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Contract and Community as Concepts for Thinking about Parecon and Communism

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In this blog post I argue that in conversations about economic visions (among people who are serious about getting rid of private property, markets and the state) it might be helpful to think about parecon as a vision in terms of contract and about communism as a vision in terms of community. Viewed like this, different kinds of visions are useful in different situations. My argument is based on theoretical concepts from economic anthropology and on insights from practical experience in a solidarity economy project.

Defining communism

By communism I mean - following David Graeber (2011) - human relations that are based on the moral principle from each according to her abilities to each according to her needs (and economic visions that come close to it, such as peer economy or benefit-driven production from Christian Siefkes).

Contract and community

The anthropologist Carles Salazar (1996) argues that there are some overlapping elements in the conceptualizations of different kinds of societies raised by Henry Maine (status - contract), Ferdinand Tönnies (community - society/association), and Marcel Mauss (gift exchanges - commodity exchanges):

"Whereas in an association we might argue that the individual appears as a condition of possibility of the whole, in a community it is the whole that becomes the condition of possibility of the individual." (Salazar 1996:83)

Community: Communism's base

To me it seems useful to view communism (understood as from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs) and proposals such as peer economy and benefit-driven production (Siefkes) on the status/community/gift exchange side of the divide. A preexisting community (the whole) is necessary for the possibility of the individual to cooperate with the others of that community. There is no need for a contract. People are already connected. Based on these relations they may (or may not) act according to the moral principle of communism.

Contract: Parecon's base

On the other side of the divide, a contract - formal or informal - is used to connect people who are not sufficiently united by other ties. "To contract is to admit that other ties are lacking." (Susan Tax Freeman in Salazar 1996:70). I would put parecon on this side of the divide, along with commodity exchange (both simple C - C and capitalist M - C - M'). Both in market exchange and in parecon more or less separate individuals are the basis of the whole. Both (or more) parties need the contract to reassure that they will relate to each other in a specified way (of course this is not always completely voluntarily, especially when you need a monetary income to survive in society). There is, however, a huge difference between market exchange and pareconish exchange. In contrast to commodity exchange on the market, pareconish exchange does not take place between two individuals, but between individuals and (all other individuals that are considered to be part of) society, based on a process of participatory planning. Moreover, the terms of exchange differ significantly, as the value of an individual's contribution to parecon is measured according to effort and sacrifice, not according to output. Furthermore, in parecon work is organized in a different way, namely in balanced job complexes.

What's the point?

So why do I think that such a differentiation between communism/community and parecon/contract makes a lot of sense when talking about economic vision?

I think that we cannot envision communistic relations in the same way as we can envision pareconish relations. This is because the former are not contractual relations, whereas the latter are.


Envisioning community


Communism builds on preexisting community and in turn community is build through it. Everyday communism - as David Graeber calls it - was and is all around us. Based on empirical evidence one can study the preconditions under which it is most likely that communistic relations evolve. One can also study how communities past and present deal with the tendency of communism easily slipping into hierarchical relations and try to learn from it. (David Graeber notes that due to the fact that people's abilities and needs are often disproportionate, egalitarian societies developed elaborate safeguards around the dangers of anyone rising too far above themselves; just as they tend to be suspicious of anything that might make one member of the society feel in genuine debt to another). However, there is a crucial difference between understanding and explaining what happened in the past and predicting what will happen in the future, as society is not a closed system and all kinds of generative mechanisms interact producing actual outcomes (Bhaskar 1975). There is no way one can theoretically construct institutions that guarantee that communism will indeed develop.


Envisioning a contract

 

On the other hand, one can envision parecon institutions and argue about them in a different way because what one envisions is basically a contract. Concerning parecon, one can envision how contracts should look like that fulfill certain criteria (e.g. self-management, solidarity, equity, diversity, and efficiency without violating the other values). Of course this does not solve the problem of being unable to predict with certainty social outcomes. The problem is merely postponed: What are the conditions that make it most likely that individuals establish pareconish contracts with each other and do not violate them? There are also no guarantees here. Hence, we should note that we are talking about different things here. In contrast to parecon, communism cannot be established through contract.

Communism and uncertainty

As argued above, one can not theoretically construct certain institutions to reassure that, if practically established, communistic relations will indeed come into existence. Having parecon in mind, this troubled me a lot when I became involved in the establishment of a new small food coop in Vienna in autumn 2009 (via community, my brother and his girlfriend). Other founding members proposed to have free membership fees, free prices, and free work contributions. Members are expected to contribute to our common project (both with money and work), but everyone can decide what, when and how much they want to contribute. I was arguing that we cannot have equity within our food coop with these institutions. I did so, not so much because I was suspecting evil (e.g. some members  trying to exploit others), but because I thought that members simply could not act in a just way, even if they wanted to, due to a lack of information. Some people might put more effort in the coop than others and some people might pay less than would be just according to the values of parecon.

Communism is and is not about justice/equity

I have been a member in the food coop now for more than two years. Maybe the most important thing I learnt through my practical experience in the food coop was that communism, paradoxically, on the one hand (as a political goal) seems to be all about justice, the starting point being the critique of an unjust, exploitative and hierarchical capitalist mode of production, but on the other hand (as economic practice present in all societies) seems to be not about justice at all, at least not in the sense of equity (and accounting as in parecon).

Communism is efficient

Calculating work hours and assessing effort, trying to figure out balanced job complexes and so on, seems to be pointless and a waste of time if communism works - if everyone is enjoying the work they contribute to the functioning of the whole, if all the necessary work gets done and if all the bills get paid. As David Graeber points out, communism is the most efficient way of getting things done. Of course, people in our food coop have some sense about who is doing what and how much. However, there is no exact accounting. People would probably start calculating if they felt that communistic relations slipped into hierarchical inequality (or if they were trying to impose parecon on the community because they were fascinated by this vision).

Balancing accounts and ending relationships

Socially it matters a lot if there is quantifying calculation or not: if there is calculation, you can easily end the relationship by returning an equivalent, canceling your debt and balancing the accounts. This is true for more barter like gift exchange, commodity exchange as well as for pareconish exchange. Communism is about imagining lasting, even eternal, relationships. Hence, it is absurd to start calculating.

Communism slipping into inequality and hierarchy

Institutions such as free prices, free work contributions and so on clearly offer the possibility of resulting in both communistic and unequal relations. They might start slipping into inequality and hierarchy. No contract, no guarantees. Communism is build on trust. No trust, no communism.

Pareconish contracts instead of market contracts

David Graeber points out that it is difficult to change economic relations from (expected) communistic sharing to equal exchange. It is often easier to end the relationship all together.

In such situations people - in order to come back to a real world example - do not only have the possibility of choosing between leaving the food coop and buying things in the supermarket again. When trust is missing and communism impossible, people might prefer to enter pareconish contracts instead of  market contracts. Pareconish contracts - in contrast to market contracts - might create lasting relations and help building trust. Community might come into existence and eventually become the basis for trying communism again, as it is fun and more efficient.

How to connect parecon and communism?

There is a second situation in which pareconish contracts seem to make a lot of sense to me. Instead of having market relations (and different degrees of personal contact) with the outside world, for example with producers, food coops might prefer pareconish relations with producers if there is not enough trust for communist relations to come into existence.

The question arises as to how one might connect pareconish contractual relations and communistic community relations in a way that they do not undermine each other and produce negative outcomes. I am optimistic about the compatibility of both kind of relations. Even today, in a world dominated by capitalist relations, baseline communism exists, even within most capitalist enterprises, as David Graeber points out. Still, it is an interesting question as to how this might work in practice. (I will open a thread in the international forum in the section on economy if someone has any ideas on that.)

Envisioning better labor contracts: pareconish contracts

A third situation in which I can imagine parecon playing a potentially more useful role (because it is a vision of a contract) than visions about communism (because they are visions of community) are workers' struggles concerning remuneration, the hierarchical division of labor and decision making within a company, aiming at a better contract. (Does anyone know about workers who were explicitly inspired by parecon vision in their struggles within their company?)

Envisioning the beginning of the end of wage labor: guaranteed basic income

However, concerning the overall transformation of society beyond capitalism, parecon - if followed too strictly (namely concerning remuneration according to effort and sacrifice instead of need) - seems to provide arguments against a strategic choice that might, ironically, open up a lot of space for parecon to be implemented, namely an unconditionally guaranteed basic income for everyone on this planet (high enough for everyone to support a modest life without being forced into wage labor). This would greatly enhance the bargaining power of workers in their struggles for changing their labor contracts into pareconish contracts. A common reaction against a guaranteed basic income is: "It does not work. I would still do some work, but others would not." Again, no trust, no communism. Can parecon as a contractual vision help to build trust in this regard if one argues that there is both space for communism - in this case an unconditionally guaranteed basic income - and parecon?

Conclusion: different visions for different situations

To summarize all this, I think that visions of communistic relations and parecon do not contradict each other as they refer to two different levels and are useful in different situations. Parecon envisions contracts. Envisioning communism on the other hand is about envisioning community - visions without contractual guarantee. The former is better suited for situations where there is not enough community and trust for communistic relations. The later is better suited for situations where there is enough community and trust. In such cases communism can help reducing the planning overhead of parecon in the rest of our economic relations. Note that I do not argue that communistic relations (and related proposals) are somehow bound and limited to the local - as should be obvious from the proposal for a global basic income; communistic relations are bound to community, however. For me, parecon makes perfect sense in order to replace unequal relations of people who are not sufficiently united to do without a contract. In such cases participatory planning should replace market exchange or top-down central planning. However, it does not seem to make sense to enforce parecon on communities with existing communist relations. On the other hand, knowing that one can opt for pareconish relations is an attractive alternative for people who feel that relations within a community have changed from communism to inequality and hierarchy.

