A worker's critique of parecon

Full communism… because Michael Albert can't monitor every worker all the time

Criticism of the idea of participatory economics, or parecon, from the perspective of a worker. Despite its theoreticians' grand plans, we resist work now and we would continue to do so under parecon, Steven argues. Michael Albert subsequently responds.

Introduction

I have read a lot of discussions about parecon - a proposed economic model for a non-capitalist society. I have even taken part in one detailed debate here.

There is a lot of theoretical discussion about the nature of class, complimentary holism, some stuff about the Russian revolution, planning and so on. But I have never seen anything written about it from the point from the actual perspective of workers. And as members of the working class ourselves this should be the most important perspective from which we analyse things, so that's what I plan to do.

I have been meaning to write this article for a while and this recent discussion in our forums reminded me to actually get round to it.

Fair wages?

The four main planks of parecon are: 1
1. Workers and consumers self managed councils
2. Balanced job complexes
3. Remuneration for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor
4. Participatory planning

The most problematic of these, to communists or anarchists at least, is point 3: often summarised as "reward for effort and sacrifice". It is controversial because the central plank of the communist programme has long been the abolition of wage labour.2

So parecon does away with this, and instead of abolishing wage labour proposes a "fair" way of allocating wages. I totally disagree with this on political and logical grounds, and so this is the area I will examine.

This point has been argued on a theoretical level many times already, including in the debate I linked to above. So instead of criticising it on a political basis I will instead look at what that would mean from the perspective of workers in a parecon society. I will base my statements on how we respond to work as workers in the real world now.

So, what does rewarding effort and sacrifice mean? Basically "that if a person works longer or harder, or if a person undertakes tasks that are generally considered to be less desirable then they should be entitled to more reward."3

This raises a major problem, which pareconites seem to just brush over. Namely, this is how is effort and sacrifice measured?

This may seem like a minor point, however it is absolutely essential for the functioning of the system.

Parecon advocates attempt to address this by peer-effort ratings, everyone filling out a form of some kind on their workmates, rating how much effort people have put in despite their natural talents or disabilities.

However, this is an idea which has been devised from above, much like some kind of anti-capitalist management consultants. Their impact on the ground for workers, and workers' responses do not seem to have been considered.

Now if we look at capitalist society as it is, we see there is a central contradiction: employers want workers to carry out as much work as possible, for as little reward as possible. Workers on the other hand want to do as little as possible, for as much as possible. It is from this basic contradiction that class struggle arises.

If a new economic system retains wages, there will still be this fundamental contradiction. In the USSR, for example, instead of a mix of private and state employers in most countries, there was just one employer, the state. However the contradiction was the same.

So, what would I do if I was a worker under parecon? It would still be in my interests to perform as little work as possible and get as much money as possible. Although the way to get more would be to appear to be putting in more effort, and sacrificing more.

So some ways I would do this would be the way I and other workers do this now, and some of them would have to be altered to the new conditions.

Collective resistance

As for the peer rating of effort: even in my current workplace, which doesn't have a particularly high level of workers' solidarity, if management introduced such a scheme we would just get together and decide collectively to all rate each other as highly as possible. That way we would all gain.

And as for sacrifice, we could also collectively decide to do a minimal number of hours each day, and yet rate each other as having worked ten-hour days. (At several previous jobs colleagues and I have covered for each other by punching in for each other alternately, as I've written about here.)

Alternatively, if instead of peer rating there was some external assessor (which would seem to contradict the supposed egalitarianism of parecon), we would just put on a show whenever the assessor was there, as workers do currently when a foreman is about.4

Bear in mind that this is what occurs in workplaces in the UK today, where workers' solidarity has been broken up significantly. Parecon can only exist in a world where there has been a proletarian revolution, where workers have fought together on barricades and some will have died for each other. Especially under those sort of circumstances it would be unthinkable for people to go back to work and start spying and grassing on each other about people not pulling their weight or getting in late. Even now despite competitive workplaces and the risk of sacking (which presumably won't exist under parecon) workers often cover for each other and grasses are ostracised.

