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

Michael Albert
Apr 19 2012 12:26

What is compulsory, I wonder, about saying that one's income depends on - if one is able - how long, hard, and under what conditions one works? Suppose you have a job - you applied for it and got it. The job has lots of people working together - each affecting the ability of the rest to work by their presence, at least some parts of the day. Those parts of the day, you have to be there, to be contributing, for others to be able to work, etc. Do you see it as introducing compulsion that for this job, to do it, you must be present during certain hours.

In an institution of any kind - from family to workplace to electorate and all others - there are responsibilities if you are to be part of that institution. Is that, in your view, introducing compulsion?

That is what parecon has...

The reason our incentive is to reduce not work time, necessarily - but onerous work, and dismpowering work, is because these are burdens to people better done without. Thus, I might prefer to spend time as you say, with kids, at the beach, writing a book, or whatever else I like - then doing some onerous or disempowering work. Parecon handles these justly, a fair share for each - but, still, we want less... Thus we do it not for intrinsic benefit, but to contribute - but how much should we rightfully contribute? We don't know what is fair - unless we have a norm, and a means to implement it. The from each to each is one such choice - but it is not viable, and, in any event, does help people actually know what is responsible and what isn't. See the full reply, please, and the essay about chomsky's views - and, I guess is that isn't clarifying, maybe a full length presentation...

Michael Albert
Apr 19 2012 12:32

Wy would you say parecon advocates clearly find comfort in technocratic aspects of the scheme - what does that even mean? What are the technocratic aspects, I wonder. And who takes comfort in them?

"the real movement which abolishes the present state of things" - says, to me, just about nothing. A movement seeking feudalism, would seek that...so would one that favors back to the earth self reliance with a world wide population of a million remaining people, and so on. Or both, more or less, since in fact they would not abolish everything, merely a ton of things...

Let's suppose politics is influenced by personality in many, and if you like, even every case. Still, the responsible thing to do in addressing some political proposal, or vision, would not be to talk about the personality of its adherents, but the substance of its features...right?

When you talk of "Communism" what do you mean? What is it? What are the key institutions of the economy, or polity, or kinship, or culture, say?

Parecon is not a "gateway drug" nor a stage toward "communism" unless you indicate what "Communism" is, other than a word that puts off about 95% of the people on planet, I suspect...

Michael Albert
Apr 19 2012 12:42

Of course when someone isn't pulling there weight co workers can look into it - what else would happen in parecon. As is usually the case, I suspect the difference between you and parecon is minimal, and in practice perhaps zero - EXCEPT - parecon, even with its very few structures, takes seriously not just saying people will do x, but being sure that people's roles and their broad situations and circumstances, facilitate their doing x, promote it, etc.

In parecon a workers income depends, as you say, on duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor. It is workmates who by their collective choices, impact and regulate all these matters - and the economy overall, as well, that provides the income.

Now take the norm - from each, to each. Suppose the average number of hours - which I don't even know, people in fact work each week, is 30. I am fine and healthy, but I like lots of other things more than I like my work, so I decide I am going to work 10. (Let's ignore that this imposes on my workmates and assume they just throw up their hands and say, okay, sure.) I also want stuff - so where the average per capita value available is x, I want three times x. Now work 10 and take 3x - according to the norm, I am behaving quite correctly. No need for anyone to even know, much less comment.

Collective judgements are compulsory - individuals doing what they think is fine and desirable for themselves, in the absence of knowing what others are doing and why, and with zero say for anyone else in their choices, are fine. This is the moral difference, I guess, if you will. The economic difference is a matter of incentives, on the one hand, and information to be able to make sound choices of all kinds, on the other hand.

Check out the other essays, for more, please...

Michael Albert
Apr 19 2012 12:46

If you said, why would want to maintain wage slavery, or the violation of natural surroundings, or the massive production of means of violence and control, and so on - I would concur.

But anyone might feel it is better for humanity to have industrial workplaces able to produce things that benefit people way more, or even just more, than any ills they bring in tow. It pollutes to create medicine, clothes, housing, but of course that debit is far outweighed by benefits, I assume you agree - especially if one restructures the ways of doing the producing, and allocating, so they are just, fair, consistent with classlessness, and so on.

