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Forget the Devil wears prada - Debbie Stoller hasn't got taste enough to buy prada. She calls herself a feminist?????? What crap! What feminist borrows everyones ideas craftsters or people in general.? I know everyone in publishing does it,but come on.

I loved this magazine because I thought that the idea was coming from an indie mag. Meanwhile the Editor in Chief is picking on a small business. Maybe she'll give them credit. Don't pay no way then she takes Sew Fast Sew Easy's idea for her books and the stupid bitch doesn't even check to see if its trademarked.

Then she files two applications for trademarks - gets refused and then smacks it to them. Uhhh! Miss Debbie hits SFSE with a petition to take their trademark. SHe thinks everything is hers. She wants it even if she's the bully devil.

Take it first hand from an intern who watched her at it every day. You are being lead down the stoller road to HELL! Boycott BUST! By JANE or other magazines that do good with their money!!!!!!
bgb, shhhhhhh, the adults are talking.
"The adults are talking" Bwahahahahahha GGG!!!!
Why Leftists Mistrust Liberals
by Robert Jensen

April 29, 2006

Some of my best friends are liberals. Really. But I have found it is best not to rely on them politically.

Bashing the left to burnish credibility in mainstream circles is a time-honored liberal move, a way of saying “I’m critical of the excesses of the powerful, but not like those crazy lefties.” For example, during a discussion of post-9/11 politics, I once heard then-New York University professor (he has since moved to Columbia University) Todd Gitlin position himself between the “hard right” (such as people associated with the Bush administration) and the “hard left” (such as Noam Chomsky and other radical critics), implying an equivalence in the coherence or value of analysis of each side. The only conclusion I could reach was that Gitlin -- who is both a prolific scholar and a former president of Students for a Democratic Society -- either believed such a claim about equivalence or said it for self-interested political purposes. Neither interpretation is terribly flattering for Gitlin.

Perhaps more important than such cases are the ways in which liberals can undermine the left even when claiming to be supportive in a common cause.

The most recent example in my life came when a faculty colleague at the University of Texas wrote about the controversy sparked by the publication of David Horowitz’s tract about the alleged threat radicals pose to universities, The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. The thesis of UT classics professor Tom Palaima’s op/ed piece in the Austin daily paper was that people typically don’t give students enough credit for their ability to evaluate critically the statements of faculty members. Palaima discussed me by name in his piece, believing he was coming to the defense of faculty with dissident views who are being attacked by Horowitz.

I saw it differently. My concern about this isn’t personal; Palaima’s piece and Horowitz’s book have had no effect on my professional life. But these attacks and our responses to them have serious political and intellectual consequences more generally.

First, some definitional work: In the contemporary United States, I use the term “left” or “radical” to identify a political position that is anti-capitalist and anti-empire. Leftists fight attempts to naturalize capitalism, rejecting the assertion that such a brutal way to organize an economy is inevitable. Leftists also reject the idea that the United States has the right to dominate the world, refuting the assertion that we are uniquely benevolent in our imperial project. Liberals typically decry the worst excesses of capitalism and empire, but don’t critique the system at a more basic level.

Palaima’s op/ed piece started by stating, “Jensen’s classes have a political content” and that this led to a conservative student group putting me on a “watch list” of professors who inappropriately politicize the classroom. I teach about journalism and politics; of course my courses have political content, as does every course that deals with human affairs. The political views of professors -- left, right or center -- shape their courses in some ways. But by marking me as political, Palaima’s essay implies others are not, or at least not political as my class (and, by extension, the classes of other leftist professors).

Palaima goes on to refer to my “radical opinions,” suggesting students are free to accept or reject them, and are capable of doing so. I agree that students have, and exercise, that capacity. But by labeling my teaching as the expression of opinions, he adds to the perception that I, or any leftist, turn the classroom into a political pulpit. While my opinions shape my teaching -- just as Palaima’s and all professors’ opinions do, of course -- I don’t simply teach my opinions. I teach a mix of facts, analysis, and interpretation. When I offer students my own analysis and interpretation, I support it with evidence and logic.

Remember that Horowitz’s claim is not just that some of us have left-wing political views but that we inappropriately politicize the classroom. Though Palaima doesn’t explicitly endorse that charge, his defense of me seems to concede that point, as he goes on to defend my teaching on the basis that there is a diversity of views on campus. Yet no one -- the conservative student group that targeted leftist professors, Horowitz, or Palaima -- has ever offered evidence for the claim that I am inappropriate in the classroom. I have always invited anyone who wants to make such a claim to come watch me teach; I am confident I can defend my teaching methods.

Finally, near the end of his column, Palaima refers to “political extremists, on the left and the right” in a way that could easily lead readers to assume that he believes that “extremist” is an appropriate description of me. Given that is a term typically used in public discourse for violent factions (such as terrorists) or groups with ideas outside acceptable discourse (such as neo-Nazis), such casual use of it is irresponsible, further marking me as someone who need not be taken seriously.

When I raised these issues with Palaima, I made it clear I didn’t feel personally aggrieved but thought our disagreements mattered if faculty members are to make a principled defense of the university as a place where independent critical inquiry is valued. He contested my reading and said he hadn’t intended people to read the column the way I suggested they might.

Readers can judge for themselves (the op/ed is online at ), but I think the most likely reading of the piece -- given that many people’s existing ideas about leftists and universities are negative -- is something like this: “Jensen is a radical who injects his politics into the classroom, but we shouldn’t worry too much about it because students can manage to see through it, and besides other professors are teaching from a different perspective. And oh, by the way, there are lots of sensible professors with less extreme ideas, such as …”

My response here could be seen as taking on the wrong target. Should I not be critiquing Horowitz before Palaima? Well, I have written such a critique and debated Horowitz on radio and TV ( and But just as important: In a political moment in which virtually every major institution in the country is dominated not just by conservatives but by reactionary right-wing ideologues, it’s easy to assume that liberals and leftists should find common cause. Those of us committed to left politics need to evaluate such cooperation on a case-by-case basis rather than assume it is always the best path, for several reasons.

First, in the short-term in this country it is difficult to see possibilities for serious progressive political change. That’s not defeatist but merely realistic. In such a period, when no mass movement is likely to emerge, one important political task is to consolidate a base of activists with common values and deeper commitments. In such a process, making the distinctions between liberal and left is crucial to the project of building a core radical contingent that can be politically effective in the future.

Second, when leftists and liberals form least-common-denominator coalitions, liberal positions dominate. There’s no history of liberals moving to include left political ideas when right-wing forces are chased from power. Think Bill Clinton, here.

That said, we in left/radical movements have made more than our share of mistakes. It’s time for a period of serious critical self-reflection about our analysis and organizing strategies. That process is not going to be advanced by ignoring the differences we have with liberals. We need to be clearer than ever about those differences in thinking about the long term.

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center He is the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (both from City Lights Books). He can be reached at .
Arundhati Roy on India, Iraq, U.S. Empire and Dissent

AMY GOODMAN: Today, we spend the hour with acclaimed author and activist Arundhati Roy. Her first novel, The God of Small Things, was awarded the Booker Prize in 1997. It’s sold over six million copies, has been translated in over 20 languages around the world. Since then, Roy has devoted herself to political writing and activism. In India, she is involved in the movement opposing hydroelectric dam projects that have displaced thousands of people. In 2002, she was convicted of contempt of court in New Delhi for accusing the court of attempting to silence protest against the Narmada Dam project. She received a symbolic one-day prison sentence. She has also been a vocal opponent of the Indian government's nuclear weapons program, as she is of all nuclear programs around the world. Arundhati Roy has also become known across the globe for her powerful political essays in books like Power Politics, War Talk, The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile, and her latest, An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire. In June of 2005, she served as chair of the Jury of Conscience at the World Tribunal on Iraq in Istanbul. She joins us today in our Firehouse studio for the hour here in New York. Welcome to Democracy Now!

ARUNDHATI ROY: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. What does it feel to be back in the United States? A different perspective on the world from here.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I think the last time I was here was just before the elections, you know, when we were hoping that Bush wouldn't come back. But the point was that whoever came back seemed to have been supporting the war in Iraq in some way, so there was a crisis of democracy here, as much as anywhere else in the world. It's, I think, you know, when you don't come to the United States often, from the outside, the most important thing is that it's easy to forget. It's easy for us to forget that there is dissent within this country against the system that its government stands for. And it's important and heartening for me to remind myself of that, because outside there is so much anger against America, and obviously, you know, that confusion between people and governments exists, and it was enhanced when Bush was voted back to power. People started saying, “Is there a difference?”

AMY GOODMAN: Well, of course, the way you see America and Americans outside the United States is through the media, as projected through. Which channels do you access in India? What do you get to see? And what do you think of how the media deals with these issues?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, in India, I think you get FOX News and CNN and, of course, the BBC. But also a lot of newspapers in India do publish American columnists, famously Thomas Friedman. And, of course, recently George Bush visited India, which was a humiliating and very funny episode at the same time, you know, what happened to him there and how he came and how the media reacted.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to get your reaction to that visit, and actually first, though, play a clip of President Bush when he went to India in March. He promised to increase economic integration with the U.S. and signed an agreement to foster nuclear cooperation between the two countries.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We concluded an historic agreement today on nuclear power. It's not an easy job for the Prime Minister to achieve this agreement. I understand. It's not easy for the American president to achieve this agreement, but it's a necessary agreement. It's one that will help both our peoples.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush in India.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, the strange thing was that before he came, they wanted him to address a joint house of Parliament, but some members of Parliament said that they would heckle him and that it would be embarrassing for him to come there. So then they thought they would ask him to address a public meeting at the Red Fort, which is in Old Delhi, which is where the Prime Minister of India always gives his independence day speech from, but that was considered unsafe, because Old Delhi is full of Muslims, and you know how they think of all Muslims as terrorists. So then they thought, “Okay, we’ll do it in Vigyan Bhawan, which is a sort of state auditorium, but that was considered too much of a comedown for the U.S. President. So funnily enough, they eventually settled on him speaking in Purana Qila, which is the Old Fort, which houses the Delhi zoo. And it was really from there that -- and, of course, it wasn't a public meeting. It was the caged animals and some caged CEOs that he addressed. And then he went to Hyderabad, and I think he met a buffalo there, some special kind of buffalo, because there is a picture of Bush and the buffalo in all the papers, but the point is that, insulated from the public.

There were massive demonstrations, where hundreds of thousands of people showed up. But it didn't seem to matter either to Bush or to the Indian government, which went ahead and signed, you know, deals where this kind of embrace between a poorer country or a developing country and America. We have such a litany of the history of incineration when you embrace the government of the United States. And that's what happened, that the Indian government, in full servile mode, has entered into this embrace, has negotiated itself into a corner, and now continues to do this deadly sort of dance.

But I must say that while Bush was in Delhi, at the same time on the streets were -- I mean apart from the protests, there were 60 widows that had come from Kerala, which is the south of India, which is where I come from, and they had come to Delhi because they were 60 out of the tens of thousands of widows of farmers who have committed suicide, because they have been encircled by debt. And this is a fact that is simply not reported, partly because there are no official figures, partly because the Indian government quibbles about what constitutes suicide and what is a farmer. If a man commits suicide, but the land is in his old father's name, he doesn't count. If it's a woman, she doesn't count, because women can't be farmers.

AMY GOODMAN: So she counts as someone who committed suicide, but not as a farmer who committed suicide.


AMY GOODMAN: Tens of thousands?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Tens of thousands. And then, anyway, so these 60 women were there on the street asking the Indian government to write off the debts of their husbands, right? Across the street from them, in a five-star hotel were Bush's 16 sniffer dogs who were staying in this five-star hotel, and we were all told that you can't call them dogs, because they are actually officers of the American Army, you know. I don't know what the names were. Sergeant Pepper and Corporal Whatever. So, it wasn't even possible to be satirical or write black comedy, because it was all real.

AMY GOODMAN: Didn't President Bush visit Gandhi's grave?

ARUNDHATI ROY: He visited Gandhi's grave, and first his dogs visited Gandhi’s grave. Then, you know, Gandhians were, like, wanting to purify it. And I said, “Look, I don't mind the dogs. I mind Bush much than the dogs.” But Gandhi’s -- you know, obviously one can have all kinds of opinions about Gandhi. It's not universal that everybody adores and loves him, but still he stood for nonviolence, and here it was really the equivalent of a butcher coming and tipping a pot of blood on that memorial and going away. It was -- you know, there was no room left, as I said, for satire or for anything, because it was so vulgar, the whole of it. But I have to say the Indian mainstream media was so servile. You know, you had a newspaper like the Indian Express saying, “He is here, and he has spoken.” I'm sure he doesn't get worshipped that much even by the American mainstream press, you know. It was extraordinary.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me play another clip of President Bush. I think in this one he’s talking about trade in India.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The markets are open, and the poor are given a chance to develop their talents and abilities. They can create a better life for their families. They add to the wealth of the world, and they could begin to afford goods and services from other nations. Free and fair trade is good for India. It’s good for America. And it is good for the world.

In my country, some focus only on one aspect of our trade relationship with India: outsourcing. It's true that some Americans have lost jobs when their companies move operations overseas. It's also important to remember that when someone loses a job, it's an incredibly difficult period for the worker and their families. Some people believe the answer to this problem is to wall off our economy from the world through protectionist policies. I strongly disagree.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush speaking in India. Arundhati Roy, your response?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, look, let's not forget that this whole call to the free market started in the late 19th century in India. You know, that was what colonialism was all about. They kept using the words “free market.” And we know how free the free market is. Today, India has -- I mean, after 15 years of economic liberalization, we have more than half of the world's malnutritioned children. We have an economy where the differences between the rich and the poor, which have always been huge, has increased enormously. We have a feudal society whose feudalism has just been reinforced by all of this.

And, you know, it's amazing. Just in the wake of Bush's visit, you can't imagine what's happening, say, in a city like Delhi. You can't imagine the open aggression of institutions of our democracy. It's really like courts, for instance, who are an old enemy of mine, are rolling up their sleeves and coming after us. You have in Delhi, for example -- I have just come from being on the streets for six weeks, where all kinds of protest are taking place. But you have a city that's been just -- it's just turned into a city of bulldozers and policemen. Overnight, notices go up saying tomorrow or day after tomorrow you're going to be evicted from here. The Supreme Court judges have come out saying things like, “If the poor can't afford to live in the city, why do they come here?”

And basically, behind it all, there are two facades. One is that in 2008, Delhi is going to host the Commonwealth Games. For this, hundreds of thousands of people are being driven out of the city. But the real agenda came in the wake of Bush's visit, which is that the city is being prepared for foreign direct investment in retail, which means Wal-Mart and Kmart and all these people are going to come in, which means that this city of millions of pavement dwellers, hawkers, fruit sellers, people who have -- it's a city that's grown up over centuries and centuries. It's just being cleaned out under the guise of sort of legal action. And at the same time, people from villages are being driven out of their villages, because of the corporatization of agriculture, because of these big development projects.

So you have an institution like -- you know, I mean, how do you subvert democracy? We have a parliament, sure. We have elections, sure. But we have a supreme court now that micromanages our lives. It takes every decision: What should be in history books? Should this lamb be cured? Should this road be widened? What gas should we use? Every single decision is now taken by a court. You can't criticize the court. If you do, you will go to jail, like I did. So, you have judges who are -- you have to read those judgments to believe it, you know? Public interest litigation has become a weapon that judges use against us.