Additionally, if effort and sacrifice is what is rewarded, then if your team comes up with some new equipment or new processes which make the work easier, then you would have to do keep them secret, in order not to have your pay reduced. And of course this would be highly detrimental to society as a whole - as a rational economy would be based on trying to minimise the amount of work and effort which would have to be done.

Individual resistance

Apart from those sort of collective measures, other workers and I would also engage in individual ways of increasing our earnings and decreasing our workload.

Now, effort and sacrifice couldn't just be applied universally, as people have different abilities. Women who are pregnant, workers who might be smaller or weaker than others, people who have disabilities, or who are temporarily ill or injured might have to do putting more effort and time to have the same kind of output as other workers.

Not to mention that people have completely different sets of abilities anyway. Some may be quicker with numbers than others, for example, others may have quicker hands.

And aside from abilities, people have different preferences. For some working in an office all day would be unbearable, however for others manual labour would be much more onerous.

So if individuals' effort has to be assessed, it would have to be done so on the basis of their pre-existing abilities and preferences. Therefore I would just lie about mine. I would just say I had depression or whatever so even turning up for work in the first place would be a huge effort on my part, let alone actually doing anything when I'm there. And writing stuff up? I'm not very good at that, I'm dyslexic. And lifting? I'm very weak, and I have a bad back. Working long hours? I get migraines. Working indoors? I'm claustrophobic. Working outdoors? You guessed it, agoraphobic…

And of course this wouldn't just be me, these practices would be widespread. Far more widespread even than they are today, because under parecon there would not be the same sanctions as there are today, principally unemployment (or jail in the case of the more state capitalist economies like North Korea).

If anyone thinks I am over estimating this they would do well to read these accounts of how widespread shirking effectively destroyed East Germany and wore down the Soviet Union.

Conclusion

I believe the problems of parecon are shared by many politicos who have grand visions about the future who, like sci-fi nerds, like to imagine what a different world could look like.


2012 parecon convention

But like many politicos their mistake is rooted in their ideas being based on how better to manage capital. As communists we do not believe that capital can be managed in the interests of workers.5 Therefore our politics and our future vision of the world have to be based always in our everyday life and our experience as workers.

For if a revolution doesn't abolish "work" as a distinct activity separate from the rest of life, then workers will always fight against it. 6

And that being the case the only way to enforce effective labour discipline would be to recreate capitalism with its reserve army of unemployed workers and the threat of unemployment and destitution.

So in short if we want something workable our choice is one of full communism, or none at all.

  • 1. According to Parecon Today by Michael Albert, the leading proponent of parecon.
  • 2. Two major examples of this being the revolutionary union Industrial Workers of the World preamble which demands "the abolition of the wage system", and Karl Marx in Value, prices and profit stating: "take off your banners the reactionary slogan a fair days pay for a fair days work and instead inscribe upon your banner the revolutionary watchword; the abolition of the wages system".
  • 3. The project for a participatory society's vision .
  • 4. The picture, above, is a tongue-in-cheek clip from 1960s Italian film The working class goes to heaven, with Michael Albert's face crudely cut and pasted onto the body of the piece rate monitor.
  • 5. I believe that reading the excellent Aufheben series What was USSR? is also essential reading, and has important parallels with parecon in this respect.
  • 6. I won't go into detail about what this means as I think it is explained better in other detailed articles, like this one by the Anarchist Federation. But as evidence that it is not an unachievable pipedream I will quickly point out that many pre-capitalist societies did not have a word for "work", or in some which did it was the same word as "play". And just about every type of "work" currently done under capitalism, is also done by workers as leisure. For example, cleaning, caring for children, caring for the sick, playing music, making films, growing food, etc.
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Posted By

Steven.
Apr 11 2012 14:21

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  • So, what would I do if I was a worker under parecon? It would still be in my interests to perform as little work as possible and get as much money as possible. Although the way to get more would be to appear to be putting in more effort, and sacrificing more.

    Steven Johns

Comments

Chilli Sauce
Apr 11 2012 15:05

Great!

Confused about this however:

Quote:
The picture, above, is a tongue-in-cheek clip from 1960s Italian film The working class goes to heaven, with Michael Albert's face crudely cut and pasted onto the body of the piece rate monitor.