Well the same goes for violins, computers, means of transport, ball fields, and on and on...

The issue isn't alienating grotesque polluting places of work - producing needless and pointless items - but ecologically conscious self managed places of work producing socially beneficial output.

To be able to discern what is, in fact, socially beneficial - wanted - even in light of the costs of production, etc. is precisely why an economy needs means of valuation.

Michael Albert
Apr 19 2012 12:53

Well, I have no idea - and, in truth, I also know we need a great many more, or other, rather - replacing the ones making tanks and whatnot - but now making things that will enrich and enhance life experiences. The issue is simply not one of principle. One isn't against or for industry or workplaces - unless one mistakenly says industry means wage slavery and ecological violation of the worst sorts, always... and even then. Actually.

(a) Industry doesn't mean that. That is why one gets rid of the old - old social relations - and creates new structures. (b) In any event, since there is no such thing as no pollution, and no such thing, I suspect, as balanced work that doesn't have untoward aspects - what matters is only producing that which, by its later consumption, does more good, than its production involves costs...

A huge portion now is unnecessary and harmful - not just military, production, but, for example, that associated with much packaging, nearly all advertising, redundant goods, goods far better handled collectively, and so on. Markets make a grotesque mess, indeed. But we also need new production that isn't occurring - way more medical output, for example - more diverse food, more worthy dwellings, more items that people can enjoy, and so on.

People will choose how much they want, and thus how much work must be done, etc. Not for us to say...that is self management in the future...

radicalgraffiti
Apr 19 2012 12:57
Michael Albert wrote:
That some form of remuneration will be necessary is like that some form of production will be necessary, or of nurturing young - remuneration refers to the norms by which it is determined how much claim on social output each member of society has - as well as what they contribute to it by their work in the economy. The anarchist desire, from each, to each - is a remunerative norm.

no thats not so, remuneration is some thing given in exchange for work, it is not equivalent to distribution. it seems you are expanding the meaning so as to defend a specific instance.

Michael Albert wrote:
Your question is legitimate - but there is no need to think of it as shirking. If I am perfectly warranted to do less work and enjoy more income - than why should I not do so, if I so desire. It is not shirking, if it is allowed. In the from each to each maxim, it is allowed.

not so, if you take this "from each acording ta ability, to eacha cording to need" it is clear that each member of such a society is expected to contribut as they are able , it doesn't mean they can do nothing ane the rest of society must provide them what ever they want. i cant be certain if people to lazy to do anything would ever be a big problem for such a society, but the way it is phrased then if it did that society could chose not to provide for them.

Michael Albert wrote:
There are other problems than you mention. It is impossible to know what is fair and just - with that maxim, also to know where desires are greater and where they are less, so that investments can be oriented. For more, see the reply essay, I guess... or, for those serious about the issues and interested in parecon, a full presentation...

theres nothing to stop people keeping track of what is used and what isn't, and i assume people will say what they want.

i don't find videos vary useful to understanding things they take a long time to watch compared with reading the same information

radicalgraffiti
Apr 19 2012 13:00

and can you quote what you are replying to, not doing so make it imposable to follow.

Michael Albert
Apr 19 2012 13:01

First, the merits of an idea don't depend on its authorship. If henry kissenger happened to come up with some idea - it would not be wrong because he was a vile war criminal - but if it was wrong. If someone you most admire comes up with an idea, it is not right because the person is wonderful, but only if it is right.

Second, of course parecon emerged from the history of left struggle. This kind of comment utterly befuddles me. Not only is it obvious, but even if you want to say parecon was offered by myself and hahnel, because were first to put it in a complete package, in writing, say...still, if you look at even our personal trajectory (which is actually beside the point, but I guess this person cares for some reason) it is, precisely, one of evaluating past experiences, and those we went through...