So, for example, a former chief justice of India, he gave a decision allowing the Narmada Dam to be built, where 400,000 people will be displaced. The same judge gave a judgment saying slum dwellers are pickpockets of urban land. So you displace people from the villages; they come into the cities; you call them pickpockets. He gave a judgment shutting down all kinds of informal industry in Delhi. Than he gave a judgment asking for all India's rivers to be linked, which is a Stalinist scheme beyond imagination, where millions of people will be displaced. And when he retired, he joined Coca-Cola. You know, it's incredible.

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy is our guest for the hour. We’ll be back with her in a minute.

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest today for the hour is Arundhati Roy. She just recently flew in from New Delhi, India. She is the author of a number of books, her Booker Prize award-winning book, The God of Small Things, and then her books of essays, The Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire, The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile among them. Arundhati, you were just talking about what is happening in India. Thomas Friedman, the well-known, much-read New York Times columnist and author, talks about the call center being a perfect symbol of globalization in a very positive sense.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Yes, it is the perfect symbol, I think, in many ways. I wish Friedman would spend some time working in one. But I think it's a very interesting issue, the call center, because, you know, let's not get into the psychosis that takes place inside a call center, the fact that you have people working, you know, according to a different body clock and all that and the languages and the fact that you have to de-identify yourself.

AMY GOODMAN: And just for people who aren't familiar with what we're talking about, the call center being places where, well, you might make a call to information or to some corporation, you actually are making that call to India, and someone in a call center is picking it up.

ARUNDHATI ROY: But, you know, the thing is that it's a good example of what's going on. The call center is surely creating jobs for a whole lot of people in India. But it comes as part of a package, and that package, while it gives sort of an English-speaking middle or lower middle class young person a job for a while, they can never last, because it's such a hard job. It actually is also part of the corporate culture, which is taking away land and resources and water from millions of rural people. But you're giving the more vocal and the better off anyway -- the people who speak even a little bit of English are the better off among the millions of people in India. So, to give these people jobs, you're taking away the livelihoods of millions of others, and this is what globalization does.

It creates -- obviously it creates a very vocal constituency that supports it, among the elite of poor countries. And so you have in India an elite, an upper caste, upper class wealthy elite who are fiercely loyal to the neoliberal program. And that's exactly, obviously, what colonialism has always done, and it's exactly what happened in countries in Latin America. But now it's happening in India, and the rhetoric of democracies in place, because they have learned how to hollow out democracy and make it lose meaning. All it means, it seems, is elections, where whoever you vote for, they are going to do the same thing.

AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned the dams, and a judge just in the last week has ruled that one of the major dam projects is allowed to continue. Just physically on the ground, what does it mean, and who are the people who are resisting, and what do they do?

ARUNDHATI ROY: I mean, that actually is something that reached fever pitch in the last few weeks in India, because, you know, the movement against dams is actually a very beautiful political argument, because it combines environmental issues, issues of water, of resources and of displacement, with a political vision for a new kind of society. No political ideology, classic political ideology has really done that properly. Either it's only environmental or it's only about people. Here somehow, that's why I got so drawn into it. But this struggle was against the notion of big dams, and it's been a nonviolent struggle for 25 years.

But now, the dams are still being built, and the argument has been reduced merely to displacement. And even there, the courts are now saying you build a dam and just give people cash and send them off. But the fact is that these are indigenous people. You know, you can't just give -- lots of them are indigenous people. The others are farmers. But you can't -- the levels of displacement are so huge. This dam, the Sardar Sarovar dam displaces 400,000, but just in the Narmada Valley you're talking about millions of people. All over India, you’re talking about many millions who are being displaced. So where are they going to go? Well, the court came out with a judgment with marked a different era in India, where they even stopped pretending that they were interested in resettlement or rehabilitation. They just said, “Build the dam.” So it's very interesting that people were watching this nonviolent movement unfold its weapons on the streets, which is the activists who went on indefinite hunger strike. People paid attention, but then they got kicked in the teeth.

Meanwhile, across India, from West Bengal to Orissa, to Jharkhand, to Chhattisgarh, to Andhra Pradesh, the Maoist movement has become very, very strong. It's an armed struggle. It's taking over district after district. The administration cannot get in there. And the government's response to that is to do what was done in Peru with the Shining Path, which is to set up armed defense committees, which is really creating a situation of civil war. You know, hundreds of villages are being emptied by the government, and the people are being moved into police camps. People are being armed. The Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh says, “You’re either with the Maoists and Naxalites or you’re with the Salva Judum,” which is this government-sponsored resistance, and there’s no third choice. So it’s you’re with us or against us.

And what has happened, which is something I have been saying for a long time, that this whole war on terror and the legislation that has come up around it is going to conflate terrorists with poor people. And that's what's happened. In India, in January -- I don't know if you’ve read about it, but it was a terrible thing that happened -- in Orissa, which is a state where all these corporations have their greedy eyes fixed, because they have just discovered huge deposits of bauxite, which you need to make aluminum, which you need to make weapons and planes.

AMY GOODMAN: And where is Orissa in India?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Orissa is sort of east, southeast. And it's got a huge indigenous population. If you go there, it's like a police state. You know, the police have surrounded villages. You can't move from one -- villagers are not allowed to move from one village to another to organize, because, of course, there’s a lot of resistance. The Maoists have come in. And in Orissa in a place called Kalinganagar, where the Tata, which used to be a sort of respected industrialist, but now I can't say, are setting up a steel factory. So they, the government, took over the lands of indigenous people. The trick is that you only say about 20% of them are project-affected. The rest are all encroachers. Even these 20% are given -- their land is taken from them at, say, 35,000 rupees an acre, given to the Tatas for three-and-a-half lakhs, you know, which is ten times that amount. And the actual market price is four times that amount. So you steal from the poor; you subsidize the rich; then you call it the “free market.”

And when they protested, there was dynamite, you know, in the ground. Some of them were blown up, killed. Six of them, I think, were injured, taken to hospital, and their bodies were returned with their hands and breasts and things cut off. And those people have been blocking the highway now for six months, the indigenous people, because it became a big issue in India. But it’s been happening everywhere, and they are all called terrorists. You know, people with bows and arrows are called terrorists.

So, in India, the poor are the terrorists, and even states like Andhra Pradesh, we have thousands of people being held as political prisoners, called Maoists, held as political prisoners in unknown places without charges or with false charges. We have the highest number of custodial deaths in the world. And we have Thomas Friedman going on and on about how this is an idealistic -- ideal society, a tolerant society. Hundreds -- I mean, tens of thousands of people killed in Kashmir. All over the northeast, you have the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, where a junior noncommissioned officer can shoot at sight. And that is the democracy in which we live.

AMY GOODMAN: And the Maoists, what are their demands?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, the Maoists are fighting on two fronts. One is that they are fighting a feudal society, their feudal landlords. You have, you know, the whole caste system which is arranged against the indigenous people and the Dalits, who are the untouchable caste. And they are fighting against this whole corporatization. But they are also very poor people, you know, barefoot with old rusty weapons. And, you know, what we -- say someone like myself, watching what is happening in Kashmir, where -- or in the northeast, where exactly what America is doing in Iraq, you know, where you're fostering a kind of civil war and then saying, “Oh, if we pull out, these people just will massacre each other.”

But the longer you stay, the more you're enforcing these tribal differences and creating a resistance, which obviously, on the one hand, someone like me does support; on the other hand, you support the resistance, but you may not support the vision that they are fighting for. And I keep saying, you know, I'm doomed to fight on the side of people that have no space for me in their social imagination, and I would probably be the first person that was strung up if they won. But the point is that they are the ones that are resisting on the ground, and they have to be supported, because what is happening is unbelievable.

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of Iraq, let me play a clip of President Bush in Chicago Monday, where he addressed a gathering organized by the National Restaurant Association. In his remarks, the President talked about Iraq, which has just formed a new unity government.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: For most Iraqis, a free democratic and constitutional government will be a new experience. For the people across the broader Middle East, a free Iraq will be an inspiration. Iraqis have done more than form a government. They have proved that the desire for liberty in the heart of the Middle East is for real. They have shown diverse people can come together and work out their differences and find a way forward, and they have demonstrated that democracy is the hope of the Middle East and the destiny of all mankind.

The triumph of liberty in Iraq is part of a long and familiar story. The great biographer of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, wrote, “Freedom is ordinarily born in the midst of storms. It is established painfully among civil discords, and only when it is old can one know its benefits.” Years from now, people will look back on the formation of a unity government in Iraq as a decisive moment in the story of liberty, a moment when freedom gained a firm foothold in the Middle East and the forces of terror began their long retreat.

AMY GOODMAN: President Bush in Chicago. Arundhati Roy from India here in New York, your response?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, you know, how can one respond? I just keep wishing there would be a laugh track, you know, on the side of these speeches. But obviously, you know, the elections in Palestine, where you had a democratic government, now Palestine is being starved because they have a democracy, under siege because they have a democracy. But in Iraq, this fake business is called democracy. Forget about what's happening in Saudi Arabia.

So it's just -- you know, I think the issue is that people like President Bush and his advisors, or what's happening in India, the Indian government, they have understood that you can use the media to say anything from minute to minute. It doesn't matter what's really going on. It doesn't matter what happened in the past. There are a few people who make the connections and fall about laughing at the nonsense that is being spoken. But for everybody else, I think the media itself, this mass media has become a means of telling the most unbelievable lies or making the most unbelievable statements. And everybody sort of just imbibes it. It's like a drug, you know, that you put straight into your veins. It doesn't matter. And it keeps going. But what can you say? What kind of democracy is this in Iraq?

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think has to happen in Iraq?

ARUNDHATI ROY: I think that the first thing that has to happen is that the American army should leave. That has to happen. I have no doubt about that. Similarly, I mean, I keep saying this, but, you know, America, Israel and India, and China in Tibet, are now becoming experts in occupation, and India is one of the leading experts. It's not that the American army in its training exercise is teaching the Indian army. The Indians are teaching the Americans, too, how to occupy a place. What do you do with the media? How do you deal with it? The occupation of Kashmir has taken place over years. And I keep saying that in Iraq, you have 125,000 or so American troops in a situation of war, controlling 25 million Iraqis. In Kashmir, you have 700,000 Indian troops fully armed there -- you know? -- and creating a situation, making it worse and worse and worse. So the first thing that has to happen is that the army has to come out, you know?

AMY GOODMAN: We're speaking to Arundhati Roy, who has spent time in Kashmir, lives in Delhi, the acclaimed author and activist. We'll continue with her after this break.

AMY GOODMAN: In June of 2005, World Tribunal on Iraq was held in Istanbul, Turkey. A 17-member Jury of Conscience at the tribunal heard testimonies from a panel of advocates and witnesses who came from across the world. Arundhati Roy was selected as the chair of that jury. She is in our studio today. But let's watch her in Istanbul. Hear what she has to say.

ARUNDHATI ROY: To ask us why we are doing this, you know, why is there a World Tribunal on Iraq, is like asking, you know, someone who stops at the site of an accident where people are dying on the road, “Why did you stop? Why didn't you keep walking like everybody else?”

While I listened to the testimonies yesterday, especially, I must say that I didn't know -- I mean, not that one has to choose, but still, you know, I didn't know what was more chilling, you know, the testimonies of those who came from Iraq with the stories of the blood and the destruction and the brutality and the darkness of what was happening there or the stories of that cold, calculated world where the business contracts are being made, where the laws are being rewritten, where a country occupies another with no idea of how it's going to provide protection to people, but with such a sophisticated idea of how it's going to loot it of its resources. You know, the brutality or the contrast of those two things was so chilling.

There were times when I felt, I wish I wasn't on the jury, because I want to say things. You know? I mean, I think that is the nature of this tribunal, that, in a way, one wants to be everything. You want to be on the jury, you want to be on the other side, you want to say things. And I particularly wanted to talk a lot about -- which I won't do now, so don't worry, but I wanted to talk a lot about my own, you know, now several years of experience with issues of resistance, strategies of resistance, the fact that we actually tend to reach for easy justifications of violence and non-violence, easy and not really very accurate historical examples. These are things we should worry about.

But at the end of it, today we do seem to live in a world where the United States of America has defined an enemy combatant, someone whom they can kidnap from any country, from anyplace in the world and take for trial to America. An enemy combatant seems to be anybody who harbors thoughts of resistance. Well, if this is the definition, then I, for one, am an enemy combatant.

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy speaking at the World Tribunal on Iraq, head of the jury there, the Jury of Conscience in June of 2005. Your thoughts almost a year later right now, Arundhati Roy, as enemy combatant?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Yes, I guess, you know, I think one of the things that I worry about is that there is a way in which, say, somebody like me can also be used by the other side. You know, I know -- I'm very aware of the fact that in India, you know, they kind of leak the political meaning out of things, and they say, “Oh, we have this great batsman, cricket batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, and we have Miss Universe, Aishwarya Rai, and we have this writer Arundhati Roy.” And, you know, everything is telescoped as a kind of “Look at all the things that we have on display,” and “We are a democracy, so we allow her to say these things, you know, and go on with it.” And yet these democracies have learned to just stare things down, you know? So even in America, eventually all of us who are protesting or writing or whatever, we can be commodified. You know, it can just turn into something that we're doing, and yet they carry on what they're doing. We carry on doing what we’re doing. But ultimately, people are being displaced. Countries are being occupied. People are being killed. Laws are being changed. And the status quo is on their side, not on our side. You know, so I worry about that a lot, you know?

AMY GOODMAN: I remember when you were last here, you were headed off to an interview with Charlie Rose. And so I looked to see you on Charlie Rose, and I waited and I waited, and I never saw you. What happened?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Oh, it was interesting. He -- well, when the interview began, I realized that the plan was to do this really aggressive interview with me, and so the first question he asked was, “Tell me, Arundhati, do you think that India should have nuclear weapons?” So I said, “I don't think India should have nuclear weapons. I don't think the U.S. should have nuclear weapons. I don't think Israel should have nuclear weapons. I don't think anyone should have nuclear weapons. It's something that I have written a lot about.” He said, “I asked you whether India should have nuclear weapons.” So I said, “Well, I don't think India should have nuclear weapons. I don't think the U.S. should have nuclear weapons. I don't think Israel should have nuclear weapons.” Then he said, “Will you answer my question? Should India have nuclear weapons?” So I said, “I don't think India should have nuclear weapons. I don't think the U.S. should have nuclear weapons. I don't think Israel should have nuclear weapons.” And I asked him, I said, “What is this about? Why are you being so aggressive? I have answered the question, you know, clearly. And I think I made my position extremely clear. I'm not some strategic thinker. I'm telling you what I believe.” So after that it just sort of collapsed into vague questions about world poverty and so on, and it was never shown. I mean, I wouldn’t have shown it if I were him either, but -- because it was, you know, I don't know, treating me like I'm some kind of politician or something.

AMY GOODMAN: Has he invited you back on in this new trip that you have had?

ARUNDHATI ROY: No more, no, no. I don't think.

AMY GOODMAN: Have you found that through your celebrity, through your writing, that you’re invited into forums, into various places where when you talk about what you think, you're then shut down?

