Participatory planning.

Author:Burke, R.
Position:Democracy and Economic Planning: The Political Economy of a Self-Governing Society - Book review

Democracy and Economic Planning: The Political Economy of a Self-Governing Society, by Pat Devine, Westview Press, 1988, ISBN 0-8133-0799-6.

In the last three decades new forms of socialist economic models have arisen to challenge the dominance of both central planning and market socialism. The best known of these is the participatory economics or "parecon" model of Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel. This proposal for an alternative economic system to capitalism has many desirable features, and has recently begun to attract a greater amount of attention and support. There is, however, another version of participatory socialism with a greater degree of empirical grounding.

This is the participatory planning model of British economist Pat Devine. Devine's model may prove to be more easily attainable and capable of attracting a wider mass base of support beyond a clique of committed supporters.

Part of the lack of recognition for Devine's model, especially in the US, may stem from the fact that his work has largely appeared in academic publications not easily available to a larger audience, and his 1988 masterpiece Democracy and Economic Planning: The Political Economy of a Self-Governing Society, is currently out of print (this author was only able to read it by subscribing to an on-line library service).

Participatory economics has benefited from the fact that one of its authors, Michael Albert, is the founder and editor of Z Magazine, a publication well-known and popular amongst the American left. Devine's proposals are nonetheless better known in Britain, and have even gained the official support of two political organizations there: the Socialist Workers Party (somewhat to Devine's surprise) as well as the UK-based Red Green Study Group. At the time of this writing no political organization supports the parecon model, and its supporters concentrate on attempts to create cooperative enterprises which attempt to implement the principles of parecon. These attempts have met with mixed success at best. While participatory planning shares many features with participatory economics, the two proposals are different in certain features.

One of Devine's basic concepts is that of social ownership, which he presents as an alternative to both private and state ownership. Social ownership means that an economic enterprise is owned by those who are affected by its activities: the workers who work there, consumers who buy its products, and citizens of the...

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