Discussion 35 Comments

  • 27th Jul 2012

    Hi Christof and All,

    Thanks for a thought-provoking read, and for sharing your story of the food co-op.

    A meandering response to your question

    "Can parecon as a contractual vision help to build trust in this regard if one argues that there is both space for communism - in this case an unconditionally guaranteed basic income - and parecon?"

    This question leads me to think about holism--the relations among various spheres--particularly kinship and intercommunalism in relation to economics. There is for example, affinity among various labor groups, or labor + community groups. In a lot of cases they form around a particular cultural identity and incorporate a binary gender schema. In other cases they try to do a pan-identity alliance with female autonomous pockets. I'm being really vague and roundabout,

    But how do we go from affinities to kinship? This seems like an important consideration in thinking about the limits of shared vision (worldview?).

    Borrowing Harvey (2012): is it possible to develop *kinship* networks at each segment of production (trade + region ), and along each segment of a supply chain?

    One example that comes to mind is a sustained (or periodic) gift-economy exchange such as a freed market for household items and clothing.

    While the freed market operates on a non-hierarchical communist basis, the processes (transportation and space-holding) require involvement in hierarchical and capitalist practices (recalling the DAN-car problem which was referred to on another blog post).

    Could participatory planning at the point of entanglement (for example with paying rent and utilities for the freed market space or transportation of people and donated items to/from the freed market) alleviate issues like burnout, disunity or lack of trust?

    Not sure if I'm making sense here, happy to elaborate clarify or reconsider.

    Best,

    Perry

  • 27th Jul 2012

    I realize "kinship" can mean a lot of things to a lot of people but I'd like to focus on the versions approved by IOPS -- feminist, gaytheist- and vegan friendly, pacifist, in some kind of communion with the non-human world, other interpretations welcome

  • Gregory VanGaya 28th Jul 2012

    The opening paragraph is very much how I think about parecon, replete with my comparison or juxst of position to communism as cultural or even a more spiritual or atleast panpsychic consciousness. But from where we are now, the bridge of a new contract is very necessary. I think parecon is a good crossing mechanism. Spaces to practice and propagate the new contract and consciousness are a must. Baby fussing gotta go, will read allow your gr8 piece soon.

  • Michael Albert 29th Jul 2012

    I enjoyed reading your comments - but I do not understand one point in particular that you raise - and it is both a new point, compared to those I have often heard, and a big point, I guess.

    Imagine what you are calling a communist economy exists in some country - for the whole economy. I don't from what you have written anything more about it than that each gets what they say they need, and each gives what they choose in the form of labor, at, I guess, whatever work they choose to do. How the latter half of the assumed condition yields results consistent with the former half, is never explained.

    There is also nothing said about the relations of work - the division of labor, how decisions are made in workplaces, etc. There is nothing about how people know what apportionment of their effort, and what share of the social product, is just or appropriate, etc., or what happens when I want to work less than is just - or mistakenly think I ought to work more to be fair - or when I want more stuff than is just, or mistakenly think I should take less to be fair. Nor is there anything said about how what I and others want, leads to its being produced - or to how what I and others want to produce - leads to its being wanted by anyone.

    I have pointed these things out, many places. The pareconish rejection of the allocative norm that you say is the key aspect of communism, indeed the only aspect many people think it needs, is not primarily because the norm would be abused - though it is hard to see, absent information, how anything other than abuse could arise even from entirely well meaning actors since I can only except by luck violate its intent if I don't know anything other than my own desires and my own needs - and if they are all I take into account, but instead because no matter how humanely it was pursued, obeying this norm would not generate either incentives or outcomes in accord with optimal values for all of society.

    All this is dealt with, for example, at considerable length, in the essay responding to the young Chomsky - written because I felt he was the most informed and eloquent advocate of the from each to each norm.

    But here, responding to what is above, though informed by the mentioned concerns, my question is different. I do not understand saying that parecon involves contract - and whatever communism might be - does not.

    Parecon involves collective self managed decisions, and people abiding them, in an institutional context that guarantees people will be able to do both, justly. If in our workplace, the schedule we agree to is to start work at 9 in the morning, we abide it, day after day. If I have certain work I am supposed to get done - and other people's labors depend on it happening, I abide my agreement. And so on. Every agreement is, in that simple sense, a contract. People undertake activities in the expectation that others will do as they have agreed and if people do not, then mutual connection dissipates.

    What you describe as communism doesn't explain how the agreements are arrived at, but whatever means that may be, there are still agreements. People's actions still intersect and depend on one another - and so people must act in accord with the agreements that they make, or that are built into the system. There is no difference at that abstract level. Every economy, every social system, unless it is mere individuals atomistically operating as they individually choose, and simply colliding now and then, involves agreements that people are responsible to abide - which is, I think, what you mean by the word contract.

    I think your formulation is consistent, however, with the intent of at lest some people who swear by from each to each as the cornerstone of a better future. That is, I think such communists - or anarchists - as have this view, often think they are avoiding, by adopting this norm need for people to decide things in context of and along with and sometimes constrained by, what other people seek and wish to do - thus, social contracts, or agreements. I think that that is a mistaken view, however, even of what the norm would accomplish were it a viable one.

    Parecon has institutional structures to ensure that agreements are arrived at in self managed ways. It has structures, as well, that determine some guiding norms, such as equitable remuneration.

    What you call communism apparently has one norm - which as far as I can understand it, ironically, is that we each separately, without being beholden to others or responsible to others, decide our own jobs, duration and intensity of work at those jobs, and consumption. It seems to me that far from being communalistic - this image - impossible, I think, for diverse reasons - is actually very individualistic. Unless, there are structures that further guide the choices on income and work level - in which case there are what you call contracts, about those - this norm is more or less, do what you want - no need to accommodate what others want, that will just happen, magically. Similarly, though not discussed, there must be tons of other decisions, not about what work a person does, and how long, and what consumption they take, all with the implicit or explicit proviso that what is decided, is abided - contracts.

    I think, in other words, that your typography is misleading. And your discussion of communism simply assumes away all serious economic issues - as does every other discussion of communism, meaning this norm, I have ever seen - thus it simply ignores issues of incentives, information flow, responsibilities, workplace organization, decision means and methods, etc. etc.

    Of course you weren't trying to deal with these matters, I understand that, but your typography - contractual or not - misses that these matters exist, I think.

  • Ian R. 29th Jul 2012

    I understood it in a way that communism as described above is build on trust and stable personal relations in small communities, making the members contributing to the community more than they take and acting out of a feeling of connectedness, expecting that everybody does the same. They consume less than they could and work more than they have to.

    There must be some overview about the total numbers but the individuals contribution and consumption isn´t precisely measured as long as the model works and the personal ties between the members keep it running.

    The difference to a parecon and the understanding of it having contracts then maybe comes from the idea that a certain output and input is negotiated within the councils and then made public among them, so that there an official plan which can be seen as a contract defining every members amount of labour and consumption.

    Maybe we should define the word "contract" here. I see a contract as a mutual agreement about rights and duties which is sanctioned at violation, not necessarily as a construct of law.

    The reason I´d define it like that is, that a contract even if it is referring to laws is useless when the parties that agreed upon it can violate it later without sanctions and on the other hand an informal agreement out of the experience of reciprocal behaviour and the trust that it will be continued can be as well seen as a kind of social contract.

    So the word contract can be understood as a mere agreement about a social relation or as a written down agreement with legal status, defended by courts if necessary. Every group has contracts as social agreements but only institutions can defend contracts of the second kind.

    Communism within a small group could then be possible without a contract in the sense of the second interpretation of it (as a legal agreement), while intergroup relationship can hardly be regulated without a formal agreement with measureable numbers of mutual in- and output.

    I think thats something which puts off many anarchists from parecon; they wish to build a society upon trust and goodwill and they are convinced that only capitalism and the state are preventing them from doing it. They just ignore the problems of managing larger groups or the allocation of labour and ressources in a complex economy.

  • LedSuit ' 30th Jul 2012

    Thanks for the above two posts. They helped me understand better the above blog. I also strongly agree with the last paragraph of I.N. Reiter's re anarchists. My experience suggests the same.

    Something about the blog brought to mind the debate on Social Ecology and Parecon. There may be no similarity at all and my memory may be off as I read it a while ago but seem to remember that Michael was suggesting that there was compatibility between the two. Parecon offering structure/framework where there was a lack or need between communities or within. Not sure.

  • David Jones 31st Jul 2012

    Interesting blog and conversation - probably an important conversation for IOPS to have. I finished reading David Graeber's Debt: The First 5000 Years the other day as it happens (great book, by the way!). In chapter 5 of that book he introduces the "from each ... to each ..." principle, defines it as "communism", and says about it:

    "All of us act like communists a good deal of the time. None of us acts like a communist consistently. "Communist society" - in the sense of a society organised exclusively on that single principle - could never exist. But all social systems, even economic systems like capitalism, have always been built on top of a bedrock of actually-existing communism."

    A little later he gives an example to illustrate:

    "Almost everybody follows this principle if they collaborating on some common project. If someone fixing a broken water pipe says, "Hand me the wrench" his co-worker will not, generally speaking, say "And what do I get out of it?" - even if they are working for Exxon Mobil, Burger King or Goldman Sachs. The reason is simple efficiency..."

    So David Graeber agrees with Michael, it seems, that you can't organise an entire society on that principle alone - nor should you try to. I agree too. But it can still be a useful organizing principle in many contexts. The principle assumes certain social structures are in place - in the "hand me the wrench" example they were working towards a common goal, one that must have emerged from some kind of decision making process. In the "human economies" / "gift economies" Graeber describes in his book "from each ... to each" is embedded in a network of social relations.

