ParEcon or libcom?

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Joseph Kay
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Aug 11 2009 03:17
petey wrote:
it's not a capitalist deformation of my personality, that i would be impatient of any large group, even one including myself, determining what is the hierarchy of needs and wants to which i must subscribe. maybe this requires fuller exposition.

i'm definitely not saying that if a majority don't want something we don't make it, simply that we make less stuff that is less popular. in the kind of system i suggest, you'd probably group all goods and services into categories and agree a priority order, within that it would be a case of producing a range representative of demand. and if you say live a fit and healthy lifestyle and really do consider a light-up sound-sensitive daft punk coffee table ('furniture') more important than healthcare, and everyone else disagrees then social production will prioritise the requirements of healthcare over furniture in case of scarcity of common raw materials. but any society would face that dilemma, and i don't think settling it with purchasing power is in anyway acceptable, so democracy seems the least worst option (ah, Winston Churchill invoked in defence of communism).

petey
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Aug 11 2009 04:59
Joseph Kay wrote:
in the kind of system i suggest, you'd probably group all goods and services into categories and agree a priority order, within that it would be a case of producing a range representative of demand.

this is clearer, but the devil is in the details and i can imagine how this form of organization could produce frustrations, with the risk of majoritarianism which seems to inhere in it.

Joseph Kay wrote:
social production will prioritise the requirements of healthcare over furniture in case of scarcity of common raw materials. but any society would face that dilemma.

agreed. i'm not slagging what you're proposing but i'm always extremely mindful that we'd have to experience this (or any other system proposed on these boards) before we knew what the social/interpersonal dynamic was.

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Aug 11 2009 07:40
petey wrote:
this is clearer, but the devil is in the details and i can imagine how this form of organization could produce frustrations, with the risk of majoritarianism which seems to inhere in it.

to be adequate to human needs any system needs to produce for a range of minority needs as well as popular ones. but ultimately, i think there' always the possibility that you don't get exactly what you want since nobody is prepared to produce it. now in practice i think people tend to consume the things that exist rather than demand the things that don't (i.e. i think iphones are great, but i didn't in any way feel hard done by before they existed), so the problem would be the cessation of production of items of low demand. without wanting to paper over naked majoritarianism, to an extent such a scenario is perhaps inevitable under any social arrangement. at least under communism, there's the oppurtunity for example to set aside a certain percentage of materials to for diy production (free of charge of course), so that individuals are free to spend time say, building that boat they always wanted, recruiting as much mutual aid (labour, technical assistance) they can to assist, even when society in general has other priorities.

i think parecon would address this problem much like capitalism; work your ass off, save up and buy the thing you want. now even if you think people who do put in that kind of extra effort deserve something more, that doesn't require a generalised wage/price system but simply some kind of 'bonus scheme' entitling those workers to first say on particular goods. that would be up for the appropriate councils to decide. as we're keen to stress, our 'vision' can and will certainly be improved in the details since all these potential pitfalls are not anticipatable in advance.

petey wrote:
agreed. i'm not slagging what you're proposing but i'm always extremely mindful that we'd have to experience this (or any other system proposed on these boards) before we knew what the social/interpersonal dynamic was.

which is why our vision is primarily about what to do in the here and now and gets less concrete the further we project from the present. we're very much reluctant to provide blueprints (although Mark seems to want us to, having ParEcon to draw on for his) for this reason. now i think he's wrong that we "can not even answer basic questions about what a post-capitalist classless economy might look like" - we've certainly answered the basics, it's the details where we're necessarily less specific. as we say, "we do have a vision in your [Mark PPS'] sense of the word – a vision that extends from the present to the future. What we do think is likely to grow out of means is not vision, but the specific details of its implementation (...) This is not a cop out – as I say we do make suggestions as to how a libertarian communist society could be organised – but an informed humility."

That's not an attempt to shut down debate, simply a statement that the details of any future society of billions cannot be planned adequately in advance, but of course we have to at least have an idea what we want when we find ourselves in some revolutionary workers' councils with problems to solve. of course, by such a point, these ideas will have been discussed much more widely and thoroughly and so many more proposals will have been generated and likely in greater detail. the PPS approach seems to be to produce a comprehensive blueprint, then rally everyone around it. i think that's a utopian socialist approach, and that the details of a future society must and can only emerge from the discussions and desires of millions of workers in struggle. of course libertarian communists and pareconists will be amongst those workers making these arguments, and no doubt having their flaws exposed and improvements put forward.

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Aug 13 2009 09:57
Joseph Kay wrote:
... our vision is primarily about what to do in the here and now and gets less concrete the further we project from the present. we're very much reluctant to provide blueprints (although Mark seems to want us to, having ParEcon to draw on for his) for this reason. now i think he's wrong that we "can not even answer basic questions about what a post-capitalist classless economy might look like" - we've certainly answered the basics, it's the details where we're necessarily less specific.