Would like to see it, tho laugh out loud

Steven.
Apr 11 2012 15:20

What's the problem? It's the picture at the top of the article. Is it not showing for you?

Chilli Sauce
Apr 11 2012 15:36

Yes, just figured that out! Thanks Steven. Really good article again. You been getting those emails I've been sending to you?

JimJams
Apr 11 2012 15:51

Reminds me of Chomsky's criticism of Parecon (remember he's Albert's friend)Basically that Parecon treats work in much the same way capitalism does and as it's not a "free" society presumes people won't enjoy work. Good article.

Alasdair
Apr 11 2012 16:21

I think this is very good, and forms a good counter to all those self-defined anti-capitalists or communists, mainly not explicitly adhering to parecon, who think that some form of remuneration will be necessary post capitalism.

One question I do have, though, and maybe this would be answered by reading the AF pamphlet you link to, for example, is if shirking is such a widespread phenomenon can we be sure that a system without some form of compulsion will allow us to maintain industrial society to anything like the same degree of complexity and production that we have today? There will surely still be a lot of tasks that need accomplishing which are definitely not fun and which didn't really exist in pre-capitalist society.

kaustisk
Apr 11 2012 16:27

Excellent post. This is more or less what I have been thinking but haven't quite put into words. Thank you.

JimJams
Apr 11 2012 17:33

@4h240zju
If i were in a Parecon i'd expect to be renumerated heavily for reading that.

Steven.
Apr 11 2012 20:26
Alasdair wrote:
One question I do have, though, and maybe this would be answered by reading the AF pamphlet you link to, for example, is if shirking is such a widespread phenomenon can we be sure that a system without some form of compulsion will allow us to maintain industrial society to anything like the same degree of complexity and production that we have today? There will surely still be a lot of tasks that need accomplishing which are definitely not fun and which didn't really exist in pre-capitalist society.

the problem is when you introduce systems with compulsion. Then people resist.

When people are doing activities they want to do, they work hard, like looking after their kids, cleaning the house, writing their novel, inventing something etc, or even doing their work if they enjoy it and it is something which is socially useful, or they can have a good time with their colleagues working together. Having an atmosphere where you are all expected to spy on each other and grass on each other is not conducive to an enjoyable team working environment.

Especially if you think about how much less "work" (as in onerous activity) we would have to engage in, compared to now. And our only incentive would be to reduce work time, effort and sacrifice - not increase it like under parecon.

Uncontrollable
Apr 11 2012 20:38
Steven. wrote:
N.b. this discussion has prompted me into writing this critique of parecon which I've been meaning to do for a while, and which I put in my blog here:
http://libcom.org/blog/workers-critique-parecon-11042012

Love the pics. They really make me want to listen to what you have to say. To me it's you who sounds like some kind of hippie new age revolutionary theory nerd with a collection of fifty sided dice, not the parecon people. Heeey maaan, like we gotta abolish work dude! Give me a break.

Steven. wrote:
However, this is an idea which has been devised from above, much like some kind of anti-capitalist management consultants. Their impact on the ground for workers, and workers' responses do not seem to have been considered.

Devised from above? How? From where exactly? The decisions are made by the workers themselves not bureaucrats or capitalists. Every workplace could have equal wages with slight variations based on duration etc. It's you and the people you work with who decide this in democratic workers councils. No one above you. If you wanted to work a little longer than others in your workplace this decision will be made by you and the people you work with because this decision will affect others in your workplace.

Steven. wrote:
So, what would I do if I was a worker under parecon? It would still be in my interests to perform as little work as possible and get as much money as possible. Although the way to get more would be to appear to be putting in more effort, and sacrificing more.

And if I was an anti-social prick in your communist vision it would be in my best interest to work as little as possible and take as much as I can from the communal trough. Apparently other humans will be putting in the work to create this stuff and I can just take it without working myself. Either way it seems it will take a social revolution and people thinking differently, behaving and treating people differently with the ideas of solidarity, cooperation, mutual aid. etc.