    To answer Michael's question, you know people's "needs" there because they ask you for stuff, based on your "abilities". Graeber says in a "gift economy" if "Michael" needs a pig "David" has the ability to supply then if he praises it - "that's a very nice pig, David" - David might make a gift of it. Later, based upon social conventions, Michael might make me a similar gift. It's a community network of mutual aid between (more-or-less) equals. Should you try to organise a modern industrial economy along these lines? I doubt it ;-)

    But maybe there are areas within a parecon-esque economy that should operate according to the communistic principle "from each... to each.."? Ironically, these might be the most purely individualistic endeavors! I found what Michael said about "from each .. to each..." as being "very individualistic" interesting. I perhaps agree. But don't see it as a negative assessment - some things are "very individualistic" by their nature - this is not the same as "very selfish".

    So my question is this: should something like art or theoretical physics (things that aren't "useful" in the sense of feeding people, maintaining infrastructure etc.) be organised according to a communistic (ironically, individualistic!) principle? Personally, I don't think you can remunerate people for art (or theoretical physics...) on the basis of them supplying some social demand and still call it art. I agree with Oscar Wilde (and Chomsky?) there.

    • David Jones 31st Jul 2012

      maybe parsoc will have to suffer its nuchnibs for its artists?

    • LedSuit ' 31st Jul 2012

      Interesting David as I have been asked who decides the social benefit of music given the great diversity that can be found.
      Is social benefit the same as social demand?

      " Personally, I don't think you can remunerate people for art (or theoretical physics...) on the basis of them supplying some social demand and still call it art"

      Does it matter what we call it? Can we call it art before one is remunerated and then call it whatever we want afterwards? It is an interesting sentence. One could leave off the "and still call it art" and still have a meaningful sentence but would it mean the same. I am guessing that still being able to call something art is important and that receiving remuneration for it somehow changes something?

      Not sure if this makes any sense to you but it kinda does to me.

      Are you suggesting "art" (and theoretical physics) should be gifted?

      I am still stuck on how one measures its social benefit.

  • Christof Franz 31st Jul 2012

    @ Michael Albert

    I guess that you do not understand my point because you view deductive logic as the only reasonable way of imagining (aspects of) a future society. This kind of thinking is perfectly suited for imagining a future society based on contracts, because there are no uncertainties you need to deal with - everything is in advance agreed upon in the contract you imagine. Things will work out like formulated in the contract if only people abide to it.

    Furthermore, you seem to argue that there are indeed no social relations that are not based on a social contract or on an agreement (except very individualistic acts like robbery or theft). Below I will try to explain why I think that this view of society is flawed.

    As argued in the blog post above, I think there are both social relations based on contracts, starting from the individual, and social relations based on community, starting from the whole - and of course many variations in-between these two extremes (I did not mention this above). Hence, there are different ways of imagining both (parts of) future society that are and are not based on contract (and of course things in-between). However, one cannot imagine non-contractual (aspects of) future society if one only takes a norm (or a set of norms) as starting point and sticks to a logic argument to construct an imagined society. I think this is what you are demonstrating with your logic argument against from each to each communism: it is not possible to imagine communism in the way you want to do it. You come to the conclusion that communism is not a viable vision for the future. However, not being able to imagine such (aspects of) a future society with this mode of reasoning does not necessarily proof that it is impossible for such social relations to exist.

    I think we agree that imagining parecon is about imagining a contract. However, we do not agree whether or not it makes sense to regard communism (from each to each) as a contract, as an agreement. So this is what I will focus on here. Let me start with a famous topic in economic anthropology: gifts.

    A long time ago Marcel Mauss pointed out that a gift is both voluntary and obligatory: Two neighbors (of approximately equal status) meet. The gift giver presents a gift to the potential gift receiver. Not accepting the gift would basically mean that the gift receiver rejects to have a relationship with the gift giver. Hence, Mauss argues that there is a voluntary obligation to accept the gift. The gift giver will say that he is giving the gift completely voluntarily. Far from making an agreement about how much the gift receiver now owes him, the gift giver will stress that the gift receiver does not owe him anything: "we are neighbors". The gift receiver will, however, feel that he owes the gift giver a favor, although there is no agreement about how much exactly. Nor do they discuss when the gift receiver will return a gift of approximately the same value - not exactly the same value, as this would again mean ending the relationship - to the gift giver. There is no explicit agreement, no contract.

    In contrast, if on the same day the gift giver and gift receiver go to the supermarket to do some shopping, they enter a market contract with a group of people they do not know (a group that has internally another set of relations to each other). They agree with the supermarket to give a specified amount of money and to receive a specified amount of different kind of goods. The relation is over as soon as it started.

    Of course, one might argue that the contract is both voluntary and obligatory as well. Both parties voluntary agree to have mutual obligations. However, I think there is a crucial difference between the non-contractual gift exchange and the contractual commodity exchange:

    In the gift exchange there is no voluntary agreement to enter in a relationship. The neighbors are already in a relationship. Since the beginning the gift exchange is both voluntarily and obligatory. After the act of the gift exchange the gift giver feels obliged to give a gift in return, however, again it is still voluntarily and there are no agreements involved.

    In the commodity exchange both parties need to agree to enter the contract - this is voluntarily. They do not have a relationship before the contract. There is no obligation yet. However, after they agreed to enter the relationship, both sides are obliged to abide to the agreement. Their relationship is no longer voluntarily. However, once both sides fulfilled the agreement, there is no more obligation to the other party whatsoever. If they want, they can agree to voluntarily enter a new contract again.

    One might visualize it like this:

    Voluntariness and obligation in a gift exchange without contract:

    voluntary obligation (or obligatory voluntariness) on the side of the first gift giver --> act of gift giving ---> voluntary obligation on the side of the first gift receiver --> act of returning a gift --> voluntary obligation on the side of the first gift giver

    Voluntariness and obligation in a market exchange with contract:

    voluntariness --> agreement --> obligation --> fulfillment of agreement --> voluntariness

    For most people it seems difficult to grasp theoretically that there are both voluntariness and obligation at the same time and that there are no agreements made in gift exchange, even if they (and most people are) practicing gift exchange themselves. Decisions are made individualistically, but, and this is very important, based on preexisting relations. This is why it can work. People in a community approximately know about each other's abilities and needs. They don't need to spell things out and start accounting.

    Of course gift exchange does not work successfully all the time. The gift giver might at one point expect the gift receiver to help him out. However, despite the gift giver's need and the gift receiver's abilities to help, the gift receiver refuses to do so. In the evening they get drunk in the bar and start fighting. The gift receiver smashes a bottle of beer on the head of the gift giver who needs to be taken to hospital. Very likely the gift exchange between these two neighbors is interrupted. Now the gift giver might become petty and sue the gift receiver in order to demand exact compensation. Maybe later on, one of them tries to reestablish their relationship with a gift. The other one would very probably either refuse the gift or only take it if he can immediately return something of exactly the same value. But if the gift is excepted, it could start a new relationship as well.

    Balanced gift exchange as described above is much closer to market exchange than to more open ended reciprocity - communism. In communistic relations there is no tit-for-that exchange. In communism, again, we have voluntary obligation and obligatory voluntariness. Again we have no contracts or agreements, because communism is based on preexisting relationships. People know each other - usually much better than those who are practicing tit-for-that gift exchange. They approximately know what the abilities and needs of themselves and the others are. Again there is no guarantee that these relations wont fail.

    When David Graeber writes about communism (if you have not done yet, I recommend reading chapter five of his book "Debt": "A Brief Treatise on the Moral Grounds of Economic Behavior", 89-126), he is not writing about something that once existed in the distant past or that will once exist in the distant future. He starts to look at actually existing communism (he diagnoses that there is a lack of social scientific studies of everyday communism). This kind of thinking about communism starts from empirical thick material gathered through ethnographic fieldwork. If one views from each to each communism as embedded in social context instead of viewing it as a naked norm, one can see how the issues you raise are solved in practice, how abilities and needs fit together without clear cut contracts, without a lot of planning, without agreements. Communism develops situationally. There are no abstract formulas how abilities and needs might fit together. Rather people start from their specific knowledge of each others needs and abilities. People who practice communism - that is all of us in certain situations in relations with certain people - do not arrive at practicing communism by saying to each other: "Hey, let's do communism understood as from each to each." Most people never think of themselves as actually existing practitioners of communism.

    I hope to have been able to make clear, why I think that while one indeed will end up declaring communism for being an unrealistic vision if one tries to imagine a communist society by logically deducting it from a naked norm as if it was about a contract. If one understands communism as a contract ("do what you want to do") one will necessarily come to the conclusion that it fails, because there is no clear cut distinction between voluntariness and obligation. By logically deducting the results from the communist moral principle one will always end up with a mess, unable to theoretically being able to imagine how production and consumption might indeed fit together.

    However, if one looks at communistic relations in the real world, there appear many, many answers to the question of how, in practice, people deal with voluntary obligation and obligatory involuntariness within a community, be it a neighborhood, a food coop, a political activist group, or a couch surfing community.

    All this is not about denying the importance of imagining (aspects of) a future society based on contracts. As I argued in my blog post, different visions are suited for different situations. I think we need contractual visions such as parecon for certain situations. But I also think we need community visions such as communism or benefit-driven production from Christian Siefkes for other situations. To act as if there is only one viable standard for identifying viable visions (for example, logical deduction) does not seem to help us a lot in winning a better world if it makes us blind to see and learn from what is already possible today.

    I think, these were my main points. However, to clarify things further, I will use a method you frequently use, namely commenting on things line by line, or at least paragraph by paragraph. I hope that I can make my points clearer like this - however, I warn you, sometimes I am being redundant.


