robin hahnel

robin hahnel 2

intro’d to Robin.. via Erik.. …latest book: Alternatives to Capitalism: Proposals for a Democratic Economy

by Erik and Robin Hahnel – highly recommended by Noam, Gar, Juliet, ..

Download the book for kindle, free

notes/highlights (can’t get twitter/kindle notes to work – dang):

the myth of “no alternative” remains a powerful one – Stuart White

p1 – 1\ case for participatory econ – by Robin

loc 80

1\econ democracy: having decision making power in proportion to the degree one is affected by a a decision.

2\econ justice: econ reward commensurate w/sacrifice/effort

hmmm. isn’t that what’s stumped us in the past…? ie: who decides.. effort/reward…  never nothing going on ness…huge to spaces of permission – with nothing to prove. huge to sustainability. huge  to mindset of trust.

3\human solidarity: concern for wellbeing of others

4\econ efficiency: using scarce productive resources where they are most socially beneficial and not wasting people’s hard work


particip econ is simply a coherent description of how a fully developed system of equitable cooperation could function. it is not a transition strategy or political program

major institutions proposed to achieve 4 above: 1\ self govern.. each has one vote 2\ jobs w/balanced empowerment 3\ compensation judged by workmates on your effort 4\ participatory planning

so 1\ vote..? 2\ jobs..? 3\ judgement..?


like idea of neighbourhood consumption councils.. but not of .. ‘effort rating’

neighbor\hood (govt) ness

127 – Erik’s principal objection to the /model/ of a partici econ is the proposal to replace markets w/a procedure we call /partici planning’

138 – Erik presents reasons for believing that eliminating markets entirely is unnecessary and undesirable.

on planning – as annual procedure.. about known resources/people available next year… via only counsils.. who bring proposal

feared a bit by: annual and known and only and proposal..

we have tech to ground chaos of not that now..

and …graeber min\max law ness

163 – on neighborhood consumer council: a\ voting for delegates b\ making/approving consumption requests c\ deciding on public good requests… then goes on to show this neighborhood like a person… gets more the more effort put out

187 – this procedure ‘whittles’ overly ambitious proposals … down to a ‘feasible’ plan.. so that things will be available..


forced to ask for less.. or increase effort..

efficiency is promoted as consumers and workers attempt to shift their proposals in response to updated info about opportunity and social costs in order to avoid reduction in consumption or increase in work effort..

? – sounding so similar to what we have now.. no?

equity is promoted when further shifting is insufficient to win approval from fellow consumers/workers which can eventually only be achieved through consumption reduction or great work effort.

as iterations proceed, consumption and production proposals move closer to mutual feasibility, and estimates more closely approx true opportunity and social costs as the procedure generates equity and efficiency simultaneously..


makes me think of – i think it was nancy and penelope (a bit more harsh) – talking/writing of democratic schools.. on spending so much time (last para i read was about saving time) on making decisions/rules/et-al..

p1 – 2\ a critique – by Erik

loc 481 – Erik talking about complications in the complications.. and irony in the similarity w/market ness… and then offering more complications….. this will raise the oscar wilde problem of socialism taking up too many evenings, but it is worth it.

is it..?

all i keep thinking.. is how complicated this all is.. and why.. can’t we just trust people .. to work it out..

683 – after talking about different levels of labor.. differences in how people perceive activities.. i relation to the idea of compensating for effort… erik writes: i’m not sure what is the best way of dealing with these kinds of measurement problems.

don’t measure. trust.

being truly human means refusing to measure – david graeber ‘s debt

p1 – 3\ in defense – by Robin

loc 873 – on all discussion of pre planning what needs to be produced… ie: size 6 1/2 purple shoe…

am wondering if that’s really what alive people would be caring about…

p2 – 4\ socialism & real utopia – by Erik

loc 1216

3 general considerations about nature of social systems and the problem of transforming them:

1\ what precisely does the world system mean when we talk about social systems..

systemic ness and one ness

a\ an organism.. all parts tightly integrated into functioning whole  .. b\ an ecosystem.. like a pond.. alien species can enter it.. and thrive or not..

one way to transform an ecosystem is to introduce an alien species that initially finds a niche and then gradually increases, potentially even displacing certain other species.the idea of real utopias as a way of transforming a society is more in line with the ecosystem view of society than the organismic view..

whoa… real utopia is seeing alternative as alien species..even if that’s so… so much harder to manage/sustain.. even imagine.

if we go with first.. organism (and i’d say organism as ecosystem) .. we don’t have to plan.. or displace.. we just need to restore/uncover.. the real us/utopia ness. we certainly would have to trust. 100%. in people.

