people have registered on first hearing about this new vision:
Would it really further our aspirations and values? Would it be
productive? Would it violate privacy or subvert individuality? Is it
efficient, flexible, creative, meritorious? And so on.
Can you tell ZNet users something about writing the book? Where does the
content come from? What went into making the book what it is?
Participatory economics has been around as a model for a little over ten
years. Robin Hahnel and I developed it and have written about it in
various venues. This new book is my best effort to motivate, describe,
elaborate, and defend the vision.
In that sense, Parecon: Life After Capitalism emerges from many
engagements over the years and reflects lessons from actual experience
with work life in mainstream and alternative institutions, teaching,
organizing, public speaking, dealing with questions in online forums on
ZNet, and of course trying to work through the model in new ways as new
insights, questions, and explorations arise.
Regarding the writing, I and many people who helped me have prioritized
making this book as accessible and compelling as we could. I am not the
world's best writer, nor even in the top 600 million or so, but I plug
away, and I did a lot of plugging on this book.
What are your hopes for the book? What do you hope it will contribute or
achieve, politically? Given the effort and aspirations you have for the
book, what will you deem to be a success? What would leave you happy
about the whole undertaking? What would leave you wondering if it was
worth all the time and effort?
If everyone who reads this interview and all their friends and relatives
and workmates don't go out and buy the book, soon - I will be wondering
what I did wrong.
This book tries to answer the question "What do we want?", seriously,
compellingly, and accessibly. So naturally I would hope all people
concerned about a better world, and particularly a better economy, would
As mentioned, I have been hard at work on developing and trying to make
known participatory economics for over a decade, and the work is finally
beginning to have impact. Parecon: Life After Capitalism in some ways
climaxes that effort, and will hopefully bring it further along. The
book will be published in twenty or more languages and has attracted
considerable attention even before publication. There is diverse
interest from many quarters. There is growing momentum for this economic
vision, it seems.
In addition, times have changed quite a bit in the past decade. We have
progressed from the heyday of market mania and Margaret Thatcher's
famous claim that "There Is No Alternative," to a new time of deep
travail and wondering about all things economic. Among progressives the
World Social Forum inspired watchword has become "Another World Is
Possible." Anti-globalization movements have taken the wind out of
market complacency and are scrutinizing everything economic. People want
to know from all kinds of activists, what is your alternative - and
participatory economics is, I hope, a very good answer regarding at
least the economy.
So, I hope the book Parecon: Life After Capitalism is going to propel
this economic vision into much greater visibility than it has previously
enjoyed. Of course, I hope the model will prove compelling and worthy,
and thus be adopted widely. I have very high hopes indeed and I admit
that I will be quite let down, in the sense of the question, if the book
doesn't garner attention and provoke discussion leading to either
support for parecon, or, if not, then in lieu of that to development of
some other better vision. I also hope the book will inspire people to
address matters of kinship and gender, culture and community, political
organization, ecology, and international relations, trying to generate
vision in these realms as well. Life is not just economics, by any
The fact that we need serious, worthy, defensible, and comprehensible
economic (and other) goals seems indisputable. That now is a good time
to offer visionary aims for assessment, also seems indisputable. So of
course I'd like to see Parecon: Life After Capitalism travel the world's
roads and subways in the hands of the world's working populations. More
realistically, I'd happily celebrate the book worming its way into wide
enough visibility so that someone far more eloquent than myself writes a
much better book that reaches still more widely, into those roads and
subways, putting new vision into widespread left consciousness.
So go visit Amazon online, please...
/ref=sr_11_1/104-6511185-6592709 ... or your local independent book
store, and get the momentum going...books aren't cheap, nor is the time
needed to seriously read them in over supply, as I well know. But--well,
I have to say that I think this one will repay people's attention very
positively. That's my hope, anyhow. And I hope people will give that
sentiment a chance.
And here is the more timely essay disscussing some implications of this
By Michael Albert
Even the New York Times was forced to admit it, after the mammoth Feb.
