From the book: The Eye of the Needle by Richard Turner
The principle of our ideal society is freedom. I have attempted to indicate which work institutions maximize freedom; now I intend to look at political institutions.
First one must ask what political institutions are for.
Why are they necessary at all?
In a very small society, such as an independent tribe of a few hundred members, all relationships between people are "face to face" relationships. If I do something that affects another person I know that I have done it, and that person knows that I have done it. The effects of it are clear to both of us, and the other can, if necessary, pay me back in kind for my act, whether it is good or bad.
However, once a society gets bigger and more complicated, this is no longer true. My acts have consequences for people I don't know and may never even see. If I discover a way of weaving cloth by machine I can put) whole countryside of hand-weavers out of work. The sewage pump into the river may kill the fish and poison the fishermen. Relations between people are no longer only direct and unmediated. They are also mediate indirectly by the environment and by other people. It is necessary, in any large society, to devise some social institutions to handle the problems created by this.
Our worker-controlled enterprise does not exist in a vacuum. It uses social resources; its products are used by other people; its workers need to use roads, schools, and hospitals. The enterprise and the individual workers thereby enter into indirect relationships with many individuals and ultimately with the whole society. They affect other people and other people affect them. What happens to the individual's personal freedom in this situation? And, when relations between people are mediated rather than direct, what happens to my moral duties toward other people? There are many ways in which hidden coercion and hidden evil can operate. I cheat on my income tax payments, and somewhere at the other end of the country an unknown child may die because there is not enough money for hospitals.
It is clear that in order for me to preserve my control over myself and to carry out my responsibilities toward other people I must join with them in attempting to replace these blind unconscious interdependencies with some form of planned, conscious coordination. We must decide as a group what our priorities are, what we inÂtend to use our resources for, and precisely how we are to depend on one another. We need to coordinate those of our actions through which we affect one another; we need to plan our society in such a way as to give us the maxÂimum amount of freedom in our private lives. This is the role of political institutions.
Workers' control in the enterprise is a necessary condition for individual freedom, but it is not a sufficient condition. The enterprise itself has to be coordinated with other enterprises through some sort of planning mechanism. Otherwise it may exploit the rest of society by charging monopoly prices, by misusing resources that others need, by polluting the environment. To prevent these and other difficulties, economic planning is necessary.
Problems immediately arise. What happens to the workers' control of the enterprise if the enterprise itself is subject to the overriding dictates of the plan? Who makes the plan? Does not the making of the plan concentrate power in the hands of a few? In the face of these problems it is often argued that a society based on private ownership of the means of production provides for much greater personal freedom than could a "socialist" society. For, it is argued, instead of the one power center of a socialist society, in which both political and economic power is concentrated in the hands of the planners, there is, in capitalist society, a multiplicity of different power centers, social, economic, and political, which restrain one another by competition. Trade unÂions and capitalists, state and church, consumer and producer, all mutually restrain one another, and each gives the individual shelter from the other.
This argument is based on two mistakes: a mistake about the nature of capitalist society, and a mistake about the nature of power and constraint. Destroying these illusions will help us better to understand the politics of participatory democracy.
Wealth is, as we have seen, power over other people. In capitalist society that power is heavily concentrated in a few hands. Inequality of property and income depend not on innate ability, but largely on prior inequalities of property ownership, passed on by inheritance. The right of property ownership is not "natural," Heirs are not born with unbreakable umbilical cords connecting then to their property. The right of property ownership is a legal right, backed by the power of the state. The law defines property and what may be done with property.
That is, the inequality of wealth and of power is backed ultimately by the coercive power of state.
Why, then, given theoretical ultimate equality of political power in democratic capitalist societies, do the people not deprive the minority of their control over the means of production? There are two major reasons why they have very rarely done so in any consistent way developed capitalist countries.
First, wealth is not only a form of power in itself; it also gives access to other forms of power. The vote is not the only weapon used in the political struggle. Other crucial weapons are organization and information. Wealth can build political organizations and can control information, through controlling the press and the other mass media. The wealthy are not, of course, a completely homogeneous group. There are clashes of interest between landowners and factory-owners, between arms-manufacturers and butter-manufacturers, between groups who depend on imports and groups who depend on exports. But underlying these different interests there is a basic community of interest in the protection of private ownership of the means of production and in the restraining of the workers. The political power of wealth is never mobilized against these common goals. The press groups, owned and run by the wealthy, need not necessarily consciously lie. They have to select news and views, and they do so in terms of criteria that assume the inherent desirability of the capitalist system. They describe a strike as the owner sees it, not as the worker sees it. In South Africa they print "white news," not "black news." Most major newspapers assume the naturalness of the values embodied in the status quo, and, by reporting in terms of these values, in fact reinforce them and thereby play a role in the socializing process.