2\ change via

a\ ameliorative reforms (fix w/in current system but not beyond)  b\ real utopian transformations (emancipatory alt)

3\ how much concrete detail to specify

a\ detailed account to compel  b\ enunciate basic values.. that would facilitate a realization for those values..

ie: a nother way based on 2 deep enough needs.. – so that it regenerates … perpetuates itself/us..

1259 – stripped down concept of power: the capacity to do things in the world, to produce effects….. 3 kinds of power: econ (resources), state (rules), social (action)…. 3 types of econ structures: capitalism (privately owned), statism (owned by state), socialism (socially owned)

1283 – the need to move away from binary of capitalism vs socialism.. and work on hybrid where socialism is dominant…… says binary.. rather than hybrid is likened to the organism view


and that the alternate view to that is hybrid.. where there is even no dominant..

the need to clarify the alt ways we can conceptualise the deepening of the socialist component of hybrids…. the structural configurations of social empowerment.. (gives 7, w/8th being combo of all)… 6th one – solidarity econ.. where based on human need.. and ie’s: daycare and wikipedia… then says that system level proposal for partici econ.. via Robin.. as a universalisation of the solidarity econ to an entire econ..

?… we can go beyond that.. no? simpler.. et al.. to facilitate the chaos/complexity… for (blank)’s sake..

1498 – the power of capital seems so massive that if ever social power seemed to threaten the dominance of capitalism, it would be relentlessly attacked and undermined.

then on marx… believing contradictions of capitalism end up doing itself in.. making self weaker.. et al. .. and that that doesn’t solve problem of how to build the emancipatory alt to capitalism… but makes problem of overcoming obstacles of existing power relations much less daunting in the long run

1510 – relatively few people today…. fell confident that capitalism will destroy itself….. so looking for ways for… long term eroding of capitalist power.. and building alt’s.

3 strategies: ruptural (war – winner loser – socialism/communism – end w/more authoritarianism), interstitial (in niches – 2 loop theory – connected adjacency – anarchism – end w/pockets of change), symbiotic (non-reformist reforms – make better w/in system – social democracy – end w/new grass w/weeds)

1546 – appropriate orientation towards strategies of social transformation.. is to do things now which put us in the best position to do more later by working to create those institutions and structures which increase, rather than decrease, the prospects of taking advantage of whatever historical opportunities emerge. 

indeed.. open enough to free us and keep on freeing us..

then gives worker coops as ie..

and then says… worker owned coops help solve problems of unemployment, deteriorating tax bases, unstable communities, ..

what if those aren’t our deepest problems..

1570 – additional ie’s: wikipedia & p2p open source; urban agri w/community land trusts; community owned fab labs; open access intellectual property; free goods/services: libraries/transport; unconditional basic income; policy juries/randomocracy’ eco-villages/transition towns..

while elites may become resigned to a diminution of power.. unlikely to gracefully embrace prospects… often not optimal for elites and are thus resisted.. this means that a key element of ruptural strategies – confrontations between opposing organised social forces in which there are winners and losers – will be a part of any plausible trajectory of sustainable social empowerment.

i don’t know..  i think we can now move beyond that. by modeling. sync matters to the dance dancing…. hard to see that it’s all of us.. until its all of us..

p2 – 5\ breaking w/c – Robin

loc 1652

1686 – the second approach runs a greater risk of permitting people to dream about things that are actually not possible.

oh my. this is Robin adding a consideration he says Erik failed to mention when choosing 2nd approach of less specificity to alternative. then his examples are..

limiting discussion to basic values can delude people into thinking that markets are compatible w/econ justice and democracy , or that central planning is compatible w/worker self-management.

oh my. (thinking of Robin in video saying.. people are no longer telling him his ideas are impossible.. just hard to transition to given mess we are in… and wondering who changed/compromised.. and thinking of vinay’s roadblock ness.)