ARUNDHATI ROY: No. I think what happens is that -- well, I don't come to, you know, the U.S. that often, and like, for instance, this time I came to do an event with Eduardo Galeano, but I really wasn’t -- I didn't want to do any -- except for this, I made it clear that I didn't want to be working on this trip, because I want to think about some things. But I think it's the opposite problem that I have. I think that there are many ways of shutting people down, and one is to increase the burners on this celebrity thing until you become so celebrity that all you are is celebrity.

For example, I’ll give you a wonderful example of how it works, say, in India. I was at a meeting in Delhi a few months ago, the Association of Parents for Disappeared People. Now, women had come down from Kashmir. There are 10,000 or so disappeared people in Kashmir, which nobody talks about in the mainstream media at all. Here were these women whose mothers or brothers or sons or husbands had -- I'm sorry, not mothers, but whatever -- all these people who were speaking of their personal experiences, and there were other speakers, and there was me. And the next day in this more-or-less rightwing paper called Indian Express, there was a big picture of me, really close so that you couldn't see the context. You couldn’t see who had organized the meeting or what it was about, nothing. And underneath it said, "Arundhati Roy at the International Day of the Disappeared." So, you have the news, but it says nothing, you know? That's the kind of thing that can happen.

Actually, I'm somebody who is invited to mainstream forums, and I'm not shunned out. You know, I can say what I have to say. But the point is, Amy, that there is a delicate line between just being so far -- you know, just being so isolated that you become the spokesperson for everything, and this kind of person that it suits them to have one person who’s saying something and listen to it and ignore what is being said, and I don't want to move so far away from everybody else, that if you want to listen to me, then why don't you listen to so and so? Why don't you speak to so and so? Why don't you get some other voices, because otherwise it sounds like you're this lone brave, amazing person, which is unpolitical.

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, I'm just looking at a KMS newswire story -- that’s Kashmir Media Service -- May 23, just after you spoke here in New York. It says, “A human rights activist and prominent Indian writer, Arundhati Roy, has said India is not a democratic state. The 1997 Booker winner, Arundhati Roy, addressing a book-reading function in New York, said India is not a democratic society.” Can you talk about that idea?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I do think that we are really suffering a crisis of democracy, you know? And the simplest way I can explain it is that in 2004, when the general elections took place in India, we were reeling from five years of rightwing communal BJP politics, the rightwing Hindu party.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you make any parallels to political parties in the United States?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Very, very much so. I mean, it was very similar to the Republicans versus the Democrats, and in fact --

AMY GOODMAN: The Congress Party being the Democrats.

ARUNDHATI ROY: The Congress Party being the Democrats, and the Republicans being the rightwing Hindu BJP. And, of course, in a country -- like in America, their politics, apart from affecting Americans to a great deal, also affects the rest of the world. But in India, India not being a world power, however much it wants to claim it is, turns those energies on its own people. So in Gujarat, you had in 2002 this mass killing of Muslims on the streets, a bloodbath where people were burnt alive, women were raped on the streets, dismembered, killed in full public view.

What happened after that, there were elections, and the man who engineered all this won the elections. So you're thinking, “Is it better to have a fascist dictator or a fascist Democrat who has the approbation of all these people?” Continues to be in power in Gujarat. Nothing has happened. It's a Nazi type of society, where hundreds of thousands of people are still economically boycotted Muslims, something like 100,000 driven from their homes. Police won't register cases. One or two important cases are looked at by the Supreme Court, but the mass of it is still completely unresolved. That's the situation, anyway, and while you're orchestrating this communal killing, you're also selling off to Enron and to all these private companies, and so on the one hand you’re talking about Indian-ness and all this, and this nationalism in this absurd way, and on the other, you're just selling it off in bulk.

But during the elections, all of us were waiting with bated breath to see what would happen. And when the Congress came to power, supported by the left parties from the outside, obviously we allowed ourselves a huge gasp of relief, you know, walked on our hands in front of the TV for a bit. But the Congress campaigned against the neoliberal policies that it had brought in, actually.

But before even we knew whether Sonia Gandhi was going to be the prime minister or what was going to happen, there was an orchestrated drop in the stock market. The media's own stocks began to drop. The cameras that had been in all these villages, saying look at this wonderful democracy, and the camels and the bullock carts and everyone that's coming to vote was outside the stock market now. And before the government was formed, both from the left and from the Congress, spokesmen had to come out and say, “We will not dismantle this neoliberal regime.” And today we have a prime minister who has not been elected. He is a technocrat who has been nominated. He is part of the Washington Consensus.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask in our last 30 seconds: the role you see of the artist in a time of war?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I think the problem is that artists are not a homogenous lot of people, and some of them are as rightwing and establishment as they can get, you know, so the role of the artist is not different from the role of any human being. You pick your side, and then you fight, you know? But in a country like India, I'm not seeing that many radical positions taken by writers or poets or artists, you know? It's all the seduction of the market that has shut them up like a good medieval beheading never could.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think artists should do?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Exactly what anyone else should do, which is to pick your side, take your position, and then go for it, you know?

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things, as well as a number of books of political essays, like An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire.
The Latest Confrontation Between the US Empire and Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez
Linking Post-Capitalist Alternatives
by Gregory Wilpert

May 28, 2006

Just as with the making of an invention, the building of a better society requires much trial and error and experimentation so as to come up with a working model. However, the search for a better model is aided by a good analysis and theory of society, just as the making of a new invention is aided by good natural science theories.

An integral analysis or theory of society of the sort I think we need to generate a full social vision will need to bring together not only means and end, but also all main spheres and dimensions of society and all realms of human experience (body, mind, and spirit). It will have to address key aspects of social experience such as political, economic, cultural, gender, communicational, artistic, and scientific spheres (to name some main ones). Second, so as to do justice to the age-long conflict between people-centered conceptions and social structure-based conceptions of society, it will need to focus on both types of conception and on the relation between actor and social structure. Third, it will need to be a historical approach that pays attention to the patterns of history and of social development.

Social Spheres

First, with regard to the different spheres of society that we should pay attention to, it will make sense, I believe, to make distinctions that are both logical and practical. For example, the most common distinction in social theory is one between the economic sphere and the political sphere. That is, it is generally accepted that while there are important links between these two spheres of society, they constitute distinct spheres (whose separation we can no doubt challenge and discuss). A third key sphere, which has only recently been recognized as one that needs special attention, is that of communication. Other important spheres include culture, households or gender relations, and, I would argue, the spheres of art and entertainment and that of science, and perhaps others. Clearly, there are strong linkages between all of these spheres, but we can make both logical and practical distinctions when it suits us, for the purpose of developing a clearer analysis of society and for creating a clearer vision of where we might want to go.

We can take this approach further, of course, looking at the spheres to see their functions and associated features as well as how they are entwined. The economy, for example, deals with how we relate to the world of produced objects or services, and how these are distributed. The political sphere is responsible for regulating how humans deal with each other as subjects, on the basis of established norms and rules. We can also sub-divide contemporary economies into the three sub-spheres, production, exchange, and technology, and contemporary polities into the three sub-spheres, of governance, law, and of civil society, and can do similarly for other key parts of social life, honing our view of components and interrelations.

In all parts of life, the consciousnesses in our heads determines how we, collectively, make sense of the world, and shapes how we act in the world. But the institutional structures around us delimit out consciousnesses, just as our consciousnesses in turn cause us to affect those structures. This relationship between consciousness/behavior and surrounding structure is always full of creativity and indeterminacy, but it is undeniably there with causality running in both directions, albeit sometimes more strongly one way or the other.

What this dialectic of structure and people also implies is that for each social sphere there two corresponding dimensions. The economy, the polity, and the spheres of communication, and gender, all have both an institutional framework of central structures and also a set of beliefs, habit, behaviors, of associated people. So to make (integral) sense of the social world, we need to pay attention to both what is in people heads and habits and the institutions that people operate within in all important spheres of social life.

The Evolution/Development of Society

Finally, I think a compelling and accurate view is going to realize that while history might often appear to be random and directionless, in the grand scheme of things, when seen over the course of millennia and not decades, history has moved in a clearly identifiable direction. While this directionality has not always been necessarily positive for human kind, there is certainly increasing complexity and increasing individual relative autonomy. This directionality claim might seem to be easily refutable, especially for leftists who celebrate the freedoms enjoyed by individuals who lived in "simpler" societies, such as Native American Indian tribes, for example. However, while it is conceivable that individuals in such small scale societies might have enjoyed more freedom from some modern forms economic or political oppression (although, this is clearly debatable), they did not have the kind of autonomy to act as individuals as people in modern societies do, in the sense of doing a wide variety of things that modern technology and modern civil rights enable us to do.

Spheres of social life can evolve, or more dramatically transform, and can also regress. One can impact others, pulling forward or backward, and vice versa. But the potential for improvement exists and a theory seeking to inform vision will in my view take seriously Marx's dictum that we should strive for a society, "in which the free development of each is a condition for the free development of all."

Creating freer and more even development across all spheres, dimensions, and social groups

One of the greatest problems of contemporary society, I would argue, is that the vast majority of the world's population does not enjoy the opportunity to develop freely and to thus find new solutions to their problems. Many different types of uneven (or lacking) social development or evolution lead not only to blockages of development for large segments of the world's population, preventing the free development of each and of all, but also imply limitations in freedom, equality, and social justice.

We can identify in each sphere of life some key beliefs, behaviors, and structures which are central to its definition, holding it together, delimiting its possibilities and features. To change a sphere, honing in on these is efficient. These defining features, ideas, behaviors, structures, are the pivot point, if we can find them, for effective change in each sphere.

If we hope to promote development in any given social sphere, we can either try to promote development in one dimension at a time and hope that the other dimension will be affected. For example, we can try to promote changes in structures and hope that mindsets will eventually change as well, or vice-versa. The history of social experiments, though, shows that changes in one dimension, whether behavior and consciousness or social structure, are all too often reversed if they are not paralleled by changes in the other social dimension. That is, if we work to change, for example, economic structures, by, let's say, introducing cooperative management, but do not ensure a corresponding change in how people understand economic management (and ownership), then usually the new economic structures quickly fall apart. Similarly, we might try to introduce a new understanding of environmental consciousness, but as long as there are economic structures in place that facilitate the externalization of costs, this consciousness will be rapidly undermined.

A parallel similar insight is that if we work for change in one sphere, even in both the mindsets and habits and the institutions, without, however, changing the other spheres, again we run risks, as history shows, that laggard parts of society will pull back those that we worked on. Let us now turn to how a transformation of key beliefs and behaviors in each of the main spheres can lead to wider social transformations.

Production sphere - property rights - cooperative

Capitalist production is organized under the principle of private ownership and private accumulation of profit. That's certainly at the core, even if not alone. This capitalist production sphere has become one of the main sources of unfreedom, social injustice, and uneven development. While states can occasionally correct for this, via state-directed redistribution efforts, nowadays these measures collapse increasingly, as the world becomes more globally integrated and it becomes ever more difficult for individual states to engage in activity that could frighten off potential private investors. This means that reform efforts that can transform the functioning of the production sphere are becoming increasingly less effective and that anyone who believes in liberty and social justice should look towards more transformative measures for addressing the uneven development capitalist production causes.

If we look at the property and management rights, we can see that a transformation in the conception of who may own and control productive property is crucial for the creation of greater social justice. That is, productive property rights would have to transform from a universal individual right to a right that inheres in the collective that is affected by that property's production.

To make such changes, it would help if there are any existing social trends that could be encouraged and which might develop organically out of existing social relations. How ready is contemporary society for such a transformation? Social change activists need to analyze and examine where existing trends can be encouraged and where social trends are working against the goal of creating a transformation in the production sphere. In this regard, it seems that there are indeed some strong social trends that appear to lead in the direction of a transformation of the production sphere. One such trend is the one for the increasing establishment of non-profit organizations. More and more institutions in the developed world are non-profit organizations, where ownership of the organization's production is organized on a collective principle for the furthering of the social good (which doesn't mean that they always fulfill this goal, but at least it is explicitly different from the goal of for-profit organizations). Similarly, the number of producer and consumer cooperatives has been increasing around the world. These trends could pave the way for changing the way productive property is conceived of as a whole.

Exchange Sphere - Money - Democratic and interest free

The second sphere, that of exchange, regulates how goods and services are exchanged and distributed. The problem with state regulation is generally widely recognized because it is believed that it contributed to the downfall of state socialism in Eastern Europe. At least, in an autocratic state of a highly complex society, it is impossible for a central state authority to know exactly where what goods and services are needed and how to set prices accordingly. There are too many incentives in such a system for information about the real needs of the population to be distorted and without good information it is impossible for a state to make good decisions.

The opposite approach, which is the predominant one, is to let markets, with the use of a central state-issued currency to determine prices, which, in turn, allow producers decide what and how much to produce. This system too suffers from serious problems, which, in the age of globalization, have recently become exacerbated.

The problems with markets include the tendency of markets to exacerbate inequality because the powerful are in a better position to take advantage of market situations than the weak and the tendency for markets to hide the real costs of production because often producers can "externalize" costs, such as via pollution or exploitation.

A visionary task for the economy includes figuring out what replaces private ownership and top down management, and what replaces authoritatively or competitively establishing allocation.

Key to the functioning of the exchange sphere is money. That is, a free market economy cannot function without money. Unfortunately, money, just as the private ownership of property in the production sphere, also contributes to increasing material inequality and thus to uneven or blocked development. Money does this by allowing owners of money to earn interest (and compound interest) on it, thereby allowing them to earn an income without having to lift a finger. The flip-side of interest is that it requires those without money to borrow it and to pay more for this money than they borrowed, thus reducing their income. In short, the dominant form of money (as we will see, there are other forms of money) increases inequality. Interest, however, is absolutely necessary in the current economic system because without it there would be no incentive for its owners to keep money in circulation and without the circulation of money, the economy would grind to a halt, since exchange without money, in our economic system, is practically impossible.

While the economic issues involving this sphere are too intricate to get into in a short paper, there is a fairly large literature that explores the ways in which the functioning and of money can be modified so that it actually contributes to social justice instead of injustice. Some of these projects are known as local currencies, complementary currencies, or local trade and exchange systems. There are hundreds of such projects around the world, but mostly in Europe, where the economics of a different type of money has been theorized far more than in the English-speaking world. (For an overview of some of this theory and its projects, see:

Techno-Sphere - useful knowledge - free

Technology is another crucial sub-sphere of the economic sphere. According to some social theorists, technology is the key driving force behind social transformations, responsible for the shift from hunter-gatherer to agricultural, to industrial, to informational society. It plays an important role not only in how we produce things, but also in how we exchange them and how we interact and communicate with each other, not only in the sense of making these interactions more efficient, but also introducing qualitative changes in them.

The key principle around which the technology sphere is organized is intellectual property rights. However, intellectual property rights, as they are currently formulated, represent a tremendous obstacle for the broader diffusion of the benefits of technology because only those who can pay for the license to use that property have access to it. Also, intellectual property contributes to the polarization of wealth between rich and poor. On the one hand such rights make sure that those with intellectual property become even wealthier than they already tend to be, while on the other hand they siphon off income and wealth from those who wish to gain access to this technology. The principle at work is somewhat similar to that with productive material property (such as factories), except that there is a crucial difference with intellectual property in that it can be duplicated or reproduced far easier than material property can.