15-16 demonstrations: "there may still be two superpowers on the planet:
the United States and world public opinion." But as all activists and
indeed all people of good will justifiably celebrate this weekend's
tumultuous successes, we must also begin the next round of the struggle.
On one side we have governments and corporate elites. Their shared
agenda is what it has always been. They universally seek to protect and
enlarge their advantages over the overwhelming majority of the world's
population. Their shared means are two-fold. First, they want to rewrite
the rules of international exchange to tilt even more toward their own
aggrandizement. This is called corporate globalization. Second, they
want to steadily erode popular protections and rights won in
long-standing struggle around the globe. They want to assault
affirmative action, immigrant rights, welfare programs, and broader
social spending. They want to entrench new methods of repression. They
call all this patriotism. Beyond this broad consensus, however, elites
Since 9/11 the most central and powerful elite sector has felt that it
could dramatically enlarge its control by concocting a war on terrorism.
This overwhelmingly U.S.-based contingent of the world's elites is
seeking to scare and cajole publics all over the planet, hoping to
propel all kinds of otherwise impossible redistribution and repression.
Bush Blair and Co. now seem to think that turning the clock back a
hundred years to reinstate brute force in international relations
promises them even more control and power. Bombing Iraq to bones and
then colonially occupying it is not the climax of their intentions but
instead only a stepping stone to more war and colonization to come. Next
stop Iran, Syria, Korea, Venezuela - especially Venezuela -- Colombia,
and perhaps even China. They intend perpetual war in pursuit of
perpetual power. They seek a spiral of violence whose very logic will
propel those who control most of the world's weapons into ruling most of
the world. Bush becomes Caesar.
Others at the top of the pile of detritus that rules the planet are
perfectly content with business as it had been the past couple of
decades. They want some tweaks here and there, but they think that
seeking overt empire risks too great a dissident reaction and/or they
fear that too much of the benefit may accrue to a too narrow a sector at
the top. They worry Washington will benefit, but not Paris, Berlin, and
Moscow. Thus French, German, and Russian elites rail against war in
Iraq - but Chirac is not simultaneously rushing to reverse his racist
assaults on immigrants, Schroeder is not calling off his incursions
against German social supports for the poor, and Putin is not denouncing
his war in Chechnya--much less will any of them sincerely advocate
justice plus equitable redistribution at home, now or anytime soon.
Against the haves who want more wealth and power but who aren't quite
sure of the best path to pursue it, stands our growing world-spanning
movement of movements. The shared agenda of our movements is no war in
Iraq, reverse corporate globalization, and more justice for all. Our
shared means are to utilize a wide range of disobedience extending from
day to day organizing to teach-ins and rallies, to disseminating
information by drama and media, to marching, to civil disobedience, and
beyond. But our side of the great struggle also has divisions. Among us
there are different ways of understanding what we are doing, as well as
differences in approach.
Regarding understanding, the big variation is that some of us think we
are only trying to win various proximate gains such as preventing war in
Iraq or blocking some new trade agreement. Others of us think instead
that we are doing that, of course, but that we are also trying to ensure
that these victories persist and grow by challenging and ultimately
replacing the underlying institutions that create the injustices we
oppose. At the level of understanding, therefore, the division in our
ranks is ultimately one between reform and revolution.
At the level of methods and tactics, there is also a major divide. Are
we mostly trying to make a statement and manifest the feelings that we
ourselves have percolating through our nervous systems at any given
moment - or are we trying to build a movement aimed at winning massive
change over the longer haul?
