Looking Forward

Michael Albert & Robin Hahnel

Published in 1991

By South End Press

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Nearly all Western economists claim that successful modern economies require hierarchical work, unequal consumption, and market coordination. Most “progressive” economists agree, adding only pleas for a more secure safety net or perhaps a “mixed economy.” All these economists insist that the only alternative to the market is the discredited, bureaucratic, command economy of the Eastern Bloc Whatever else we might desire, they say, we cannot achieve anything better. Looking Forward challenges this “impossibility theorem” and spells out how we can do much better.

Why should workers agree to be slaves in a basically authoritarian structure? Why shouldn’t communities have a dominant voice in running the institutions that affect their lives? Albert and Hahnel agree with Noam Chomsky that “The task for a modern industrial society is to achieve what is now technically realizable, namely, a society which is really based on free voluntary participation of people who produce and create, live their lives freely within institutions they control and with limited hierarchical structures, possibly none at all.”

In this popularly written and carefully argued book, Albert and Hahnel describe how work could be organized efficiently and productively without hierarchy; how consumption could be fulfilling and also equitable; and how participatory planning could promote solidarity and foster self-management while still “getting the job done.” Breaking with unexamined dogmas, Albert and Hahnel provide a clear, practical, and humane alternative vision for a truly participatory economy.