A transformation of how we perceive and treat useful knowledge could thus lead to a significant transformation of the technology sphere itself. Instead of perceiving useful knowledge as something that can be owned and sold, it needs to be seen as something which anyone has the right to use, as a right of all humans. This does not mean abolishing all notions of authorship and giving credit to the original inventor or writer. However, what should change are the rights the original inventor or writer has over their intellectual work.

The trends towards free software, open source software, generic products in medicine, and royalty free music are all trends that move in the direction of transforming useful knowledge from a notion of individual property to one of human inheritance and free (as in unrestricted) access.

Governance sphere - legitimate power - subsidiary and participatory

We now move on to the first sub-sphere of politics, that of governance. This sub-sphere regulates who is allowed to govern over whom. The lynch pin modern governance is the claim that those who have been democratically chosen to govern have the right to do so, within the limitations set by law. While this particular form of legitimate power is a significant advance over earlier forms, such as power bestowed by tradition and notions of God and the natural order, the limitations of representative democratic legitimacy are increasingly being recognized.

There are at least three ways in which representative democracy has become increasingly corrupted. First, representatives, especially in the U.S., but also in most other countries, are very dependent on campaign fundraising to get elected, where they raise millions from elite circles and are thus beholden to those circles. While it is certainly possible for legislatures to change the campaign fundraising system, the incentives to do so go in the opposite direction. A second problem with representative democracy is that elected representatives tend to be far removed from the electorate and are thus easily influenced by corporate lobbyists who tend to pursue interests diametrically opposed to those of the electorate. The third corruption of representative democracy occurs via the influence of the private mass media, which promote discourses and politicians that favor the interests of the elite and of the business sector. Polls, for example, consistently show that citizens are to the left of their elected representatives on a wide variety of issues. One of the reasons for this is precisely the removal of decision-makers from those affected by the decisions. The result of this hijacking is, once again, an increase in power and wealth for the already powerful and a limiting of freedom and social justice for those with less power and wealth.

A transformation of what is considered legitimate power towards the idea that the exercise of power is legitimated more by direct democratic decision-making and democratic participation would help undermine some of the problems of representative democracy. Such a participatory form of legitimate power, in which ordinary citizens participate and have more decision-making power, depending on the degree to which they are affected by the issue, would help circumvent the influence of powerful private interests.

Already, around the world, there are trends that are moving in this direction. Perhaps one of the most effective has been in Kerala, India. Others include the participatory budgeting process in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and the community planning councils in Venezuela. These processes have transformed the meaning and practice of legitimate power out of the recognition of the limitations of the concept of representative democracy.

Legal sphere - law - relative universals

The second sub-sphere of the political sphere-that of the legal system-is often thought of more in terms of how the struggle for the actual application of the legal sphere as it is supposed to function, not leaving much room for thinking about how to transform the legal sphere beyond its current ideal. That is, the legal sphere, which is governed by (presumably) rational laws in contemporary society, represents an advance over previous systems, in which laws were based on tradition and an explicit formal inequality between different classes of people (serfs, citizens, nobility, royalty). However, in a society with plenty of material inequality (or, a lack of social justice), the application of universal law, that is, of formal equality, generally results in increasing material inequality. The principle is quite simple, just as when two sports teams play against each other, the universal application of the game's rules will assure that the stronger team wins. While this is the desired result in a sports game, in society it inevitably means more social injustice and less freedom for the less fortunate.

It is the recognition of this problem with universal law and formal equality that has led to affirmative action programs, in which those who are socially marginalized, such as women or ethnic or racial minorities receive preferential treatment in certain circumstances. In other words, the idea of universally applicable law needs to undergo a transformation towards a more relative universalism, in which the principle of social justice is raised to equal importance as the principles of formal equality and freedom.

One place where this has already happened in a very explicit form is Venezuela's 1999 constitution, which states that, "Venezuela constitutes itself as a democratic and social state of law and justice." (Article 2) This stands in strong contrast to most of the world's constitutions, which merely say that the state is ruled by [universal] law. In Venezuela, thus, the universal application of law must be measured against [social] justice. The implication is that applying law according to universalistic principles does not automatically lead to justice and that the two need to be balanced against each other for a better society to be possible.

Civil society sphere - solidarity - global

The core idea of the sphere of civil society is solidarity, which defines the boundaries of one's sympathy. While progressives generally believe that one’s sense of solidarity should extend beyond one's own gender, ethnic group, and country, it is often forgotten that many of one's fellow citizens do not necessarily feel this way. A civil society that feels solidarity only with its fellow citizens or only with its own ethnic group, will not be in a position to promote liberty, equality, and social justice for all, across the globe. Also, the preservation of the world's eco-sphere could require us to feel solidarity not only with humans, but with all life on earth.

Progressives thus need to recognize that civil society and the idea of solidarity must be expanded far beyond where it currently finds itself in most societies. Luckily, the emergence of a global civil society indicates (even if we do not agree with the goals of much of that civil society) that solidarity is in the process of extending beyond national borders.

Communication Sphere - message/language - peer-to-peer (P2P)

One of the most important spheres is that of communication. The underlying core feature organizing communication, at its most basic level, is language. Language is what enables us to formulate and make sense of messages and thus allows us to make sense of our world and to coordinate our actions in it. Something so fundamental as language, though, while evolving, changes very slowly and is thus perhaps not a focus for progressive social change except in a few limited areas (such as in the introduction of gender-neutral terms in many languages). More likely to bring about larger social change is the transformation of how messages function.

The form that messages take in contemporary society shapes the way we communicate and the kinds of meaning we make. That is, we are bombarded with messages from all sides all of the time and must constantly select which messages are important to us and are worth our attention. Generally, the messages that are considered most important in contemporary society are those that come from a central authority. For example, for decades, especially since the advent of broadcast mass media such as radio television, the most important messages came from central governments or powerful economic actors. Here one can clearly see the impact technology has on the form of communication, which for a long time favored centralized broadcasting (such as via radio or TV).

This type of centralized broadcasting plays into the hands of the powerful and helps maintain social injustice and thus unfreedom. Centralized broadcasters, which are almost always privately owned transnational corporations, present their messages only in ways that favors their particular interest, which is to maintain their privileges.

However, with the advent of computer technology and the internet, communication, and thus the meaning and use of messages, is in the process of being transformed from centralized to decentralized forms. The best example of this is, of course, the internet, which allows practically anyone to set up a website, which can then be read by practically anyone with access to the requisite technology. Messages are thus less tied to the importance or centrality of the broadcaster and more related to the personal significance the message has to the receiver. The proliferation of wireless technology, which allows users to tap into the internet almost anywhere and at anytime further accelerates people's independence from centralized systems of communication. The main paradigm for this type of communication is "peer-to-peer networking," which means that people connect to each other directly, without powerful intermediaries who could distort or control the message.

The implications for this transformation are great in all of the other spheres, allowing an acceleration of the transformations already mentioned. For example, peer-to-peer communication helps tremendously with the transformation of the political sphere, especially in terms of facilitating participatory forms of governance. It also aids in the transformation of the techno-sphere itself, as can be seen in the ways in which free and open source software have spread and facilitate the development of global programming networks for software development, as has been the case with the Linux operating system, for example. Peer-to-peer communication also tremendously aids the transformation of the sphere of exchange, making it much easier to introduce alternative currencies, which do not depend on a centralized state for their creation. Peer-to-peer forms of communication also aid the expansion of solidarity to a global level, in that activists can now communicate with other activists around the globe more easily and far more directly than was ever possible before, thereby expanding their sense of solidarity.


The above discussion is not meant as a blueprint for a better society. Rather, it is meant to push our thinking into new directions in as many social spheres as possible and to show how the different social spheres and alternative (and hopefully post-capitalist) projects can be linked together. Since this is not a blueprint, one should keep in mind that the projects identified here still require much trial and error experimentation, in order to see if and exactly how they might work.

The key claims of this rough outline is that, first, we need a more comprehensive theory of society if we want to develop a more comprehensive vision of what a better society might look like. It is not good enough to just have a vision of the better society without a good understanding of the terrain we need to cross-the existing society and its potentials-to get there.

Second, while we all might agree that we want more democracy and self-determination, what is it we would argue in favor of if we had more democracy? What would we try to persuade others of if, for example, we were to democratically decide on new principles to govern the use and distribution of intellectual property? The discussion here claims that some ways of deciding such issues are better than others if we want to achieve liberty, equality, and social justice.

Third, when discussing social change we cannot just focus on the new social structures we would like to see, but we also have to take into consideration the existing and new ways of understanding social relations. That is, we need to pay equal attention to culture (or meaning-making) and social structure (or relations). We need to find the underlying defining and directed aspects of spheres of life, and address those.

Fourth, as we pay attention to the existing social conditions and potentials in formulating our vision, a focus on and support of existing positive trends, in the direction of our ideal, makes much more sense than pushing for an abstract goal that is divorced from existing social conditions and trends.

Fifth, our vision of a better society ought to see this new society as the result of a historical social development that needs freedom, equality, and social justice in order to proceed. Likewise, these three principles need further social development for their fuller realization.
Starbucks workers continue to join the IWW despite intimidation, harassment, and constant violations of the law.

At 2:45 on Friday, June 16th a delegation of the IWW Starbucks workers unionentered Starbucks at 57th and Lexington.

Workers on the shop floor put ontheir IWW union pins and let the company know that they too were members ofthe Starbucks Workers union. Workers stopped working as they presented theirdemands to their store manager Patrice Britton.

The Store manager refusedto take the list of demands and ordered everyone back to work. Workersspoke out and let the manager and customers know their concerns. Meanwhileseveral wobblies were passing out leaflets outside letting customers knowwhat was happening inside.

There was chaos on the floor where the managerwas telling workers to get back to work meanwhile customers were asking whatwas happening and why they weren't being served. There was shouting andarguing.

Finally District manager Veronica park arrived and quickly singledout the leaders. Isis Saenz and Charles Fostrum were told to count theirregisters and clock out. They refused and then taken into the back room.

Management yelled at the two to clock out and they continually refused.Isis constantly accused management of anti-union discrimination to whichmanager Patrice Britton exploded in anger. District manager Veronica Parkseven had to calm Patrice down several times when he began to get worked upand out of hand. After 10 minutes workers were finally allowed to go backto work.

This is the 5th Starbucks store in NYC to establish a publicorganizing committee and make collective demands from the company. some ofthese demands included a guaranteed 30 hour work week, an end to the 1minute lateness policy, an end to unfair firings. Workers also called uponthe company to stop all illegal anti-union activity, stop violating federallabor law and to abide by the National Labor Relations board settlement ( action!

Call Starbucks management and let them know you do not approve of workerexploitation and the continuing anti-union campaign. Tell them to stopintimidating and harassing workers and allow us our right to organize.

* Store Manager Patrice Britton: Work: 212-486-1632 Cell 917-528-6409
* District Manager Veronica Park: Cell : 201-970-1118
* Regional Director Kathy Mcleod: Cell : 917-862-145 or Work 212-613-1280 ext 2226
* Regional VP James Mcdermont: Work: 212-613-1280 ext 2201

Stopping Violence Against Women: Eve Ensler and Kimberle Crenshaw on V-Day, Women in Prisons and Breaking the Silence


PARECON: Life After Capitalism
by Michael Albert

Three Brief Excerpts

Excerpt 1: From the Introduction

After briefly answering the question what do anti-corporate globalization activists want instead of the IMF, World Bank, and World Trade Organization, the introduction to Parecon: Life After Capitalism argues that the problem of "what we want" extends much further...

Anti-Capitalist Globalization And Economic Vision

...When activists offer a vision for a people-serving and democracy-enhancing internationalism we urge constructing a very good International Asset Agency, Global Investment Assistance Agency, and Global Trade Agency on top of the very bad domestic economies we currently endure. Suppose we win the sought gains. Persisting corporations and multinationals in each country would not positively augment and enforce the new international structures, but would instead continually emanate pressures to return global relations to more rapacious ways. At an intuitive level people actually understand this. When average folks ask anti-globalization activists “What do you want?”, they aren’t only asking us what we seek internationally. They also wonder what we seek domestically. What do we want inside countries that would augment the international gains we seek and make fighting for them more than useless posturing?

If we have capitalism, many people rightly reason, there will inevitably be tremendous pressures toward capitalist globalization and against anti-capitalist internationalism. New international trade institutions and more local alliances and structures sound positive, but even if immense exertions put them in place, won’t domestic economies around the world undo the gains? The question is warranted.

Capitalist globalization is markets, corporations, and class structure writ large. To replace capitalist globalization and not just temporarily mitigate its effects or stall its enlargement, don’t we have to move toward replacing capitalism as well? If efforts to improve global relations through creating the new international regulatory institutions we propose are an end in themselves, won’t they be rolled back? To persist, don’t they have to be part of a larger project to transform underlying capitalist structures? If we have no vision for that larger project, if we offer no alternative to markets and corporations, won’t our gains be temporary?

So, many people deduce, why should we apply our energies and time to the struggles that you propose when we believe that even if we successfully won all the gains you seek, in time those gains would be wiped out by resurgent capitalist dynamics? You keep telling us how powerful and encompassing capitalism is. We believe you. If the efforts you propose don’t lead to entirely new economies, they will eventually be rolled back to all the same old rot. It isn’t worth my time to seek gains that will be undone.

This assessment is fueled by the reactionary belief that “there is no alternative.” To combat this belief anti-globalization activists must not only offer an alternative regarding global economics, but also an alternative regarding domestic economies. People need to feel that the application of their energies to opposing corporate globalization won’t have only a quickly undone short-term impact, but will win permanent gains. So what should replace capitalism?

At this point the introduction summarizes the vision the book later lays out and defends...

Excerpt 2: From the Introduction

After providing a summary overview of the economic vision, participatory economics, the introduction to Parecon: Life After Capitalism concludes with a brief section situating the ideas in the book relative to activist practice.

Parecon and Visionary Practice

In today’s world large movements espousing similar aspirations struggle worldwide to better the lives of disenfranchised and abused populations around the globe. Some undertakings pressure elites to beneficially alter existing institutions. Other efforts seek to create new institutions to “live the future in the present.” Some efforts are small and local. Some encompass whole geographic regions. If we look at a selection of visionary practices, we can see many features which have led to the reasoning presented in this book. Parecon doesn’t float in space, that is, but arises from the aspirations and the insights of a huge range of activist efforts. Here are a few examples.

Historically almost every instance of working people and consumers even briefly attaining great control over their own conditions has incorporated both in locales and in workplaces institutions of direct organization and democracy. These have been called councils or assemblies, and given other names as well. Their common feature, however, has been providing a direct vehicle for people to develop, refine, express and implement personal and collective agendas. Both the successes of such endeavors, and also the undeniable fact that they have been repeatedly destroyed by counter forces, fuel and inform our advocacy of workplace and consumer councils in parecon and our efforts to conceive a context in which such councils can thrive rather than be thrashed.

