ParEcon or libcom?

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capricorn
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Oct 15 2010 08:31
RedHughs wrote:
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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.

I agree this is a question of terminology and that what communism wants to abolish is "enforced toil" (slavery, serfdom, employment) and to have productive activity (which of course is necessary in any society) take the form of "voluntary work", organised of course but still involving the exercise of physical and mental energy, ie. work.

Engels, in a footnote he added to the 4th German edition of Capital, noted that in English you can distinguish between "work" and "labour":

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The English language has the advantage of possessing different words for the two aspects of labour here considered. The labour which creates Use-Value, and counts qualitatively, is Work, as distinguished from Labour; that which creates Value and counts quantitatively, is Labour as distinguished from Work.

I wonder whether the idea of the abolition of work (rather than just of labour) doesn't come from thinkers thinking in a language which doesn't make this distinction and where the word for "work" ("le travail") is derived from the name of an instrument of torture. In fact, in English, the words "labour" and "travail" are associated with pain in a way "work" is not.

Parecon of course, as opposed to communism, still wants to put pressure on individuals to work (the threat to cut their access to consumption goods and services if they don't or don't work hard enough). I must say, though, I hadn't realised they envisaged their scheme lasting only a thousand years. I understood it to be an ideal scheme based on timeless principles of equity and justice that would last for ever.

Spikymike
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Oct 15 2010 16:53

Well I would just say that in so far as 'civilisation' is summary for all previous class societies then genuine communists from both anarchist and marxist tradtions are anti-civilisation.

We even draw some useful comparisons with previous 'primitive communistic' pre-civilisation and pre-agrarian societies.

However, a modern day communism can only be created through the destruction of todays global capitalism which has itself either destroyed or has incorporated all previous class societies. That requires a struggle to assert our humanity both within and against the real world as it exists and where we are, both inside and outside the workplace,( though accepting that some are better placed to exert real power against the system than others - which is another issue).

There is much of todays technology and means of production which has been shaped only to serve todays value based and class divided society which we will have to destroy but much also which we will need to adapt and consciously develop in new directions, on a communist basis, over time. There is no way we can simply return to some pre-civilisation or even reformed agrarian system. We may well see the dissolution of cities and mass society as we know it today but that will be a practical process for humanity freed from capitalism to develop over time not an ideology for today.

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Chilli Sauce
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Oct 15 2010 16:57
Ariege wrote:
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.

What came first tho? Cities or civilization?

And I don't mean that as some rhetorical chicken and egg question. Civilization--as in humans staying in one place, domesticating animals, practicing agriculture and developing culture--clearly came first. This is basic anthropology. The fact that linguistically there's a link between the two words is, if anything, a reflection of the fact that civilization is a prerequisite for cities, not the other way around.

sort it out frosty
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Oct 17 2010 13:49

I don't agree with your definition of civilisation ncwob. The definition I use is the common green anarchist one, well put by Derrick Jensen:

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I would define a civilization much more precisely, and I believe more usefully, as a culture—that is, a complex of stories, institutions, and artifacts— that both leads to and emerges from the growth of cities (civilization, see civil: from civis, meaning citizen, from Latin civitatis, meaning city-state), with cities being defined—so as to distinguish them from camps, villages, and so on—as people living more or less permanently in one place in densities high enough to require the routine importation of food and other necessities of life. Thus a Tolowa village five hundred years ago where I live in Tu’nes (meadow long in the Tolowa tongue), now called Crescent City, California, would not have been a city, since the Tolowa ate native salmon, clams, deer, huckleberries, and so on, and had no need to bring in food from outside. Thus, under my definition, the Tolowa, because their way of living was not characterized by the growth of city-states, would not have been civilized. On the other hand, the Aztecs were. Their social structure led inevitably to great city-states like Iztapalapa and Tenochtitlán, the latter of which was, when Europeans first encountered it, far larger than any city in Europe, with a population five times that of London or Seville. Shortly before razing Tenochtitlán and slaughtering or enslaving its inhabitants, the explorer and conquistador Hernando Cortés remarked that it was easily the most beautiful city on earth. Beautiful or not, Tenochtitlán required, as do all cities, the (often forced) importation of food and other resources. The story of any civilization is the story of the rise of city-states, which means it is the story of the funneling of resources toward these centers (in order to sustain them and cause them to grow), which means it is the story of an increasing region of unsustainability surrounded by an increasingly exploited countryside.