    Michael Albert:

    "Imagine what you are calling a communist economy exists in some country - for the whole economy."

    Although capitalism is the dominant mode of production today, other kinds of economic relations exist as well - and they make up much more than only a small fraction of everything produced and provided. I for my part cannot imagine the whole economy being organized along the moral principle of communism - as I argued communism is a vision for certain situations. I also cannot imagine that all economic relations are organized as pareconish contracts.

    Michael Albert:

    "I don't from what you have written anything more about it than that each gets what they say they need, and each gives what they choose in the form of labor, at, I guess, whatever work they choose to do."

    In this formulation, I think, one can see how you frame your argument: You start from the individuals that say what they need and choose to do what they want. However, these individuals are already embedded in a community. These are not simply individual choices - they are both voluntary and obligatory. People in a community know (to a certain extent) each other and each other's abilities and needs. Individuals cannot claim to have significantly less abilities or significantly more needs without others noticing it.

    Michael Albert:

    "How the latter half of the assumed condition yields results consistent with the former half, is never explained."

    I am not sure if you want to hear an explanation (how communistic relations function in past and present), or if you want to hear a prediction (how communistic relations will function in the future) - these are two different pairs of shoes.

    The abstract explanation is community; people know each other and about each other. However, how the community looks like and hence how abilities and needs are made fit together may vary significantly. Explanation is possible, prediction nearly impossible. What we know from anthropology is that there are many possibilities. Christian Siefkes makes some proposals for the future, how this might work.

    Michael Albert:

    "There is also nothing said about the relations of work - the division of labor, how decisions are made in workplaces, etc. There is nothing about how people know what apportionment of their effort, and what share of the social product, is just or appropriate, etc., or what happens when I want to work less than is just - or mistakenly think I ought to work more to be fair - or when I want more stuff than is just, or mistakenly think I should take less to be fair. Nor is there anything said about how what I and others want, leads to its being produced - or to how what I and others want to produce - leads to its being wanted by anyone."

    Here work seems to be imagined only as being a burden. However, if work is a pleasure (and under certain circumstances, this can be the case), why would you worry that you mistakenly worked more to be fair. Of course there are cases, when people feel that work is a burden, also if they are only voluntarily obliged to do it, for example in the food coop. Again I would say, it depends on the situation, whether communism or parecon as a vision is more compelling. If people in a community worry that they work either to much or not enough and feel uncomfortable about it, no one stops them from adding even more work, namely pareconish accounting in order to ensure that the division of labor is fair. I would certainly not argue against that.

    Michael Albert:

    "I have pointed these things out, many places. The pareconish rejection of the allocative norm that you say is the key aspect of communism, indeed the only aspect many people think it needs, is not primarily because the norm would be abused - though it is hard to see, absent information, how anything other than abuse could arise even from entirely well meaning actors since I can only except by luck violate its intent if I don't know anything other than my own desires and my own needs - and if they are all I take into account, but instead because no matter how humanely it was pursued, obeying this norm would not generate either incentives or outcomes in accord with optimal values for all of society."

    As a result of logical deduction from a naked norm, this is what you end up with. But starting, as proposed above, from examining empirical evidence about actually existing communism, you might arrive at different results.

    Empirical evidence suggests that the norm is not abused. In fact, (most) people practicing communism do not view themselves as pursuing the from each to each norm. Nevertheless, we can identify relations, in which people act according to this norm.

    "But here, responding to what is above, though informed by the mentioned concerns, my question is different. I do not understand saying that parecon involves contract - and whatever communism might be - does not."

    Did the above help explain what I mean? While there are clear obligations in parecon, there are only voluntariy obligations or obligatory voluntariness in communism. In communism there is no need to agree on a contract, because of community, because of preexisting relations among the people, because of preexisting voluntary obligations. There are individualistic decisions - but they only seem to be individualistic - they are embedded in community. There are no explicit agreements about clearly defined obligations, but there are some expectations that you act according to the needs of others and vice versa. This obligatory voluntariness and voluntary obligation is unquantifiable and, hence, not transferable onto other individuals. Furthermore, there is no guarantee, that the other will fulfill the voluntary obligation. Nor can you be forced to fulfill your voluntary obligation.

    Michael Albert:

    "Parecon involves collective self managed decisions, and people abiding them, in an institutional context that guarantees people will be able to do both, justly. If in our workplace, the schedule we agree to is to start work at 9 in the morning, we abide it, day after day. If I have certain work I am supposed to get done - and other people's labors depend on it happening, I abide my agreement. And so on. Every agreement is, in that simple sense, a contract. People undertake activities in the expectation that others will do as they have agreed and if people do not, then mutual connection dissipates."

    That is why I understand parecon as a vision of contract.

    Michael Albert:

    "What you describe as communism doesn't explain how the agreements are arrived at, but whatever means that may be, there are still agreements. People's actions still intersect and depend on one another - and so people must act in accord with the agreements that they make, or that are built into the system. There is no difference at that abstract level. Every economy, every social system, unless it is mere individuals atomistically operating as they individually choose, and simply colliding now and then, involves agreements that people are responsible to abide - which is, I think, what you mean by the word contract."

    Again, as mentioned above, I disagree that every economic relation in every society is agreed upon with exact specifications of obligations. There are also voluntary obligations and obligatory voluntariness. Putting the latter two into one pot with clear cut obligations misses an important difference, I think, namely that there are no agreements made in such cases, but that this decisions are nevertheless not purely individualistic.

    Michael Albert:

    "Parecon has institutional structures to ensure that agreements are arrived at in self managed ways. It has structures, as well, that determine some guiding norms, such as equitable remuneration."

    Yes.

    Michael Albert:

    "What you call communism apparently has one norm - which as far as I can understand it, ironically, is that we each separately, without being beholden to others or responsible to others, decide our own jobs, duration and intensity of work at those jobs, and consumption. It seems to me that far from being communalistic - this image - impossible, I think, for diverse reasons - is actually very individualistic. Unless, there are structures that further guide the choices on income and work level - in which case there are what you call contracts, about those - this norm is more or less, do what you want - no need to accommodate what others want, that will just happen, magically. Similarly, though not discussed, there must be tons of other decisions, not about what work a person does, and how long, and what consumption they take, all with the implicit or explicit proviso that what is decided, is abided - contracts."

    Here we come to the core of you not understanding my point, I think. You view communism only as a norm, a contract, and divorce it from its social context, namely community. Then you try to reconstruct an imagined society by logical deduction from this norm with the result that you cannot understand how this should ever work. (Although communistic relations existed in every society.)

    • Michael Albert 12th Aug 2012

      Christof,

      Sorry I did not see this sooner - not sure why. Thanks for calling it to my attention.

      You write: "I guess that you do not understand my point because you view deductive logic as the only reasonable way of imagining (aspects of) a future society."

      I don't even know what that means. Not using logic would make little sense - I assume you agree. Deductive logic is presumably reasoning from accepted points to their intrinsic implications. Also a good thing to do, when there are accepted points and we can discern their implications. Of course, in all events, mainly one needs to use evidence, such as we can generate...

      You write: "This kind of thinking is perfectly suited for imagining a future society based on contracts, because there are no uncertainties you need to deal with - everything is in advance agreed upon in the contract you imagine."

      I think you have taken a word - contract - and let it grow way beyond anything the word can possibly mean. There is no such thing as contracting everything... There is such a thing, however, as people agreeing on some things - whether one calls that a contract or an agreement probably has to do with who one is talking to... or if one has in mind something different...

      You write: "Things will work out like formulated in the contract if only people abide to it."

      If you replace the word contract with agreement - yes - except, of course... while agreements are kept if they are kept, and not if they are not, keeping an agreement may of course yield unexpected results, as well.

      You write: "Furthermore, you seem to argue that there are indeed no social relations that are not based on a social contract or on an agreement (except very individualistic acts like robbery or theft). Below I will try to explain why I think that this view of society is flawed."

      When two or more actors work together there are explicit, or implicit, agreements, yes. Often times they are a result of the context of the interaction - the roles people fill in that context often make the agreements automatic... rather than having to be continually revisited. You keep using the term contract - and depending on what you mean - it may be always present, agreement, or nearly never present, specifically set out detailed conditions. Agreements are virtually always present - even if unstated, implicit, structurally imposed, etc. Unless, of course, two people engage together and it is pure luck they are in the same place at the same time, their acts are merging, etc. Or someone does something spontaneously, without coordinating with others at all.

      You write: "As argued in the blog post above, I think there are both social relations based on contracts, starting from the individual, and social relations based on community, starting from the whole - and of course many variations in-between these two extremes (I did not mention this above)."

      Now the terms change a little - starting from the individual - starting from society - well, of course. Take parecon - most of what it is about is behavior to accomplish economic life which is organized - which includes that it is agreed - socially, from the societal level. Balanced job complexes, equitable remuneration, the behaviors and roles of participatory planning, self managed decision making - these are all settled on the large scale - by the community. Then people make individual choices. In capitalism - private ownership, market competition, corporate organization of workplaces - all decided in the large, then people act inside that agreement.

      You write: "Hence, there are different ways of imagining both (parts of) future society that are and are not based on contract (and of course things in-between). However, one cannot imagine non-contractual (aspects of) future society if one only takes a norm (or a set of norms) as starting point and sticks to a logic argument to construct an imagined society."

      This seems incredibly strange to me. Most of what people do is totally spontaneous - not carefully contracted. No one would question that. It involves broad agreements, implicit or explicit, but not highly specific contracts, not even remotely. I can imagine, without any problem, not only spontaneous choices, not only individual acts, not only small implicit agreements, etc. etc., but also the same thing in the large. I can also imagine very formal contracts - though I don't see much place for them in a parecon.