Throughout the history of struggle against injustice there has also been great attention to matters of equity and specifically to the idea that people ought to enjoy life possibilities in a fair and appropriate manner. We should be able to earn a bit more or less by our choices, of course, but not for unworthy reasons. In times of upsurge and self-determination such as in Spain during the Spanish Anarchist struggles there, or earlier in the Paris Commune, and at many other moments as well from major national strikes in the West to movements for freedom in the East and South, seekers of economic justice have realized that there is something horribly wrong with remunerating those who enjoy more fulfilling work and who have more say in social life more than those who do more rote and damaging work and have less say in social life. Parecon’s priority to remunerate only effort and sacrifice arises from these aspirations and also gives them more precise substance than they have previously enjoyed.

But what about instances from the present? Is parecon connected to current exploratory and innovative economic efforts?

Consider collective workplace experiments around the world, including co-ops, worker-owned plants, and collective workplaces. Workers gain control over their factories, perhaps buying them rather than having capitalists close them down entirely, or perhaps originating new enterprises of their own from scratch. The newly in-charge workers attempt to incorporate democracy. They try to redefine the division of labor. They seek narrower income differentials. But the market environment in which they operate makes all this horribly difficult. By their experiences of such difficulties, workers’ and consumers’ efforts at creating worker-controlled enterprises and consumer co-ops provide extensive experience relevant to the definition of parecon. Not only co-op successes, but also their difficulties—such as tendencies for old-style job definitions to re-impose widening income differentials and tendencies for market imposed behaviors to subvert cooperative aims and values—teach important lessons. Indeed, in my own experience, the effort to create the radical publishing house South End Press and to incorporate equity and self-management in its logic and practice powerfully informed many of the insights that together define participatory economics, particularly the idea and practice of balanced job complexes. Likewise, a number of on-going current experiments in implementing parecon structures continue to inform the vision and its various features.

On a grander scale, consider the movement for what is called “solidarity economics” that has advocates in many parts of South America (and particularly Brazil), Europe, and elsewhere. Its defining idea is that economic relations should foster solidarity among participants rather than causing participants to operate against one another’s interests. Not only should economic life not divide and oppose people, it should not even be neutral on this score but should generate mutuality and empathy. Advocates of solidarity economics thus pursue ideas of local worker’s control and of allocative exchange with this norm in mind. Parecon takes their insight that institutions should propel values we hold dear and extends it in additional directions. We want a solidarity economy in the same sense as its advocates do. But we also want a diversity economy, an equity economy, and a self-managing economy. Indeed we want one economy that fulfills all these aspirations simultaneously. Parecon thus arises from, respects, and seeks to provide additional dimensions to solidarity economics.

Or consider the efforts, some years back, in Australia of labor unions to influence not only the conditions and wages of their members’ work lives, but also what people produced. They developed the idea of “Green Bans” which were instances where workers in building trades would ban certain proposed projects on the grounds they were socially or environmentally unworthy. Sometimes they would not only ban the proposed endeavors that capitalists sought to undertake, but would also undertake alternative projects of their own design intended to treat environment and people appropriately. This experience of course foreshadows and informs both parecon’s norms for deciding work and its apportionment of power to affected constituencies. Parecon extends the logic of Australia’s Green Bans into a full economic vision for all facets of economic life.

Or consider the efforts in Porto Alegre and other Brazilian cities and in Kerala and other regions of India to incorporate elements of participatory democracy into budget decisions for cities and regions. Indeed, in Brazil this project is named “participative budgeting” and the idea is to establish means of local direct organization via which citizens can affect decisions about collective investments regarding government services such as parks, education, public transport, and health care. Parecon’s participatory planning has the same aspirations and impetus, but writ larger, encompassing not only public goods but all goods, and facilitating not only proportionate participation by consumers, but also by workers.

Indeed, for all the examples noted above and many more as well, advocates of participatory economics could be expected, once organized in sufficiently large movements, to pursue similar struggles—the only difference being the way pareconists would explain their actions as being part of a process leading to a whole new economy they would advocate, and perhaps how they would try to create new infrastructure and consciousness by not only fostering the immediate aims, but by also empowering participants to win still more gains in a trajectory leading all the way from capitalism to parecon. Pareconist workers’ control efforts would seek to attain allocation gains as well, plus new divisions of labor. Pareconist attempts to institute “participatory budgets” would seek as well to address norms of remuneration and job allocation and to engender participation not only in communities regarding public goods, but also in workplaces regarding all goods. Pareconist union and workers councils would seek to affect not only the conditions and circumstances of members’ jobs, but also the worthiness of undertaken projects, and would likewise try to link with consumer movements and spread the efforts to government sectors and consumer behavior.

In other words, the participatory economic vision put forth in coming chapters not only springs from and is consistent with past and present struggles to better people’s immediate lives in diverse ways, it also offers encompassing values and logic to link all these efforts and to enlarge each consistent with its own best aspirations but also with the logic and aspirations of others beyond.

And what about the newest and certainly very promising World Social Forum? Here is a remarkable amalgamation of movements, constituencies, activists, and projects from all over the globe linked by an open and experimental attitude, a commitment to participation, feelings of mutual respect, and attention to diversity and democracy, all celebrating the sentiment that “another world is possible.” In 2002, at its second incarnation, roughly 50,000 participants began to enunciate features that that better world might have. The most widely shared sentiments were rejection of markets and support for self-management, rejection of vast differentials in income and support for equity, rejection of homogenizing commercialism and support for diversity, rejection of imperial arrogance and support for solidarity, and rejection of ecological devastation and support for sustainability. No doubt WSF 2003 will have taken this agenda many steps further by the time this book appears. And like the WSF, parecon contributes visionary economic ideas in hopes that political, cultural, kinship, global, and ecological visionary aims will prove compatible and mutually supportive.

Participatory economics provides a new economic logic including new institutions with new guiding norms and implications. But parecon is also a direct and natural outgrowth of hundreds of years of struggle for economic justice as well as contemporary efforts with their accumulated wisdom and lessons. What parecon can contribute to this heritage and to today’s activism will be revealed, one way or the other, in coming years.

Excerpt 3: Chapter 25: Asset or Debit?

Does Vision Produce Sectarianism?

[Part Four of Parecon: Life After Capitalism is a series of relatively short chapters dealing with critical concerns about the new model -- will it be productive, is it intrusive, what about privacy, human nature, flexibility, and so on. The next to last chapter addresses an unusual concern -- is vision a positive things at all, even if well conceived -- and is reproduced here in full.]

There is a surprisingly prevalent type of criticism of economic vision as extensive as parecon that we have yet to address. It doesn’t charge that parecon is unable to meet human needs by reason of poor incentives, or impossible requirements, or anything else explicitly identified. Quite the contrary, it finds no fault on this score. And it doesn’t charge that parecon is deficient because despite being able to effectively accomplish economic functions, parecon subverts values that we aspire to, whether by accidental omission or willfully. Quite the opposite, this criticism praises the values and sometimes even the structures of parecon. This critical response resists aggressively advocating parecon, in fact, precisely because parecon has every appearance of being an economically and socially positive vision. Parecon is resisted, that is, because it appears to be so good. How can this be?

Any kind of vision, these critics claim, is detrimental to improving society, because however wonderful it may seem vision is never truly perfect and also because vision inevitably leads to closed-minded sectarianism, which entrenches its faults. These critics argue as follows.

First, society and people are too complex to perfectly predict. Thus, in some fashion all efforts to project future institutions, however insightful, must fall short of optimal and be flawed compared to what would be ideal. Experience is the only corrective, and to have instructive experience requires experimenting and evaluating practical results, step by step, without prejudging possible destinations. We should not adopt a full vision until we implement one. Preconception of a full institutional vision, rather than just of clear values, overextends our capacities.

Second, in espousing a set of institutional aims and trying to get people to share them, people will inevitably become invested in those aims. Identities will become wrapped up in their worthiness. Energies will go to defending them irrespective of actual logic and evidence. Inflexibility will set in. Arrogance will arise. Advocates of fully formulated institutional vision will lose the ability to learn and will begin to mechanically impose their aims even on the supposed beneficiaries of vision. Little attention will go to alteration, improvement, addition, or reconstruction, as compared to if we were guided by practice alone, not preconceived vision.

These critics of preconceived vision conclude that the right way to attain vision is through the experience of everyone experimenting, without detailed pre-envisioning and without sectarianism-inducing espousal of compelling, encompassing aims, and without efforts to get widespread shared agreement. We should say only very general things about what we want—such as that the future should be just, equitable, reduce hierarchy, and so on.
We agree that error and sectarianism are both possible faults. But how should we respond to these insights? Consider two opposed approaches.

The first approach employs what ecologists call the “precautionary principle,” which says that in the face of uncertainty and inevitable human subjectivity, we should be aware of our limitations and should act very cautiously to minimize tendencies toward negative consequences.

The second approach we call the “red-light principle.” It says because of uncertainty and possible sectarianism, we should stop any attempt to pre-envision the future. We should not develop and share full and compelling vision like that put forth in this book, whether for economics or for any other sphere of social life, because such vision will not serve as an aid to moving forward, but as an obstacle.

I believe the precautionary principle is far more appropriate than the red-light principle. For one thing, before stopping the pursuit of compelling vision, we ought to understand the cost of doing so.

Suppose a movement obeys the red light principle and chooses to forego a widely shared compelling vision that reveals how new defining institutions would operate, why they would get their assigned tasks completed, and why they would yield vastly superior outcomes than current institutions.

First, this movement will not have a good notion about what experiments to undertake to learn as it proceeds. Just as scientists need theoretical frameworks to guide their choice of experiment, so too political activists need overarching vision to guide their choice of social experiment.

Second, lacking widely shared vision to inspire membership, generate hope, sustain commitment, and provide coherence and identity, the red-light movement will not have a sufficiently wide base of membership and participation to grow beyond a small scale.

Third, lacking a widely shared compelling vision will not mean there will be no such visions operating on the left. Quite the contrary, those who don’t care at all even about the precautionary principle will still develop and employ vision, most likely with market coordinatorist values and aspirations, which will then guide (and limit) experiments in new relations as well as strategies for winning change. There will not be an absence of vision if those attuned to not overreaching our experiential and conceptual bounds and to not being sectarian entirely eschew vision, but instead there will be a vision developed and held by narrow elites who don’t have such concerns. So the movement that doesn’t seek shared public vision will either fail to inspire support sufficient to win significant gains (which is our prediction), or if it does inspire such support, it will implement a narrowly held vision contrary to all but elite aspirations.

So yes, inaccurate prediction and sectarian attachment to vision are indeed possible problems of pursuing shared vision. But we believe that stop-light advocates have chosen the wrong solution to averting these problems: namely, dismissing serious and compelling institutional vision entirely. This “solution” repeats a more common mistake that operates in many venues. Here are two related examples:

Someone sees that technologies, medicine, and science can oppress people. Their proposed solution: dump technology, medicine, and science.

Someone sees that many reforms in practice coopt dissent and legitimate existing oppressive structures. Their proposed solution: dump reforms.

In these cases, as with vision, there is an unwarranted leap from justified precaution to red-light debilitation. A true critical characterization of some instances of technology, science, medicine, reforms, or (in our case) seeking vision, wrongly extrapolates into a rejection of these things outright.

Of course many technologies are oppressive, including destructive weapons, pollution-generating cars, and alienating and disempowering assembly lines, not to mention nuclear or biological weapons. But these are not the only technologies we have, and there are other technologies that are positive– shoelaces, cooking utensils, aspirin, eyeglasses, solar generators. The whole category— technology—isn’t, in fact, infected. Moreover, the reason that many technologies are oppressive isn’t that there is something intrinsically harmful in creating innovations of design that incorporate knowledge of laws of nature. Rather, the harm arises from social relations that create sectors of people able to produce and use technologies to harm some constituencies to the advantage of others.

More, the choice to do without technologies is even worse than the problem of having many defective ones. If implemented, it would plunge us into a range of suffering that would be unfathomable. What ought to be ruled out is therefore not technologies (or medicine or science) per se, but oppressive technologies (medicine and science), and what ought to be sought is ever more effective means of producing desirable technologies while guarding against their misuse as well as against the harmful elitist trajectories imposed on technology creation and use. Following the precautionary principle in this case, in other words, doesn’t lead us to suicidally reject all technologies but to carefully pursue desired technologies so as to maximize positive effects and avoid ill effects. Yes, of course we should have humility before the complexity of technology. But we should not have so much humility that we entirely cut off our capacities to innovate. Paralysis is not progress.

Consider now the example of reforms. Sure a reform’s accomplishments can be insufficient to warrant the effort expended to win it. And certainly a reform’s desirable consequences can be outweighed by the extent to which it dulls dissent or ratifies existing oppressive structures, or by intended or even unintended negative consequences. But to notice these potential problems and in response rule out reforms per se would mean ruling out all changes that fall short of entirely transforming social relations. It would mean not fighting against unjust wars, not seeking better wages, not trying to gain more power for grassroots constituencies and their organizations, and not attempting to diminish racist or sexist relations, and in these ways, it would lead to becoming a callous movement that ignores immediate suffering and therefore deserves little support.

So the problem is not reforms per se, but pursuing reforms as the best gains that we can possibly hope for and thus in ways that presuppose maintaining underlying injustices. The problem is not reforms, that is, but reformism. And the alternative to reformism is not to dump all reforms (following the red-light principle), but to fight for reforms in ways that not only seek worthy immediate gains, but increase movement membership, deepen movement commitment, enrich movement understanding, develop movement infrastructure, and in short, create preconditions for winning still more gains and ultimately fundamental change.

The above examples may seem a needless digression, but I suspect that those who reject technology, those who reject all reforms, and those who reject compelling institutional vision are all making essentially the same error. A real problem is rightly identified. In the case of vision the problem is that we can have incomplete, inadequate, or wrong vision and we can misuse desirable vision. But it is wrong to propose as a solution that we dump vision. We should abide the precautionary principle by trying to develop and employ vision well, not put up a red light.

So how can we make serious, compelling, shared institutional vision an asset rather than a debit? We can work to ensure:

1 That vision illuminates the new society’s defining features but does not overstep into utopian wish fulfillment or pursue details that transcend what we can reasonably imagine.

2 That vision is accessible and becomes widely known, understood, and publicly shared, so that vision’s creation, dispersal, and use is itself a participatory phenomenon fostering a growing movement of informed, careful, and always learning advocates.

3 That vision is debated, dissected, refined, and improved as thought and experience permit. That is, it is not statically defended, but instead steadily enriched. Vision is not seen as an end point, but as a source for continuing creation, innovation, experiment, and development.

4 That flexible, evolving, and enlarging vision is rooted in careful thought and experience and helps guide current programs so that our contemporary efforts lead toward what we desire for the future.

In this book we have sought to pose a particular vision clearly and accessibly, based as best we could not only on our own logic and experience, but on that which has accumulated during the history of leftist struggles in past decades. We have tried to respect the limitations of social prediction and the dangers of dogmatism by promoting a critical, evaluative, experimental, and open process. But as to the future trajectory of pareconish vision, there is a little ditty that applies nicely:

The viewer paints the picture,
The reader writes the book,
The glutton gives the tart its taste,
And not the pastry cook.

Put differently, the implications of a vision depend ultimately on movement responses. It is not books that will determine how vision is used, but those who read books and extend, alter, apply, and utilize their offerings.
This Land is Their Land

By Daniel Borgström

Last spring the privatizers were after Social Security. In the fall they reached for public lands, including areas in national parks. Death Valley and Yellowstone were on the hit list. Tucked away in the House version of the Budget Reconciliation Bill was a provision to sell land to “mining” companies at giveaway prices. In November 2005 it narrowly passed in the House by a vote of 217 to 215. Then it went to the Senate where it was rejected—for 2005 at least.

