The After Life

Issue section: 

I thank Sarah Ensor for her review of Parecon: Life After Capitalism (September SR).

It is hard enough writing about a whole alternative economy in 300 pages. I can't imagine trying to evaluate such an effort in 300 words. Yet I have only two brief comments.

The example of individuals vetoing a hire was meant for a very small firm where each person works in close proximity to all other people, so if you don't like me and I am hired to work with you, your days are ruined. Hiring for a large firm would be quite different, as we could simply be separated. Of course grounds for not hiring someone shouldn't be racist, sexist, etc. A desirable polity (parecon is only an economy) would presumably ensure such norms, as other descriptions in the book make evident.

But mostly these kinds of hiring details and other descriptions are presented only as possibilities. A given parecon might choose from an immense range of viable and worthy options like those we describe in the book, or might choose others quite different. All that is characteristic of parecons per se, is the defining institutions and norms within which countless diverse choices are undertaken. The defining features of parecon are workers' and consumers' councils rather than corporate boardrooms as sites of self managed rather than grossly hierarchical decision making, balanced job complexes rather than corporate divisions of labour, remuneration for effort and sacrifice rather than for property, power, or even output, and allocation by participatory planning rather than by markets (or central planning).

Finally, Ensor is right that the book Parecon doesn't address attaining a participatory economy beyond a relative few words, despite the fact that that is the paramount concern for those who advocate the vision, including myself. Other work does address matters of strategy, however. In this book, the question addressed is simply, what kind of economy do we want? Settling on what we want, we can then move on to refining our opposition to capitalism so that it leads to the future we desire.

Michael Albert