      What you call constructing an imagined society - has not occurred - indeed nothing like it has occurred. My guess is what gives you the impression it has, is not looking at parecon or parsoc literature, say - but, perhaps, what someone critical, who probably also hasn't looked much, said about parecon/parsoc.

      In any event, parecon - and parsoc - ask about society, are there critical features (among the infinity of all features) which are intrinsically critical to having the type world we desire - a world in accord with our aspirations and values, including, for example, just outcomes, self management, solidarity, etc.

      Then, if one has the values that parecon/parsoc puts forth - or anything remotely close to them, I would wager - it turns out that there are such institutions. You can't fulfill the values if you adopt certain structures and relations. So, once that is determined, the problem arises, what do we use, to accomplish social functions, if we don't use, for example, private ownership, markets, etc. The answer is we have to think about the least set of commitments necessary to get where we want to go. So, parecon comes up with four institutional commitments. That's it. So there is no construction of an imagined society. There is, instead, a very broad description of four institutional commitments, themselves quite flexibly as to implementation. Something similar happens regarding other centrally important parts of social life, with comparable or fewer institutional commitments emerging.

      You write: "I think this is what you are demonstrating with your logic argument against from each to each communism: it is not possible to imagine communism in the way you want to do it. You come to the conclusion that communism is not a viable vision for the future. However, not being able to imagine such (aspects of) a future society with this mode of reasoning does not necessarily proof that it is impossible for such social relations to exist."

      Well, my saying that the attributes of from each to each as a remunerative norm have intrinsic implications contrary to the stated aspirations that guide its choice, is not a proof, correct. But it is an argument. And it will either turn out wrong, or right. It is based on logic, yes, but also on the attributes under discussion, and on evidence of experience...

      What you may be saying, I think, is that my taking from each to each and demonstrating its intrinsic problems isn't compelling because I haven't imagined the full attributes, some of which, I guess, you think will eliminate the problems I indicate. Fair enough - if true.

      You write: "I think we agree that imagining parecon is about imagining a contract. However, we do not agree whether or not it makes sense to regard communism (from each to each) as a contract, as an agreement. So this is what I will focus on here. Let me start with a famous topic in economic anthropology: gifts."

      Actually, no, I don't agree at all. I don't even know what it could possible mean to agree that "imagining parecon is about imagining a contract." First, a parecon, as an actual real life economy, will be vastly more than anything anyone has described or "imagined." So I might agree with this formulation, say - describing the core institutions without which you think we cannot have self management, classlessness, etc., requires describing how they will yield agreements, and associated behaviors, that accomplish economic functions... etc.

      I am not nitpicking. You want me to use your word - contract. I can't remember ever using it - and I see no reason to do so. It conjours a written document of the form I do x, y, you do w, z, covering all or nearly all bases, etc. Very little of what occurs in any social system, much less a parsoc, takes that shape. No system is "an agreement," but all systems involve agreements, sure...

      A gift exchange - or rather me giving you one - you say is non contractual. Okay. I just do it.

      A commodity exchange is contractual. You pay me, or whatever. There is in fact, just the act - the "contract" is the social setting which establishes behaviors, etc.

      You write: "In the gift exchange there is no voluntary agreement to enter in a relationship. The neighbors are already in a relationship. Since the beginning the gift exchange is both voluntarily and obligatory. After the act of the gift exchange the gift giver feels obliged to give a gift in return, however, again it is still voluntarily and there are no agreements involved."

      In every society, people are already in a relationship - that is largely - not entirely - a function of the society's institutions. I have to tell you, I just don't have the time or interest to pursue the presentation of broader views here. So, I am going to only look for something that bears on whether the criticisms I offer of from each to each, narrowly overlooks something, or wrongly assumes something, that calls the criticisms into question.

      You write "Decisions are made individualistically, but, and this is very important, based on preexisting relations."

      This is true of virtually all interactions, even in capitalism, much less in a parecon. Not just gift giving. And the preexisting relations typically involve coercion, imposition, or, ideally - social agreements.

      You write: "This is why it can work. People in a community approximately know about each other's abilities and needs. They don't need to spell things out and start accounting."

      This knowing of relevant information is what having a set of institutions can achieve, even for people who are not in proximity and don't personally know one another - in fact, it is precisely a key aspect of what participatory economic institutions achieve.

      You again make claims about something you call communism - that it will deliver such information - but there is no institutional substance for the claims, and you don't even acknowledge, much less address, the concerns raised.

      You write: "If one views from each to each communism as embedded in social context instead of viewing it as a naked norm, one can see how the issues you raise are solved in practice, how abilities and needs fit together without clear cut contracts, without a lot of planning, without agreements."

      Okay, as indicated earlier - the meaning here is that the critique of from each to each in, say, the essay debating the young chomsky - is wrong because I did not take into account structures and relations that would eliminate or at least dramatically reduce the problems I noted. Fair enough - if true.

      So at this point I would expect to see something which will cause my taking from the social product what I say I need, and giving to it in labor whatever I choose to do, at whatever tasks I want to do - and everyone else doing that too - will yield equitable, self managing, and also economically sound results. And it will do this not just with a small group of friends, but a large workplace, a whole industry, and the amalgamation of all industries into a whole economy.

      The trouble is, I saw no such formulations... And I have never seen any such formulations from advocates of from each to each.

      You continued quoting me saying: "I don't from what you have written anything more about it than that each gets what they say they need, and each gives what they choose in the form of labor, at, I guess, whatever work they choose to do."

      And then you reply: "In this formulation, I think, one can see how you frame your argument: You start from the individuals that say what they need and choose to do what they want. However, these individuals are already embedded in a community. These are not simply individual choices - they are both voluntary and obligatory. People in a community know (to a certain extent) each other and each other's abilities and needs. Individuals cannot claim to have significantly less abilities or significantly more needs without others noticing it."

      I think when you actually get down to the real task of describing what you want for economy - you will - dare I say it - wind up describing parecon. I mean that seriously. The minute you say the individual deciding what to consume, or how much to work, or what to work at exists in a social setting - the question arises, okay, what is that setting? This is what parecon addresses. What features are critical if the setting is to yield people working together well and consuming justly, etc., in ways consistent with their fullest development and fulfillment - classlessness, self management, etc. A society is a community. People in a society need to know, to a certain extent, each other's abilities and needs, if they are to function responsibly, justly, with solidarity, etc. etc. Okay, this is what parecon's institutions let each actor know. I don't know of other institutions that do that, particularly in a from each to each setting.

      But, parecon doesn't say - okay, here is the needed information, and now go do whatever you choose. When you write above, that the person in from each to each can't claim to have less abilities or more needs without others noticing - first, less than, or more than, what? Average? How does one know what that is? And so on. So I think almost the opposite of what you state is the case. Second, what does it mean that I can't say I need an olympic size pool in my backyard. I want it - is that not need? If it isn't need, what is need? Want, plus, what? Proportionate want? Equitable want? As soon as you qualify it, and say it can't violate whatever your qualification is, on both the consumption and the work side, you have left from each to each, behind.

      So my first problem is, you assume society delivers information and circumstances that will allow actors to be responsible, caring, etc. etc. In fact, however, you offer no explanation of why they will be able to do so. I ask, what institutions do we need to have to make acting responsibly possible, and, I even ask, what would make acting irresponsibly personally irrational. My second problem is, you assume everyone will act responsibly if they know what that is and are told, okay, but you can do whatever you want.

      You write: "I am not sure if you want to hear an explanation (how communistic relations function in past and present), or if you want to hear a prediction (how communistic relations will function in the future) - these are two different pairs of shoes."

      If by the past, you mean, basically, relations among groups of friends, etc., sure. But it is only modestly relevant to the larger question. If you mean broad systemic relations, yes, I would be interested - though probably not here. And yes, I am very interested in how you, or any advocate of from each to each, thinks an economy that utilizes that norm, much less one built mainly and almost exclusively on that norm, will avoid all the problems I describe in many places, and particularly, I guess, the essay debating the young chomsky.

      The answer you give: "The abstract explanation is community; people know each other and about each other. However, how the community looks like and hence how abilities and needs are made fit together may vary significantly. Explanation is possible, prediction nearly impossible. What we know from anthropology is that there are many possibilities. Christian Siefkes makes some proposals for the future, how this might work."

      This is not even slightly convincing to me - so I guess we will have to agree to disagree, for now. BUT - perhaps not for too long. Christian and I are going to have an extended debate about what he offers for the economy, and what I offer for it, that will appear on ZNet before too long passes.

      You quote me writing: "There is also nothing said about the relations of work - the division of labor, how decisions are made in workplaces, etc. There is nothing about how people know what apportionment of their effort, and what share of the social product, is just or appropriate, etc., or what happens when I want to work less than is just - or mistakenly think I ought to work more to be fair - or when I want more stuff than is just, or mistakenly think I should take less to be fair. Nor is there anything said about how what I and others want, leads to its being produced - or to how what I and others want to produce - leads to its being wanted by anyone."

      You reply: "Here work seems to be imagined only as being a burden."

      See the essay about debating young chomsky for a full treatment...

      You quote me: "I have pointed these things out, many places. The pareconish rejection of the allocative norm that you say is the key aspect of communism, indeed the only aspect many people think it needs, is not primarily because the norm would be abused - though it is hard to see, absent information, how anything other than abuse could arise even from entirely well meaning actors since I can only except by luck violate its intent if I don't know anything other than my own desires and my own needs - and if they are all I take into account, but instead because no matter how humanely it was pursued, obeying this norm would not generate either incentives or outcomes in accord with optimal values for all of society."

      You reply: "As a result of logical deduction from a naked norm, this is what you end up with. But starting, as proposed above, from examining empirical evidence about actually existing communism, you might arrive at different results."