German Reichskanzler Paul von Hindenburg described the relationship perfectly: “Without colonies no security regarding the acquisition of raw materials, without raw materials no industry, without industry no adequate standard of living and wealth. Therefore, Germans, do we need colonies.”

Of course someone already lives in the colonies, although that is evidently not of any importance.

But there’s more. Cities don’t arise in political, social, and ecological vacuums. Lewis Mumford, in the second book of his extraordinary two-volume Myth of the Machine, uses the term civilization “to denote the group of institutions that first took form under kingship. Its chief features, constant in varying proportions throughout history, are the centralization of political power, the separation of classes, the lifetime division of labor, the mechanization of production, the magnification of military power, the economic exploitation of the weak, and the universal introduction of slavery and forced labor for both industrial and military purposes.”(The anthropologist and philosopher Stanley Diamond put this a bit more succinctly when he noted, “Civilization originates in conquest abroad and repression at home.”) These attributes, which inhere not just in this culture but in all civilizations, make civilization sound pretty bad.

Derrick Jensen, Endgame: The Problem of Civilisation

(Quick hint FYI - he's not a primitivist either!)

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Chilli Sauce
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Oct 17 2010 16:01
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The definition I use is the common green anarchist one

Oh yes, the well-established, rigorous school of thought that is...

Ariege
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Oct 18 2010 08:41
ncwob wrote:
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The definition I use is the common green anarchist one

Oh yes, the well-established, rigorous school of thought that is...

I'm so glad I wasted two minutes of my morning coming here to read that response. Is it only Marxism you find acceptable? Perhaps there weren't enough references to the proletariat or LTV in there for you.

Yorkie Bar
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Oct 18 2010 15:03

in fairness, literally every green anarchy i've met has come across as mental. i've no objection to anarchists being involved in green issues mind; and i actually think analysing the ways capitalism shapes humans' relationship to the rest of the natural world is a fascinating subject - but yeah, past experiences tend to colour my view of green anarchism as a school of thought.

anyway, i've got a question for siof: given you're basically opposed to mass society (civilisation, cities, call it what you will) of any kind, what's your take on mass social movements(for instance, I think you mentioned the Luddites?) ? Obviously mass movements imply a mass society; indeed, they are as much a product of capitalism as industry, modern technology etc.

And if you're basically against or indifferent to such movements (and it seems like that's implied by your position on mass society, and your posts on this and other threads) then what exactly is the point of criticising the existing society? Surely without some social movement to abolish the existing order, any criticism of things as they are is just an abstract academic exercise?

~J.

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Oct 18 2010 16:22
Ariege wrote:
ncwob wrote:
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The definition I use is the common green anarchist one

Oh yes, the well-established, rigorous school of thought that is...

I'm so glad I wasted two minutes of my morning coming here to read that response. Is it only Marxism you find acceptable? Perhaps there weren't enough references to the proletariat or LTV in there for you.

Well if you're discussing a definition of "civilization", perhaps it's best to go with an objective, established, and widely accepted one? It's a simple logical process: when primmos or green anarchists come up with a definition of civilization, it's based on prior prejudices, hence why I don't think such a definition deserves anything more than a single line.

And, ah, knee-jerk anti-Marxism...mate, there's been one post thread on this post mentioning Marx and it wasn't even me. We can talk about a Marxist definition of civilization if you'd like, I think it'd be an interesting conversation to have. However for the purposes of this thread, I'd rather we default to the one used by, ya know, anybody who uses the term--and that isn't cities = civilization.

Yorkie Bar
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Oct 18 2010 17:28
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Well if you're discussing a definition of "civilization", perhaps it's best to go with an objective, established, and widely accepted one?

Mate, as much as I agree with most of your criticism of this guy, the above really isn't fair. I mean, I take it you don't use the "objective, established, and widely accepted" definitions of class, anarchy, or communism (for example).