The query about who decides what I need, or want - same thing, really - and how do I know what is responsible to take (assuming I even wish to be responsible, which will mostly, but not always, be true), and what might add, how much I should work...is very pertinent for those advocating from each, to each. It has been my experience the almost all such folks wind up wanting the outcome of people's personal choices (they have to be saying each individual makes these determination themselves, unless they want to answer the question, including with means...) to be virtually exactly what the outcome would be were the same people all operating with balanced job complexes, equitable remuneration (pareconish) and with participatory planning. They want the result, but reject collectively agreed, self managing means of being sure they can arise...

Michael Albert
Apr 19 2012 13:06

I t provides one answer to the question - but it is an unworkable and even incoherent answer, no matter how nice the sentiment lying behind it is. And, indeed, to implement the underlying sentiment - that is what parecon does...

I might say, those in libcom, or who call themselves communists, don't actually have a monopoly on knowledge of and familiarity with from each to each, and more...

My own political roots are not only in the New Left of decades back, but in various writers I learned from at an early age, and still admire - including, perhaps at the top of the list, not only chomsky, say, but anton pannekoek, kropotkin, bakunin, and so on...

I trace the roots of balanced job complexes to bakunin...councilst structure to all of them...and the underlying aims of participatory planning to the rejection of central planning and markets in this heritage...all the time.

People on libcom, and advocates of parecon - and parsec as well - have the same roots, by an large, the same "mentors" over history. We pareconists think we fulfill the desires of libcom-ers, so to speak, and anarchists, not simply with values and aspirations, but with a limited list of institutions that can actually fulfill them. The rejectionism of some, toward this, usually with any serious attention - strikes us as very odd indeed....but we keep trying.

Michael Albert
Apr 19 2012 13:12

In parecon, in a workplace, it is the workers who decide how they will determine allotments of income. In your workplace, your workforce, may decide that everyone will get an equal share of the amount allotted for the workforce by the plan. In that case, if I choose to work half time, and you work double time, and most work full time - whatever that it - we all get the same income. OR we might decide to have some levels of pay, say - way over - meaning, perhaps 20% above average, over (meaning perhaps 10% above, average, under (10% below), way under (20% below). OR maybe they want a finer gradation. I, personally, like the middle formula, roughly, and in my choosing where to work, would look for something like that, among my preferences. I think Robin would prefer finer gradations, so he will want to work with workers who agree about that.

since work has to be socially valued to be remunerated, the workplace as a whole - its n workers - get the average social per capita income to allot, for each worker - if the plant is working, overall, average. Now, internally, If I take more, there is less for you - it ought to be warranted - and it is a social determination. But, the more we know and trust each other, the simpler that determination is likely to be...

Please take a look at the longer reply, the essay about chomsky's views, and ideally a full presentation...for more complete formulations....

Michael Albert
Apr 19 2012 13:15

Parecon is actually conceived precisely on the basis of the human side of economics - I urge you to take a look at what it actually says...and its underlying logic...

IF institutions create contexts in which people will sensibly behave as you say - then they will. But with other contexts, throughout society, behavior will be quite different because different makes sense to all...

The idea that people will be as anti social and grossly individualist as now, or miss substance like now, with new institutions - is not only a reason to do nothing - the one that someone like Thatcher argues - but also makes a shambles of from each to each... Luckily it is false.

Michael Albert
Apr 19 2012 13:25

Please don't take this wrong - but, honestly, people here are discussing a serious proposal for an alternative to both capitalism and what has typically gone under the name socialism - without seriously looking at what it actually says. They are also doing it, honestly, winging it - basically. Economics is not rocket science - but it does take at least some effort to discern the multiple implications of things - not just one implication and run with it.

IFF from each to each would yield just and fair outcomes, IFF it would allow society to know what is preferred more and what is preferred less and so orient its investment patterns in accord, IFF it would produce along with items solidarity rather than insularity, mutual aid rather than separation - and so on - THEN, I agree, it would eliminate need for at least some dimensions of planning and communications and so on - but none of these IFFs are true, and the deviations are not minor but fundamental...