1731 – there is a reason that hybridisation breeds instability, and it is the same reason that incrementalism does not always work.

1742 – when we choose to use particular institutions to organise and govern our econ activities we are also choosing to some extent what kind of people we want to become. and this is why hybrids are generally less stable…. we humans find it difficult to serve two different masters.

1798 – there is no getting around the dilemma: in a market econ we must either allow the market system to reward people unfairly, or, if we try to correct for inequities we must tolerate even greater inefficiencies.

1858 – markets ‘work’ by stimulating greed and fear while undermining trust and solidarity needed to build the economics of equitable cooperation. in short, markets are cancer to the socialist project.

1870 – on people pushing for a dash of markets… Robin saying it’s not like a dash of salt.. but rather a dash of cancer.. that spreads and destroys entire system..

only positive to markets… people find them convenient..

this is the attitude of someone who argues that markets are not intrinsically bad, it is only the negative consequence of markets, not markets themselves that are problematic. nobody would say that about cancer. … nobody would agree to introduce a little cancer if it were convenient because chemo treatments are available.

1904 – on the need for high levels of commitment.. which activists have.. but unreasonable to expect from everyone

why sync matters.. costello law et al

1951 – on how to react when confrontation arises… Erik seeing it as not systemic.. but rather creating more spaces.. Robin sees it as chance to rive our stake through the vampire’s heart..

or perhaps neither.. this is why i’m so deep in this.. i believe we now have a means .. for a quiet/urgent/humane/sustainable revolution..

1963 – in today’s world an alt econ vision needs to accomplish 3 goals: 1\ open eyes of possibility – be inspiring 2\ show it’s possible by demo’ing concretely how questions would be answered.. problems addressed.. 3\ challenge misconceptions consistent/inconsistent w/goals..

on 2 – graeber model law again – i don’t think we can show possibility in writing/talking.. which bleeds into 1 – a sustainable inspiration.. like kid learning to walk.. and is based on #3 – model driven by core (ie: 2 needs)

p2 – 6\ final thoughts – Erik

loc 2090

2112 – Erik questions if Robin’s metaphor of cancer for markets is apt.. bringing in Robin’s ideas of working w/pollution.. and making comparisons.. to his cancer theory..

2150 – then he also brings in competition in sports…

benefits of markets: convenience, risk taking initiatives

2171 – convenience is a way of talking about the time and effort for doing one thing rather than another.

huge.. – something else to do ness.. luxury ness…

2216 – another way of looking at the issue is that even if magically one could involve everyone in every decision that had any effect on them we would not want to do this. individual self-directed autonomy is also a value, and a full implementation of democratic proportionality principle would involve too sever a restriction on autonomy. this is a tricky issue, of course, and it opens a space fora a lot of contestation about how much autonomous self-direction is desirable. billboards impinge on other people. some messages may be offensive…..

so – again the need for something else to do.. so that we get better and better.. or uncover and uncover… what matters.. what’s irrelevant.. ie: would we even have billboards.. would there be reason for offenses..? thinking of that guys book – un offensible. we could go there. we can’t not.

as long as we are trying to realise multiple values and ideals, then worrying about these kinds of trade-offs is inherent in the design of any social institution. in the case of economic institutions, democracy, solidarity and equality are critical values, but so are convenience and autonomous individual initiative.

well – perhaps we’ve learned that from the history lessons of not people. (that we’d run into problems big enough for this pre design ness to matter.) perhaps we just try (whimsy et al).. to trust people to dance the dance. since we now have tech to facilitate that choas… let’s just try.

2241 – this is a real feedback process, which is embedded in the post-planning uncoordinated interactions of buyers and sellers and the adjustments that emerge out of those interactions.

so – in describing real utopian systemic change.. we’re assuming buying and selling of products.. that we could most likely not even care about.. if we were truly alive. making me think of comment of jordan‘s – that tinkering with policy is a distraction. which we all at some point seem to make.. as we go ahead and tinker..

we have got to courageously/radically imagine a nother way. in desperate need for a global do-over.