Second, people react to a social situation, formulate their demands, and express their agreement or dissent, in terms of the values and assumptions they have acquired from society. A capitalist society, like any other society, survives largely because most individuals in the society accept its naturalness, because they accept the dominant ideology, because they do not know that any other form of society is possible.
In addition to the general socialization process to which each individual in the society is subject, there is also one very important element of differential socialization. That is, in one particular way the rich are socialized differently from the poor and are thus socialized in a way that reinforces their control. In most capitalist societies there is a tendency for political participation to decrease with income. The poor participate less, vote less, and know less than the rich. There are some obvious environmental reasons for this: The poor tend to have less free time, no cars for going to vote in the rain, lower levels of education. But a more fundamental reason lies in the socialization process. As we have seen, the workers are trained to obey, are taught to see parts (their own jobs) and not wholes (the factory), are taught to think only of their own positions and to give little thought to a morrow that is beyond their control. That is, they do not develop the thought structures and the personal confidence that would enable them to participate effectively. Wealthy individuals full of the self-confidence given them by their social status and playing roles in which they have a wide perspective on the world-a perspective from a particular and falsifying ideological standpoint, but a wide perspective, nevertheless-are much more able psychologically to participate in politics and, when participating, to manipulate the political institutions to their advantage, I do not wish to argue that capitalist forces are so strongly entrenched that they cannot be removed, in normal democratic countries, by normal democratic processes. Nor do I wish to imply that anti-capitalist forces are necessarily suppressed. Rather, the various, factors mentioned have made it possible for capitalism to survive up to now by merely making concessions in times of crisis that temporarily assuage grievances without really weakening the capitalists' source of power. Political bargaining and the competition of variÂous interest groups, including trade unions, take place within the unquestioned context of this power structure. The illusion of pluralism exists within a fundaÂmentally monistic structure.
So far I have dealt with the "human institutions" of capitalist society: the state and legal apparatus, political organization, and information services. But these "human institutions" are not the only forms in which other people constrain me in society. As we have seen, if someone pollutes the river above my fishing grounds and poisons the fish, this places severe constraints upon my actions. There are always three different sets of forces limiting what I can do: the forces of nature, direct pressures from other people, and hidden social forces. The whole point of planning is to bring these hidden forces under control, whereas capitalism lets them run wild.
The business people in the "free enterprise" economy think they are free because there are no individuals standing over their shoulders giving them instructions. Nevertheless, they are severely limited in what they can do with their money by the forces of the market. If they do not obey these forces they will lose their money. They do not see this as limiting their "freedom of enterprise," however, because they see the market as having the same status as "nature." When they go bankrupt this is, to them, no more the result of other people limiting their own freedom than it would be if a tree fell down across the road in front of their car. And if their workers, now finding themselves unemployed, were to blame people for it and complain that they were not free, they would be laughed at.
But in fact the market is not a force of nature. It is other people going about their business. It is other people limiting what I can do. When there is a slump and a rise in unemployment the limitation being placed on people thereby are a result of investment decisions and other commercial decisions made by other people. When I send my apples to market and find that there is a glut, it is because other people have been planting, growing, picking, and packing too many apples for the needs of yet other people, who will not buy any more apples because they have had enough. The force of the market is what I have called a hidden social, force. It is other people telling me what to do.
In any society I have to adjust what I am doing to fit in with what other people are doing, and vice versa. To call a society in which I am told what to do, indirectly and invisibly, a "free society," while calling a society it which the limitations operate directly an "unfree society," is just nonsense.
The criterion for freedom cannot be whether or not other people limit what I do, since this occurs in all societies. Rather we must define a free society as one in which (a) the limits are as wide as possible; (b) all individuals have a say in deciding where it is necessary for those limits to be; and (c) all individuals know how am why they are being limited. None of these condition' hold in capitalist society. Some limitations are decides politically, but the most important ones are those imposed by hidden social forces, and nobody decides what these limits should be, nor how and why they are being limited by them. The limitations that are imposed on various individuals are grossly unequal. The limitation imposed on the capitalist by a slump cannot be meaning fully compared with the limits placed on the workers freedom of action when they are unemployed. And the essence of capitalism is that limitations should be placed on the workers' consumption and leisure so that the capitalists can accumulate wealth-which is power to free themselves from many limitations.
