RevolutionZ

Ep 245 Who Does What

September 03, 2023 Michael Albert Season 1 Episode 245
RevolutionZ
Ep 245 Who Does What
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Episode 245 of RevolutionZ considers in depth the division of labor as it is now, called corporate division of labor, and as it is proposed in order to have no bosses, balanced job complexes. It addresses why and how to implement a new division of labor in terms of class, power, income, and mainly the types of tasks employees do. It derives from No Bosses chapter 4 but includes considerable spontaneous commentary.

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Speaker 1:

Hello, my name is Michael Albert and I am the host of the podcast that's called Revolution Z. This episode continues a sequence that is presenting chapters from the book no Bosses written very carefully a couple of years ago, including, intermittently, spontaneously commenting on the material now, a couple of years later. So we are up to chapter 4, titled who Does what, which deals with how jobs are determined and the division of labor as we now suffer it and as it would need to be in order to have no Bosses. Like all chapters of the book, this one also begins with a couple of quotations. First, we have Bob Dylan, years before the chapter was written, in Maggie's Farm, conveying. They say Sing while you slave and I just get bored, which is the ultimate lyricist way to motivate this chapter, as indeed I think his words did. Second, we have Vincent van Gogh saying about his own work I put my heart and my soul into my work and have lost my mind in the process. Apple food for thought. There, at any rate, the chapter begins why do some people dominate in an economy and others endure? Being dominated Is the only important factor that generates that horrible outcome ownership relations. Having already discussed eliminating ownership relations, have we fully found the source and rejected the cause of one class dominating another.

Speaker 1:

This chapter, or episode, this time around is titled who Does what, and it takes up the task of ensuring that five out of five workers are well equipped to participate in decision-making. It focuses on how we ought to apportion tasks to form jobs in each workplace to ensure a self-managing economy. It claims that this focus adds a new dimension to the pursuit of classlessness. I interject, as I will occasionally throughout, that I then had a subheading in the book out with the old boss, in with the new boss, which is really a quote from the who, and while I have my doubts as to what they meant, it fits well here. At any rate, the chapter continues. While rarely acknowledged in capitalism, among all the multitude of jobs that people do, around 20% include a mix of tasks that convey information, skills, confidence and social ties that facilitate participation in decision-making. The other 80% include a mix of primarily rote and repetitive tasks that exhaust, deaden, de-skill, isolate and uninform, to the point where they neither prepare nor incline people to participate in decision-making. I interject. So, two years later, I don't think that assertion can be denied. That is how jobs look in contemporary societies Some jobs empower, some jobs disempower. And the chapter continues. The difference is built into the skewed distribution of empowering tasks. Moreover, this difference is great enough to define a class division and engender class rule. Indeed, this difference is so great that, unaddressed, it will subvert even the otherwise best-laid plans to institute self-management. I interject, that is was a very big assertion, which I think is core to the book. No Bosses, class is not only about ownership. The chapter continues To keep this difference in workplace circumstances in our thinking. We give it a name. We call those who monopolize empowering tasks the coordinator class. We call those who do overwhelmingly disempowering tasks the working class. Naming things facilitates paying attention to them. A different and actually prior name for the coordinator class is the professional managerial class, which was Barbara and John Erwin Reich's name for it. I interject Decades back at Southend Press, I helped assemble a book in what we called a controversy series.

Speaker 1:

The book was titled Between Labor and Capital and was edited by Pat Walker. If you can find a copy, it is still, I think, very much worth reading, partly for the Erwin Reich's essay itself, partly, I guess, for the essay by Robin Hanell and I where we first talked about the coordinator class, and partly for the other contributions, which showed just how I guess it is fair to say hostile many others were to the new approach. I might add here why did Robin and I tend to want to change the name from professional and managerial class to coordinator class? The reason was because we thought the name professional managerial class would focus too much on the idea of professionalization, the idea of management, the idea of local managers, etc. Whereas we thought it was necessary to focus, via the name, instead on something else, or at least not to focus on that and narrow what we were talking about.

Speaker 1:

Anyway, the chapter continued, but whatever name you prefer, the claim is that this set of people, those empowered by their tasks, has a markedly different position in the economy than do other workers, and that this difference has profound implications for their lives and their relations to one another. More we claim, this difference is so substantial that it defines a class division rooted in economic relations. It gives coordinators markedly better conditions of work, greater influence, overwork and a higher income than it gives workers. More we claim this division coordinators above and workers beneath is intrinsic to the way we typically structure jobs, so that some employees monopolize empowering tasks while other employees do only disempowering tasks. In other words, just as having some people own productive assets turns them into a class with different influence and income than others have, so, too, having some people monopolize empowering work turns them into a class with different influence and income than others have. Finally, we claim that even if a workplace wants to be democratic, if it retains a corporate division of labor wherein some people do overwhelmingly empowering work while others do overwhelmingly disempowering work, then the class division between the empowered and the disempowered employees will inevitably subvert everyone's initially democratic or even self-managing desires. That is, even with our owners present, and regardless of contrary hopes, the 20% coordinator class will dominate the 80% working class. Even with self-managing intentions, the trajectory of change will become out with the old boss and with the new boss, I interject. Okay, so this makes an important key point about how people can become divided into opposed classes, but now I would like to point out that it is an example of a more general pattern Institutions imposing on people who fulfill their roles with respect to those institutions, outcomes that can be contrary not only to their well-being but even to their intentions.