People here want a result - I guess because, honestly, forebears said they wanted it, etc. I am not sure, otherwise, why... That is, not that you want classlessness. equity, people controlling their own lives, and so on. That I of course get. You, like me, want those things because you value them, etc. But people here also want "fro each, to each" This is not the same. It is a means, not an end. It is something to want, if it would work, really well, as a means. Trouble is, it won't. If people want it because they think it is a fundamental plank of their belief system and aspirations - they will not even look into this matter. But if people want it as means to equity, to desirable social outputs and allocation, to classlessness, and so on. then you will look into the implications - and also, by contrast, seriously consider other proposals also seeking classlessness, etc., but claiming to have attributes missing from - from each to each - and essential.

I was told by email it would be good if I would come to this set of comments and enter my reactions - I honestly don't see why. Longer, more carefully developed formulations are available all over the place. It seems to me, looking at that stuff, taking it seriously, would be far more productive for people wanting to have an informed attitude to parecon, than that I should offer these snippets...but, I will persist.

Michael Albert
Apr 19 2012 13:38

I apologize that I skipped over the second page of discussion - which I see above - I did so for two reasons. First, I have to move on to other tasks... Second, I think my replying to everything anyone says is way too much... me over and over - no point - and also, redundant, etc. etc. I wish, however, I had seen it first, as I do think it is more developed and advanced, I guess one might say, than the page I did address...

The reply article to the original piece is on znet, and here. If people read that, and have questions or concerns that they want to put to me, in particular, and pose them, attaching them to it...I will try to take a look. I admit, if someone were to collect those into a single document, I could address the points more efficiently for all concerned, I suspect. But, there are other people here offering views, on both sides, and, honestly, I have dealt with all these issues many many times, in different venues, largely available on znet... for those interested - not to mention the book parecon, say...

I am glad to see all the discussion and also that the sarcasm and personally degrading comments are quite minimal barely present at all - it is a admirable attribute of this system, it seems.

radicalgraffiti
Apr 19 2012 15:29
fletcheroo wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
fletcheroo wrote:
Steven. wrote:
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.

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.

Parecon envisions the means of production as held in common, remunerative shares as not apportioned in terms of bargaining power but on the fair basis of effort/sacrifice (tempered by distribution for need), and self-management, solidarity and equity as present. Having a norm for determining remunerative shares is not the same as wage slavery. If you nevertheless maintain under such conditions that workers will (despite the fact this is near impossible) do as little labour for the most remuneration, then this sits more than uneasily against your vision wherein persons can do zero labour and take as much as they want.

actually there are various ways communism could deal with people doing no work at all, just no one has said "this is how it will be"
But paracon is based on a system of coercing people to work through requiring the to aquire consumption credits to live, so its obvious that people will be better of if they can get more for less effort, communism has a different dynamic.

Firstly, I envision labour won’t be a pre-condition to the access to the means of life; a supply of democratically decided unconditional lots meeting people’s basic needs seems minimally necessary.

Secondly, to state folly in parecon owing to the fact “people will be better off if they can get more for less effort”, then stating (without substantiation) that communism uniquely averts this pitfall owing to a ‘different’ dynamic, seems to A) restate the initial position B) begs the question, what is this dynamic and how is it captured in communism and not parecon?

How is it not “obvious that people will be better off if they can get more for less effort” within communism?

This seems like the transferring of the logic of capitalist alienation to a completely antithetical environment – when common ownership of the means of production, classlessness, self-management, and remuneration on a fair basis are instituted, and equity and solidarity present, will people really rail against remunerative lots to the point of abusing the very system which they self-manage?

paracon seekes to implement a system where poeple are only working for the money, where as communims seeks a system where people do work only because it needs doing, the first encorages people to keep work and inervatiosn to them selves, to look like your working hard while doing nothing. the second to share the work with as many as posible, and reduce the effert involved, there is little incentive to pretend to work harder then you are, you wount get any more for that.

fletcheroo wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
fletcheroo wrote:
Steven. wrote:
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.)

I think this misses an important point – labour has to be socially necessary. That is, workplaces under parecon have to produce ouputs commensurate with inputs (labour, technical assets, time expended etc.), otherwise all their labour won't be judged as socially necessary – remuneration won’t just increase if everyone in a workplace gives each other maximum ratings, the remunerative share allocated to the workplace would reflect the disparity in inputs/outputs. Socially unnecessary labour (e.g. doing nothing) is not rewarded, so workplaces pay a price when they under-perform.

so pay is actual based on production, just not individual production, piece work at the workplace level.

