Michael Albert’s Weird Idea of Freedom

According to Michael Albert, Participatory Economics  is a proposed economic system that uses “participatory decision making as an economic mechanism to guide the production, consumption and allocation of resources in a given society.” (Michael Albert, Parecon: Life After Capitalism – Verso, 2003)

Albert believes ParEcon will allow “workers and consumers” to have aself managed say over their economic lives, a condition of solidarity with others, equitable incomes for their labors, diverse opportunities and options, and ecological balance.” (Parecon & Participatory Society, ZCommunications website)

ParEcon and its Political Organization, The International Organization for a Participatory Society have gained favor with several famous Leftists such as Noam Chomsky & Arundhati Roy.

Although ParEcon is more or less a rehashing of old Leftist ideas like Syndicalism and Social Ecology, Roy calls Parecon a brave argument for a much needed, more equitable, democratic, participatory–alternative economic vision.” (http://us.macmillan.com/realizinghope/MichaelAlbert)

Personally, I see nothing brave, needed or desirable in a philosophy that openly advocates compulsory labor as a means of emancipation. I do not doubt that Albert means well, but I can’t help but think that his attachment to modern industrial civilization keeps him from developing a truly liberatory philosophy.

Rather than seeing human beings as autonomous individuals with our own unique needs, wants and desires, Albert describes us as “workers and consumers” and speaks of us having a say in our “economic lives.”

I am not interested in having a say in my “economic life.” In fact, I do not want to have an economic life at all!

At best, the only freedom I would have if forced to live in a Participatory Economy is the freedom to be a self-managed wage slave, essentially owned by the Techno-Industrial-Monstrosity known as Participatory Economics.

In his seminal essay The Abolition of Work, Bob Black claims…

“Work is the source of nearly all the misery in the world. Almost any evil you’d care to name comes from working or from living in a world designed for work. In order to stop suffering, we have to stop working.”

I whole heartedly agree! If work is “production enforced by economic or political means” as Black asserts, then using “participatory decision making as an economic mechanism to guide the production, consumption and allocation of resources in a given society” is just another form of slavery like Capitalism, Communism or any other political philosophy based on compulsory work.

Anyone can label their oppressive political philosophy “liberatory,” just ask Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Ayn Rand or Mao Tse-tung!

In his essay On the Duty of Civil Disobedience,  Henry David Thoreau claims “That government is best which governs not at all.” He believed when people are ready for it, that is the government they will have; no government. At the end of the day, government is simply the name we give to the institutions that exist solely for the purpose of forcing us to work!

What Albert, Chomsky, Marx, Bookchin, Rand, Smith and countless other political philosophers fail to realize (or at least mention) is that humans did no work for over 99% of our existence! It is only with the introduction of agriculture and domestication approximately 10 to 12 Thousand years ago that the oppressive slavery known as work came to be!

In his famous essay The Original Affluent Society, anthropologist Marshall Sahlins shows that pre-agricultural/domestication humans met all their wants and needs with relatively little effort and had an amazingly varied and healthy diet!

So if our modern techno-industrial world makes our life harder, why do we cling to it?

Neo-Primitivist philosopher John Zerzan claims that hunter-gatherers lived a playful, egalitarian lifestyle free of hierarchy, division of labor or forced sexual roles. (John Zerzan, Twilight Of The Machines – Feral House 2008) That sounds much more appealing to me than Michael Albert’s philosophy of compulsory yet somehow self-managed slavery.

Perhaps its time we quit looking to other modern domesticated humans for ideas on how to free ourselves from slavery and started looking to our “wild” hunter-gatherer ancestors?

Rather than striving for a Participatory Economy that allows us to self-manage our own slavery, I advocate the anti-political philosophy of Non-Participatory Economics. My “social program” is no social program. My personal program can be summed up with the phrase – Gone to Croatan. 

To all you anti-authoritarians, anarchists, abolitionists and plain ole’ human beings out there I say feel free to join me, or not. Do what you want to do, not what I think you should do. And to Michael Albert and all the other ideologues out there who want to force me to sacrifice my own autonomy for their political philosophy, be it left wing, right wing, socialist, anarchist, capitalist or whatever, I say FUCK YOU!

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