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Oct 18 2010 18:14

Yeah, but I don't think that's the same thing. The original definitions of those terms (as envisioned and espoused by their adherents) have been perverted, once again, by people who have their own ends.

With "civilization", on the other hand, this is a topic dealt with extensively in the literature (and it is an ultimately academic term) and the primmos/greenies are the ones distorting what it means.

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Felix Frost
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Oct 18 2010 18:42

Actually, linking civilization and cities are quite common both in dictionary definitions and in academic works. Just to give a more or less random quote from the internet:

The History Guide wrote:
A solid working definition of civilization is difficult and depends upon your own judgment. Here are a few textbook definitions:

- Civilization is a form of human culture in which many people live in urban centers, have mastered the art of smelting metals, and have developed a method of writing.

- The first civilizations began in cities, which were larger, more populated, and more complex in their political, economic and social structure than Neolithic villages.

- One definition of civilization requires that a civilized people have a sense of history -- meaning that the past counts in the present.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines civilization as "the action or process of civilizing or of being civilized; a developed or advanced state of human society." Such a definition is fraught with difficulties. For instance, how might we correctly identify a "developed or advanced state of human society"? Developed or advanced compared to what? The OED defines the verb "to civilize" in the following way: "to make civil; to bring out of a state of barbarism; to instruct in the arts of life; to enlighten; to refine and polish." Are we any closer to a working definition?

In 1936, the archeologist V. Gordon Childe published his book Man Makes Himself. Childe identified several elements which he believed were essential for a civilization to exist. He included: the plow, wheeled cart and draft animals, sailing ships, the smelting of copper and bronze, a solar calendar, writing, standards of measurement, irrigation ditches, specialized craftsmen, urban centers and a surplus of food necessary to support non-agricultural workers who lived within the walls of the city. Childe's list concerns human achievements and pays less attention to human organization.

Another historian agreed with Childe but added that a true definition of civilization should also include money collected through taxes, a privileged ruling class, a centralized government and a national religious or priestly class. Such a list, unlike Childe's, highlights human organization. In 1955, Clyde Kluckhohn argued that there were three essential criteria for civilization: towns containing more than 5000 people, writing, and monumental ceremonial centers. Finally, the archeologist and anthropologist Robert M. Adams argued for a definition of civilization as a society with functionally interrelated sets of social institutions: class stratification based on the ownership and control of production, political and religious hierarchies complementing each other in the central administration of territorially organized states and lastly, a complex division of labor, with skilled workers, soldiers and officials existing alongside the great mass of peasant producers.

From http://www.historyguide.org/ancient/lecture1b.html

Yorkie Bar
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Oct 18 2010 19:14
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Yeah, but I don't think that's the same thing. The original definitions of those terms (as envisioned and espoused by their adherents) have been perverted, once again, by people who have their own ends.

Well the 'original definition' of anarchy is actually chaos and disorder, if you're going to play that game. Personally, I don't have a problem with changing the definition of words from their usual or historical meanings per se. In fact, I think it's a necessary part of developing critical theory.

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Chilli Sauce
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Oct 19 2010 17:25
Yorkie Bar wrote:
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Yeah, but I don't think that's the same thing. The original definitions of those terms (as envisioned and espoused by their adherents) have been perverted, once again, by people who have their own ends.

Well the 'original definition' of anarchy is actually chaos and disorder, if you're going to play that game. Personally, I don't have a problem with changing the definition of words from their usual or historical meanings per se. In fact, I think it's a necessary part of developing critical theory.

Well, I guess here I was thinking more about the term "anarchism" as opposed to anarchy. To be perfectly honest, I don't know many anarchists who would use the term either--it's about creating an "anarchist society" not "anarchy".

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888
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Oct 19 2010 19:38

Derrick Jensen is both a primitivist and an idiot....

baboon
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Oct 24 2010 18:20

With reference to the latter part of the discussion above, I just want to make a few points about settlement, agriculture, civilisation and cities.