Remuneration is distributed in accord with effort/sacrifice – the point here was, when a workplaces output isn’t commensurate (using averages) with its inputs (including effort ratings and work duration), then either some of the labour performed was socially unnecessary or of a low intensity. As a result, the remunerative share allocated to that workplace will reflect this disparity, and not enlarge in accord with the hypothetically falsified ratings/measurements.

remuneration can't be distrauted according to effort/sacrifice if the amount avalable to distrabute amungst the workers of a workplace is determainded by the productity of that workplace. Unless you belive that the productivity of the work place is determined by the total effort/sacrifice of the workers, something that seems kind of improbable, people can work exstreamly hard and not preduce a lot, or produce loads with vary little effort.

fletcheroo wrote:
radicalgraffiti wrote:
fletcheroo wrote:
Steven. wrote:
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.

Effort/sacrifice takes differing abilities/talents into account, hence why it is chosen as the preferred remunerative norm over individual productive output. For example, the suggestion of judging effort/sacrifice by duration of work and peer-ratings doesn’t acknowledge abilities/talents as relevant. A brief reading of parecon would grant anyone this knowledge. Also, those who can’t work or who are hindered will receive need-based remuneration to fill the gap, which would be in accord with atleast the average remuneration, and any above to accommodate any special hardship.

Except it doesn't because there is no way to really know how much effort anyone but yourself has put into something

Well I think there are suitable means for approximating effort/sacrifice (of course no measure is perfect), and that workplace experimentation would obviously contribute to revealing the most desirable means of doing such. Though I think the (unaddressed) suggestion of duration of work and some kind of peer-rating system is one plausible way of measuring effort/sacrifice

the surgesion about peer rating was adressed in steaves article. i'd also add that such a system would encorage the hording of work if susesfuly implemnented, so that people would have to share there shares with fewer people.

Steven.
Apr 23 2012 19:53

Wow, that was long… I've now written a full response to Michael's reply here:
http://libcom.org/library/steven-johns-responds-michael-alberts-reply

Steven.
Apr 23 2012 19:54

Just to clarify that I haven't read all the comments on this original article yet, just the first 40 or so. Or else I wouldn't have been able to finish the reply to the article

Praxis-Makhno
May 22 2012 13:13
Uncontrollable wrote:
"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?

Don't expect a well thought out answer to that one... Johns has basically written a quite foolish critique of the very alternative he supports. Which, as a libertarian communist, and pareconist, I find deeply puzzling.

I tend to be less diplomatic than Albert in his reply below, and suggest Johns has read parecon and yet purposefully sought to bring up the most basic canards for another re-heating, and from a very reactionary place... He, of course, and unsurprisingly repeats this in his second reply. All very damaging for concrete alternatives for classlessness

http://www.zcommunications.org/libcom-author-rejects-parecon-remuneration-by-michael-albert

Quote:
And here is the incredible punchline. Suppose we take Johns at face value. We assume he really feels all this after serious assessment, and that if he hasn't paid much attention to what he is critiquing it is only because he read someone who led him to believe there was no need, because it was so transparently dumb, or something like that. Libcom, and probably Johns, thinks that what we should really favor for remuneration in a good society is that each person should work the amount they choose to, and consume as much as they wish to. This is what the young Chomsky argued, as well. But there is a big difference. The young Chomsky had an optimistic view of workers' motives and inclinations. Johns has a pessimistic one. I reject this norm of from each to each because the assumption that people will try to be and especially that they will manage to be humane, caring, and equitable in their free and completely unmediated choices neglects to notice that they have no way of knowing what choices would in fact be humane, caring, and equitable, or instead, excessive, or unduly harsh on themselves.

But Johns to be consistent, has to reject his remunerative norm on different grounds. He has to reject it because he believes people are out for themselves and worried, even in a classless economy with mutually agreed norms that apply to all, as long as there are claims on social output and work to be done, that someone might get more than they, or work less than they, so they need to cheat, or they just want to.

