No Bosses. A New Economy for A Better World. By Michael Albert. Zero Books. 2021. 220 pages. £13.99.
Another book by Michael Albert arguing for his blueprint for a future economic and social system that he calls ‘participatory economics’, or ‘parecon’. He presents it as an alternative buying-and-selling economy both to one where wages and prices are determined by the market and to one where they are fixed by the government. His blueprint involves your work and income being decided by your work colleagues and what you consume by your neighbours. It also involves numerous meetings and votes to decide what should be produced.
Yanis Varoufakis, in a politely critical preface, makes the point that it could turn out to be a dystopia rather than a utopia:
‘While I see how Michael’s proposed organisation would rid workers of individual bosses and market pressures, I fear they may end up being bossed around by tyrannical majorities.’
Yaroufakis is writing from the position of someone who thinks that giving the market a role would allow people a greater freedom of choice. We don’t agree with that of course but would make the same criticism on the ground that post-scarcity conditions make free access possible along with the application of the principle ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs’.
Albert, however, insists that consumption should be linked to the ‘duration, intensity and onerousness’ of the work an individual does and is implacably opposed to ‘from each to each,’ devoting four pages to criticising it, or rather a caricature of it. Basically, he thinks that it would lead to people not working hard enough and/or consuming too much. He calls it ‘The Anarchist Objection’ and, indeed, Kropotkin and Alexander Berkman who he cites as among those who have influenced his blueprint, could both have answered his arguments. It is not just an objection made by some anarchists but also by us, as he knows since he has debated with us, both in person and in the columns of the Socialist Standard (April 2006).
There is nothing new in the book except for Varoufakis’s point.