In the first case, as situations unfold we make decisions about what to
do by consulting primarily our own feelings: how angry are we, how much
do we wish to do this or that action based on our mood and desires and
in light of what is called for from us and how we will look and feel in
In the second case, we make decisions instead by primarily consulting
our best judgment as to what will enlarge our movements and best
increase our insight and commitment. The second approach also has to pay
attention to how we feel and what we are capable of, to be sure, but it
prioritizes what is needed to win and not just to feel fine. It may
sound harsh, but I do think this is a real and serious difference, even
if it appears here in words a bit more stark than it often appears in
In short, are we building an activist community that preserves itself
against incursions from without, creating an identity for ourselves as
dissidents which we protect from dissolving, sometimes even becoming
more concerned about persisting unchanged in all our formulations and
processes than we are concerned about growing and diversifying? Or are
we developing a movement whose intention is to constantly grow and
alter, and in which we must constantly adapt our personal proclivities
as we attract new constituencies and incorporate new agendas? Are we
eager to empower others thereby reducing our own level of power and our
own impact on how things proceed, though seeing the overall power of the
(1) Success is not a single "all or nothing" affair. Of course we
want to prevent war in Iraq. And of course doing so would be a world
transforming, historic achievement. But, should war proceed, it would
not mean that we are failing, but only that we have a little less power
than we hoped to have at this point yet far more than most people were
willing to even dream about just a year ago. Whether this war occurs or
not, our on-going task is unchanged. We must grow larger, more
conscious, more militant, more organized - to try to prevent this war
and the next one, to reverse globalization, and to continually challenge
and eventually replace basic defining institutions. None of this will
happen overnight. But we are on a path toward all of it, and we need to
realize that's our trajectory, to take it seriously, and to work
tirelessly toward it.
(2) The anti-war demonstrations this past weekend were perhaps the
largest such outpouring in modern history. Were there two million or one
and half million in London? Were there two or three million in Rome? Two
or three million in cities across Spain? Five hundred or seven hundred
and fifty thousand in NYC? The point is, there was an incredible
mobilization and, far more important, our opposition is growing very
rapidly. Indeed, it is the growth rate of dissent that is utterly
extraordinary and that communicates the true threat our movements
represent. And this has occurred without an international organization
overseeing it. And it has occurred without single organizations inside
each country overseeing it. There should be no rush to impose on our
emerging massively entwined but hugely diverse international movement of
movements any kind of central authority or identity. Things are going
well. In fact, things are going stupendously. We need more of what we
have been doing, not a dramatic change in what we have been doing -
except that we need to reach out even more aggressively to new and wider
constituencies, and except that we need to work patiently, respecting
differences, to ensure a widening comprehension and commitment.
(3) We must not in the flush of growth set our short-term goals so
high that they are unattainable, making ourselves depressed about our
efforts when we inevitably don't attain them. We must instead see what
we are doing as a process. We should exult in the growth of this process
and see that growth as a tremendous achievement - but as an achievement
that paves the way for more to come. The growth of our opposition brings
a responsibility: more growth. We should not become enchanted with our
current size and breadth whether it is on a single campus, or in a town,
or a city, or a country, or internationally. The trick is not to
celebrate ourselves but to celebrate our potential. The task is to reach
out, reach out, reach out - precisely to constituencies we think we
cannot reach out to - because we can. On a campus we need to do it in
the dorms and the fraternities, seeking not only the dissidents but also
the footballers - yes, the athletes, by all means! Put a leaflet under
every door. And then do it again. And then knock on the doors and talk.
And then do that again. In our neighborhoods and workplaces, give
materials to and then talk with our fellow citizens over and over. Reach
out to mail deliverers, public school teachers, short order cooks,
flight attendants, assemblers, truck drivers, hospital orderlies, coal
miners, and even the military and police, yes even and arguably most
importantly the military and the police.
On one side there is Bush, Blair, and other political masters and
mullahs, plus owners and CEOs galore. On the other side we have a
movement of movements - and a massive worldwide constituency that we
need to reach.
If movements for social change unswervingly seek diversity, solidarity,
equity, and self-management - peace and justice - and if they do it in a
manner and with a tone and with tactics all of which seek to empower the
weak and to meet the needs of the poor, they/we can win this struggle -
and the struggle I have in mind to win, the one I think we are all in,
is not just over a reform here or there - and it is not just over peace
now and then -- it is a struggle over who will decide the future and who
the future will serve. Showdown indeed.
We have reason to celebrate. But we must have courage. And we must have
stamina. Our struggle will require much time and tremendous
perseverance. But the day for the ship of equity, for the ship of
self-management, for the ship of solidarity, for the ship of diversity,
and for the ship of justice and peace to dock is coming. Row!
History is not over. It is, instead, ours to make.
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