“It’s a welcome stay of execution,” said Death Valley Park Superintendent J.T. Reynolds. Representative Jim Gibbons (R-NV), who co-authored the proposal, vowed to reintroduce it in 2006.

Real estate and mining interests have been coveting parks and other public lands for decades. In 2005 they saw their chance and came within inches of achieving their goal. This outrageous proposal— sometimes called Pombo’s Land Grab, after Richard Pombo (R-CA), the bill’s other co-author and principal sponsor—was osten- sibly intended to fund Katrina relief and shore up the budget deficit. The land sales were expected to generate about $158 million.

“It could be the biggest privatization of public lands in 100 years…a huge change in national policy,” said John Leshy, author of The Mining Law and former top lawyer for the U.S. Department of Interior. “This is all written in terms of mining claims, but it’s really a real estate development law.”

The House plan was to sell public lands to mining companies who could then resell the lands to real estate developers. This was to be permitted by proposed changes in U.S. mining law. Of course, even under the old law, mining properties, once acquired, were used for other purposes. Several ski resorts were originally acquired as mining properties. The difference is that the proposed new law appeared specifically designed to facilitate such development.

True, mining law does need some major fixes. The current U.S. mining law was enacted in 1872 and hasn’t changed much since. It allowed for the sale of land at $5 an acre until 1994 when a moratorium was placed on sales. Retired Senator Dale Bumpers of Arizona said a couple of years ago, “This archaic, 132-year-old law permits mining companies to gouge billions of dollars worth of minerals from public lands, without paying one red cent to the real owners, the American people. And, these same companies often leave the unsuspecting taxpayers with the bill for the billions of dollars required to clean up the environmental mess left behind.”

The Pombo/Gibbons plan, however, wouldn’t have fixed the deficiencies of the 1872 law. Instead, it would have expanded the giveaway. Under the proposed law, land would be sold at $1,000 per acre and this paltry income would presumably be used in relief of Katrina damage and other under- funded projects.

Certainly, $1,000 an acre is a lot more than $5—but it’s still not much. Even leaving aside real estate investment, some mining properties produce millions of dollars of minerals per acre. In the 1990s Barrick, a Canadian company, purchased 1,900 acres near Elko, Nevada and got gold reserves worth $10 billion. Chevron and Manville Sales corporation acquired 2,000 acres of national forest in Montana, gaining control of $16 billion in platinum and palladium reserves.

Petroleum companies pay between 8 percent and 12.5 percent royalties on what they get out of the ground. The Pombo/Gibbons law would’ve allowed mining companies to pay no royalties. How could the framers of the proposal have overlooked royalties? Incompetence? Not likely. Bush’s tax cuts were created to allow the wealthy to avoid paying their fair share and to use their savings to buy public assets such as land, utilities, etc.

Royalties aren’t the only omission from the proposed mining law. The 1872 law, for all its shortcomings, did at least require proof of an economically feasible ore deposit. If you said a property contained copper or platinum or silver or boron or pumice or whatever, you had to prove it to the government before you could buy it. The new law would not require such proof. It requires only that the buyer “facilitate sustainable economic development,” a vague term not implying actual mining activity.

“Sustainable economic development could include condominium construction, ski resorts, gaming casinos, you name it, flying in the face of America’s commitment to protect these lands,” said Representative Nick Rahall of West Virginia, ranking Democrat of the House Resources Committee, who opposed the bill. John Leshy, former solicitor general of the Department of Interior under Clinton, said the big losers would be “the hunters, anglers, hikers, ranchers, and millions of American families who could soon find locked gates on previously public lands.”

“We are literally looking at the prospect of McDonalds, Wal- Marts, condos, or any other type of commercial or private developments springing up smack dab within some of America’s most cherished units of the National Park System,” stated Rahall.

Bad enough? There’s more. Remember those royalties that the mining companies won’t be paying? Well, in 2004 energy corporations paid $2 billion in royalties for onshore oil, gas, and coal development. That too would’ve changed. Under the proposed law corporations would be permitted to buy the land and pay no royalties.

Rep. Pombo, the real mover behind the proposed “mining” law, is a Republican from Tracy, California. He’s co-author of the book This Land is Our Land: How to end the war on private property. It came out in 1996, the same year the Sierra Club honored Pombo with their “Eco-Thug” award— something he doesn’t include in his website biography; nor does he mention his relationship with indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Pombo’s mining law was so blatantly extreme that few people expected it to get through the House. But it passed by two votes. Although several Republicans broke ranks and opposed it, no Democrats voted for it. The Senate, despite its Republican majority, didn’t accept it. It’s something the extreme right was pushing and, as of now, quite a number of those folks are being indicted and may be headed for prison. (To privatized prisons, I presume.)

The land-grab proposal, like the Social Security privatization plan, is something we can expect to see coming back again and again in one form or another.
Daniel Borgström is an ex-Marine against the war, empire, and privatization. He is from a mining family and has helped locate mining claims. Virginia Browning contributed to this essay.
Parecon and France
Michael Albert interviewed by
Remi Gau

July 23, 2006
Alternative Libertaire

What are the functions that have to be accomplished by any economy?

An economy has to produce goods and sevices that we then enjoy both for survival and pleasure. It also has to facilitate our getting those outputs of economic activity, which is to say, consumption. And between production and consumption comes what's called allocation. It has to determine how much is to be produced, of what, with what ingredients, going to whom, and so on. None of this is controversial. Any economist would agree.

It is important to realize, however, that all this activity occurs by social relations and is undertaken by people who are in turn directly affected by the very acts of production, consumption, and allocation. A workplace, for example, takes in raw materials and intermediate goods each morning, and spits out final goods at the end of each day. But it also takes in people including workers, managers, owners each morning, as well as taking in various social relations among all these people, and it spits out at the end of each day sometimes changed people and changed social relations, perhaps exhausted, perhaps without a limb, perhaps enervated and enlightened, perhaps with hierarchies reproduced or altered, and so on. So, broadly speaking, this characterizes what an economy does.

If we agree that capitalism and the actual "neo-liberal" order should be fought on the ground of values, then what are the values that a good economy should promote?

For myself, it seems to me that an economy considerably affects relations among people, ranges of options that we have, who gets how much of the social output, how much say people have in what occurs, our relations to the natural environment, and our relations to other economies in other societies. And I think starting with these aspects provides a good jumping off point for establishing worthy values.

In that light, I'd rather have an economy that promotes solidarity than one which causes people to be antisocial. I'd rather have an economy that widens and diversifies options than an economy that homogenizes and narrows options. I'd rather have an economy that has just and equitable distribution than an economy which aggrandizes a few at the expense of the many. I'd rather have an economy in which each person has a say in decisions proportionate to the degree they are affected, rather than authoritarian relations. I'd rather have an economy that respects and takes account of the surrounding environment than one that despoils it mercilessly. And I'd rather have an economy that treats distant people in other economies as we would like to be treated by them, in turn--what we might label internationalism--than an economy that looks at other people elsewhere as targets for exploitation.

We can spell out the above in much more detail, of course. For example, economic institutions and the roles they provide ought to cause each actor to benefit not by hurting or even ignoring the plight of others, but in concert with others. Even if we are brought up personally greedy and avaricious, an economy should require that to get ahead we have to care about the general social welfare and the well being of others because our well being is tied to those general levels. Instead of nice guys finishing last, being nice ought to be instilled in us by the very act of our seeking to get ahead and as a component of doing so. Being nice ought to be an avenue to doing better, not worse, in society.

Likewise, economics should widen possibilities and enrich options rather than placing all eggs in one basket. We don't want an economy that homogenizes outcomes that huge groups of people have little choice but to undertake. We don't want an economy that consigns us to a class which has a pre-ordinaed position, culture, disposition, etc., but to diversify outcomes and ensure that we can each freely choose among them all.

For equity, more controversially, I think that economies should provide income to actors for the effort and sacrifice that they expend in socially useful labor. An economy should not reward property so that Bill Gates is worth more than the population of whole countries. It should not reward power so that those with guns or monopolies of any kind are rich and the rest are poor. It should not reward output so that those born lucky enough to have highly valued talents or those lucky enough to be able to work with better tools, earn more on top of their luck. Instead of these familiar approaches, a good economy should ensure that we each and all get income for how long we work, for how hard we work, and for how onerous our work is, while ensuring as well that we are producing things society values.

For decision making, people should be able to easily determine what is occurring in the economy, any why, as well as the likely implications of different choices that have to be made, and people should be able to express their preferences about those choices, conveying to each actor, whether individually or collectively, a level of influence proportionate to the effect on the actor involved. Owners, planners, or other agents should not decide for workers and consumers how their lives are to be lived. Each actor should self manage consistent with all others doing likewise.

Regarding the ecology, an economy should properly account for the implications of actions on ecological balance and should permit actors to make choices taking into account not only short and medium term direct human and social implications, but broader and longer term environmental results as well. An economy should not sacrifice tomorrow for today, not even for everyone today, much less for a small elite today.

And regarding international relations, of course global ties are desirable. But shifting relations among nations so that those who are already wealthier and more powerful get richer and stronger while those who are already less wealthy and less powerful get poorer and weaker is not desirable. Economies should relate to other economies with the same attention to social values as they relate to their own members. That will be internationalism, and I think it is parecon writ large, just as imperialism is capitalism writ large.

We could keep refining these values and examining their implications and mutual compatibility, but what is essential, in my view, if values are to guide our thinking about a better economy, is that the values be attainable while also producing and allocating goods in a manner that meets needs and develops potentials without wasting human or material assets that we care about. This means values must include incentives to get needed tasks done, to benefit from capacities, etc. If all these gains are possible, in other words if we can have an economy that does production, consumption, and allocation and that while doing so expands solidarity, diversity, equity, self management, ecological balance, and internationalism, then surely we ought to opt for that economy instead of continuing to endure the horrendous capitalist violation of all that is worthy we now suffer.

There is another value, if we come at the whole question from another angle, which serves as a useful guide too, though it is perhaps a little more abstract and in that sense less of a simple guide than the above. It is that an economy should be classless. Its institutions should not demarcate people into opposed sectors that violate one another, dominate one another, etc.

What are the core principles of particpatory economics? Could you briefly describe how these principles help promote the values you think are important?

The idea of participatory economics, or parecon, is to try to describe institutions for production, allocation, and consumption that get those tasks done in ways that fulfill and develop human potentials while enlarging solidarity, diversity, equity, self management, ecological balance, and internationalism. A pareconish commitment therefore entails that we reject institutions which fail in these regards. For example, one wouldn't have these values and propose slavery as a good system for producing cotton. Slavery can obviously get cotton produced, yes, but at the cost of the values.

Similarly, it turns out that private ownership of productive assets, corporate divisions of labor, remuneration for bargaining power, property, or even output, top-down decision making, and market or centrally planned allocation also violate the values. So this approach of parecon pushes us past familiar economic systems and requires that we conceive new institutions.

So just to make it clear : what is the status of property of the means of production in a parecon?

Either think of it as everyone owns an equal share of all such property. Or think of it as no one owns any such property at all. The point is, ownership is simply not a factor, really, not even a concept, regarding farmland, machinery, resources, etc. What property bestows on an owner in capitalism--the right to decide and the right to accumulate--exist in a parecon, but very differently. The right to decide, for example, goes to everyone who is affected by outcomes in question. Property has nothing to do with it. The product of labor in a firm does not accrue to owners of that firm--there are none--or even directly to the firm's workers, but to a social product which is the sum of all outputs from the economy, which we can then each consume from in accord with the duration, intensity, and onerousness of the work we did contributing to its composition. Again, property has nothing to do with it.

Parecon requires remuneration of socially valuable work based on effort and sacrifice : on what ethical and/or economic basis are some other criterion of remuneration rejected? For example, why not remunerate people on the basis of need or contribution to ouput only? Why also reject a gift economy based on the free distribution of goods and services?

Parecon does remunerate need in some cases. For example, if you have special medical needs, or if you can't work. But the main remunerative norm is, as you indicate, to remunerate duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor. Parecon rejects remunerating property because it is inequitable, destroys solidarity, etc. It rejects remunerating output because that has no valid incentive affect which can't be better accomplished in other ways, and has the adverse moral effect of rewarding people for luck, whether in the genetic lottery (being born with a great voice, fast hands, etc., or in having good tools that increase output).

Parecon doesn't remunerate need as the only norm, rather than an exceptional one, because it is economically dysfunctional to do that not, really, it is not even coherent. We can't take everything we may want--we would want more than we and others wish to spend our time producing. So what we need has to be less than what we might hope for or desire. But how do we know how much less to seek? What is an appropriate amount for me to say I want to take from the social product? The answer is, it is an amount consistent with my effort and sacrifice in proportion to that of others, unless I really do have special medical needs. Saying anyone can take anything that they want also leaves us no way to know how much we value different outputs, therefore how much effort should go into them, and which should be foregone due to being insufficiently valued, which produced in greater abundance, due to being highly valued. It destroys the possibility of sensible allocation.

Imagine you are shipwrecked on an island with a thousand others - a big ocean liner sank. You are going to be there for a long time. You need to set up a little society. How do you arrange your economy? This is actually a good exercise to think through. Do you have a lottery and give all the land and fruit trees and whatever else is the basis for production to a few folks to control while hiring the rest of you as wage slaves? Do you let the doctors who were on the boat accrue great leisure and the best homes and whatnot, because they have a monopoly on socially valued skills and knowledge? Do you let someone who says he wants to swim and sun bathe all day eat the fruit of your hard labor, having contributed nothing himself to the social product?

Different people will have different answers to these and many more questions one might ask. What parecon says is that the economically and morally sound approach is to remunerate socially valued effort and sacrifice, as well as to create conditions that support and to then utilize self management. Other options violate our values and also establish perverse incentives. It is a long story to argue in full, but perhaps the main logic is already apparent.

I guess you do not advocate for each of us to measure the number of kilocalories burnt while working, so how could effort and sacrifice be measured in a practical way?

Think of it as duration, intensity, and onerousness of work. Duration is easy, of course. Intensity isn't that hard, either. One indicator is output. We don't reward the value of your output, but we certainly can look at it as an indicator of the effectiveness of your efforts. But more, parecon has other key features--workers and consumers self managing councils, balanced job complexes, and participatory planning. So the answer has many aspects. In a workplace, extrapolating from knowledge of the plant's assets and methods, the output of the plant tells us the total of socially valuable intensity/duration that was engaged. How is the remuneration for that labor then divided among the actors?

Well, it is for them to judge. You and your mates are rather good at knowing who is exerting and who is off in cloud cuckoo land all day. As to onerousness, balanced job complexes largely take care of that, because equalizing jobs for empowerment effects (which is what this type division of labor aims at) largely equalizes for onerousness as well. Of course there is more to it, but in general, the answer to the question who decides--whatever it might be--is those who are affected, meaning, generally, workers and consumers. And the answer to how they decide is in light of the best available information, short of belaboring a point beyond reason, of course, and with self managing say for all.

