newbie on Participatory Economics

G*rd*n gcf at
Sat Jul 18 18:02:38 PDT 1998

Louis Proyect:
> ...
> The biggest problem, of course, is the socialist project itself. What sense
> does it make to think in terms of scientific socialism when the
> working-class as we know it is not the same class that created the Paris
> Commune. If we had something like the Paris Commune in the last 50 years or
> so in one of the advanced capitalist countries, left economists would be
> thinking about ways that such an experience could be replicated. Since we
> lack such an example, we console ourselves with fantasies of a good society
> instead.

As I see it, the basic ideas of ParEcon are not entirely fantastical, although the specifications put forward at ZNet may be. (I haven't gone over them very thoroughly yet.) According to one source I think is halfway reliable (Twin Oaks) there are about 500 communities who are willing to be listed with them that claim they are internally democratic-socialist, anarchistic, or communistic, and they think there are many more. (Most communards learned to lie very low in the the '60s and '70s.) No doubt these are generally middle-class and idealistic, although a few I know of are not. To these one might add non-residential economic formations such as cooperatives. There might be enough people doing this to set up economic institutions in parallel with the mainstream economy. Presumably, if they can offer a better life, they would find a steady stream of new adherents.

What I like about this is that it is the revolution from below, the living in the niches of the old society, which was practiced by the two most successful world-changing movements of our history, Christianity and liberalism / capitalism. Neither of these movements surfaced into overt struggle with their respective _anciens_regimes_ until they had built a large, functioning alternative society within the space of the existing one.

The existence of such an alternative society doesn't prevent revolutionary upheaval. In fact, given the conditions of most revolutionary upheavals I know about (decline or catastrophe in the general society) it might be critical to have a functioning model of what we regard as the good society in place as a nucleus and example, since fascism and Bonapartism are likely to present themselves as popular solutions to the same crisis that produces the upheaval.

At this point, I think I need to know more about, not the theory, but the experience of ParEcon and arrangements like it, if there is any, science being built on experiment and observation as well as theory.

Gordon * gcf at

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