Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Michael Albert's Failings

Similar to Anarcho's reservations , Parecon appears to me to be about building a massive (and socially unproductive) administration for policing all the wage levels, labour outputs , prices etc. In contrast , the practical aspects of a (world- and not national as has been already pointed out ) socialist revolution is not about creating ever greater bureaucratic structures, but quite the opposite.

It must be terribly deflating for a person to have devoted so much time and energy in creating an elaborate , complex , complicated construct to offer an alternative to capitalism and then to have others declare that it was totally unnecessary and that the answers and solutions already existed and stood on firmer foundations . This is the case with Michael Albert when he helped design the Parecon model . He rejected free access socialism , or as others describe it , anarcho-communism on the grounds that it was an unachievable utopia . Without quite knowing what he was rejecting .

And Michael Albert's reasoning reveals exactly why i am not a Pareconista - his reasoning is deeply and profoundly conservative . In fact , most of his objections to a society without buying and selling , without money and without wages and without prices derives at their root from the theories of Von Mise and the Economic Calculation Argument .

In his responses to the case for free access socialism , he confuses the abolition of the Law of Value to the abolition of valuations ie "... it will always be very desirable to make judgements about what we want to do with our time, resources, energies, etc..." even though the article clearly stated "...In any economy there needs to be some way of prioritising production goals..." and offered various details on the means to achieve this using the tools and methods of to-day's society that are able to be adapted and transformed and carried over to socialism to determine and satisfy needs and wants in a rational way in socialist society - all conveniently ignored by MA .

What was being stated in the article which MA seemed to overlook was , to now use the words , of Paresh Chattopadhyay.

"The problem of rationally allocating productive resources in an economy is common to all human societies at least as long as these resources remain relatively limited compared to needs. However, there is no need to assume that this allocation could be effected rationally (if at all) only through the exchange of resources taking the value (price) form."

And although Paresh says it of other economic writers the following equally applies to MA and Pareconists

"The authors of the model [ read MA and Parecon ] under consideration in common with their opponents confuse the rational allocation of resources as such with the rational allocation of resources uniquely through the price system ... The point is that the allocation through the value form of the products of human labor is only "a particular social manner of counting labor employed in the production of an object" precisely in a society in which "the process of production dominates individuals, individuals do not dominate the process of production" (Marx). Only the "routine of daily life" makes us accept as "trivial and self-evident" that a social relation of production takes the form of an object" (Marx ).

Michael Albert still confused by the difference between allocation choices (valuations) and the abolition of value goes on to say

"What is bad about capitalism and for that matter, neoclassical economics, is not that they think economies involve choices among possibilities based on valuations. Maybe I am sheltered somehow, but I know of no serious marxist economist, or any other kind of economist - indeed radicals of any stripe at all, who wouldn't be pretty much horrified at the idea that such claims could be taken seriously."

Well , does he consider Engels a serious economist when he says value becomes redundant ?

"Hence, on the assumptions we made above, society will not assign values to products. It will not express the simple fact that the hundred square yards of cloth have required for their production, say, a thousand hours of labour in the oblique and meaningless way, stating that they have the value of a thousand hours of labour. It is true that even then it will still be necessary for society to know how much labour each article of consumption requires for its production. It will have to arrange its plan of production in accordance with its means of production, which include, in particular, its labour-powers. The useful effects of the various articles of consumption, compared with one another and with the quantities of labour required for their production, will in the end determine the plan. People will be able to manage everything very simply, without the intervention of much-vaunted "value". - footnote- As long ago as 1844 I stated that the above-mentioned balancing of useful effects and expenditure of labour on making decisions concerning production was all that would be left, in a communist society, of the politico-economic concept of value. (Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher, p. 95) The scientific justification for this statement, however, as can be seen, was made possible only by Marx's Capital."

But of course when offered this quotation MA simply dismisses it

"My guess would be there are a hundred interpretations of the above...and honestly, I could not care less...I don't believe in to speak."

Which begs the question why MA appealed to the authority of serious Marxist economists in the first place .

As i have said , i find Parecon to be conservative in essence .

The reason that Parecon has to go to such lengths to construct such a complicated and complex (and wasteful system ) of elaborate checks and balances is ultimately that its proponents are unwilling or unable to accept that if given the right economic framework (or arguably no economic framework, as we maintain ) , then , in fact , humans can consciously co-operate, work and consume together.
In the final analysis, Parecon lack confidence that either there are sufficient resources on the planet to provide for all , or that human beings can work voluntarily, and co-operate to organise production & distribution of wealth without chaos, and consume wealth responsibly without some form of rationing .

Pareconists remain fixated to the lazy person, greedy individual critique of human behaviour .

In denying free access socialism , Michael Albert simply preaches conventional bourgeois wisdom about peoples' selfish human .

"...I think you believe, instead, that there is a capacity for humanity to generate as much nice and fulfilling goods and services as anyone could possibly desire to have, plus as much leisure as anyone could want, and so on. Well, is that really your view? If so, okay, we can agree to disagree. And, honestly, I can't imagine discussing it - further - because for me it is so utterly ridiculous, honestly.... Suppose everyone would like - if the cost was zero - their own large mansion, on the ocean, with wonderful fantastic food every day, with magnificent recording and listening equipment, with a nice big boat, with their own private tennis courts, or basketball, or golf, or whatever....a great home movie system, a wonderful violin, magnificent clothes, and so on and so forth, and, also, while they like creative work a lot, they would like a whole lot of time to enjoy their bountiful home and holdings - so they want to work only twenty hours a week and of course not do anything other than what interests them. What you seem to be saying is that you think that is possible... or, even if all that were possible, no one would want it. Both are false..."

"...if something is of no cost, and I want it, sure, I will take it, to enjoy it, why not..."

"...Tell everyone that they can have a free house, a really nice car, or two, whatever equipment the like for sports or hobbies, whatever TVs they would enjoy and other tools of daily life, whatever food they want nightly, etc. etc. because it is all free, no problem for them to take what they want. And see what one will be able to conduct themselves responsibly..."

"... since they can have product, from the available social product, regardless. So sloth is rewarded. Likewise greed..."

Nor is he alone in this pessimistic view of human behaviour . Another prominent pro-Parecon advocate has previously said

"Under the moneyless scheme, those with the least social consciousness or least sense of social responsibility will win out because they will be more aggressive in taking "free" items from the distribution centers. Since there is no requirement of work the "free riders" who do no work will burden the system to the point of collapse...Why, then, burden ourselves with the risky system of moneyless "free access," with its huge dangers of being dragged down by parasitical free riders?" .

I have heard it argued that Parecon may be the transional stage towards "from each according to ability , to each according to need " and if "anonymous" is correct concerning the employement of computers then Parecon can fight it out with the Labour-Time Vouchers which also has been criticised for being impossible to deduce due to the complexity of calculating labour hours as the half-way house . For Free Access Socialists and Anarcho-Communists we will continue to struggle to create a structured society where people have accepted socially mutual obligations and the realization of universal interdependency and we understand that decisions arising from this would profoundly affect people’s choices, perceptions, conceptualizations, attitudes, and greatly influence their behavior, economically or otherwise.

Most of the this can be found at the following link [ ]


ajohnstone said...

A useful quote by Marx

Secondly, after the abolition of the capitalist mode of production, but still retaining social production, the determination of value continues to prevail in the sense that the regulation of labour-time and the distribution of social labour among the various production groups, ultimately the book-keeping encompassing all this, become more essential than ever.

Anonymous said...

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