Cooked
Apr 11 2012 21:56

Pretty god blog Steven. The convention image.

made me think though. I mean the people adhering to parecon clearly enjoy and find comfort in the technocratic aspects of the scheme. Discussing anarchism and communism with people often hit a dead end when they are unable to accept the "We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things" and the uncertainty or just lack of theoretical speculation along certain lines that this sort-of prevents.

It's just that some personalities find comfort in certain ways of thinking. I'd say for instance that the pure marxists on this site appear to have a slightly different personality and way of thinking than the anarchists. In a depressing way politics seems influenced by personality.

Since parecon is reasonably close to communism a more cooperative and friendly approach seems more fruitful. I have no personal interest in it but can see that people otherwise skeptical to communism could accept parecon.

I'm not really for these gateway drugs to communism but they seem like people who share a similar view.

The blog is fair enough but the treatment on the other thread seemed a bit harsh at times.

Shorty
Apr 11 2012 22:24
Steven.
Apr 11 2012 22:31
Cooked wrote:

The blog is fair enough but the treatment on the other thread seemed a bit harsh at times.

well, in this thread, it is the parecon guy above who has started being rude.

I think you may have something on the personality front…

Uncontrollable wrote:

Love the pics. They really make me want to listen to what you have to say.

FYI, they are joke.

Quote:
To me it's you who sounds like some kind of hippie new age revolutionary theory nerd with a collection of fifty sided dice, not the parecon people. Heeey maaan, like we gotta abolish work dude! Give me a break.

make your mind up, it's hippie or theory nerd, not both. Don't get the 50 sided die though, care to explain?

As for "abolishing work" it seems like you don't understand the concept of work as a distinct sphere of life separate from other types of productive activity, which is a distinct feature of certain types of societies, including a capitalist one.

Quote:
Devised from above? How? From where exactly? The decisions are made by the workers themselves not bureaucrats or capitalists.

the idea of parecon has not been come up with by the working class in struggle, it has been come up with largely by professional activists. Did you not know that?

Quote:
Every workplace could have equal wages with slight variations based on duration etc. It's you and the people you work with who decide this in democratic workers councils.

well according to parecon texts/books/websites, etc, the wages are determined by effort and sacrifice. So if you are saying that is not the case please provide references.

Quote:
Steven. wrote:
So, what would I do if I was a worker under parecon? It would still be in my interests to perform as little work as possible and get as much money as possible. Although the way to get more would be to appear to be putting in more effort, and sacrificing more.

And if I was an anti-social prick in your communist vision it would be in my best interest to work as little as possible and take as much as I can from the communal trough. Apparently other humans will be putting in the work to create this stuff and I can just take it without working myself. Either way it seems it will take a social revolution and people thinking differently, behaving and treating people differently with the ideas of solidarity, cooperation, mutual aid. etc.

yes, and I don't think that spying on people, monitoring your colleagues working hours and how hard they are working is in the spirit of "solidarity and cooperation". Quite the opposite in fact.

In a communist society, "work" wouldn't exist as a separate sphere of life. And if your needs were met there would be no point taking more than you needed, especially if there were no money with which you could sell a surplus.

And if you haven't noticed people don't like to be forced to do things. If someone isn't pulling their weight with regard to helping with essential tasks then the collective can first try to help them by seeing what the problem is (some societies treat "laziness" like mental illness, giving someone the opportunity to recover before reintegrating) and if necessary exert social pressure on them to do a share. Rather than introducing wages which reward deceptiveness and lying.

Your "antisocial prick" comment probably unintentionally sounds quite Stalinist, as that's the kind of attitude Soviet commissars had to shirkers who were refusing to work adequately hard "for the revolution".

We should have a different attitude to people than Stalinists. Human beings are naturally productive, innovative, playful and creative. This is beaten out of us by school and wage labour. We should try to encourage these attributes, not treat people like lazy "antisocial pricks" who have to be forced to work for the common good.

bastarx
Apr 12 2012 00:33
Alasdair wrote:
One question I do have, though, and maybe this would be answered by reading the AF pamphlet you link to, for example, is if shirking is such a widespread phenomenon can we be sure that a system without some form of compulsion will allow us to maintain industrial society to anything like the same degree of complexity and production that we have today? There will surely still be a lot of tasks that need accomplishing which are definitely not fun and which didn't really exist in pre-capitalist society.