A free society is one in which I cooperate with my fellows in deciding how to maximize all our freedom for the individual requires planning. This apparently paradoxical statement means that, in order for me to retain the maximum of personal freedom, other areas of my life must conform to a social plan, that is must recognize the rights of other people. A plan is attempt to state and protect the rights of each individual from infringement by the acts of others.
To go into the details of the problems of economic Planning would require a book, a book that clearly must be written, but that cannot be included here. However, at least a brief sketch of the possibilities and problems is required. Perhaps we can best approach this by asking the following questions: Now that we have got rid of the gross social inequalities that arise from private ownerÂship of the means of production and have placed the workers in control of their own enterprises, why do we need economic planning at all? Can we not place these worker-controlled enterprises in a "free market economy" and leave the ordinary play of market forces to decide what they shall produce and what they will charge for the goods or services that they do produce? The answer is that although such a "free market economy" is likely to achieve somewhat better results than an ordinary capitalist one, there are still a number of problems.
1. The distinction between "private costs" and "social costs" will still remain. "Private costs" are those costs of production that are actually met by the enterprise. Social costs include costs that have to be met by society as a whole as a result of this particular enterprise's production. The most obvious example of this is pollution. If a particular factory pollutes the atmosphere of a town then the loss to the other individuals and enterprises through corrosion and increased expense for cleaning, and perhaps too through illness, which both affects the individual and decreases production, is not met by the factory itself. These costs do not appear in the price of the product, and therefore the total cost of that particular product to the society is not reflected by the market mechanisms. Some allowance has to be made for these "spillover" effects.
Apart from pollution, the other major problem in this area is connected with centralization. Once you have a couple of factories and a town in one place, an inherent centralizing tendency begins to operate. Each new factory gains certain advantages by being situated near the old factories and near the market constituted by the town. But each new enterprise takes into account on)' its own costs, not the costs to the community as a whole These costs are of two kinds: (a) Actual economic cost incurred in building more houses and schools, in providing better roads for the increased traffic, etc. Up to a certain size, some centralization actually lowers the costs, but once the city becomes very large, the costs of movement of goods and people within the city tend escalate very rapidly, (b) The social and psychological costs to the individuals who are removed from their habitual social setting and placed in what is often noisy, dirty, crowded, and anonymous city. While the town is reasonably small there will probably be an increase in community, human contact, and cultural if opportunity, but this can be rapidly cancelled out in very large cities. So even if there were economic arguments in favor of centralization, there might be social arguments in favor of planned decentralization.
2. Some of the problems of uneven growth and inflation would still occur in such an economy. If investment not fairly well coordinated one is likely to get the familiar pattern of booms and slumps. Demand for a particular product increases. Several different enterprises invest more to meet the demand. Together they produce too much, prices drop, production is cut, some of the goods and some of the machinery are wasted, and some people are put out of work. With industrial secrecy out the way, much of this problem could perhaps be met by simply supplying up-to-date information on likely demand and on the investment intentions of various related industries.
But even here there would be actual planning need. Once we know that demand for shoes will increase by 20 percent next year, and that each of the three shoe factories is able and willing to increase production to meet that demand on its own, we still have to decide precisely what proportion of the demand each factory should meet. Here social issues come into play. In which areas are jobs needed most? In which area is it easiest to provide facilities for the increased numbers of workers? The three factories between them, at the industry level, can decide some of these problems but others may need to be decided at the state level. It is possible to have a considerable degree of flexibility through a variÂety of planning mechanisms to meet different problems at different levels.
3. There is the problem of individual consumption verÂsus collective consumption. Some things I use by myself-food, clothes, and cameras. Others I use with other people-schools, roads, and beaches. One of the characterisÂti c s in capitalist societies is the frequent contrast beÂtween "private affluence" and "public squalor": televiÂsion sets in slums, shiny new cars on dirty, polluted city streets. In any society much consumption must be colÂlective, and that requires considerable interference with the market by public bodies, as well as measures to ensure that individual consumption does not conflict with what, by common consent, are more basic forms of public consumption.
Given limited resources, it may be necessary to channel those resources from building hotels to building schools, from private cars to public transport. For instance, a fast and efficient public transport system could be developed if there were no private cars on the roads. Upkeep on the roads would cost less, roads could be narrower, expensive accidents and supervision would decrease, and, of course, one person would not waste social resources on large cars each inhabited. But this would involve a conscious collective allocation of resources. Here we have a choice between choices. Banning cars deprives people who can afford them of the choice between public and private transport. Permitting cars, at the inevitable expense of public transport, deprives those who cannot afford cars of any reasonable transport system at all. It also, in a vicious circle, places constraints on those who do have cars. For the more cars there are the worse is the public transport and the more necessary it is to have a car. But the more people who have cars, the more congested the roads become, and so the less useful the car becomes.