Well, in his economy, the truth is, they don't even have to cheat. All they have to do is increase what they request and diminish the amount they work, which is what Johns repeatedly says they will try to do even against social norms, much less in accord with them, however they choose. John thinks people will be self seeking without limit against shared social norms, against their workmates, against the rest of society, and risking repercussions, in a parecon. But all of a sudden, he thinks that with just this new norm, people can take as much as they want and work as little as they want, people won't behave anti socially even though there is no cost to doing so, thereby obliterating his entire prior stance in a flash.

Johns says, "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." Well, what can I say? Johns makes no effort to take seriously a proposal for a different way to operate an economy. He ignores almost everything written about it. He ignores answers to the very points he raises, whole chapters, for example, in the book parecon, devoted to addressing his concerns.

He thinks it is okay for him to favor, instead, what is in fact a ridiculously impossible norm, from each according to ability to each according to according to need, which not only requires that people want to be equitable and just, which when it suits him, he denies, but also that they magically know what behavior is in fact equitable and just - not to mention other difficulties, but it is not okay, indeed it is scifi nerdish, for someone to think seriously about a set of institutions - intentionally quite minimalist - which can actually establish conditions of equity, self management, classlessness, etc. I guess about all this, we can just agree to disagree.

Spikymike
May 23 2012 13:50

To the admins:

This is surely another case for reinstituting the 'automatic links' to related discussions when so much more has been said in criticism of the parecon model and strategy on other recent threads and blogs, whereas the tail end of this has ended up with tiresome repetitive comments from MA which few, other than RG, have the will to keep responding to.

Can we just not put these 'pareconists' in an isolation cell with the 'inclusive democracy' lot and let them fight it out to exaustion!

Joseph Kay
May 23 2012 14:00

'more like this' is now at the top, under the tags and above the quote with the green quote mark.

radicalgraffiti
May 24 2012 17:03

not on firefox its not

Knows Better
Jul 18 2012 08:00

Reads like the daily news and I cant believe anyone would even consider giving up your rights freedoms paid for by BLOOD for stamps & vouchers & very hollow promises let alone work for someone else for the barest minimum and except non-tranferable credits that can be withheld at their whim...to buy only what is provided with NO CHOICES in the matter. You are a complete fool if you are for anything but what we have in place now. Why do you think people flock to the America and risk eveything, its because of these systems of persecution! You cant have any freedom and expect to live under this system. It will not function without threat of imprisoment or withdraw of food and necessities to force you to work. I would ask nicely the first time...do not tread on me! You want more of something then go earn it, its not free and never will be. Patrck Henry has is covered! GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH

Khawaga
Jul 18 2012 14:16

Why isn't your nick "Knows Nothing"?

Apfelstrudel
Jul 18 2012 16:16
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.

Another question to ask is, if the only way we can maintain an industrial society is through some form of compulsion, is it worth it? Wouldn't we rather be free in a non-industrial society than live with industry but only by virtue of some of us being forced to do work?

Not advocating primitivism here, just saying that if those are our two only option, the ethically stronger position is to resisist compulsion anyway.

Apfelstrudel
Jul 18 2012 19:38
Michael Albert wrote:
[...]remuneration refers to the norms by which it is determined how much claim on social output each member of society has[...] The anarchist desire, from each, to each - is a remunerative norm.

Nobody is saying remunerative norms are bad per se. But there is a difference between general norms in society on what is fair and isn't, and measuring hard work and sacrifice and having a detailed remunerative scheme based on that measurement. The difference being that the former doesn't need to be formalized and legislated in order to have an effect
and the latter is epistemologically impossible.

Michael Albert wrote:
If I am perfectly warranted to do less work and enjoy more income - than why should I not do so, if I so desire. It is not shirking, if it is allowed.

Because tyranny of small decisions. There is a difference between what is socially desirable and what is accepted by isolated individuals; this is for instance why people keep buying things that are bad for the environment despite there being a social desire to care for it.

