Michael Albert

[Capitalism] is not a success. It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is not just, it is not virtuous-and it doesn’t deliver the goods. In short, we dislike it, and we are beginning to despise it. But when we wonder what to put in its place, we are extremely perplexed. – John Maynard Keynes

Michael Albert, who, as well as doing doing lots of other things over the last thirty years or so, has developed a system of economics that challenges the idea of the capitalist system. Now a lot of us do plenty of moaning about the state of our affairs, but not many commit so much of our time as Albert does, lecturing, teaching, writing, developing, and refining a system to replace one that the majority find so unfair and lopsided. What Albert has to say on the subject of economics is both engaging and enlightening.

Here is what Adele Oliveri, economist, political activist, ZNet commentator, and Italian translator of Parecon says about Albert’s book: “If we are to convince people to join the growing worldwide struggle for global justice, we must be able to offer them a glimpse into what our desired future society might look like. Parecon takes economic vision out of the realm of academic journals and throws it right in the middle of the activism arena, showing us how we can build from the bottom up a set of consumption, production, and allocation institutions that foster equity, diversity, solidarity, participation, and self-management. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and definitely recommend it to anyone who is serious about winning the hearts and minds of the undecided to the cause of our common effort to build a more humane world.”

The important thing that should be focused on here is an idea for economics ” showing us how we can build from the bottom up” . People are so used to the idea of an economic system whose benefits, seemingly, cascade from the top down – a system where we should sit in silence, awaiting word from above as to what our economic priorities, position and projections will, or should be.

The idea of being part of the decision making in all aspects of work and community that directly affects an individual can be somewhat daunting, especially in a political climate that avoids participation and encourages a “specialist” and “professional” approach as to how we should work, rest, and play.

But this idea is participatory economics. Once people get the swing of this kind of stuff they will not let go of it in a hurry, which is probably why you may never have heard of it (Parecon), or were never pointed towards it at school or college, or were never encouraged by any government agency, or initiative, to check it out. But it is there. And to work, as the title suggests, needs the participation of those the scheme would benefit most.