Participatory Economics

Posted on Posted in Economics

Participatory Economics (sometimes called Parecon) is a proposed alternative economy based on:

  • Self-Management– decision making say in proportion to the degree one is affected
  • Justice– reward for effort or personal sacrifice
  • Solidarity– concern for the well-being of others
  • Diversity– the flourishing of a variety of lifestyles and outcomes
  • Efficiency– meeting our goals by not wasting our limited time and resources
  • Sustainability– protecting and nurturing our natural environment

These goals would be achieved through the following institutions:

  1. Democratic Worker and Consumer Councils
  2. Jobs Balanced for empowerment and desirability
  3. Compensation based on effort and need
  4. A participatory planning procedure

A full explanation of the concepts can be found here


Participatory Economics starts with values.  Values are principles or standards of behaviour that govern what is important to us.  What kind of society do we want? What values underpin our economy?


Our current economic system is also underpinned by values.  These are simplified as self-interest, excessive profit motivation, competition, private ownership of goods and services, supply and demand as the main drivers of price and production of goods and services.  These values work for some people but they don’t work for a majority of the people and are helping to destroy the planet.  If we started with a different set of values, we would have a different type of economy.


The ideas outlined in participatory economics are not that far-fetched. These can be found in participatory budgeting, the cooperative movement with worker owned and controlled businesses, worker councils and consumer councils.  These different ways of organising the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services already exist.  Participatory Economics challenges us to apply this way of working to the whole economy.


There are many critiques of participatory economics.  Some are based on ideological grounds others are based on the practicalities. However our current economic model was not laid out perfectly by Adam Smith.  His ideas, adapted and recreated, took years to materialise into what we call a capitalist economy.


Of course, economics is not the only thing that matters in our society. Just having a different economy will not end injustice, oppression or environmental destruction.  We also need to change our political and cultural institutions to show values that work for the ecosystem.


This is a short introduction to Participatory Economics.