      Maybe, but I doubt it, whatever you may have in mind - as actually existing communism.

      You quote me: "But here, responding to what is above, though informed by the mentioned concerns, my question is different. I do not understand saying that parecon involves contract - and whatever communism might be - does not."

      You answer: "Did the above help explain what I mean? While there are clear obligations in parecon, there are only voluntariy obligations or obligatory voluntariness in communism."

      In parecon I decide to enter an agreement or not. I get a job somewhere. I agree to be in the planning system. Etc. Once I do, I have some responsibilities, yes. In communism, again whatever you may mean by that, the same will prove to be the case.

      You write, "In communism there is no need to agree on a contract, because of community, because of preexisting relations among the people, because of preexisting voluntary obligations. There are individualistic decisions - but they only seem to be individualistic - they are embedded in community. There are no explicit agreements about clearly defined obligations, but there are some expectations that you act according to the needs of others and vice versa. This obligatory voluntariness and voluntary obligation is unquantifiable and, hence, not transferable onto other individuals. Furthermore, there is no guarantee, that the other will fulfill the voluntary obligation. Nor can you be forced to fulfill your voluntary obligation."

      On many grounds, no, it doesn't help.

      Even if community - whatever you mean by that - did deliver - people would be agreeing, or not, to be in the community...

      People who work in a parecon firm that agrees that work starts at 10 AM, say, and finishes at 3 PM, say, will ask someone who continually comes in at 11 AM and leaves at 2 PM, why. If the person has no good reason, the person may be dismissed. In the workplace you envision, I guess that that worker need only say I want to - and there is no recourse for others. In the former, as well, there is a social plan, and the workers know what it means for them to relate to the needs of others as others relate to their needs - thus, it is equitable and solidaritous to work in the pattern chosen and agreed. In the later workplace, pending your explaining how it would know, the workers don't know, in fact, what it would mean to be responsible to the rest of society. This is only one of endless issues that arise...

      I don't think industries will output what is desired without having institutional structures that convey to them the relevant information, and convey from them relevant information, and apportion to them, and to others, appropriate influence over the outcomes. You saying the existence of community answers the problems is what we used to call hand waving...in lieu of having something substantive. I won't rehearse it all...

      You quote me as saying: "Parecon involves collective self managed decisions, and people abiding them, in an institutional context that guarantees people will be able to do both, justly. If in our workplace, the schedule we agree to is to start work at 9 in the morning, we abide it, day after day. If I have certain work I am supposed to get done - and other people's labors depend on it happening, I abide my agreement. And so on. Every agreement is, in that simple sense, a contract. People undertake activities in the expectation that others will do as they have agreed and if people do not, then mutual connection dissipates."

      You reply: "That is why I understand parecon as a vision of contract."

      Parecon involves agreements, yes. And your answer, assuming it means you think in the economy you want to be part of people would not be responsible to do what they agree to, and even to honor larger agreements, is why what I wrote just above - troubles me...

      You quote me: "What you describe as communism doesn't explain how the agreements are arrived at, but whatever means that may be, there are still agreements. People's actions still intersect and depend on one another - and so people must act in accord with the agreements that they make, or that are built into the system. There is no difference at that abstract level. Every economy, every social system, unless it is mere individuals atomistically operating as they individually choose, and simply colliding now and then, involves agreements that people are responsible to abide - which is, I think, what you mean by the word contract."

      You reply: "Again, as mentioned above, I disagree that every economic relation in every society is agreed upon with exact specifications of obligations."

      No one in their right mind would claim otherwise. Why do you take what I wrote, but add the words "exact specifications?"

      You quote me: "What you call communism apparently has one norm - which as far as I can understand it, ironically, is that we each separately, without being beholden to others or responsible to others, decide our own jobs, duration and intensity of work at those jobs, and consumption. It seems to me that far from being communalistic - this image - impossible, I think, for diverse reasons - is actually very individualistic. Unless, there are structures that further guide the choices on income and work level - in which case there are what you call contracts, about those - this norm is more or less, do what you want - no need to accommodate what others want, that will just happen, magically. Similarly, though not discussed, there must be tons of other decisions, not about what work a person does, and how long, and what consumption they take, all with the implicit or explicit proviso that what is decided, is abided - contracts."

      You reply: "Here we come to the core of you not understanding my point, I think. You view communism only as a norm, a contract, and divorce it from its social context, namely community. Then you try to reconstruct an imagined society by logical deduction from this norm with the result that you cannot understand how this should ever work. (Although communistic relations existed in every society.)"

      Notice it says - "what you call communism apparently has one norm" - it doesn't say that that is all there is, but that that is all you have conveyed. Now you have said, there is that norm but there is also community... but of course, the nature of that community, why it conveys desires, beliefs, information, that yields good outcomes, etc. etc., and particularly what institutions accomplish all that, is missing. The community we have now doesn't - so what changes mean that a future community will.

      What I do with the norm is not to imagine a society - but, to simply take the norm as it is stated and ask, okay, what does it imply about people's actions and social outcomes. I found it has lots of harmful implications. Now I can in fact imagine ways to get rid or those implications while staying true to the aspirations - I call those ways parecon - and I mean that very seriously.

      But since I know you and some others who have been advocates of from each to each don't agree with me about that, I have to ask, okay, what is your way, then. You disagree parecon is the way to achieve what you desire, presumably, because you think, for some reason, that parecon either adds new problems, or isn't true to the aspirations. Okay - fair enough, though I have never understood quite why - the closest formulation I have seen to providing a possible answer was the early chomsky material I addressed in the essays noted above. But if you reject parecon, or perhaps more to the point, equitable remuneration for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor, preferring, instead, from each to each - okay, then I wonder what is the big virtue you think from each to each has, and how is it that you think it avoids all the problems I and others enumerate?

      I would say, that perhaps we should leave it for now, and revisit after the debate with Christain Siefkes - since that will obviously be a format more suited to careful exchange.

  • Christof Franz 31st Jul 2012

    @ Perry Miller

    I am not sure if I understood your use of the term kinship, but I guess somehow similar to how I used community?

    "While the freed market operates on a non-hierarchical communist basis, the processes (transportation and space-holding) require involvement in hierarchical and capitalist practices (recalling the DAN-car problem which was referred to on another blog post).

    Could participatory planning at the point of entanglement (for example with paying rent and utilities for the freed market space or transportation of people and donated items to/from the freed market) alleviate issues like burnout, disunity or lack of trust?"

    I think this is a very important question.

    • 19th Aug 2012

      Hi Christof,

      Sorry for the belated post.

      "I am not sure if I understood your use of the term kinship, but I guess somehow similar to how I used community?"

      Great question, thanks.

      I'd like to go back and read some culture studies and anthropology texts who for me contrast these concepts very well. But in the meantime maybe we could consider their usage on the IOPS website.

      On the IOPS Vision page are listed

      "Verwandtschaftsbeziehungen" / "Familie" (kinship)
      "Gemeinschaft" / "Gemeinwesen" (community)

      I'm curious how the concepts are contrasted?

      In brief, I was thinking of

      'community' as a fictional construct used to group people as same or other, in relation to a governing structure

      (I noticed the IOPS Vision statement puts an emphasis on communities that "allow free entry and exit")

      'kinship' as a description of interpersonal relations, given in cultural scripts, maintained by the individuals themselves

      Broadly, both concepts describe social re-production and polity. But I see them describing different scales, or different degrees of social distance.

      There's an analogous discussion on scales, when it comes to participatory planning for "from each...to each..." type economies. This analogue might be noteworthy, given the complementary holist framework.


      Best,

      Perry

  • Christof Franz 31st Jul 2012

    @ Gregory VanGaya

    "The opening paragraph is very much how I think about parecon, replete with my comparison or juxst of position to communism as cultural or even a more spiritual or atleast panpsychic consciousness."

    Do I understand you right, that from your point of view communism has to do with some sort of special consciousness?
    If so, I view communism as much more down-to-earth practice, not involving better human beings. Most people practice communism without noticing it.

    "But from where we are now, the bridge of a new contract is very necessary."

    This formulation suggests to me that you think that parecon comes first, communism afterwards. Do I understand that correctly?
    If so, I don't view the relationship of parecon and communism in such a diacronic way. Parecon is not the first stage and communism the second.

    I think both visions are relevant today and will be relevant in the future. As communistic relations can easily slip into hierarchical and unequal relations, parecon offers a fair way out of those. On the other hand, if people get on well, they can reduce the planning afford of parecon and prefer communistic relations. Furthermore, in a better society I imagine everyone to be involved - do different degrees - in both communistic and pareconish relations.

    • LedSuit ' 31st Jul 2012

      Christof, are you saying that communistic relations can operate well on smaller scales rather than larger more impersonal scales. One needs to know people or neighbours or at least be familiar with communal relations that have existed on a kind of intuitive level in order for such relations to be of benefit? Parecon can deal with the other larger more impersonal type interactions and perhaps be used when communistic ones go to shit?

      Trying to understand.

  • Christof Franz 31st Jul 2012

    @ I.N. Reiter

    "Maybe we should define the word "contract" here. I see a contract as a mutual agreement about rights and duties which is sanctioned at violation, not necessarily as a construct of law.

    The reason I´d define it like that is, that a contract even if it is referring to laws is useless when the parties that agreed upon it can violate it later without sanctions and on the other hand an informal agreement out of the experience of reciprocal behaviour and the trust that it will be continued can be as well seen as a kind of social contract.

    So the word contract can be understood as a mere agreement about a social relation or as a written down agreement with legal status, defended by courts if necessary. Every group has contracts as social agreements but only institutions can defend contracts of the second kind."