There are three major levels of collective consumption. The first is inside the enterprise. At least some of the profits of the enterprise would be spent on the collective needs of the workers as a whole. Making the enterprise itself into a decent environment is, of course, the first of such collective needs. But other needs too, such as housing, further education, and entertainment, could be handled on the enterprise level. The second level is the municipality. If the workers were represented via their enterprises on municipal boards, then the municipality would have direct access to finances, and could to a considerable extent autonomous in health, education, town planning and so on. Finally, certain items of collective consumption pertain to the state level. For example, a common transport policy would be necessary. If some communities concentrated on public transport and others on private transport, both would lose out.
4. Problems of concentration of wealth at one end of unemployment at the other end could still arise Unregulated competition between even worker controlled factories could lead to the more "efficient factories undercutting the others and driving them out of business.
This might produce commodities with a lower market price, but it would have unfortunate social consequences, in the long run even for the successful competitors. For competition of this nature could escalate to a situation where narrow economic criteria of efficient pushed all others into the background. The problems this. On the one hand, the community cannot let its shoe factory workers make life in their factory so comfortable that shoes become very high priced, so that they thereby, exploit other workers who are producing" their kinds of goods more cheaply. On the other hand, the community does not want a "benefit-cutting-" war, in which each factory is gradually forced to abolish all its worker-benefits in order to survive in the face of competition from the other. Thus some degree of social control over pricing is necessary.
5. To prevent unemployment, some degree of social conÂtrol over investment is also necessary. Jobs must be created for new workers. The creating and sitting of a new enterprise is of such importance torso many people that the society as a whole should play a major role here. Probably each individual enterprise should retain some of its profits for purposes of technological innovation and expansion but should also contribute to a central fund out of which major new investments could be made. This would enable the central authority to maintain regionally balanced development and also to keep the rate of investment at the level required for full employment.
How are these problems to be solved? Some combinaÂtion of four factors seems to be necessary:
1 . Some market mechanism must operate, even if only because it is physically impossible to plan all prices and to predict all demands.
2. Financial instruments can be used; obviously each enterprise will have to pay a certain amount in tax to cover common services. Tax incentives and disincenÂtives can be used for various kinds of industry.
3. The efficient collection and distribution of information can help each enterprise to take into account what is happening or is likely to happen in other enterprises when it draws up its plan. This could be combined with elements of "indicative planning," whereby priorities for growth and change are stated as targets, rather than stated as commands.
The availability of information is important not only for the factory as a unit, but also for the individual workers within the factory in their attempts to control the factory. Here modern data processing and storing techniques open out wide possibilities. Even in relatively poor countries it would be possible to establish a national computer network available to everybody and storing all relevant information.
Democratic social application of computers . .. implies that massive information will be freely available. This points immediately to an important political issue. The stock-in-traded privilege and class power is "restricted information." If the public at large lacks vital information, they lack the weapons of effective criticism. The contemporary technical revolutions quite accurately described by many as the information revolution.
Rapid analysis of massive information can, under certain circumstances, be a powerful instrument of control and domination by small select groups ruling over others, but the salt technological facilities can provide instruments of democratisation and effective continuous participation in decision making.... The general user would require skills no more difficult to acquire than literacy or numeracy, and the highly specialised services could be available to him so that he could make the best use of available computing power (Stephen Bodlington, "Socialism, Democracy and the Computer," in Ken Coates, Can the Workers Run Industry? [London: Sphere1968]).
4 . Finally, some elements of pure imperative planning of production will be necessary in the form of we need x numbers of schools this year: you will build them and you and you will provide the raw materials at y and z
prices." That is, production must ultimately be based on estimate of the needs, priorities, and re sources of tin society as a whole. The techniques to be used in this some of which are already used in capitalist countries are sufficiently varied for a subtle planning mechanism to be devised.
I am aware that the major problem is that of precisely how these various factors are to be mixed and that have not solved this problem here. But all I can do space available is to make the crucial point that planning does not require that a central authority bureaucratically make all decisions.
