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This mailing includes a positive plea for help, before appending an
For those of you who feel that having a viable, worthy anticapitalist
economic vision would help us answer questions about what we want as
well as help us orient our activism  -- I need your help.
The vision that is seeking visibility is participatory economics, called
parecon for short. 
Parecon is getting growing international coverage, as it now begins to
appear in different languages. 
For example, international invitations to speak on parecon are well
beyond my means to accommodate. In Sept. and Oct. I am going to Italy,
Turkey, Denmark, Sweden, Greece, Italy again, and probably England, and
possibly also Norway and Finland...and the venues for these talks are
diverse and the audiences large. Later there may be trips to South
Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Korea, and so on. Interviews with left and
also even mainstream media occur, articles appear, reviews are
published, etc. 
In contrast, parecon's visibility in the U.S. is rather minimal despite
its having had a much longer tenure here. There are virtually no visible
U.S. reviews, public discussions, talks, etc. 
In other words, in many parts of the world those who administer
movements, determine the content of periodicals, set up speaking events
-- and incredibly even those who hand out major awards -- are propelling
parecon into visibility. But in the U.S. those who administer movements,
determine the content of periodicals, and set up speaking events are
either doing nothing positive for parecon or are actively rejecting
efforts for parecon to gain visibility.
So what's the solution? 
Suppose many readers of this update became informed about parecon and
urged periodicals and other media to give it visibility. It could work
and that's what I am asking you to please consider helping with. 
That is, in the interests of developing economic vision, I would like
you to seriously consider getting a copy of the new book (or using the
web site) to develop your own opinion about parecon -- and if you decide
the vision is worthy, to also consider making efforts to increase its

Here are some links that can help.
    1)  A Question and Answer exchange about the 
          Paperback Edition of the book further discussing 
          the above noted matters is available at:
     2)  The book page for Parecon: Life After Capitalism, 
          with more about the book, some excerpts from it, 
          many reviews and much commentary about it, 
          as well as related interviews is at: 

     3)  The entire book, Parecon: Life After Capitalism
          is also online, free, for those who are willing
          or eager to read such a long work via the internet 
          or who are unable to afford its purchase. It is at: 

     4)  And there is also the parecon web site with books,  
          articles, interviews, debates, etc. at: 


Finally, to give this message a bit more content within the broad agenda
noted above, here is an essay titled "Beyond Capitalism" that has just
been prepared for a book to be titled "Anti-Capitalism - taking the
movement forward." The book is being assembled by Bookmarks Publications
in England and will be released for the upcoming European Social Forum.

Beyond Capitalism
Michael Albert

To build and take an anti capitalist movement forward, as per the title
of this book, we need to reject capitalism but also to advocate a new
system in its place as well as to act in light of not only our critique
of capitalism but also the strategic and organizational implications of
our goals. What is a viable anti-capitalist vision? What immediate
strategic implications can we draw from it?

Participatory Economics Instead of Capitalism

Capitalism incorporates private ownership of the means of production,
market allocation, and corporate divisions of labor. Capitalist
remuneration is for property, power, and to a limited extent
contribution to output. Class divisions under capitalism arise due to
property and also due to differential access to empowered versus
obedient work. Huge differences in decision-making influence and quality
of circumstances flourish. Buyers and sellers one-up each other. The
public reaps the social and ecological catastrophes that self-interested
capitalist market competition sows. 

To transcend capitalism, suppose we advocate common leftist core values:
solidarity, diversity, equity, self-management, and ecological
sustainability. What institutions can propel these values as well as
admirably accomplish economic functions?

To start, we might advocate public/social property relations in place of
privatized capitalist property relations. In the new system, all
citizens own each workplace in equal part. This ownership conveys no
special right or income. Bill Gates doesn't own a massive proportion of
the means by which software is produced. We all own it--or,
symmetrically, no one owns it. At any rate, ownership becomes moot
regarding distribution of income, wealth, or power. In this way the ills
of personal accrual of profits yielding huge wealth differentials

Next, workers and consumers could be organized into democratic councils
with the norm for decisions being that our methods of dispersing
information to decision-makers and of arriving at preferences and then
tallying them into decisions should convey to each actor about each
decision influence over the decision in proportion to the degree he or
she will be affected by it. 

Workers and consumers councils would be the seat of decision-making
power and would exist at many levels, including sub-units such as work
groups and teams and individuals, and supra-units such as workplaces and
whole industries. 

People in councils would be the economy's decision-makers. Votes could
be majority rule, three quarters, two-thirds, consensus, etc. Votes
would be taken at different levels, with fewer or more participants,
depending on the particular implications of the decisions in question.
Sometimes a team or individual would make a decision pretty much on its
own. Sometimes a whole workplace or even a whole industry would be the
decision body. 