Regarding allocation you define yourself as a market abolitionist. If one can easily understand how a soviet-style centrally-planned economy violates self-management, why then reject markets? Aren't markets a rather efficient institution where consumer are free to get what they want? Could you then explain in some details the reasons why you reject markets as an allocation institution?

All these questions require much longer answers than makes sense in a brief interview, of course. I hope folks will pursue the matter further. That said, markets have a wide range of damning failings. They don't in fact just give us what we want. Often, rather, we learn to want what they give us. More, they pit actors against one another and in doing so call forth anti social motivations and behavior. Markets also mis-value all inputs and outputs to the extent that those inputs and outputs have implications for people beyond the buyer and seller, especially when they have wide social relations or ecological effects. This supposedly efficient mechanism, the market, gets the price of gasoline wrong, for example, by a factor of just about ten. Think about calling that exemplary. So why are they called efficient. Because indeed markets are efficient, very efficient, for accomplishing production, consumption, and allocation in a way that aggrandizes a few while also preserving their dominant position, while impoverishing many.

There is another matter, actually are many more matters, but one that is particularly relevant to your question, though a bit more subtle than the rest. Markets create an allocation context in which even if we eliminate private ownership of workplaces, productive land, etc., each unit has to compete with others for market share lest it go out of business. It turns out that in this context, even if units began with self management, remuneration for effort, and so on, in short order all those nice features would disappear. Markets would cause these units, as they have done with actual endeavours historically, to establish in pursuit of competitive advantage via cost-cutting, in particular, what I call coordinator class positions, remunerating the people holding these positions and turning off air conditioning and speeding up assembly lines and so on, far more highly, and giving them far more say over workplace decisions.

Markets, in other words, impose, even against our wills, anti social motivations, misevaluations of inputs and outputs, and also class division and class rule, and this is so even if we have eliminated the capital/labor distinction. This is a large part of why, in my view what has historically been called market socialism is in fact an economy that violates the values I have proposed as worthy, and an economy that elevates what I call a coordinator class to ruling status over workers.

Parecon requires allocation to be done via a partipatory planning : what would this process imply for an individual as a consumer and as a worker?

Too many things to even list much less seriously describe them all here, of course. But mainly it means that each economic actor, partly as worker and partly as consumer, engages in a cooperative negotiation of the whole economy's inputs and outputs with other actors. This occurs by way of the workers and consumers councils which propose their preferred economic actions--whether what they think they want to produce or what the want to consume--and then, on hearing what others (and all society) has proposed, and on seeing the relative values that all these proposals imply for different inputs and outputs, each actor, individually (or often in groups), makes a new round of proposals.

This round-by-round negotiation--economists call these rounds of information exchange and proposals iterations-- leads toward a viable and worthy plan, self managed, without a center, without planners above others, and without actors seeking to get ahead at the expense of others. Of course my just saying it doesn't make it so. But hopefully the claim that such a thing can exist will spur readers to consider the possibility, and thus parecon, in more detail.

One of your criticisms of marxist theory is that it is based on the analysis of the economy based on the existence of only two classes and that it "hides" the existence of a a third class : the "coordinator class". Could you describe what you mean by coordinator class?

I mean the group of people who by virtue of its position in the economy resides, in capitalism, between labor and capitalists, and then in what I call coordinatorism, resides at the top, ruling over workers.

The idea is simple. It isn't just ownership that can convey collectively to a group a different status, power, and income. If one group has jobs that are systematically more empowering due to conveying information, skills, and connections, etc., that too can set that group above those below who lack these circumstances. In capitalism, for example, managers, lawyers, engineers, doctors, and all told about 20% of the population who do empowering work and have considerable control over their own circumstances and those of people below, are what I call the coordinator class.

So we have in this view three classes, not two. We have coordinators, workers, and owners, and not just workers and owners. This matters because this third group isn't just some workers who are a little better off. And it isn't just some owners who are a little worse off. And it isn't just some stratum of either group or whatever other terminology we may offer. Rather, it is a group which has different interests and agendas and methods within capitalism, and, even more important, it is a group that can become the ruling class in a Soviet or Yugoslav type economy, that is, in what has been called centrally planned or market socialism.

The key point is that this possibility means that an anticapitalist movements isn't, by virtue of being anticapitalist alone, therefore necessarily in favour of classlessness. Such a movement might favour classlessness, yes, or it might favour coordinator class rule. More to the point, whatever its stated or even really felt aspirations may be, or whatever the aspirations may be of some or even many of its members, such a movement may have adopted methods of organization, decision making, cultural celebration, and so on, that are consistent with seeking classlessness, on the one hand, or that are consistent with elevating coordinators to ruling power, on the other hand. We have to be anticapitalist, yes, but also literally in favour of classlessness rather than coordinator class rule.

What I think about Marxism Leninism, in light of the above, is that historically it has led to coordinator class rule over and over. I believe it has institutional commitments, for example to democratic centralism, that lead there. And I believe it also has a conceptual apparatus that denies even the existence of this possibility by denying that there is a third class at all and claiming that if some presumably post capitalist system is horrible, well then, it must not be post capitalist after all--because there is only horrible (perhaps state) capitalism and wonderful (perhaps deformed) socialism to choose among when labeling, say, the old Soviet Union. Marx taught that to judge an ideology or agenda we ought to look at it for its practice and its implications for different classes of people, not simply ask its practitioners what they want. I apply this useful insight to Marxism, or more aptly Marxism Leninism itself.

What would prevent this coordinator class from rising to power in a parecon?

There is no structural means, and instead there is the opposite. It is a little like asking what has prevented slaveowners from owning slaves in capitalism, except more so. It isn't just that it is outlawed. Rather, it is that the institutions of the economy preclude it. In a parecon why would anyone want to work for a boss, work for an owner? But more, how could such a workplace operate, given the need to interact with the participatory planning system which requires workers councils to self manage?

Parecon doesn't just frown on class division and class rule. It establishes norms of operation and role structures such that actors cannot function in the manner that class division and class rule requires. You can't be in a balanced job complex, have work is comparable in its empowerment quality to what all others also have, be remunerated for your socially useful effort and sacrifice like everyone else, operate like everyone else in a workers and consumers council with self managing say, and yet be above others. But if you don't operate in these ways, then you aren't in the economy at all. It is really as simple as that, once you have adopted appropriate institutions, that is.

It could be argued that parecon doesn't adress the question of the state. Would a parecon be compatible with parlimentary democracies as we know them or do you think that a parecon would imply some changes in the organisation of political life?

Parecon is an economic vision, and only an economic vision. This is not because I think economics is all important, alone important, or most important. Rather, it is because the economy is one important part of society about which we can usefully, instructively, and I think inspiringly, have a vision. I think the same holds, however, for other parts of society, not least its political sphere or polity.

Yes, I think parecon implies various changes in polity if polity is to be compatible with this new type economy. Vice versa, too. A desirable polity has implications for economics, and we can certainly ask can a parecon meet a good polity's requirements. Indeed, I recently did a book, Realizing Hope, with Zed Press in London, not only about the polity and parecon each having implications for the other, but likewise, culture and parecon, kinship and parecon, ecology and parecon, education and parecon, and so on including crime, international relations, art, science, etc.

So, yes, I think we need vision for what we might call a participatory society, a desirable society in which economy, polity, culture, community, and other dimensions of social life all compatibly advance values that we hold dear such as solidarity, diversity, equity, justice, self management, ecological balance, and internationalism. Participatory economics is just one part of that, no more and no less.

In a parecon what would be the status of the work mostly done by women nowadays (housework and childrearing) that requires both effort and sacrifice and that is socially valuable?

This, like most things, will be determined, perhaps differently in different cases, by the citizens of a new society. Such activity could be made part of what is deemed work, as you suggest, and thus handled like all other work, as part of the planning process, with industry councils, and so on. I don't think that makes good sense, myself, but a parecon could certainly accommodate that choice. The reason I don't think it makes sense is multifold, but here are a few key aspects.

First, I don't think bringing up a child is like producing a bicycle, or even tending a patient. I think it demeans it to say it is.

Second, I also think that these types of activity, undertaken in households or living units, are different in that the "product" is very largely directly consumed by the producer. Suppose I design and redesign my living room each week, or even each day. Should all that labor count for my income? The more I work on my house, the less other work I have to do? I get the newly laid out room. I get the income. I get it all. This is quite different than when I work in a workplace with a workers council in a parecon.

Third, indeed, if we want to make bringing up children and cleaning up or making prettier my living room or lawn part of the economy, part of a parecon, we would have to bring it under the purview of workers councils, industry councils, and so on. This step too, I think, isn't a very desirable path to follow.

So why do some people urge that we make house work part of the economy the minute we have ideas for just economy? Of course, it is because they wish to overcome the horrible tendency for women to be exploited by having to bear the full burden of household labor. But why does achieving that gain entail calling upon the desirable features of the economy, such as balanced job complexes. Why can't we just also revolutionize other parts of society? Why can't we have new norms and relations for socialization, nurturance, etc., rather than subordinating these realms to the logic of the workplace and its structures?

I am inclined to think that that is the better approach to take, but parecon can accommodate either. What parecon does do, intrinsically, regarding gender, is to ensure that there can be no systematic gap between men and women regarding either influence, power, or income, in the economy itself.

More broadly how would a parecon affect the kinship sphere?

Every economy requires incoming young men and women to join it each new year to keep operating, of course. There are always new workers and new consumers. These new generations therefore inevitably have to be prepared by their upbringing and schooling to participate.

In capitalism, this means channelling the new generation to fit class norms and hierarchies. In contrast, in a parecon, this means new incoming workers and consumers have to have a sense of equity and justice. They have to have their capacities developed, their inclinations for self management and participation honed. They can't anticipate or expect to be ruled or ruling others. They can't anticipate or expect to be elite or downtrodden.

Whereas home life and schooling in capitalism has to create workers ready to endure boredom and take orders and has to create coordinators ready to administer orders and withstand stress and has to create owners ready to preen and posture all the way to the bank, home life and schooling in a parecon has to create workers ready to self manage in concert with others while doing their fair share of onerous and of fulfilling labor. This holds for men and women, and so homelife at least to this degree must treat them equally.

More, women will have incomes and responsibilities in the economy no different than men, and will therefore in no way be dependent or subordinate due to economic life, quite the opposite, which more or less means that families will have no choices but to be equally egalitarian and just, else why would women put up with them?

How would environnemental issues such as sustainable development and global climate change be adressed in a parecon?

Well of course we hope that citizens in a parecon would decide in favour of sustainability and against destroying themselves by generating global warming. But what would facilitate this?

What a parecon does about these matters, as all others, is to provide a context in which information is not biased by the interests of a few and the flaws of competitive allocation. In a parecon we will know the true and full social costs and benefits of available options. What else a parecon does is to provide a context in which those affected have a say proportionate to the effect on them. It won't be the case that a few people can make great profits off environmental destruction, providing themselves islands of cleanliness while others suffer. We can't say for sure now what people will decide in a better future. Sure, we can guess, but I think it isn't the real issue for us. Our real issue is establishing institutions which propel people to address environmental and really all issues with valid information and appropriate say--and that's what having parecon's balanced job complexes and participatory planning, among its other structures, facilitates.

So far where has parecon been implemented in the world and what are the feedbacks you're getting?

No country has a participatory economy. There are experiments, however, in many places, that bear on the issues. Sometimes these are self consciously pareconish in intent--thus people set up workplaces, for example, very explicitly trying to incorporate pareconish norms and structures and in particular self management and balanced job complexes, the seeds of a better future in the present. Other times these experiments may have no awareness of parecon per se, yet nonetheless reflect and be consistent with a pareconish approach. For example, a pareconish movement could institute participatory budgets, as have many towns in the world for example in Brazil, or occupy factories setting up workers management, as have many plants in the world for example in Argentina. The main difference from what is happening already would be some features elaborated differently, on the one hand, and the overarching framework and rhetoric and inclinations for the future that are emphasized, on the other hand.

Perhaps this is a good point to close with. Let's imagine, for a moment, that parecon becomes a very widely advocated vision for a post capitalist future in many parts of the world. What implications would it have for actions undertaken now?

First, there would be more efforts to create pareconish workplaces, partial experiments in participatory planning, etc. All these would be undertaken self consciously as part of a larger project and explicitly for inspiration, to learn from the experience, to meet needs, etc.

Second, there would be struggles to win gains throughout major industries and whole economies. These would address questions of income distribution, decision making, division of labor, ecological constraints, the length of the work day, large investment projects, and so on. Many of these efforts would look quite like current struggles, at least in regard to their demands, but all of them would orient themselves as part of a larger campaign, seeking parecon, and thus trying to enlarge peoples' commitment to its values and structures as part of the organizing work.

Finally, third, our own movements and their projects and components would be redesigned, at least to a degree, to accord more with leading toward parecon. For example, our movements would internally abide pareconish values and norms, seeking to be self managed, to have balanced job complexes, and so on. It is much like our attitude to race or gender issues. We understand that our movements should not be internally racist or sexist but should instead embody the race and gender values we have for a future society. Similarly, a pareconish insight will be that our movements should not be internally classist. They should not be coordinator run or coordinator defined. They should instead seek to embody the values we have for a future society--classlessness--now.;ItemID=10623
War, Globalization, and Reproduction

Silvia Federici

First came the foreign bankers eager to lend at extortionate rates; then the financial controllers to see that the interest was paid; then the thousands of foreign advisors taking their cut. Finally, when the country was bankrupt and helpless, it was time for the foreign troops to 'rescue' the ruler from his 'rebellious' people. One last gulp and the country had gone.
(Pakenham 1991: 126)

You who hunger, who shall feed you?
Come to us, we too are starving.
Only hungry ones can feed you.
B. Brecht, All or Nothing

read rest at:
Hi Nohope, long time no see. Nice thread.
Alotta Errata
Indeed, very good thread!
The Rebel Girl
Starbucks Emails Describe Efforts to Stop Unionization [Wall Street Journal]

A series of emails by Starbucks Corp. managers sheds light on the company's efforts to thwart union organizing among its baristas.
Thoughts about the American economy (and its conjoined twin, the Canadian economy) have been on my mind with the alarming announcements we're getting in the news. Does anybody feel directly affected at this point?
well, i've been laid off because of this sucky economy, so i do. what is irksome to me is how some of the republicans-- and it's almost always republicans, who are blaming home owners defaulting.


as if poor people all got together and conned the big financial corps into giving them mortgages that would eventually make them homeless and screw up their credit even more.

yeah right. let's not forget this was, thanks to gop deregultaion, an money making operation. it was the republican lobbyists down on k street, getting favors from people like mccain's economic advisor, phill gramm (and his wife), to get them to allow naked short selling, and many of the capitol draining features that sunk enron, and now many others.

and like so many of these things they try to tell you it's sooooo complex. it's not. check this out:
james moore explains it all to you.. THE FINANCIAL MELTDOWN FOR BEGININERS

it was interesting to see naomi klein on real time this week pointing out this is EXACTLY what she was talking about in her book the shock doctrine. but i think we also have to see this an an opportunity-- if americans put pressure on THEIR government they can put caviats on this new bailout that will help the middle and working class. the sort of thing that obama (finally) is talking about. this is our chance to use our leverage to demand these execs don't get golden parachutes as they get fired (like carly fiorina) to the tune of 10's of millions.

but they don't want that. even today you have this headline "Bush Treasury Sec: Don't Add Households To Financial Bailout Plan." because the assholes on the right only want the rich to get the payoff here.

shock doctrine. here, in action. this is just another monitary syphon to give taxpayer's money to the rich and the huge corperations.