Individual freedom requires planning. But now we are back with our initial problem. Who is to plan? And, more important, who is to plan the planners? We have seen, within the individual enterprise, the dangers and the problems of concentration of power, even with one person-one vote. In society as a whole the greater size, the greater complexÂity, and the greater distance between the point of deciÂsion and the individual magnify these problems. Here, even more than in the factory, we cannot hope for the perfection of complete equality.
Once more, there are two problems. The first is to prevent those individuals who, being at the top of the necessary decision hierarchy, have more power from using the power to their own material advantage. This is something that may be done consciously, through corÂruption, but also can occur gradually and unconsciously. Feeling important and having high prestige, it is very easy to accept unconsciously that one should go immediately to the head of the queue, that one needs a chauffeur-driven car "to save time parking," that one needs a specially comfortable apartment because one is subject to special tensions and because one often has to work at home. Insensibly, convincing rationalizations of this sort can produce elite who has a vested interest in maintaining their positions.
The second problem, which shades into the first, is to ensure that the decision-makers do not, through the very nature of their jobs, become isolated from the people, unaware of what the people want, and, hiding behind a hedge of technical jargon, perhaps no longer even able to communicate with ordinary people.
The Soviet Union is probably the classical example of both these processes. But the question is: Are they inÂevitable processes? To prevent them, those at the top have to know what those at the bottom want, and those at the bottom have to know what those at the top are doing. Is this possible? The only way that we can attempt to prevent these things from happening is (1) to make the decision hierarchies as short as possible by the greatest possible decentralization, (b) to make the conditions of life of the decision-makers as similar as possible to those of the people, and (3) to provide for the greatest possible knowledge and understanding on the part of the public of the problems of government. How can these three conditions be satisfied?
Some of the things that I do affect only myself. Some affect my wife and family. Others affect my neighborhood. Yet others affect, indirectly and slightly, people all over the province or all over the country. Obviously we cannot on each occasion assemble the entire group of people who will be affected by my act and ask for their opinion. But we can isolate certain classes of acts that affect certain categories of people, for example the factory, neighborhood, town, province, country. On the basis of the most relevant of these categories we can have a number of different autonomous decision making agencies. This prevents concentration of power and increases the possibility of meaningful participation.
The problem of privilege can be met, as in the case of the factory, by keeping the wage gap low, by making part of the planner's job an annual three-month stint working in a factory or on a farm, and also by limiting the period for which executive positions can be held. The problem of information for the decision-makers will meet in part by the period of factory work, but this is not adequate in itself. The central planning body is meant to represent the interest of the community as a whole, but it must never be allowed to forget that this "interest of the whole" is made up of a large number of compel partial interests. Whether to spend more money on pensions or more money on schooling, whether new capital should be invested in agriculture or in light industry, whether a new factory should be built at Newcastle or at Saldanha Bay: There are clashes of interest in all these cases. It is vital that these interests should be free to make themselves heard. This requires political freedom.
The basis of political freedom lies in the workers' control of their enterprise. This gives them their power. The central body would have to allocate to the enterprise tasks that seemed reasonable to the workers, or else it would have to use the socially expensive method of coercion. That is, the workers in a particular enterprise would, in virtue of their organization and of their physical control of the plant, have some power to resist norms or priorities that they considered totally unjustified. These are not absolute guarantees, but then no guarantee is absolute. Unless individuals have some direct control over some of the society's resources and some organized relationship with other people, they have no power at all to resist.
Finally, the question of knowledge on the part of the people brings us back to the educative function of participation. As we have seen, this operates on two levels. It equips individuals with the psychological capacity to take part in decision-making, and it also helps them to get the information required to make good decisions. At least part of the reason why public opinion surveys in the western democracies reveal such a low level of knowledge and understanding of social issues lies in the very nature of the political structures of these countries. I vote for a leader every four or five years. But in between elections I do not participate in the decision-making. "They" do it all for me. When election time comes round again I do not know what has been happening, for there is no incentive in my daily life for me to follow what has been happening. What parliament decides affects my life considerably, but when and how and where it affects me I cannot see, since there is no thread for me to follow from my own situation to the problems facing society as a whole.
However, my role as co-participant in the enterprise provides the missing thread. I am obliged to consider both the economic problems of the enterprise as a whole and the social problems of housing, feeding, educating, and healing the workers. On the basis of this, it is possiÂble for the problems of society to begin to make sense to so and me for me to evaluate intelligently what is happening and to participate intelligently at higher levels of government.
Thus participatory democracy based on workers' control can provide a genuinely plural structure. The dominance of one particular political interest group-the owners of the means of production-is replaced by equal competition between a variety of groups who are in interdependent and whose power is proportionate to the number of members of each group. There is no dictate ship of any one group over any other group.
