Is a Participatory Economy a Blueprint?

September 7, 2022

Many socialists are cautious about developing too detailed visions of a post-capitalist system and prefer to leave it to future citizens to work out. Is the Participatory Economy model a blueprint? Does it go into too much detail about things that we can’t yet know about?

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PEP Talk: The Participatory Economy Podcast is a podcast where we discuss the democratic alternative to capitalism known as a Participatory Economy, featuring co-creator of the model and economist professor Robin Hahnel. He is joined by host of the show Mitchell Szczepanczyk and regular guest Antti Jauhiainen.

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Notable Replies

  1. I just wanna add some thoughts to this notion that may be a little weird.

    To me there is no such thing as a blueprint. It’s a kind of myth really. Some things go into more detail than other things, that’s all. And then people, hopefully, decide what’s useful and what may not be.

    As to future citizens deciding on doing certain stuff, that’s even stranger. There are no existing future citizens, only present in the now ones. And what any citizen decides to do, or citizens collectively, is done in the present and will affect the future. How that turns out is not dependent at all on whether something is a blueprint or part of a blueprint. It just depends on whether or not the implemented idea, assumed at the time, in the now, to be a reasonable one, is in fact reasonable and achieves what the implementers hoped to. If not, they either reject it or tweak it with other ideas they have collectively decided are worthy and reasonable. They too may turn out to be wrong or right or a bit of both. But the citizens doing the implementing, tweaking, fixing, rejecting, apologising for implementing it, taking the hit from others, are always in the present.

    Even if I plonked on the table in front of every revolutionary leftist my own vision and entitled it An Over-Prescribed and Extremely Detailed Vision for the Future. Subtitled, Totally A Blueprint!, does that mean no one reads it or looks at it? Does that mean it’s wrong? Stupid? Dumb? I mean it’s just on the table and a bunch of ideas, nothing more. And even if I demanded everyone put it into practice exactly as I planned would anyone even listen to me and take that seriously? Come on?

    But just because it is a blueprint by my defining it as such, does that mean it must me ignored? What if there is a gem of an idea in there that no one else has thought of? What if there are good ideas in there? What if by fucking luck, I actually nailed the perfect utopian system? No one would know anything about it, even if it is in fact a blueprint, if they didn’t read it and discuss it with others. I mean, shit, you may be able to tell it’s total shit by the first couple of paragraphs. Ok, great, so much for my idea! Next! In other words, it’s not really an issue.

    And even if it’s ignored I could still introduce the ideas within it at different times, always in the present, because future citizens can’t do anything because they’re not yet, separately as if they aren’t a part of a bigger whole and see how others react to them. What’s the difference?

    There is this anti-blueprint kind of idea coming from those who suggest we just make stuff up as we go, together, collectively. Which is also kind of weird because one wonders what this we, or collective, making all the decisions is, or who they actually are. The idea I suppose is meant to invoke everybody getting involved, billions of people I guess. Or maybe it’s just those activists doing stuff, I never really know. And you gotta have institutional structure for such decision making to take place anyway. And doing stuff as we go is exactly the only way anyone can do stuff. At some point one has to collapse the wave function and do x, y and z and see what happens. Whether we know enough about human nature to implement a blueprint applies equally to one singular idea thought up by someone and introduced in the present. And any one single thing, like, hey let’s start a cooperative, affects the future. Everything in the present does because that’s what the present becomes…a future present.

    Over prescribing is similar to saying someone is over sensitive. There’s no such thing. And the ignorance argument, often put forth by Chomsky against even things like Parecon, which he does promote, just doesn’t have any weight to me at all. There are just ideas put forth, one at time or together in some sort of package or plan that needs to be looked at and discussed with a view to implementation or not.

    There’s no such thing as a blueprint as something to be fearful of. Some call Parecon a blueprint, and some a scaffold…wow, as if that makes a bloody difference to the actual ideas within the system. To me it means nothing.

  2. Leaving it to future citizens to work out basically means, if those citizens are thinking like “many socialists” today, they too will leave things to future citizens to work out thereby making it a certainty nothing gets done, or it does but just really really slowly.

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