    I think the distinction you make can be very helpful. However, I would insist that in communism there are even no contracts or agreements of the first kind. Before giving a gift or before acting communistically there are no "mutual agreements made about rights and duties" - although there are (as argued in the post replying to Michael Albert) voluntary obligations and obligatory voluntariness based on expectations and knowledge about the others in the community. I think there is a crucial difference between agreeing voluntarily on an obligation (based on an individual decision) - be it a contract of the first (informal) or second (official) kind - and being expected (obligation) and willing (voluntary) to do something (based on being part of a preexisting whole).

    • Christof Franz 31st Jul 2012

      However, maybe I should note, in reality, there are of course variations in-between these two extremes. Whereas becoming part of a family is not founded on an "mutual agreement" between individuals, it is different in the case of our food coop: There is "mutual agreement" to join the community in the first place. The association becomes the basis of the community and the community in turn the basis of communism - if the free contributions magically work out, so far this was the case.

  • Christof Franz 31st Jul 2012

    @ James Wilson

    (sorry, I don't know how I can reply to a post - I can't see a reply button - I only saw this option at the end of my own response to I.N. Reiter)

    "Christof, are you saying that communistic relations can operate well on smaller scales rather than larger more impersonal scales. One needs to know people or neighbours or at least be familiar with communal relations that have existed on a kind of intuitive level in order for such relations to be of benefit? Parecon can deal with the other larger more impersonal type interactions and perhaps be used when communistic ones go to shit?"

    Yes, this comes close to what I want to convey.

    However, I think the terms small and large are missleading (similar to the idea that communism is only possible at the local level, see couch surfing as a counter example), whereas the terms personal/community and impersonal/strangers make more sense. If many people are connected through communistic relations, the whole network can be very large as well.

    And again, I want to point out: in reality there are many variations between purely personal and purely impersonal relationships.

  • Christof Franz 31st Jul 2012

    @ David Jones

    Thanks for adding some quotes from David Graeber and for answering one of Michael's question in a consciece way (in contrast to what I did:

    "To answer Michael's question, you know people's "needs" there because they ask you for stuff, based on your "abilities"."

    I was writing my long answer when you posted this...

  • LedSuit ' 31st Jul 2012

    Thanks Christof.

    Just trying to get a handle. Does remind me a little of the debate between Michael and Peter Staudenmaier on Parecon and Social Ecology. I was having a quick look and found this paragragh. Not sure if it is relevant but here goes.


    "Social ecology’s vision of a moral economy centers on libertarian communism, in which the fruits of common labor are freely available to all. This principle of from each according to ability and to each according to need is fleshed out by a civic ethic in which concern for the common welfare shapes individual choices. In the absence of markets, private property, class divisions, commodity production, exploitation of labor, and accumulation of capital, libertarian communism can become the distributive mechanism for social wealth and the economic counterpart to the transparent and humanly scaled political structures that social ecology proposes."

    The debate maybe of interest. Think I will read it again.

    I am also interested in how and when communist relations could go to shit and create hierarchies and inequality.

  • Christof Franz 31st Jul 2012

    @ James Wilson:

    concerning communist and hierachical relations I would suggest to start by reading the fifth chapter of David Graeber's "Debt", if you have not yet done so.

    • LedSuit ' 31st Jul 2012

      Will try to find book.

  • David Jones 1st Aug 2012

    @James

    I tried to think about how to answer your questions further up concisely. In the end I just couldn't do it - I ended up writing an essay, hah. It's here if you or anybody else wants to read:

    http://freedomthistime.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/on-the-giving-and-receiving-of-gifts/ .

    The short version is: I think your comment "I am still stuck on how one measures its social benefit." hit the nail on the head. I think this is impossible when it comes to revolutionary creative work. Remunerating for social benefit here won't work, because nobody at the time will be able to say what that is. So I think that for us to have an ongoing revolution, this work should be practised on a "from each.. to each..." basis, as a "gift economy" embedded within a participatory one.

    • LedSuit ' 1st Aug 2012

      Thanks David.

      Read the essay and it is interesting that one could consider such a solution for something I have been thinking about a lot. Was it Graeber , Wilde, or both with some of you that "solved" it thusly?

      As Christof and you suggest parallel economic relations: Parecon possibly with communist/individual communist relations. The latter "solving"? the problem of remunerating something unmeasurable.

      Would it/ could it operate in an unobtrusive way. Almost imperceptible as Christof or Graeber says it often does? I suppose it wouldn't if it was set up that way. What I am trying to say is would such an obviously set up from each to each economic relation cause friction within a Parecon say.I haven't read Graeber yet (seen some video and read interview), but it seems that within capitalism the kind of individualistic communist relation seems to operate more intuitively, empathetically almost unconsciously (prob not a good word). Would a purposely set up from each to each relation upset its natural way of operating?(bad sentence-don't know how to put it).

      Will read the Wilde. Tah. The question of what we call art is a separate issue for me. I have been trying to avoid it or even destroy the notion for years, unsuccessfully mind you. Not through lack of trying :)

    • LedSuit ' 1st Aug 2012

      PS: I also totally agree with your stand on IP. I had a guitar student a while back who suffered from a mental illness. Took medication and couldn't remember much but took to free improvising and correcting my Enlgish with aplomb. He was writing a book and started with chapter 13 or something, about creative ideas and where they come from and such (I think!). In it he talks of Led Zeppelin's swiftness to take anyone to the cleaners iffen they get a wiff someone has borrowed something of theirs. He suggested that all the old black bluesers should take out a class action against pretty much every English band from the sixties. Gettin' rich off their backs and every now and then inviting them onto stage to take a bow doesn't cut it. But I digress:)

    • David Jones 1st Aug 2012

      hmm... there could be "friction" I suppose. People might feel that "creative" types are just avoiding proper work and what have you. For some this would of course be true! Just like in the present system. I guess you have a "gift sub-economy" of sorts operating within the present state-capitalist system: that's the sort of ideal for the university - as a safe haven for people to think and create, away from any need to supply a societal demand. They are to a secular age what the monastery was to a religious age, perhaps. But even that ideal is now being destroyed - the "free market" must get its claws into absolutely everything. I see no reason why parecon couldn't have the university ideal existing within it, only realised more fully and with less "friction".

      Goes for music too, like you said. My favourite band has a song called "one million died to make this sound" (funnily enough from an album called "13 blues for 13 moons" that starts on track 13!) By what right can Led Zep or whoever claim individual ownership over something a million musicians died to create? What can we call art? I suppose if you meant it, if it cost you something, if you put something of yourself into it, then you can call it art. "Songs are like tattoos" is how Joni Mitchell put it. Who's to say otherwise? And what could be more absurd than seeking to package that and sell it for a profit? Beyond depending upon that just to survive as a musician, I mean - when it becomes an end in itself, perhaps art has been destroyed?

  • LedSuit ' 1st Aug 2012

    I guess the only problem I see re friction is that theoretical physicists and artists would "gifted" far more than just the right to do what they do. The infrastructure, machines, technology, materials, tools necessary to do their work. Artists, aural and visual, require incredible amounts of goods and services to function. If they lived on a "stipend" or basic income or whatever, would they be required to purchase these things from that alone or would they be gifted both enough to live on AND enough to pursue their work. I didn't mean to use the word work, but it is interesting that I am I think.

    Regarding musicians there would be whole industries of workers producing goods (instruments) for them to use. Are they provided for free, lone, are they "gifted". Muso's are quite particular about such things. They like to change their equipment often too. How is their consumption of such measured against their output of creative stuff?

    In a Parecon, where people consumption is strongly correlated to their production (work), would a gift economy thrive or be somewhat stilted, people having less or no excess stuff to with which to fulfil there obligation. There obligation could be fulfilled in different ways perhaps-couch surfing as Christof points to- but they would need some basic income, places to work and a huge amount of resources, which is perhaps a lot more than religious types needed or wanted.

    I don't think the creative process can ever be destroyed but I don't much care if "art" is. People want/need to do stuff and the "free market" does get its claws into everything hence Graeber's description of the anarchist as someone who acts in ways outside those paradigms as if they don't exist. Don't even recognise them as that would be implicitly endorsing them.

    Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daly's Unjust Deserts is a good book ton read re IP and copyright etc. And Kropotkin said it wonderfully in The Conquest of Bread,

    "Science and industry, knowledge and application, discovery and practical realization leading to

    new discoveries, cunning of brain and of hand, toil of mind and muscle- all work together. Each

    discovery, each advance, each increase in the sum of human riches, owes its being to the

    physical and mental travail of the past and the present.

    By what right then can any one whatever appropriate the least morsel of this immense whole and

    say- This is mine, not yours?"

    Anyway, gotta go to "work". My musical associate emailed me last night and said, things would be different if we were full time musicians. But in a free market with it's stifling and homogenising effects, still terribly frustrated perhaps.

    Sarah Owens said something I liked,

    "If property is theft,which it is, intellectual property is embezzlement".

    • David Jones 4th Aug 2012

      "I guess the only problem I see re friction is that theoretical physicists and artists would "gifted" far more than just the right to do what they do."

      Yeah, true. Should we have built the LHC? I don't know! Theoretical physicists / artists / whoever would have to argue for these gifts (they could write a blog, for example!) and then after some process of deliberation, using whatever decision making processes it has, society could decide to make a gift to them, representing some "opportunity cost" to society. Not everybody will agree with the decisions - hence "some friction" - but if they emerge as the outcome of a decision making process people feel is legitimate, they will probably be happy to live with the decisions. Hence I think there would be less friction than today, where people mostly feel "our" political process lacks legitimacy - so why should they respect its decisions?

