As of June 2021, 54% of Gen Z adults view capitalism negatively and over 41% have a positive view on socialism. A Participatory Economy is written for people who desire an equitable, ecological economy but want to know what an alternative to capitalism could look like.
A Participatory Economy presents a fascinating, new alternative to capitalism. It proposes and defends concrete answers to how all society's economic decisions can be made without resorting to unaccountable and inhumane markets (capitalism) or central planning authorities (communism). It explains the viability of early socialism's vision of an economy in which the workers come together to decide among themselves what to produce and consume. At the same time, Hahnel proposes new features to this economic model including proposing how “reproductive labor” might be socially organized, how to plan investment and long-term development to maximize popular participation and efficiency, and finally, how a participatory economy might engage in international trade and investment without violating its fundamental principles in a world where economic development among nations has been historically unfair and unequal.
Origins of Participatory Economics
A Participatory Economy in Brief
Chapter 1: Clarifying Goals
Chapter 2: Why Bother Building “Castles in the Air?”
Why We Cannot Wait to Spell Out Our Alternative
Why No Private Enterprise
Private Enterprise Is Incompatible with Worker Self-Management
Private Enterprise Is Incompatible with Economic Justice
Why Not a Mixed Economy
Why No Markets
Markets Are Inefficient
Externalities are pervasive
Markets are often not competitive
Markets often fail to equilibrate
Practical problems with policy correctives
Labor Markets Are Unfair
Markets Subvert Democracy
Markets Undermine the Ties that Bind Us
Why Social Democracy is Unstable
Answering “Auntie TINA”
Early Socialists Had It Right
Chapter 3: Major Institutions
Indigenous Cultures and the Commons
Socialism and the “Means of Production”
A Productive Commons for Modern Times
What Is Mine?
Democratic Councils and Federations
Neighborhood Consumer Councils
Participatory Planning: Basics
The Annual Procedure in Brief
Reconciling Democracy and Autonomy
Dispelling Common Confusions
The Size 6 Purple High Heeled Shoe with a Yellow Toe Problem
Chapter 4: Work and Income
Work Will Not Disappear
Jobs Should be “Balanced”
Compensation Based on Effort and Sacrifice
Fairness, Trust, and Solidarity
Measuring Effort and Sacrifice
A Market for Labor?
Accounting for Need
Saving and Borrowing
Are Equity and Efficiency at Odds?
Chapter 5: Participatory Annual Planning
Who Says No?
What Is Known When Annual Planning Begins
Public Goods: Evening the Playing Field
Externalities: Taken Seriously!
A Pollution Demand Revealing Mechanism
Efficiency in Theory: Comparing Assumptions
Efficiency in Practice: Evidence from Computer Simulation Experiments
What Participatory Planning is Not
Chapter 6: Reproductive Labor
What is Reproductive Labor?
Education and Healthcare
Public vs. Private Choice
Reproductive Labor in the Economy
Balance Jobs for Caring Labor
Reproductive Labor in Households
In-home Domestic Labor
In-home Caring Labor
In-home Socialization Labor
Chapter 7: Participatory Investment Planning
The Practical Necessity of Multiple Plans
An Optimal Aggregate Investment Plan
Participatory Investment Planning
A Generational Equity Constraint
Who Should Participate, and How?
Integrating Investment and Annual Planning
Making a Comprehensive Investment Plan
Chapter 8: Participatory Long-run Development Planning
Participatory Education Planning
What Education Planning Decides
Benefits of Education
Investing the Efficient Amount in Education
Education Planning Proposal
Participatory Environmental Planning
Unique Features of Environmental Planning
What Environmental Planning Decides
Investing the Efficient Amount to Protect the Environment
Environmental Planning Proposal
Participatory Infrastructure Planning
Chapter 9: International Economic Relations
Issues to Keep in Mind
Three Rules to Guide Trade Policy
Evaluating Comparative Advantages
Trade During Annual Planning
International Financial Investment
What Strategic International Economic Planning Decides
An Efficient Transformation of Comparative Advantages
Participants in Strategic International Economic Planning
Does Size Matter?
The Socialist Calculation Debate a Century Later
Reconciling Democracy and Autonomy
Opportunity Costs, Social Costs, and Social Rates of Return
Integrating Long-Run and Short-Run Plans
A Bridge Too Far?
Recommended Readings and Resources
“A key contribution to the on-going debate on democratic and participatory socialism. A must-read!”
—Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century
"Tired of having your life determined by a handful of gazillionaires, but afraid there is no alternative except an economic dictatorship? In A Participatory Economy, Robin Hahnel shows in concrete detail—and without economic jargon—how ordinary people can run an economy to meet their own needs through worker and consumer councils and federations. Of course many economists question that this is even possible but Hahnel provides powerful answers to rebut their denials. A Participatory Economy provides a provocative ‘thought experiment’ demonstrating that there is indeed an alternative to both neoliberal capitalism and economic despotism."
—Jeremy Brecher, author of Strike!
"'What comes next then?' This is likely one of the most common questions opponents of capitalism are asked when we critique the brutal and exploitative features of our economy. Hahnel has been developing a wide-ranging response to that very question for decades and in A Participatory Economy, he expertly advocates for an alternative to capitalism that rejects both the competitive and dehumanizing features of markets and the authoritarian, bureaucratic forms that are part and parcel of central planning. A recommended read for any student of political economy and necessary for organizers who want to understand one of the most popularized alternatives to capitalism outlined to date."
—Deric Shannon, co-editor of The Accumulation of Freedom and editor of The End of the World as We Know It
“I found Robin Hahnel’s work on participatory economics as a young activist. I was mad at the world and committed to changing it, but ultimately hopeless about our chances of winning and confused about what winning might look like. Participatory economics gave me an opportunity to think about that future, to really imagine it, and to fight for it more effectively. This book is a brilliant distillation of those concepts, and a must-have resource for people looking to reshape this world into one in which we can truly thrive.”
—Yotam Marom, facilitator and former leader in Occupy Wall Street
“Today’s labor movement is in crisis. Many unions have not only abandoned the struggle to challenge the rule of capital, but also the responsibility to imagine the features of a new world. To break free of this impasse, we need to advance a socialist vision that puts humanity on the road to a classless society. In A Participatory Economy, Robin Hahnel advances a vision in which the means of social production and reproduction are held in common, human needs are met, our ecosystem is protected for present and future generations, and economic activity is planned and coordinated democratically by councils of workers and our communities. If you’re curious what a better world beyond capitalism might look like, read this book!”
—Pádraig Connolly, Virginia Caucus of Rank-and-file Educators and CounterPower