Different voting and tallying methods would be employed as needed for
different decisions. There is no a priori single correct choice. There
is, however, a right norm to try to efficiently and sensibly implement:
decision-making input should be in proportion as one is affected by

Next we alter the organization of work by changing who does what tasks
in what combinations. Each actor does a job, of course. Each job is
composed of a variety of tasks, of course. What changes from current
corporate divisions of labor to a preferred future division of labor is
that the particular variety of tasks each actor does is balanced for its
empowerment and quality of life implications. 

Every person participating in creating new products is a worker. The
combination of tasks and responsibilities you have at work accords you
the same empowerment and quality of life as the combination I have
accords me, and likewise for each other worker and their balanced job

We do not have some people overwhelmingly monopolizing empowering,
fulfilling, and engaging tasks and circumstances. We do not have other
people overwhelmingly saddled with only rote, obedient, and dangerous
things to do. For reasons of equity and especially in order to create
the conditions of democratic participation and self-management, when we
each participate in our workplace and consumer decision-making, we each
have been comparably prepared by our work with confidence, skills, and
knowledge to do so.

In contrast, the typical capitalist situation is that some people who
produce (I want to call them the coordinator class) have great
confidence, social skills, decision-making skills, and relevant
knowledge imbued by their daily work situations, while other people who
produce (who I want to call the working class) are only tired,
de-skilled, and without relevant decision making knowledge due to their
daily work situations.

Balanced job complexes do away with this division of circumstances and
the associated class hierarchy. They complete the task of removing the
root basis for class divisions that is begun by eliminating private
ownership of capital. That is, they eliminate not only the role of
owner/capitalist and the associated disproportionate power and wealth,
but also the role of intellectual/decision maker with its excessive
power nad wealth. Balanced job complexes apportion conceptual and
empowering and also rote and un-empowering responsibilities in tune with
true classlessness.

Next comes remuneration. We work. This entitles us to a share of the
product of work. But the new participatory economic vision says that we
ought to receive for our labors an amount in tune with how hard we have
worked, how long we have worked, and with the sacrifices we have endured
at work. 

We shouldn't get more by virtue of being more productive due to having
better tools, more skills, or greater inborn talent, much less get more
by virtue of having more power or owning more property. 

We should be entitled to more consumption only by virtue of expending
more of our effort or otherwise enduring more sacrifice. This is morally
appropriate and it also provides proper incentives due to rewarding only
what we can affect, not what we can't.  

With balanced job complexes, for eight hours of normally paced work
Sally and Sam receive the same income. This is the case whether they
have the same job or any job at all. No matter what their particular job
may be, no matter what workplaces they are in and how different their
mix of tasks is, and no matter how talented they are. If they work at a
balanced job complex, their total work load will be similar in its
quality of life implications and empowerment effects, so the only
difference relevant to reward for their labors is going to be length and
intensity of work done, and with these also equal the share of output
earned will be equal. If length of time working or intensity of working
differ somewhat, so will share of output earned differ somewhat. 

Who mediates decisions about the definition of job complexes and about
what rates and intensities people are working? Workers do, of course, in
their councils and with appropriate decision-making say using
information culled by methods consistent with employing balanced job
complexes and providing just remuneration.

There is one very large step remaining, even to offering only a broad
outline of participatory economic vision. How are the actions of workers
and consumers connected? How do decisions made in workplaces and by
consumer councils, as well as by individual consumers, all come into

What causes the total produced by workplaces to match the total consumed
collectively by neighborhoods and other groups and privately by
individuals? For that matter, what determines the relative social
valuation of different products and choices? What decides how many
workers will be in which industry producing how much? What determines
whether some product should be made or not, and how much? What
determines what investments in new productive means and methods should
be undertaken and which other investments should be delayed or rejected?
These are all matters of allocation. 

Existing options for dealing with allocation are central planning (as
was used in the old Soviet Union) and markets (as is used in all
capitalist economies with minor or greater variations). 

In central planning a bureaucracy culls information, formulates
instructions, sends these instructions to workers and consumers, gets
some feedback, refines the instructions a bit, sends them again, and
gets back obedience. 

In a market each actor in isolation from concern for other actor's well
being competitively pursues his or her own agenda by buying and selling
labor (or the ability to do work) and buying and selling products and
resources at prices determined by competitive bidding. Each person seeks
to gain more than other parties in their exchanges. 

The problem is that each of these two modes of connecting actors to
accomplish allocation tasks imposes on the economy pressures that
subvert the values we favor. Markets, even without private
capitalization of property, distort valuations to favor private over
public benefits and to channel personalities in anti-social directions
thereby diminishing and even destroying solidarity. They reward
primarily output and power and not effort and sacrifice. They divide
economic actors into a working class that is saddled with rote and
obedient labor and another class, who I call the coordinator class, that
enjoys empowering circumstances and determines economic outcomes while
accruing most income. They isolate buyers and sellers as decision-makers
left with no option but to competitively ignore the wider implications
of their choices, including effects on the ecology. 