First of all, I agree with the sense of Spikeymike’s post that capitalism, with all its dialectical aspects, is the summary, the apogee of civilisation. Marx quoted Fourier, saying that “civilisation was the war of the rich against the poor”. Looking at the last 5 or 6 thousand years, I think that the word “civilisations” is appropriate given we not only see their independent development, we also see any number of them collapsing under the weight of their own contradictions. All of them were, more or less, based on the destruction of kinship bonds, the development of the state and an elite, exploitative misery and, as Marx said, “Civilisation consolidates and intensifies all the existing divisions of labour, particularly by sharpening the division between town and country”. Cities are the stamp of civilisations and capitalism, with its hell-holes agglomerations, is the mother of all civilisations not least from its global nature- one important aspect giving rise to the possibility of communism – but also in relation to the fundamental contradictions of its economy.

NCWOB above suggest that civilisation is staying in one place. It is in a sense. But settlement (sedentism) predates agriculture and cultivation (which is the development of agriculture proper) by many millennia. The last 10 thousand years of the Upper Palaeolithic (the Epipaleolithic) from about 20 to 18 thousand years ago, sees the global and independent development of sedentism away from the movements of Hunter-Gatherer society (this wasn’t a clean break because sedentism had also been a factor in H-G society from the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic involving several species of Homo and the whole Palaeolithic period lasted for over 2 million years). Sedentism came before pottery even (the aceramic Neolithic). It gives rise to the (independent) development of ceramics further reinforcing settlement and laying the necessary scientific basis for the later (independent) development of metallurgy.

Charles Darwin in “The Descent of Man...” succinctly generalises from one Tierra Del Fuegan dwelling the global pre-agriculture development of agriculture, ties it in with religion (another global independent development along with its symbolism). Agriculture, the basis for civilisation, didn’t start off as a “good idea”, nor did it, as Gordon Childes says (I don’t underestimate the good work he has done in this area) start out in one place and spread out. Overall, agriculture was the result of sedentism with its own specificities and a few exceptions. The Neolithic predated agriculture, the first impressive “public” buildings (and builders) came around 5 thousand years before agriculture.
Agriculture, which was a real and positive struggle for the Barbarian people engaged in it, gave rise to civilisations and cities with their surpluses, elites and states sowing more or less misery and want.

Just like the “comfortable chains of primitive communism” (Marx), the ties of the Barbarians and their organisation of Gentes (another global independent development) were broken under the force of patriarchy, the law and the state. Mother-right and the ethical codes and religions of the old society were broken under the development of private property that was a feature of civilisations. Not entirely though. In something of a comeback, Barbarian organisation, courage and strength repelled the invaders from the east and saved the Roman metropole from the collapse of Roman imperialism. At the same time, instead of the “Dark Ages” we’re told about, there was a certain renaissance of their art, some re-establishment of mother-right and the reappearance of a certain democracy the marked pre-civilised societies. Marx said that they didn’t do wonders, but they built up the populations for the blood-letting of the Crusades.

The height of civilisation today is the capitalist state. Whereas many previous states, previous civilisations, have collapsed for this and that reason (war, disease, drought, floods, local environmental destruction, their effects have been limited. But with the global nature of capitalism, its profit motive and its competing states, the effects of its decay can only be generalised.

fatbongo
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Jun 25 2011 22:55

michael albert is currently looking to answer anarchist objections to parecon. i wondered whether anyone involved thinks it's worth putting forward the libcom perspective?

ajjohnstone
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Jun 27 2011 08:10

The SPGB debated MA and our free-access socialism is Libcom's anarcho-communism (apart from the means we agree on the same end, in contrast to the objective of MA and his construct.)

The video of the event is here, if you wish some ammunition for another debate with him.

http://www.theoryandpractice.org.uk/wsmtemp/video

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Jun 30 2011 14:53
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And we pareconists are sad about that.
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That makes me a saaaad panda

I think most libertarian communists would agree with David Schweickardt's (?) critique of participatory economics.

"My" primary criticism is not the desirability but its feasibility.

I think Schweickardt showed participatory economics is not feasible, which makes arguments like "Wages imply wage slavery. Remunerating for duration, intensity, and onerousness of work is capitalistic and thus morally decrepit. An anarchist economy would implement, instead, the maxim from each according to ability, to each according to need. Parecon with its incomes and budgets is capitalism in disguise, not a system that elaborates mutual aid" redundant. Even if it could convince me that such a system was desirable, it would still not be feasible.