      My main point is, I agree the ideas in Michael Albert's "Querying Young Chomsky" essay when it comes to quantifiable outputs - there it's useful to get feedback so you know if you're not working hard enough, or working too hard, or focusing on the necessary work, in order to keep society "ticking over". I just don't think that makes sense for something inherently unquantifiable, moreover, something whose essential nature is changed by trying to make it into something quantifiable. Perhaps that's what makes Noam Chomsky uneasy about parecon remuneration norms? I think we should pick and choose between "remuneration for efforts towards supplying social demand" and "from each... to each..." (and between other norms?) depending on where each norm is appropriate. We might need different norms to apply to "bread" vs "roses" (to the extent any clear distinction can be made here...)

    • LedSuit ' 4th Aug 2012

      "Theoretical physicists / artists / whoever would have to argue for these gifts (they could write a blog, for example!) and then after some process of deliberation, using whatever decision making processes it has, society could decide to make a gift to them, representing some "opportunity cost" to society."

      Sounds not dissimilar to the "grant" system now but perhaps on a mass level. One thing I see is that it may be easier to judge if a theoretical physicist deserves something. The physicist's general abilities would be easier to read. The artist's... well, I shrug my shoulders.

      In music, for example, how a Eugene Chadbourne or Derek Bailey would be able to argue for such alludes me. See below. Your main point is the hard problem. How does one measure the above examples even against a fairly competent singer/song writer let alone a masterful musician. Straight away I'm in trouble and arguing with myself for making such a distinction. The thing is there is a demand for all the stuff out there. Society demands "entertainment". This is where I have a problem with Wilde, perhaps. I agree that artists need to be left alone and that they create primarily to amuse themselves first. Frank Zappa always said that he wrote music HE wanted to hear and if there was anybody else who happened to like it, they could consume it. Yet he thought all music was really just entertainment. Some forms of music just seemed more serious than others or were to certain people. A stupid 3 min ditty as opposed to a 50 min orchestral piece. That is why I have trouble with the second part of your point,"I just don't think that makes sense for something inherently unquantifiable, moreover, something whose essential nature is changed by trying to make it into something quantifiable." I am not sure that it matters whether something's "essential nature" is changed by making it quantifiable. I am not even sure if it has an "essential nature". It being an "artistic or creative object". And maybe that is all I would say is its essential nature, that it is a creative object. Something produced through some creative process and this could be anything. If someone wishes to call it high art, low art, put the garbage out art lives next door to the gutter art, spiritual, cool, or popular art or whatever, paying for it or quantifying it or even the process/work that brought it about, in my opinion won't change its impact or "essential nature". It just can't. I would like to see the creative process open to all and not have a distinction between those involved in the "useful" industries distinguished from those involved in the not so obviously practically useful ones. Who would make those distinctions when people can't even agree within the "art" world. Wilde knows what "he" likes but not what "I" like. Maybe "art" is merely entertainment and the absurdity of existence, intuitively felt by all, leads us to look for things that bring meaning where in fact there may be none. Emotions are just as elusive as confidence! Even in a Parecon, if one wasn't working within some artistic enterprise one would still have time for creative pursuits as the work week would be drastically reduced and the ticketing system wouldn't be distributing on such an unequal basis so there would be a less competitive artistic environment, at least on a funding/financing level, as there is today.

      If the art world could exist in some other way within a Parecon, like communist relations do within a capitalist economy, like from each to each, then great but something in me wants to bring it back down to earth. Does that make me bad? Because I do get transported when I listen to music as well as when I hear about the nature of matter or the size and nature of the universe.

      Information is not knowledge
      Knowledge is not wisdom
      Wisdom is not truth
      Truth is not beauty
      Beauty is not love
      Love is not music
      Music is the best...
      FZ

      I'm sorry if I'm off point David, but I am never sure whether I stray too far.

      PS: The LHC was one of the first things that popped into my mind. Are they sure it's the Higgs?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHHSUKoHBys

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R71dPy1mvVA&feature=related

    • David Jones 4th Aug 2012

      "I would like to see the creative process open to all and not have a distinction between those involved in the "useful" industries distinguished from those involved in the not so obviously practically useful ones."

      Yeah, me too. But people have different inclinations I think. I don't think of myself as a very practical person. I'm more of an impractical dreamer at heart. Lots of people wouldn't have wanted to put years of time and effort into learning about abstract physics stuff, but I did. I recall a conversation with a taxi driver a group of me and other physics folks had coming back from a conference. We told him what we did and he said, good-naturedly, "why on earth would you be interested in that, then?" Fair question. Dunno. Or I watch the Olympics and they're excelling at something I wasn't inclined towards. Or doctors saving lives etc. etc. I think people will create the distinctions for themselves, they will tend to specialize either in the "useful" or "useless" fields, perhaps. I don't see such a problem there - one isn't "better" than the other. We have a system that somewhat reinforces this notion, but we could think about things very differently in a parecon. "All peasants and craftsmen might be elevated into artists" as Humboldt put it.

      "That is why I have trouble with the second part of your point,"I just don't think that makes sense for something inherently unquantifiable, moreover, something whose essential nature is changed by trying to make it into something quantifiable." I am not sure that it matters whether something's "essential nature" is changed by making it quantifiable. I am not even sure if it has an "essential nature""

      Okay, I should make that more concrete. All I meant was, if you're doing something like art or theoretical physics and you have to be constantly justifying its use and only allowed to produce what is "useful" then the possibilities are closed off. If, for example, you have to apply for science grants based upon satisfying short term, profit-oriented goals, what happens to blue-skies research? Will it even be possible anymore? That's what I would worry about and why I was advocating this "gift economy" setup. Could FZ have written "the music he liked" that people like you "happened to like" if the only way for him to eat and so on was to write what he thought other people (or the music facilitation board, or whatever it would be in a parecon) would consider to be "useful"? I don't know, but perhaps. There's a story about Michael Faraday that some politician visited his lab, saw the mess of wires and magnets, and asked what possible use this "electricity" could be. Faraday replied that he didn't know, but someday it would be taxed.

      "PS: The LHC was one of the first things that popped into my mind. Are they sure it's the Higgs?"

      They've found a "higgs-like" particle, I think. They still need to take more data to pin its properties down more precisely. It may or may not be the standard model higgs boson.

    • LedSuit ' 4th Aug 2012

      Yeah, David. I think we are on the same page. I'm pretty much on the same page as Wilde too except for very minor unimportant details. I like the Humboldt quote.

      I essentially am worried too, about whether you would get a FZ in a Parecon or other more "out there" artists regardless of their "usefulness". The tyranny of novelty can cause problems for artists alone without the "tyranny" of society bearing down on them as Wilde suggests. And we do already pay sports people amazing amounts of money so we can sit on our arse and watch them. What they produce isn't really "useful", except for sponsors and reinforcing notions of competitiveness, excelling, rising to the challenge, winning etc. We don't nurture or revere our artists nearly as much even though they probably bring more joy to more people. Much the same as we ignore and forget those who don't win medals.

      So perhaps a participatory type economy would/could do a better job and perhaps certain activities do require different approaches so as they aren't "tyrannised" by meddlesome outsiders. The lack of a competitive market place and a participatory education system would definitely change things and perhaps produce the necessary environment for the arts and blue-skies research. The trajectory towards such pursuits would have a stronger foundation and get support from other participatory institutions and structures.

      Thanks for the Faraday ditty. I'll remember that.

    • David Jones 5th Aug 2012

      "I like the Humboldt quote". It's from his book "Limits of State Action"(chapter 3, I think.) Here's some more:

      "man never regards what he possesses as so much his own, as what he does; and the labourer who tends a garden is perhaps in a truer sense its owner, than the listless voluptuary who enjoys its fruits... In view of this consideration, it seems as if all peasants and craftsman might be elevated into artists; that is, men who love their labour for its own sake, improve it by their own plastic genius and inventive skill, and thereby cultivate their intellect, ennoble their character, and exalt and refine their pleasures. And so humanity would be ennobled by the very things which now, though beautiful in themselves, so often serve to degrade it"

      I first heard of Humboldt from this wonderful lecture:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kPlEJlmWuc .

    • LedSuit ' 6th Aug 2012

      Thanks David. Might print that out and stick it on my studio wall. Will try to find time to look at lecture.

    • LedSuit ' 6th Aug 2012

      Oh, and thanks for the Chomsky.

  • David Jones 4th Aug 2012

    I found what Christof said interesting too: could we use parecon as a means to ultimately build towards "communistic" relations founded upon altruism and trust, such that "from each... to each..." could apply more widely across society? Maybe that's another objection Noam Chomsky and others have to parecon remunerative norms - they think these might limits human relations to standards that were introduced and reinforced by market systems? They might artificially limit the "spiritual transformation" libertarian socialism will help to bring about:

    "QUESTION: How far does the success of libertarian socialism or anarchism really depend on a fundamental change in the nature of man, both in his motivation, his altruism, and also in his knowledge and sophistication?

    CHOMSKY: I think it not only depends on it but in fact the whole purpose of libertarian socialism is that it will contribute to it. It will contribute to a spiritual transformation -- precisely that kind of great transformation in the way humans conceive of themselves and their ability to act, to decide, to create, to produce, to enquire -- precisely that spiritual transformation that social thinkers from the left-Marxist traditions, from Luxembourg, say, through anarcho-syndicalists, have always emphasized.

    So, on the one hand, it requires that spiritual transformation. On the other hand, its purpose is to create institutions which will contribute to that transformation in the nature of work, the nature of creative activity, simply in social bonds among people, and through this interaction of creating institutions which permit new aspects of human nature to flourish. And then the building of still more libertarian institutions to which these liberated human beings can contribute. This is the evolution of socialism as I understand it."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6HTQ6mtFqQ&feature=plcp .