Work concept inventions

The new standard: A Parecon workplace is possible

by Jessica Azulay at ZNet

A parecon workplace is possible. I have experienced one, and now I believe we can overcome capitalism.

The hierarchical workplace is an insidious institution. It is a powerful mechanism through which capitalism imposes and normalizes some of its most vicious values: It thrives on competition. It encourages authoritarianism and subservience. It rewards workers for their race, gender, education, output, age, conformity, and their ability to “work the system.” It is dangerous for individual empowerment and democracy, yet it is embraced even by most social-change organizations. It must be subverted.

The theory of Participatory Economics provides a framework for creating a new kind of workplace in present-day market economies. It shows us how to organize our work around a different set of values: equity, solidarity, democracy, and diversity.

Unlike some facets of the parecon vision, which may seem lofty and futuristic, the workplace model can to a great extent be immediately implemented. I say this with confidence because I have done it.

For four years, I, along with several co-workers, labored in a parecon-based workplace to produce a daily, online news publication called The NewStandard. TNS, as we called it, was 100 percent reader funded and not-for-profit. It upheld the highest ethical standards in the news industry and focused on the perspectives of people most affected by current events and government and corporate policy.

Our particular project was a less-than-ideal laboratory for parecon. At its peak, when there were six of us, we worked from four different locations, which made communication challenging. We worked grueling hours to meet daily publishing deadlines, leaving little time and energy for other aspects of our organization. And the funding pressures of the news and alternative-media industries kept our publication on the financial brink.

Yet we found even this to be a rich environment in which to stave off hierarchy. Using the parecon fundamentals—balanced job complexes, participatory decision-making, and payment for effort and sacrifice—we were able to experiment, invent, and reinvent until we found ways of operating that were increasingly efficient and fair.

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