Why on earth would any "anarchist" or "communist" want to maintain industrial society to anything like the same degree of complexity and production that we have today?

tastybrain
Apr 12 2012 00:53
Peter wrote:
Alasdair wrote:
One question I do have, though, and maybe this would be answered by reading the AF pamphlet you link to, for example, is if shirking is such a widespread phenomenon can we be sure that a system without some form of compulsion will allow us to maintain industrial society to anything like the same degree of complexity and production that we have today? There will surely still be a lot of tasks that need accomplishing which are definitely not fun and which didn't really exist in pre-capitalist society.

Why on earth would any "anarchist" or "communist" want to maintain industrial society to anything like the same degree of complexity and production that we have today?

Yup. We need some industry but a HUGE portion of it is completely unnecessary and harmful. As Duave says (roughly), "we will need to close down at least half the factories." And I think that's actually being conservative.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 12 2012 00:55

Because industrial society offers a far higher standard or living than anything that's come come before it.

The problem isn't air conditioning, running water, railroads, or skateboards, but the alienation and exploitation inherent to a capitalist mode of production.

Upped!

Uncontrollable
Apr 12 2012 01:18

"FYI It's a joke."

No shit. It just comes off as being assholish. I wouldn't waste time analyzing my asshole comment I didn't put much thought into it.

"the idea of parecon has not been come up with by the working class in struggle"

Really? The idea of democratic workers/community councils didn't come about in the minds of workers in struggle? Or that everyone should share in the work equally?

"And if needs were met there would be no point taking more than you needed"

Who or what determines what I need or beyond basic needs what I want? And how much should I take so I know what's responsible?

Khawaga
Apr 12 2012 01:49
Quote:
Who or what determines what I need or beyond basic needs what I want? And how much should I take so I know what's responsible?

supply and demand and money it seems... whatever happened to "from each according to ability, to each according to need"?

Uncontrollable
Apr 12 2012 03:21
Khawaga wrote:
Quote:
Who or what determines what I need or beyond basic needs what I want? And how much should I take so I know what's responsible?

supply and demand and money it seems... whatever happened to "from each according to ability, to each according to need"?

There will be demand (like certain kinds of foods) and supply (hopefully) in "full communism". People won't work according to their abilities in parecon? Or have their needs met? Why?

Uncontrollable
Apr 12 2012 05:05
Steven. wrote:
yes, and I don't think that spying on people, monitoring your colleagues working hours and how hard they are working is in the spirit of "solidarity and cooperation". Quite the opposite in fact.

I don't think people working in a workplace doing exactly what they want to be doing (why would they be there if thats not what they want to be doing) with others as equals in democratic workers councils have to be "spying on each other" or constantly monitoring each others every move.

Quote:
And if you haven't noticed people don't like to be forced to do things.

And in parecon there's some authority somewhere forcing you to work doing something you don't want to be doing? "Work" to be done in parecon is determined by democratic means in workers councils and community councils.

Quote:
If someone isn't pulling their weight with regard to helping with essential tasks then the collective can first try to help them by seeing what the problem is (some societies treat "laziness" like mental illness, giving someone the opportunity to recover before reintegrating) and if necessary exert social pressure on them to do a share.

And this can happen in parecon too. But I guess now people in the collective have noticed someone not pulling their weight and so I guess everyone must be "spying" and monitoring everyones every move in your vision of "full communism" also?

Quote:
Human beings are naturally productive, innovative, playful and creative.

I agree.

Quote:
who have to be forced to work for the common good.

No, what it sounds like to me people in parecon would work in democratic workplaces and participate in democratic workers/consumers councils as equals with balanced job complexes sharing in the empowering work and shit work. There's no state, bureaucrats or capitalists whipping workers into submission.

