Occupy Vision – Chapter 3: Parpolity

April 3rd, 2013

Published on ZNet, by Mark Evans and Michael Albert, April 01, 2013.

Chapter 3: Self Management Implies Parpolity:

This is the chapter three of Occupy Vision, which is the second volume of the three volume set titled Fanfare for the Future. In coming days we will post the book’s eight chapters. You can find out more about Occupy Theory, Occupy Vision, and Occupy Strategy, as well as how to purchase the books in print or for ebook reading, at Z’s book page for them – which is here//

… Anarchist Roots: … //

… The Need for Political Vision: … //

… Failed Political Visions: … //

… ParPolity:

Oh the time will come up
When the winds will stop
And the breeze will cease to be a ‘breathin’
Like the stillness in the wind
Before the hurricane begins
The hour when the ship comes in

- Bob Dylan

After admittedly very quickly rejecting Leninism and parliamentary democracy as both violating our values, the first important thing to realize is that political life will not disappear in a desirable society. This might seem utterly obvious to many, but there are others who approach the problem of envisioning a better future who miss this key point. The structure of political life will transform, yes, but its relevance to citizens will intensify rather than diminish.

Politics will no longer be privileged groups perpetuating their domination. Nor will oppressed constituencies battle an unjust status quo whether cynically or as an opposition. But having a desirable polity doesn’t mean having universal agreement about social choices. If we assume universal agreement there is little to discuss, but we will also be operating in an ugly delusion. Homogenized minds is not an apt image upon which to build liberated circumstances.

While the goal of social diversity dictates that competing ideas should be implemented in parallel whenever possible, many times one program will have to be implemented at the expense of others. The problem of public choice will therefore not disappear in a desirable polity. Even more, since a desirable society will kindle our participatory impulses, in a good society debate will sometimes heat up rather than cool down.

Stephen Shalom, in his efforts to envision a parpolity, outlines a sampling of issues that will still inspire debate and dispute:

Here are just a few issues that will continue to vex us: animal rights (should meat-eating be outlawed?), pornography (is it inherently oppressive to women or is it an expression of individual autonomy?), prostitution (in a society without economic exploitation is it possible for someone to ‘choose’ to be a sexual worker?), deep ecology (to what extent should we treat the environment not just as something to be saved so that it can continue to sustain us in the future, but as something of value independent of all human benefit?), drug legalization, multilingualism, children’s rights, allocation of expensive or scarce medical resources like heart transplants or cloning, surrogate motherhood, euthanasia, single-sex schools, and religious freedom when the religions violate other important societal values like gender equity.

If that list doesn’t make the point, Shalom continues:

On top of this, there are issues that are generally supported by the Left, but not universally so, and about which I can imagine continuing debates in a good society: for example, the extent to which we should recognize abortion rights or preferential policies for members of previously oppressed groups. And then there are issues that would arise from the fact that the whole world may not become ‘a good society’ all at once … how will we deal with questions of foreign policy, trade, or immigration?

After which Shalom summarizes,

In short, even in a society that had solved the problem of economic exploitation and eliminated hierarchies of race, class, and gender, many controversies–many deep controversies–would still remain. Hence, any good society will have to address issues of politics and will need some sort of political system, a polity.

The broadest goals, if not the structural means of embodying a new polity, are already pretty well understood and enunciated. A truly democratic community insures that the general public has the opportunity for meaningful and constructive participation in the formation of social policy. A society that excludes large areas of crucial decision-making from public control, or a system of governance that merely grants the general public the opportunity to ratify decisions taken by elite groups…hardly merits the term democracy. A central question is, however, what institutional vehicles will best afford and even guarantee the public truly democratic opportunities?

Ultimately, political controversies must be settled by tallying people’s preferences. Obviously voting will be better informed the greater access voters have to relevant information. One condition of real democracy, therefore, is that groups with competing opinions can effectively communicate their views. Democratization of political life must include democratization of the flow of information and commentary (see a discussion of such media in chapter ten of the book Realizing Hope).

Participatory democracy requires not only democratic access to a transformed media and the possibility for people to form and utilize single-issue political organizations to make their views known, but also, at least in all likelihood, a pluralism of political parties with different social agendas. There is no reason to think, in other words, that having a good economy or kinship or culture or whole society means that people won’t disagree about major matters in ideological ways. An absence of class, gender, and racial hierarchy doesn’t imply an absence of all difference and dispute.

If we reflect briefly on the history of political life within the left and on the consequences of attempting to ban parties, factions, or any form of political organization that people desire to employ, all in an attempt to attain cohesiveness and, in essence, uniformity, it should be clear that bans are the stuff of repression and authoritarianism. To have parties which internally create anti solidaritous relations, violate self management, and deny diversity, will not further these values in society as a whole.

But can we offer more by way of political vision than these broad and very general intimations of possible features of a desirable polity?

Values: … //

… Institutions: … //

… Parpolity and the Economy: … //

… Parpolity and Political Strategy: …//

… (full long long text).

(see also: Introduction; Chapter One; Chapter two; The Trouble with Leninism).

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