I definitely support the libcom position in this debate against the parecon one, but I think we need to be clear that there is NO SUCH THING AS "a post-capitalist classless economy". You were apparently clear on this in the debate when you wrote that in communism (or post-capitalism) the separate spheres of politics and economics would be abolished. It is because there will be no separate economic sphere that it is foolish, and idealistic, to demand that one offer up a blueprint or outline of what one (i.e. post-cap. economy) might look like, rather than because it is so far away from where we are currently.

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Aug 13 2009 10:47
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you wrote that in communism (or post-capitalism) the separate spheres of politics and economics would be abolished

i might have misunderstood the point here but does anyone seriously believe that in capitalist society there is a separate sphere of economics which is empty/devoid of political content?

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Aug 13 2009 11:07
oisleep wrote:
i might have misunderstood the point here but does anyone seriously believe that in capitalist society there is a separate sphere of economics which is empty/devoid of political content?

it depends what you mean. if you are saying the economy is not devoid of ideological/political assumptions, or that it also is a site of social relations based on the exercise of authority, then you're right.

but clearly capitalism does separate politics and economics. the former is the domain of governance where democracy is championed. the latter is the domain of production, consumption and exchange, where the dictatorship of title holds sway.

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Aug 13 2009 11:13
waslax wrote:
It is because there will be no separate economic sphere that it is foolish, and idealistic, to demand that one offer up a blueprint or outline of what one (i.e. post-cap. economy) might look like, rather than because it is so far away from where we are currently.

yes definitely, but if you replace 'economy' with 'society' in Mark's quote, i think it's still reasonable for him to expect us to be able to outline basic features of the society we want (which we do). however i don't think a detailed blueprint is reasonable for all the reasons i've outlined (the intellectual hubris required, the ahistorical idealism that supposes society strives towards a glorious idea rather than struggling against the present to create the facts of the future, the fact no mode of production has ever been the product of a pre-designed blueprint...).

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Aug 13 2009 16:50

the articles are now all online as library articles, linked from the main article.

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Aug 13 2009 18:11
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it depends what you mean. if you are saying the economy is not devoid of ideological/political assumptions, or that it also is a site of social relations based on the exercise of authority, then you're right.

but clearly capitalism does separate politics and economics. the former is the domain of governance where democracy is championed. the latter is the domain of production, consumption and exchange, where the dictatorship of title holds sway

clearly i mean the former - in the sense that essentially political issues like power to control production and appropriation and the allocation of social labour and resources have been cut off from the 'democratic political' arena and displaced to a separate sphere, this sphere may be commonly called the economic sphere but it's heavily politically laden as you say, so i guess there's a load of scope for confusion when there's talk of this separation of the economic and the political - especially coming from any kind of marx perspective whose whole project was to reveal the political nature of the economic and to show that there's no sharp discontinuities between economic & political spheres - something that was previously obscured by classical political economy and to an extent by marxists post marx with crude/simplistic base/superstructure analysis which perpetuate the ideological practices marx himself was attacking

so this economic sphere actually has its own private political/judicial forms (however indirectly these are wielded) whose purpose are purely 'economic' - which really means that the differentiation of the economic and political in capitalism is really more about a differentiation of political functions and their separate allocation to either the private 'economic' sphere or the democratic public 'political' sphere dependent on what their function/purpose is

but i've kind of lost the track of my point now so i'll leave it there

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Aug 20 2009 15:13

anyone notice how the symbol used to depict the parecon folks sorta has a swastika in it? just saying...

RedHughs
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Aug 24 2009 20:15

On a different but related note, here is a presentation by a out-and-out capitalist eloquently arguing that rewards are a poor motivator for anything but simple tasks. Funny how schemes like Parecon not only reproduce capitalist management systems but reproduce the crudest, nastiest, and least efficient of them.

petey
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Aug 24 2009 21:18

good eye, hughs, thanks for the link

RedHughs
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Aug 25 2009 03:48
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good eye, hughs, thanks for the link

Believe it or not, I appreciate the encouragement...

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Oct 27 2009 10:38

I picked up a paper copy of this debate at the anarchist bookfair and have just reread it. I have to say that its a really excellent exposition of libertarian communist ideas, despite the constraints of the format and the fact some questions are left hanging due to it being incomplete.

I understand that the libcom people are busy with various things, but it might be worth borrowing the written debate format to discuss issues with other sections of 'the movement'. For example, I think it would be more fruitful to discuss differences with platformist types over questions of strategy and pragmatism in a similar format, rather than through the odd blog and posted facebook conversations.