2278 – there is a tendency for people who are really good at constructing formal mathematical models of social processes to treat real world complexity as disturbances and noise, rather than as problems that could potentially severely undermine the expected outcomes.

and/or.. as part of the dance.. we don’t yet see. no? can (esp social) processes really be mathematically depicted..?

2314 – i do not have an answer to the problem of what should be done in the face of the impossibility of further incremental advance, but i remain sceptical that a systemic rupture in which capitalism is effectively abolished could result in an emancipatory alternative.

2326 – we know from historical experience that it is possible to destroy the private enterprise market system w/o creating a democratic egalitarian alternative. what is unclear is whether under other conditions not yet historically encountered a ruptural, abolitionist attack on capitalism could have genuinely emancipatory results.

a quiet revolution.. exponentially unleashed.

(on Erik’s vision of extended time of interstitial and symbiotic strategies transforming) … a rupture would be fairly modest and the chaotic processes unleashed by rupture perhaps manageable.

we can manage chaos now..

2350 – i suspect that the time horizon before the issue of attempting a systemic rupture with capitalism in developed capitalist countries is very far in the future, and that it is even further in the future before the issue of whether or not markets should be abolished will be ion the political agenda of any democratic society.

oh my.

oh my.

why not yet.


find/follow Robin:

link twitter

the origins of participatory econ – 2014

a lot of intellectuals are psychological contrarians

guy saying.. there is no alternative to a market econ… this is where contrarian personality comes in.. anybody tells me something is impossible.. i’m not going to take it on faith..

this vision we always thought was possible.. suffered from lack of concrete/rigorous.. this is how it can be done.. so that we can sit down and see if it’s possible.. that was the origins…

i guess i’m pleased after 25 years…at least no longer told theoretical impossibility… just told now.. hard to get there from mess we’re in..

(2014): Eurozone Crisis

i think there are solutions.. but no where are they being implemented..

every single govt is continuing to pursue policies that just aggravate the problem

wikipedia small

Robin Eric Hahnel (born March 25, 1946) is Professor of Economics at Portland State University. He was a professor at American University for many years and traveled extensively advising on economic matters all over the world. He is best known for his work on participatory economics with Z Magazine editor Michael Albert.

Hahnel is a radical economist and political activist. Politically he considers himself a product of the New Left and is sympathetic to libertarian socialism. He has been active in many social movements and organizations for forty years, notably as a participant in student movements opposed to the American invasion of South Vietnam, more recently with the Southern Maryland Greens, a local chapter of the Maryland Green Party, and the Green Party of the United States. Hahnel’s work in economic theory and analysis is informed by the work of Marx, Keynes, Piero Sraffa, Michał Kalecki, and Joan Robinson, among others. He has served as a visiting professor or economist in Cuba, Peru, andEngland.


Robin is one of 4 proposals shared via next system as alt’s


The institutions and decision-making procedures of a participatory economy are designed to promote economic democracy, economic justice, environmental sustainability, and human solidarity—all while achieving economic efficiency.

perhaps we redefine decision making.. ie: disengage (gupta roadblock law) from ie: consensus

The defining institutions of a capitalist economy are: private ownership of the means of production, limited liability corporations, and markets. In contrast, the major institutions that comprise a participatory economy are: social ownership of the productive “commons,” democratic worker councils and federations,neighborhood consumer councils and federations, and a very carefully constructed procedure we call participatory planning that these councils and federations use to coordinate, or plan, their interrelated activities themselves.

I know more than I can say – mary ann‘s rob.

we need to trust that..planing is killing us. literally.


The planning procedure is designed to make clear when a worker council production proposal is inefficient or when a consumption council proposal is unfair, and it allows other worker and consumer councils to deny approval for proposals they deem to be inefficient or unfair. But initial self-activity proposals, and all revisions of proposals, are entirely up to each worker and consumer council itself. This aspect of the participatory planning procedure distinguishes it from all other planning models, which we believe is crucial if workers and consumers are to enjoy meaningful self-management.

In sum, a participatory economy is a planned rather than a market system

how about .. just a lived one..


radical econ


let’s do this firstfree art-ists.

for (blank)’s sake

a nother way