Steven.
Apr 12 2012 07:29
Uncontrollable wrote:
Quote:
If someone isn't pulling their weight with regard to helping with essential tasks then the collective can first try to help them by seeing what the problem is (some societies treat "laziness" like mental illness, giving someone the opportunity to recover before reintegrating) and if necessary exert social pressure on them to do a share.

And this can happen in parecon too. But I guess now people in the collective have noticed someone not pulling their weight and so I guess everyone must be "spying" and monitoring everyones every move in your vision of "full communism" also?

there's quite a big difference between, say noticing someone not turn up at all for their annual shift in the sewage plant or whatever to monitoring how hard our working and how long they work for every day then rating them based on that to determine how much they get to eat!

Goti123
Apr 12 2012 13:14

You're confusing "wage labour" (selling your labour) and the "wages system" (receiving a wage).

Konsequent
Apr 12 2012 14:15

I would have imagined that the fact that workers would just agree to give each other top scores might lead to everyone having a limited amount of points they can divide up amongst their colleagues. Not that I think this would work in practice either. It's naive to think the scores would reflect people's effort and sacrifice more than they would reflect their popularity, or influence, or other social dynamics. Altogether parecon seems to miss the human side of economics.

medwards
Apr 12 2012 17:02

I want to both agree with and dispute some points made in "Collective Resistance"

Perhaps I am a technocrat for saying this, but fairly determining compensation seems to be possible in strong cultures of meritocracy. I think its kind of two-faced to build these cultures underneath a profit-taking management structure, but Joel on Software writes about their internal company methods here ( http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000038.html ) and I always felt that these methods could be adapted to egalitarian societies. The article is also fairly explicit in noting that measuring how people contribute is variable and so these are to be seen as rough abstract estimates.

More to the point, such methods don't discourage the sharing of work-method improvements. In fact, the dude who tells me how to halve my workload is going to get some serious kudos from me.

You are absolutely right though to mention this. If you fuck up these measures then you discourage sharing of innovation which will fuck us all over long term.

All this being said, the more elegant solution is to just have people do the work that is necessary and have free consumption wherever possible. There are going to have to be other hacks to make that work that are lame (like there might have to be an upper limit set on consumption), but I think they are in general going to be less onerous and lead to more solidarity rather than less which is an important factor in the maintenance in an egalitarian society.

syndicalistcat
Apr 12 2012 17:39
Quote:
"the idea of parecon has not been come up with by the working class in struggle"

the only part of parecon that is actually new was participatory planning. even there, tho, it wasn't entirely new because the guild socialists in UK back in the early 20th century came up with the idea of negotiated coordination between community assemblies on the one hand and worker councils.

the part about eliminating the taylorist/fordist division of labor was discussed by Kropotkin, who calls it "integration of labor". this was revived by New Left Marxists in the '70s...partly out of reflecting on worker resistance to lousy jobs & speed up in those years. Albert & Hahnel were part of those discussions back then.

the part about self-managing work obviously was developed originally by radical worker militants & organic intellectuals of the class. same with worker councils, neighborhood assemblies, etc.

and the part about remuneration for work effort also has a long history. Marx advocated a form of this in Critique of the Gotha Program and Bakunin advocated something similar. Within the Spanish labor movement in the early 1900s Ricardo Mella advocated this.

syndicalistcat
Apr 12 2012 17:50
Quote:
there's quite a big difference between, say noticing someone not turn up at all for their annual shift in the sewage plant or whatever to monitoring how hard our working and how long they work for every day then rating them based on that to determine how much they get to eat!

the bit about effort ratings isn't an essential part of the participatory economics model. remuneration for work effort & sacrifice can be interpreted as equal rate of remuneration per hour worked. that's because the proposal is to "balance" jobs in terms of doing the hard physical labor, distributing this around so you don't have some people doing just the cushy, conceptual work. if jobs are balanced for how harsh they are, the work load, then the rate of remuneration should be equal, if remuneration is for required effort & sacrifice.

of course if someone is slacking off or having a hard time doing their job, their coworkers will know this, and then they will want to respond to this in some way. the person may be ill or have major stresses elsewhere in their life and coworkers will give them slack. if the person is actually just fucking off, not working, it will be resented by coworkers, and they may censure them, pressure them in various ways. Ultimately if this doesn't work, they would have the right to fire that person.