And if your logic is basically "if it is socially accepted, it's OK", why isn't "the anarchist desire, from each, to each" OK? I mean we manage to clearly show your way has problems that our way solves, so why insist on this specific remuneration scheme stuff when you are clearly OK with whatever the social norm for remuneration is (even if it is clearly wasteful)?

Steven.
Feb 9 2014 14:58

Bump, as this whole debate is now available in handy PDF, epub and mobi formats.

especifista
May 3 2014 15:46

I agree with the majority of this critique. However, I find much of it impractical and disengaged from my current situation and work conditions. The article is too deep in theory and not engaged enough in practice. Believe me, I hate my reality and I'd love a post work society, but for now, I have to work to survive. I work in a cooperative and Internal to our workplace there is stratification between workers who hold more desirable positions and those who do more of the arduous, non-rewarding grunt work. Yet, we are all paid the same.

In my mind as an anarchist, this is something like a layer of exploitation. When collective members are paid the same (or there is no wages) and there are people who do not put in the same effort / get to do more desirable work, they are exploiting the collective members who have worse working conditions. Or it could be said that they do get paid more per desirability/arduousness of their specific tasks.

A pareconist modle of distributing labor could easily fix some of the structural issues in my workplace, and I intend to implement it in the future. In my mind, ideas like balanced job complexes are the best way to distribute work equitably to date. Without a parecon structure being in place, my coworkers cling to their more-desirable work and are constantly shifting shitty labor in our shop toward the less skilled workers, who are usually the new people.

Again, I agree with wagework being awful, but I think many aspects parecon need to be implemented in a post-work society or else there will be people with better jobs doing easier/more-desirable work while many folks will be stuck at a lower rung in the workplace, even in a communist economy where there are no wages. It almost seems like to get rid of work we need to get rid of inequitable distribution of labor in places of production because inequitability is what defines work.

Khawaga
May 3 2014 16:03
Quote:
post-work society or else there will be people with better jobs doing easier/more-desirable work while many folks will be stuck at a lower rung in the workplace, even in a communist economy where there are no wages.

I really can't understand what you are describing would be either post-work or communism if a division of labour is still so rigid. What you have then is A soviet union style society.

midnightsteven
Jul 23 2014 21:19

I agree with the critique here of the well-meaning but misguided participatory economics program, and with the general tenor of most of the comments here - even other more radical proposals such as that of Marx according to Peter Hudis' often excellent "Marx's Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism" - that value production and therefore capitalism are replaced by concrete rather than abstract labor, so that one would work an hour and regardless of one's productivity, ability, etc. would have the right to an hour of the general social product in exchange is essentially keeping a sort of wage system.

We need to totally separate income or subsistence and work. I don't think work can be abolished anytime soon, but it can be dramatically reduced even now (as many here point out by no longer doing the "shit jobs" as David Graeber calls them, or the socially and ecologically destructive kinds of work that we shouldn't be doing, all the pointless and needless stuff etc.), and can be continually reduced as a standard while at the same time people would be ever freer timewise to pursue activities, including activities that might now be defined as forms of work that they wanted to do.

I think we need to take that risk - that most people will want to do something and that if they are and feel that they are part of a community, one that they govern directly, one whose subsistence - even at high technological levels where desired - is largely the product of that community, one whose surroundings are directly under their collective control (my own preference, as my "Cosmopolis" proposal posted elsewhere on this site suggests, is the self-governed city, with self-governed cooperatives taking care of the various work tasks and with all the local resources and workplace owned collectively by the residents of the town or city) that people will do the things that are needed and will also discover other things they want to do with enthusiasm once freed of the tyranny of capitalist work and of the wage system as a whip.

I don't think money can be abolished overnight (I am willing to proven wrong, but that is my guess) but can be made into a mere local direct transfer every month or whatever to everyone from birth, without work requirements, to use as the like to meet their needs, with some universal accounting for "trade" between areas. There are likely other models that would work as well, but the key point, that we make subsistence into something that is universally available, realizable and guaranteed, and work into activity freely entered into and done as part of a community and to realize one's own humanity, means that no alternative to capitalism that keeps us working in exchange for subsistence is going to be our solution.