That bail out strikes me as one of those glaringly obvious future failures, the type that kids learn about in history class in the year 2052 thinking, "boy were people gullible in the olden days.."

not even gullible, just under thumb in a big way.

You know, I've only ever heard naomi klein in interview about that book (never read it), do you know if her analysis offers up any solutions?
it does-- of a sort. the book is about situations where the SD is used, so in the last chapter she talks about situations where there has been resistance to it.

This latest bail out is a crock and even Wall street knows it.

When these idiots talk about market fundamentals, they are talking out of their asses.

To me these are the fundamentals.

Unsustainable Income inequality, leading to higher prices greater inequality etc... leading to homelessness, starvation, no medical care, death

Unsupportable individual and national debt burden, leading to cost cutting, bankruptcy, fewer jobs, less price competition, higher prices, lower wages, homelessness, lack of health care, starvation, death.

You can pure as much money into Wall street as you like, but we all know what that means, Greater income inequality, more political corruption, dollar devaluation, increased prices, more debt, fewer customers, lower demand, fewer jobs, lower wages, more unemployed, more bankruptcy, more homelessness, more health care insecurity, more starvation, death.

There are only two ways this goes down, cause this is a simple question of supply and demand.

1. you redistribute wealth/consumer power, there by increasing demand and creating jobs.


2. you let the market kill off the excess supply of human resources.

ok there is a third way.

"let's not forget this was, thanks to gop deregultaion, an money making operation. it was the republican lobbyists down on k street, getting favors from people like mccain's economic advisor, phill gramm (and his wife), to get them to allow naked short selling, and many of the capitol draining features that sunk enron, and now many others."

Lets not forget the Democrats, who voted for all this deregulation. Clinton was one of the Archutechts. Remember Seatle.

That WTO protest was in direct opposition to Clinton economic policies.

This is not a D vs R issue, this is a Class War issue. and the Democrats are on the wrong side.

So will you vote for Nader, or Cynthia Mckinney

Or do we get 8 more years of failed policies.
nah. i tried the nader route, that burnt up the last of my optimism. and i'll grant yo that the dems aren't saints. you know me well enough to know i dislike the clintons for the reasons you stated-- and more. but it's obama or mccain this time round. but i think the thing i learned from the clintons being in office is that just because your guy gets in, that doesn't mean you get a 4 year vacation. you still have to make the calls, and put pressure on them to do what's right. you have to "help" them by giving them a climate where they can go to the opposition and shrug, "i can't do anything but go along with these nutty lefties--- there's too much pressure."

but the idea of anarchy as a solution, is silly. come on nh, even you don't believe that.

it's good to see you actually posting nh, as opposed to cutting and pasting. welcome back.
hey vixen,

naomi klein wrote something about the meltdown/bailout for huff post titled Now is the Time to Resist Wall Street's Shock Doctrine.

speaking of former clinton folks and economics, one of obama's advisors is robert reich. since his time with clinton he's moved much further left. if you get pri's radio show "marketplace" he's a contributor, and one i'm always happy to hear. he's often on tv, and writes for huffpost too.

here is his blog which as a nifty little look at what the gov't should be doing about the melt down and the bailout
I do believe Anarchism is the only solution.

But of course when I say anarchism I might mean something different than you do.

I don't mean a world with out structure. I mean a world whose structure is informed by solutions which happen to be espoused by people who call themselves and their ideas anarchism.

I'm not an ideological anarchist, I'm an anarchist because i value liberty above all else. and I value liberty, I believe because biologically i am fundamentally, as are all humans, evolved to value it. So I am an anarchist not by choice, but by nature.

That is why anarchism is the only solution. Because by our nature we are all anarchists. We all want relationships free of coercion.

The root of this crises is coercion, market coercion, political coercion, social coercion.

Womens liberation itself is fundamentally a struggle against coercion. It's about the right of every human, but in this case focused on women, having the right to live a full life without coercive forces telling them how to act.

But more importantly Bakunin's Social Anarchism leads the way in shining a light on the nature of liberty itself, and their by the means of enabling all humans to live free. That is that each of use is only as free as the least free among us, that freedom is not a zero sum game, of my freedom being an extension of your lack of freedom, but rather the other way around, that when I enable you to be free, and you enable me to be free, that our aggregate freedom is more than the sum of our individual freedom.

As social animals we live and die together, we are free and enslaved together.

Which of course is why I am interested in the womens liberation struggle.

So yes we are not out of the woods when we use government to force compliance.

First, Anarchism's analysis that governments are a mechanism of capitalist exploitation has and is being shown true again and again, as it has since the 1850's

Second, Social Anarchism analysis that change must come from with in would seam to be again validated by the present circumstances. ... even if we have a NEW new deal, until those who would be our masters reject the ideology of fascism and embrace anarchism... we will just have another replay of events.

Because these cycles are a products of human coercion. and since humans are evolved to cooperate and not be coerced, fascisms unnatural social structures invariable create unsustainable social imbalances.

Economics really is a mechanism for quantifying social interactions. Economic inequality is troubling because it statistically reflects a societal imbalance. An imbalance of power. Power of self actualization.
What might an anarchist solution to the Credit Crises look like.


Americans join federally backed Local Bank Cooperatives which will be limited in size. These bank's will buy mortgage backed securities and other investments from banks going bankrupt.

They will then coordinate together to refinance the debt of their members.

By means of this kind of market mechanism we can transfer our banking system from a non transparent totalitarian model, to a transparent democratically member driven model using market forces to deflate assets to reflect the markets true valuations and pass along the saving which were expropriated threw the housing bubble back to consumers.
oooooh! kitty!
"As it had been in 1907, during the 1920s the availability of credit was an overriding concern to cash-strapped farmers who found that demand had slackened considerably with the end of the war in Europe. They turned to Washington for help. In response to those appeals for easier credit, Congress established the banks and associations of the current Farm Credit System between 1916 and 1933 to make loans to farmers and ranchers and their cooperatives. All Farm Credit System institutions are private credit cooperatives owned by their borrower-members, and operate at no cost to the Federal Government. Loan funds are raised by selling notes and bonds in the financial markets. The cost of raising funds is a key determinant of the interest rate charged agricultural producers and their cooperatives when loans are made. Farm Credit System institutions are supervised, regulated, and examined by the Farm Credit Administration....."

".....The Farm Credit Act of 1933 established the third component of the system--local production credit associations to make short- and intermediate-term production loans to farmers. Congress created these associations to channel funds directly to producers from each intermediate credit bank because private lenders were unable to meet the credit needs of farmers coping with the Great Depression. Responding to the financing difficulties which farmer cooperatives had faced in the 1920s, the 1933 Act also provided for 12 district banks for cooperatives and a Central Bank to make loans to farmers' marketing, purchasing, and business service cooperatives. The Farm Credit Administration (FCA), which supervises the Farm Credit System, was established as an independent agency in 1933 by an Executive Order. Under a reorganization plan, the FCA was transferred to the Department of Agriculture in 1939. The Farm Credit Act of 1953 reconstituted the FCA under the direction, supervision, and control of the Federal Farm Credit Board and established it as an independent Federal agency. When Congress established each component of the FCS, the Federal Government provided capital to establish a financial base to carry out each bank's operations. The 1953 Act, however, declared the policy of Congress to favor increased borrower participation in the control and ultimate ownership of the Farm Credit System and the eventual retirement of all Federal Government funds. By 1969, all government funding had been retired."
Hello nohope! long time no post. it is good to see you around here.

how would you suggest getting the powers to take part in an anarchist approach to the current credit crisis? i've been a fan of anarchy for some time. it seems like the ideals of anarchy can be difficult to implement in today's society. not that i don't think it's worth the effort to try, but, i'm interested in your take.
i do wish you would not do the cut and paste thing, hopey. i love reading what you have to say.... if you're the one speaking. otherwise i just ignore your posts and i think you have a lot of good stuff to contribute.

i know you know how to link, so please, link rather than c&p.
"how would you suggest getting the powers to take part in an anarchist approach to the current credit crisis? I've been a fan of anarchy for some time. it seems like the ideals of anarchy can be difficult to implement in today's society. not that i don't think it's worth the effort to try, but, I'm interested in your take."

People will take part when the alternative is no longer viable.

The IWW has the motto, "By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old." The IWW is a union, and forming unions and taking over the means of production is only one means of resting control of how we live from the capitalists and placing it in our won hands were we can run our own workplaces for the benefit our ourselves.

But building a wold predicated on anarchism means organizing lots of other ways. It;s the worker or buyers owned coop. It's the farmers market. The cooperative bank/credit union. It's the alternative currency like Ithaca Hours. Or the Alternative insurgence like the Philahealthia Citizens' Health Coops.

For people to take part in anarchism, they have to have something to take part in. I talk about three main things here on bust.

One... I post about community institutions which are trying to organize and run projects on anarchistic principles. The people trying to build the institutions which will constitute the new society with in the old.

Two.... I post about the ideas which inspire them.

Three.... I post about how the unsustainable of the present social structure.

When capitalism is brought to it's knees by it's own dead wait, it will be those who have sustainable alternative ventures who will be there to absorber the huge demand caused by difference's of corporate America.

When super Wall-Marts start pulling out of our towns in order to cut costs.... Will we have built the institutions, the coops, to take up this slack?

``Although the government tried to debase the yen by printing a lot of government bonds, the economy went into a standstill,'' said Cheah, an official at the Monetary Authority of Singapore from 1991 to 1999 who manages $2 billion at AIG SunAmerica Asset Management in Jersey City, New Jersey. ``The banks used the money to buy safety. I see a repeat happening here. The banks will use it to buy Treasuries.''
yes but do you call a coop an anarchist monetary system? sounds more like a barter system.
Coops are anarchistic in so much as they are run less coercively than their alternatives.

In general democracy and democratic institutions are more anarchistic.

Whether one barters or not, is really a question of what mechanism one believes will handle exchanges least coercively.

From my perspective barter is not any less coercive a method of exchange than money. In fact I would argue that money is fundamentally a form of barter. Barter by proxy. At least in it's pure form.

Clearly under Nationalism, money being backed by the coercive force of the state, is not bartering.

Under Capitalism, capitalists use money, backed by State force, as a mechanism to circumvent the free market and extort unfair exchanges. i.e. Proudhon: What is Property?

Proudhon, points out that it's realy the use of state force to protect "property," that is at the heart of economic inequilty.
Want to chang the world? Lets start by looking at how we raise children
ok so the first of of many trillion dollar bailouts has passed.

My prediction.

Welcome to Japan or Zimbabwe


This is it.... Not Bush getting elected. Not McCain getting elected, this is it..... we are now fucked...

So it's time to move.... Cause every CEO has a plan and it's called Dubai. You can't afford Dubai, but there are plenty of nice, friendly places to live.

So get your passport ready.... and find a country to immigrate too.... learn there language. Choose one with universal health care.... the brain drain begins now.... we live in a free market and the best and brightest will move to the freest and fairest.

Freak out, but don't worry, you have 6 to 24 months.... depending on your personal circumstance's....

regardless of who wins the election...

The worst case will be that you will not find a nation willing to let you in.

In that case good luck...

QUOTE(nohope @ Oct 1 2008, 11:19 AM) *
Want to chang the world? Lets start by looking at how we raise children

okay, nohope, i am only in the first few minutes of this, but i am riveted and saddened. i already know this... anyone with half a brain knows this... anyone half aware knows this... that (some, certainly not all, as there are some upper middle class communities that never spend time on their children for being too self absorbed) some children are getting a head start that is worlds ahead of poor children. But I am going to listen to the whole show, I have just recently discovered 'This American Life' and find it very fascinating and comprehensive. There is one called 'the mortgage crisis' that was very very informative.


To add to what you said down below.

If the American people do not leave the country, buy gold, silver, booze, and seeds for bartering purposes because now that the bailout has passed, what we will soon have is hyper-stagflation, meaning the average american's income will stagnate, while the prices of goods and services inflates. So, store up on food! As the prices of food will soon increase! If you cannot leave the country, have several plans just in case.

nohope, why did you mention japan? history lesson please? wink.gif

eta: never mind about the japan question set above, i believe i've got my answer this morning after watching zeitgeit: addendum - the producer turned toward economics. they are doing to the american people what they've done to countless countries around the world. heh, i already knew the answer, anyway, not sure why i asked, i guess for a concrete example or validation for my presumptions. oh. we're f*cked, so, so, so enslaved, the whole lot of us. neo-feudalism is here to stay.
[color="#008080"][/color] I really don't know much at all about anarchy apart from the bare minimum which is probably tainted by social stereotype, but it sort of sounds to me that what you're describing (from what I thought I understood anarchy to be) is much too structured and well, organised to be anarchical. I was under the impression that anarchy was more chaotic-and what you describe is what I would've termed socialism. Can you help me out here? I'm confused!
QUOTE(spatzlemaus @ Oct 7 2008, 04:42 PM) *
[color="#008080"][/color] I really don't know much at all about anarchy apart from the bare minimum which is probably tainted by social stereotype, but it sort of sounds to me that what you're describing (from what I thought I understood anarchy to be) is much too structured and well, organised to be anarchical. I was under the impression that anarchy was more chaotic-and what you describe is what I would've termed socialism. Can you help me out here? I'm confused!

If you want to understand anarchism as a social movement. As a body of ideas, and not just as a caricature. I'd start here....
Naomi Wolf's warning of pending martial law.
Great netcast on the need of poorer countries in this depression

Also great episode on This American Life about the last depresion
November 28/29th (depending on where you are) is Buy Nothing Day.



edited to add: why don't my image links work?
The picture function was deactived due to trolls.
Thanks for the info, kittenb.

It appears the shopoholics of the world killed someone through trampling at a Wal-Mart yesterday. Must have been some great discounts on Guitar Hero.
QUOTE(tommynomad @ Nov 28 2008, 06:43 PM) *
Thanks for the info, kittenb.

It appears the shopoholics of the world killed someone through trampling at a Wal-Mart yesterday. Must have been some great discounts on Guitar Hero.

I heard about that... absolutely horrific, I mean someone actually died! I can't even imagine I have been through some pretty crazy mosh pits etc. but walmart??
Bartlett Discusses His Book `The New American Economy':
Nov. 11 (Bloomberg)

Bruce Bartlett, who served as a Treasury Department economist under President George H.W. Bush, talks with Bloomberg's Tom Keene about his new book ``The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward.''
Sounds know everytime I hear discussions about the "greatest U.S. presidents", Reagan's name ALWAYS comes up somehow. The man went into politics with no experience and as ignorant and clueless as anyone could possibly be. Our country suffered horrifically during his time at the helm, yet i still hear his economic policies referred to as innovative. Considering I get most of my televised news from PBS, this is more than a little disturbing. What's innovative about letting poor retirees starve to death?

Anyway, thanks for the tip; will have to check the book out.
Capitalism is here to stay, it's what makes the world go around and greed is always sheik. Even china had to buckle and cave in. Although they do maintain strong political control still.
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