Remuneration for work effort is not the only way in which people gain access to a share of the social product within the participatory economics model. Children for example are given allotments independent of their parents' remuneration. People between jobs or unable to work are given the social average remuneration, same as someone working. Also, people who are old enough we no longer require them to work. Also, people studying are remunerated for that. Also, the community or region may have developed systems of free social provision, such as health care, education, public transit, other things. In principle there are no limits to this within the participatory economics model. It depends on what the community assemblies & regional federations decide to do. It's likely this would vary from region to region based on the particular culture or the social movement that brought about the revolution.

JimJams
Apr 12 2012 21:26

.

JimJams
Apr 12 2012 21:26
tastybrain wrote:
Peter wrote:
Alasdair wrote:
One question I do have, though, and maybe this would be answered by reading the AF pamphlet you link to, for example, is if shirking is such a widespread phenomenon can we be sure that a system without some form of compulsion will allow us to maintain industrial society to anything like the same degree of complexity and production that we have today? There will surely still be a lot of tasks that need accomplishing which are definitely not fun and which didn't really exist in pre-capitalist society.

Why on earth would any "anarchist" or "communist" want to maintain industrial society to anything like the same degree of complexity and production that we have today?

Yup. We need some industry but a HUGE portion of it is completely unnecessary and harmful. As Duave says (roughly), "we will need to close down at least half the factories." And I think that's actually being conservative.

I read an estimate once (think it was form a journal might be wrong) that only 5% of current work is sufficient to provide housing, food and energy. That's still a tiny amount of work when spread out even if that's wildly underestimated.Say it's 20% not 5%.That's only 0.2% of peoples current "working" time (which would be reduced) devoted to essential tasks if the work was divided equally (which it probably wouldn't be).

The rest could be directed to personal/community/social work or time in syndaclised work places where, everyone being in control of both their labour/produce of their labour, produce could be exchanged with other workplaces/communities and surpluses available to all. That's what i've always understood communism with any level of industrial production to look like.Somewhere between Williams Morris's utopian Communism in "News from Nowhere" and Anarchist Spain. With a marginal role for some mutualism/exchange chucked in (controversial i know) Anyway.............

Alasdair
Apr 12 2012 21:38

I somehow doubt that we could provide food, housing, and energy for 5% of our current work, and given people will almost certainly still want laptops and mobile phones and to be able to get medical treatment and get on trains or in cars to visit friends and get out of the city and so on (I know I'll want those things), I don't see how we can reduce work that much really. Obviously things like finance and advertising and a lot of bureaucracy and so on can be got rid of, but I'd be surprised at a 50% reduction in our work.

But whatever the figures turn out to be, based on what sort of precise society we want and what technology we have and so on, my point was less about the total amount of work that needed done and more that there will be some dangerous and unpleasant work left, mining for example, or maintaining sewage works. Things that any kind of industrial society will need, and I worry about people wanting to do if they don't have to.

JimJams
Apr 12 2012 21:48

Oh yeah i agree.Think 10-20% is more likely. I've always thought if there's work a society wants and no one wants to do it should be shared in some manner. I don't know to what extent that would be the case though, maybe not as much as we think. Another option would be some sort of special reward for doing unwanted work but i think that's a dangerous road to go down.Also as the "goals" of society will be different technological advances could be used to reduce working time rather than increase production, or at least the balance between the two could change.

Chilli Sauce
Apr 12 2012 22:08
Quote:
People between jobs or unable to work are given the social average remuneration, same as someone working.

That seems quite problematic, though. I think it sort of speaks to Steven's initial point: if I'm still receiving wages/remuneration, what's to stop me from being between jobs forever? Will there be a limit of the time I can be between jobs? Will I lose my average remuneration? Who makes that decision and what happens to me once my supply of remuneration is cut off?

Now, this isn't to say that the freeloader problem won't occur in other models of a communised society, but with the retention of exchange and remuneration based on effort, that incentive is that much stronger and the possibilities for dealing with it are that much more likely to be coercive.