Also I think that the pamphlet should be more widely available, even if it is pretty niche. I'm going to raise selling it in Manchester through our AF group when we meet this week.

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Oct 27 2009 14:05

there are some archived political debates here. i've recently read through the platformist one which is a real eye opener. but yeah i agree this would be a fantastic idea.

petey
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Oct 27 2009 15:13
RedHughs wrote:
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good eye, hughs, thanks for the link

Believe it or not, I appreciate the encouragement...

thanks?
anyway, the topic and rhetoric used in that clip are very well pitched for US-style discussion. i continue to be baffled and furious that glenn beck (e.g.) has developed a language to communicate his batshit bullshit ideas to millions, but we in this area have trouble getting across a message that begins with the direct, daily experience of work.

vanilla.ice.baby
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Oct 27 2009 17:01
Django wrote:

I understand that the libcom people are busy with various things, but it might be worth borrowing the written debate format to discuss issues with other sections of 'the movement'. For example, I think it would be more fruitful to discuss differences with platformist types over questions of strategy and pragmatism in a similar format, rather than through the odd blog and posted facebook conversations.

I'd be up for debating from the "platformist" pov if they want.

Yorkie Bar
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Oct 27 2009 17:31
jesuithitsquad wrote:
there are some archived political debates here. i've recently read through the platformist one which is a real eye opener. but yeah i agree this would be a fantastic idea.
revol68 wrote:
oh the hilarity that is nationalism, oh the pure surreality that is Scottish nationalism and the comic tradegy that is Irish nationalism.

Wow, that is actually pretty good.

~J.

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Steven.
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Oct 27 2009 19:00

Also here: http://libcom.org/tags/debates

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Oct 11 2010 00:01
jesuithitsquad wrote:
there are some archived political debates here. i've recently read through the platformist one which is a real eye opener. but yeah i agree this would be a fantastic idea.

Anyway that could be updated, libcom mods?

akai
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Oct 11 2010 04:59

Hope that somebody will print out some stuff for the London @ Bookfair where Alacbert is supposed to appear.

alb
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Oct 11 2010 05:16

More here

Caiman del Barrio
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Oct 11 2010 10:26

Albert came to Venezuela in order to give some prochavista speel, only to make a load of fundamental historical errors in his speech (claiming Chavez nationalised the oil, for starters).

sort it out frosty
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Oct 14 2010 14:42

To me this discussion remains sterile, as I hear it here or elsewhere.

The communists talk about the destruction of work, subjectivity over objectivity, a change of social relations rather than management, etc. and claim to be against self-management of the economy. All things I agree with in my understanding I have cum to. So in many ways this critique of Parecon is good.

But (correct me if I'm wrong) both "sides" here are talking about different ways to organise mass society. Communistically or thru a value-based "democratic self management" bureaucracy. Personally I think mass society is inherently unsustainable and creates a class system. What I see absent from this discussion is a questioning of the very basis of the mode of production. Or for that matter the basis of class society which is civilisation, understood as city-based societys depending for existence upon external "resources" - humans, the earth. So actually I see the communist striving, the striving for the end of class society & commoditys & social relations based on quantitative logic, as the striving for a world of anarchy - which I will neatly identify (for my owns ends, but honestly) as human-scale (e.g. small) decentralised autonomous and largely self-sufficient communities based on craftwork & agriculture. Often anarchists & autonomous communists react defensively to the common sense posiition (historically articulated by everyone from Leninists to Librals) that anarchy means an end to industry, cities, high culture, etc. - see for instance Luigi Fabbri's reply to Bukharin's attack on anarchism, protesting that actually anarchists DON'T have a problem with the centralisation of the economy, we just have an anarchist take on it innit! Or see Diego Abad de Santillan's plan for an anarcho-syndicalist economy that seems deeply unpleasant and more like highly developed capitalism than anarchy or communism. In it he lays into the workshy tearaways who want a decentralised network of autonomous agrarian communes. As we know anarcho-syndicalist self-management of the economy was just that, self-management of the economy... zealous anarchist militants urging their fellow workers to increased productivity, etc.

I don't want to self-manage the economy. I don't believe the capitalist mode of production is seperable from the capitalist means of production, except at an artificial level (eg a change of management style). I know that our economy is based on energy & resource use that is unsustainable, fundamentally, and that any way we organise it, its fucked. If you think we can switch over to renewables and maintain the same way of life you are kidding yourself - this is the insanity of the culture in the slow decline to the death of industrial civilisation. Its not gonna happen folks. So all these discussions that do not take into account the exploitative, unsustainable & violent nature of civilisation are pissing in the wind in my opinion.

If communism means anything its a rejection of mass society in favour of our everyday life based on human-scale relations.