Central planning, in contrast, is authoritarian. It denies
self-management and produces the same coordinator class / working class
division and hierarchy as markets. With central planning the division is
built first around the distinction between planners and those who
implement their plans, and then extends outward to incorporate empowered
and dis-empowered workers more generally. 

The bottom line is that both these allocation systems subvert rather
than propel classlessness. What is parecon's alternative to markets and
central planning?

Suppose in place of top-down imposition of centrally planned choices and
in place of competitive market exchange by atomized buyers and sellers,
we opt for cooperative, informed choosing by organizationally and
socially entwined actors each having a say in proportion as choices
impact them, each able to access needed accurate information and
valuations, and each having appropriate training and confidence to
develop and communicate their preferences. 

That combination of features could work compatibly with council centered
participatory self-management, remuneration for effort and sacrifice,
balanced job complexes, proper valuations of collective and ecological
impacts, and classlessness. To these ends, activists might therefore
favor participatory planning, a system in which worker and consumer
councils propose their work activities and consumer preferences in light
of accurate knowledge of local and global implications and true
valuations of the full social benefits and costs their choices will
impose and garner. 

The participatory planning system utilizes a back and forth cooperative
communication of mutually informed preferences via a variety of simple
communicative and organizing principles and vehicles including
indicative prices, facilitation boards, and rounds of accommodation to
new information--all permitting actors to express and to mediate and
refine their desires in light of feedback about other's desires, and to
arrive at compatible choices consistent with remuneration for effort and
sacrifice, balanced job complexes, and participatory self managing

Is the above a full picture of an economic alternative to capitalism? Of
course not, it is way too brief. But within the limits of available
space, it is hopefully provocative and inspiring. Participatory
economics includes

* Self managing workplace and consumer councils for equitable

* Diverse decision-making procedures seeking proportionate say for those
effected by decisions 

* Balanced job complexes creating just distribution of empowering and
dis-empowering circumstances 

* Remuneration for effort and sacrifice in accord with worthy moral and
economic logic 

* Participatory planning in tune with economics serving human well being
and development 

Together these features constitute the core institutional scaffolding of
participatory economics, an institutional alternative to capitalism and
also to what has been called centrally planned or market socialism but
which really should be called coordinatorism. Are there fuller
formulations of this particular economic vision's morality and its
logic? Most certainly there are. If interested, consult the parecon site
at <> It includes articles, interviews, whole
books, and further references. But for now, in this space, we need to
ask what implications would advocating participatory economics have for
our current movement work?

Just before getting on to strategy, however, I should say that in my
view economic vision and agenda is not enough. I am emphasizing
economics because it is my main area of investigation and because the
assignment for this book was to address capitalism. But we also need
political, cultural, and gender related vision and agenda. Our positive
movements should not just be anti capitalist and not even that plus pro
participatory economics in its place. They should also be anti
authoritarian, anti racist, and anti sexist, and they should be pro a
new political, cultural, and kinship vision as well.

Pareconish Strategy

When we struggle for change we are generally trying to win changes which
improve people's lives in the present and auger still more improvements
in the future, or we are trying to develop our means to do so by raising
consciousness and building projects and movements. 

If we do all this with the intent of attaining a new system, it is
revolutionary. If we do it assuming that the systemic features around us
are permanent, it is reformist. 

So, opposing capitalism and advocating parecon, my first strategic
implication is that we ought to be fighting for changes in the present
or building means to win more changes in the future all in a manner that
leads toward a whole new system rather than presuming replication of
this one. 

This means our choices of issues to fight around and even more our
choices of how to discuss those issues and develop consciousness bearing
on them and our means of galvanizing our energies into lasting movement
forms has to move toward where we want to wind up.

Fighting for better wages or distribution of income we should be
developing awareness of and support for remuneration for effort and
sacrifice. Fighting for better conditions and quality of life at work,
we should be developing awareness of and support for balanced job
complexes. Fighting for a say over outcomes in workplaces or the
national budget, we should be developing awareness of and support for
participatory planning. As venues of struggle we ought to be building
workers and consumers councils, when able. The choice of demands but
also methods and content of our acts should all be influenced by our

There is also an overarching issue. Seeking classlessness we must not
have a movement that perpetuates class division and that empowers what I
call a coordinator class while disempowering the working class. This
advisory, taken seriously, would over time impact virtually the entire
array of choices that face activists.