One final point needs to be dealt with: the question of private property and of motivation to work. What happens to ownership in a participatory democracy? Roberta Dahl writes:
What happens to "property rights" in such a system? Who owns the factory, railroad, bank, and retail firm? In this kind system the great myth of the nineteenth century stands exposed; ownership is dissolved into its various components. What is left? A kind ghostly penumbra around the enterprise. The enterprise is described in the constitution as social property. But it might be closer to the mark to say that no one owns it. It is not, certainly, owned by the state or shareholders. The workers own it. The point is that property is a bundle of rights. Once the pieces in this bundle have been parcelled out, nothing exactly corresponding to the conventional meaning of property remains.
Various different groups-the workers themselves, the local municipality, and the society as a whole-have specific rights over the enterprise and its product. No one, these groups owns the enterprise, in the sense in which the capitalist owns it. This of course applies only to property in the means of production, that is, farming land, factories, machinery, and raw materials required for mass production. Our ordinary concept of ownership remains for private goods: umbrellas and wristwatches, radios and books.
Even in the sphere of consumption, however, a case can be made for a wider degree of communal ownership. I do not use all my property all the time. I could have access to a larger number of useful things if I were to pool my resources with a group of people, so that instead of my owning a camera and my neighbor's owning an aqualung, we shared them both. This would require a change in attitude to property, but it is the same change that is involved in workers' control. For workers' control replaces the attitude whereby I care only about what I personally own with an attitude of respect for the common material world that is the basis for my relations with other people. The latter attitude is obviously closer to the Christian ideal. Once we learn to see people as more important than things, we learn also to see the things other people need as being as important as the things we need. We learn to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
But what, it is asked, happens to motivation under such a system? Isn't private ownership the main factor that motivates people to work? Isn't unequal reward necessary in order to release initiative, to stimulate people to work harder in order to benefit from the inequalities? This sort of argument as a defense of capÂitalism is based on three misunderstandings:
1. A misunderstanding of the nature of capitalist society, in which, after all, most people do not own the means of production, but nevertheless work. In fact there is no meaningful relation in capitalist society between one's actual work and contribution to society, and one's actual reward, Ownership itself, rather than work, is the major source of inequality of reward.
2. A misunderstanding of the nature of the alternative society, in which one of the objectives is to improve the living and working conditions of all people. I am not working for "society." I am working for myself, in that I know and understand that, in such a system, although I no longer have the one-in-a-million chance of becoming a millionaire, I am most likely to improve my position at solid and reasonable rate by ensuring that other pen-pie are also doing the same. I am faced with the choice between cooperative endeavor with certain but shared rewards, and capitalist competition with a slight chance of great wealth, but a much greater chance of remaining at the bottom in an unequal share-out. It is not too difficult for me to grasp the fact that I am more likely benefit under the first system.
Furthermore, even within the society as envisaged there can be differences of incomes. The workers in each enterprise will set the wage rates, and they may introduce differentials for training and skill if they so wish. Even on the material level, there are motives for me, within this system.
3. Most fundamentally, it involves a misunderstanding ing of the nature of motivation. For even in our materialistic society not all actions are motivated by the desire for material gain. And in many other societies the desire for material gain plays a much less important role. People are motivated also by love, by the desire for prestige, by pride in their craftsmanship or ability, by a moral commitment to their fellows, by a desire to make sense out of their lives, by curiosity, and even sometimes by a belief in God. It is not only the promise of more that will make me aspire to being a factory manager, I may like taking responsibilities and using my mind the full on difficult problems. I may wish to contribute the development of my fellows. I may wish to enjoy prestige and the respect of my fellows. If these motives operate even in present society, with its tremendous socializing stress on the overriding importance of material goods, how much more will they not operate in a participatory democracy. And for Christian thought it is impossible to believe that people are only or even mainly motivated by bread alone.
When considering the question of an alternative to capitalism we must beware of assuming that the only other possibility is the Soviet model of communism. Soviet society has done away with private ownership of the means of production. But this is not enough. For there are no political institutions in Soviet society that would enable the people to assert their control over the means of production. In a situation where there is no effective communication between leadership and people, the leaders have two alternatives: to withdraw into the pursuit of personal gain, or to use coercion to get the society moving. Both have been tried in the Soviet Union. The result is a large, inefficient, and undemocratic state bureaucracy.
The only real alternative is to ensure popular particiÂpation, based on workers' control, in a context of political freedom.