Spikymike
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Oct 14 2010 16:31

siof, makes some good points here aboout future communist society not simply being about a different management of 'the economy' and not being able to 'maintain the same way of life as at present' but there is no such thing as 'mass society' separate from 'capitalist society' and we cannot move forward to any fundamental reorganisation of society and a new way of life without first destroying the real economy as it exists in the form of value production, (something which does require as a start rebellion by workers in todays economic system - to refer indirectly to siof's other post on why he/she should care).

Most libertarian/anarchist communists (including the AF in a number of it's publications) favour moves towards major decentralisation but how far this can go is a practical problem to be resolved over a lengthy transitional period. The current population could not be sustained by some kind of overnight shift to autonomous craft and agricultural based production - although there is of course much of the present destructive and wasteful capitalist production and technology which could be rapidly abandoned.

Moreover, as we live in a single ecological world there are many aspects of the restitution (and future management) of our damaged environment and redistribution of resources which require organisation of some sort at a world level, requiring in turn reliance on some modern communications and transport systems etc. There is of necessity a balance to be struck here between centralisation and decentralisation - they are not in practice total opposits.

This is an important discusion (though raised before on a number of other threads) which I would like to return to when I have more time.

capricorn
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Oct 14 2010 17:03

There's another good, detailed critique of Parecon here but which won't please a primitivist like Frosty who thinks that it's "civilisation" not capitalism that's to blame for today's world problems. It might not please others here either as it's from the point of view of centralised planning (even though in natural units rather than a general unit of account).

But Frosty is right, as Spikey points out, that Parecon is a scheme to self-manage "the economy" (the allocation of supposedly scarce resources amongst competing ends). It's a bleprint to do this in an "equitable" way but with a concept of "equity" derived from the law of value that equal values should exchange for equal values. Not communist at all, then.

I'm not sure that communism wants to abolish work (that's a natural human activity). What it does want to abolish is "the economy" and its requirement to put a price tag on everything.

sort it out frosty
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Oct 14 2010 17:24
Spikymike wrote:
siof, makes some good points here aboout future communist society not simply being about a different management of 'the economy' and not being able to 'maintain the same way of life as at present' but there is no such thing as 'mass society' separate from 'capitalist society' and we cannot move forward to any fundamental reorganisation of society and a new way of life without first destroying the real economy as it exists in the form of value production, (something which does require as a start rebellion by workers in todays economic system - to refer indirectly to siof's other post on why he/she should care).

I think that mass society is a product of the emergence of cities (the emergence of civilisation), the result of the permanent division of labour, the creation of class society. I also think the revolt against class society and the creation of a new world will happen outside of and against the workplace.

As for "capricorns" calling me a primitivist - I don't understand. I'm not a primitivist and have never been one or identified even loosely with that tendency. As another anarchist said...

Quote:
First of all, there is nothing inherently primitivist about a critique of civilization, particularly if that critique is anarchist and revolutionary. Such critiques have existed nearly as long as a self-aware anarchist movement has existed — and not always even connected to a critique of technology or progress (Dejacque felt that certain technological developments would allow human beings to more easily get beyond civilization; on the other hand, Enrico Arrigoni, alias Frank Brand, saw civilization and industrial technology as blocks hindering real human progress). The real question, in my opinion, is whether primitivism is any help at all to an anarchist and revolutionary critique of civilization.

Wolfi Landstreicher "A Critique, Not a Program: For a Non-Primitivist Anti-Civilization Critique" [link]

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Oct 14 2010 17:47
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I think that mass society is a product of the emergence of cities (the emergence of civilisation), the result of the permanent division of labour, the creation of class society.

Perhaps this is written badly, but I don't know of any discipline--anthropological or otherwise--that would define the emergence of civilization as the emergence of cities. Moreover, class existed long before cities--and long before industrial cities. I don't even see that as a matter of debate.

RedHughs
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Oct 15 2010 04:45
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I'm not sure that communism wants to abolish work

This is more a matter of terminology than principles. I don't think there's anyone in the "abolish work" camp who'd talk about a society where people don't engage in meaningful, constructive activity. They just mean labor, enforced toil, when they talk about work. Just as much, I think communism does mean to abolish labor and enforced toil - except perhaps those who embrace parecon as the thousand-year-transition-program.

Ariege
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Oct 15 2010 07:40
ncwob wrote:
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I think that mass society is a product of the emergence of cities (the emergence of civilisation), the result of the permanent division of labour, the creation of class society.

Perhaps this is written badly, but I don't know of any discipline--anthropological or otherwise--that would define the emergence of civilization as the emergence of cities. Moreover, class existed long before cities--and long before industrial cities. I don't even see that as a matter of debate.

Well, even the word civilisation speaks of the city; to deny the link between cities and the rise of what is commonly accepted to be civilisation is somewhat obscurantist.