For example, our own organizations should be as classless as we can now
make them, our decision making should be as self managing as we can now
make it - and likewise our divisions of labor should be as classless as
we can now make them, which is to say they should incorporate balanced
job complexes and self management. In other words, if we seek parecon,
we should not build alternative institutions and movements that
replicate capitalist divisions of labor and modes of decision making and
remuneration - just as if we are against racism or sexism we should not
build movements that perpetuate these ills via their cultures, roles,
etc. Instead, regarding the class issue we should seek to progressively
incorporate pareconish structures and norms such as self management,
councils, participation, equitable remuneration, and balanced job
complexes, and regarding race and gender we should progressively work
toward anti racist and anti sexist structures and norms. We can't do it
all overnight, nor should we be apocalyptic about it, but if we
sincerely seek a better world, anything less than this direction of
innovation is not only hypocritical, it is suicidal due to disempowering
and even alienating constituencies who must define and win that world.
In other wrods, an additional major strategic insight of a participatory
economic viewpoint is that we need to incorporate classless values and
structures in our demands, our process, or projects, and our movements.

But, beyond that, how come past anti-capitalist struggles that sought
socialism and that won, have instead universally mired down with
authoritarian dictatorships, homogenized cultures, patriarchal kin
systems, and alienated, polluted, and class-divided economies?

The answer is because in their concepts and strategies, dspite the
wishes of most of their grass roots adherents, that's what those prior
movements aimed for. Anti-capitalist revolutions have not failed to
produce self-managing societies due to inexorable laws of social
organization or of human inadequacy. The problem was instead within
them. The movements succeeded in their goals, but succeeding meant
instituting what their commitments implied: one party political rule,
coordinator ruled economies, and also homogenized cultures and still
patriarchal kinship relations. It was not fate or nature or physics or
even the aspirations of the great mass of their members that prevented
these past efforts from being fully liberating. It was their strategies
which were aimed at and successfully attained outcomes contrary to what
most of the participants hoped for. Thus another major strategic insight
of having participatory economic goals is that we need to say goodbye to
Leninist strategic blindness to or support for coordinator domination
and statist authoritarianism, and to organize for short- and long-term
aims using organizational forms and methodologies that really do accord
with our highest aspirations. 

For example, imagine diverse movements each of which offer direction for
their focused area - gender, race, economy, ecology, war and peace, etc.
-- but whick take their lead from other movements regarding focuses
beyond what they directly prioritize. Call this entire conglomeration a
movement of movements where the total project is the total sum of all
the parts rather than a least common denominator coalition of them. 

Imagine, also, an electoral component that is beholden to the grass
roots activists and democratically organized and empowered. And imagine
parallel and entwined efforts to create grassroots councils in
workplaces and neighborhoods, in turn seen as the infrastructure of a
new type economy to come.

Imagine, too, demands for diverse immediate improvements all sought not
as ends in themselves but as steps toward a new society. Each new demand
for better pay and income distribution, for a shorter work week, for
affirmative action, for better voting rules, for more power at work, for
changes in military budgeting and foreign policies, for participatory
budgeting, for replacing the IMF, World Bank, and World Trade
Organization, for establishing a world parliament, and many more gains,
is sought in ways that leave movements larger, more committed, more
intent on continued struggle, and structurally better able to empower
workers, women, minorities, and all subordinate citizens, rather than in
ways that quickly suffer roll-back or become dominated by elites.

And imagine as well a sustained, reasoned, and patient commitment to
incorporate in our work the features we seek for a new society such as
balanced job complexes, self management, feminism, multi-culturalism,
political participation, etc., both so that we learn more about these
aims, and also to demonstrate their worth in order to meet needs,
inspire desire, and provide hope.

What impedes doing all of this is not the power of the state or the
ubiquity of manipulative mass media. These are huge factors, of course.
But they are a given. That's the world we operate in. The key variable
over which we have influence is ourselves. We need to move from
exclusively indicating what is wrong with society to largely advocating
what we desire for society. And we need to stop incorporating
contemporary societal assumptions that we hate in our projects, and to
instead start implementing those we favor. 

Viewed with one disposition, history has so far been a horrible
accumulation of oppression and suffering. Viewed with another
disposition, however, history has chronicled humans discovering their
own finer potentials and together mounting heroic offensives to attain
them -- against monarchy, feudalism, slavery, Jim Crow racism,
apartheid, sexual subjugation, second class citizenship, sexism,
heterosexism, dictatorship, one party rule, capitalism, and
coordinatorism (calling itself socialism) -- and seeking, in their
place, equity, justice, and freedom. The gains humans have made have
been steady and plentiful. Now a major leap is possible. Consistent with
past efforts, we can now attain fully liberatory goals, including, I
think, participatory economics and also alternative structures for
polity, culture, and kinship. We have only to make the effort.



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