Speaker 1:

Consider a group of democracy-loving even self-management-loving actors beginning a business. That, however, includes jobs that are of the old sort, many disempowering, a few empowering the group. Starting the business may want self-management, but over time it gets class hierarchy. It is very worth thinking about what other institutions, arrangements of roles in economies but also in, say, families or schools, or political systems or churches and so on, cause us to suffer outcomes contrary to our desires. The chapter continues. Consider a case where, even short of establishing a whole new economy, a particular workplace is doing poorly. The capitalist owners jump ship to pursue larger profits elsewhere. The coordinator class, engineers, designers, managers and accountants all decide the workplace will sink without the owners, so they too seek positions elsewhere. The workers, however, have nowhere to run. They stay to make a goal of it. What happens, we don't need to guess.

Speaker 1:

Two decades ago in Argentina, the above happened, with a great many workplaces winding up in the hands of their working class employees. I had the opportunity to speak to an assembly of representatives from a few dozen such firms. At first milling about, the attendees were jovial. They talked animatively with one another. They were from many Argentine workplaces and were in many cases meeting each other for the first time. To begin, we went around the room for introductions and a brief report on each attendees workplace experience. The reports from respective workplaces began.

Speaker 1:

The mood shifted by the seventh report. The room was subdued. Even mournful Excitement over achievements was silenced by reports of decline. These workers took over their firms. They created councils and instituted democratic and even self-managed decision making. They established largely equal wages. They got their failing firms working effectively. But they reported that after a time, even with all those changes, all the old crap was returning. The seventh one to speak said I never could imagine myself saying it, but maybe Margaret Thatcher was right when she said there is no alternative. We took over excitedly, we transformed joyously and now it is all unraveling.

Speaker 1:

At that point I interrupted to ask if people felt this was due to human nature and the complexities of economic necessity. Most nodded they had denied it when taking over, but they now feared or even believed it. My take offered then was different. I suggested that perhaps it wasn't human nature or some necessity of complex production that was bringing back all the old crap. I asked when you took over your firms, did you keep the jobs pretty much as they had been before? Of course they did. They said it wasn't an issue. My question sounded to them like I was asking whether they still had lunch breaks? Of course they did, it wasn't an issue. Then we talked about the corporate division of labor and its implications.

Speaker 1:

We together realized that to put some workers into coordinator positions and others into working class positions was what had caused all the old crap to start coming back. They were all working class before, but some began to become coordinator class by doing the empowering jobs. Those doing empowering jobs began to dominate council meetings. They had the needed information, they had the confidence to develop agendas. Attendance of others began to fall because others didn't want to attend meetings which ran according to agendas set by the coordinators and dominated by coordinator speeches and proposals. Others did not want to sit in such meetings, relegating to watching and obeying. And then the wages paid to the coordinator class, as decided by the coordinator class, started to rise and their conditions steadily improved. The coordinators, initially at one with everyone else, were then separated from others by their newly undertaken empowering work. The coordinators had come to feel they were smarter, more responsible and more essential. They deserved more. They paid themselves more and the wages paid the others the workers, as decided by the coordinator class, started to deteriorate.

Speaker 1:

The upshot was that the old crap didn't return, due to an inexorable outcome of human nature or of the intrinsic requirements of complicated work. The old crap returned due to a social choice that wasn't even consciously made. The workers had routinely, reflexively, maintained the corporate division of labor and that corporate division of labor had, in turn, routinely, reflexively, subverted, sought results. I interject so that was a very careful presentation, based on an experience I had witnessed, of the same point I made in my last current interjection Institutions, impact outcomes, even against the prior intentions of people who set them up and operate in light of their roles. We're going to discuss this in many forms and I'm quite sure you have experienced it repeatedly, perhaps often without naming it, considering it, but just taking it as the way things are, perhaps notably regarding something many have called socialism.

Speaker 1:

The chapter continues. It is easy to see similar dynamics in many workers' co-ops and non-profits and left projects that have no owner. To their credit, they have less accumulated power and wealth at the top than were there to be an owner. But when they keep the corporate division of labor, coordinators become enshrined as the new rulers. Indeed, once we know what to look for a corporate division of labor, subverting self-management and equity we can see that the history of what is now called 20th century socialism, as well as of capitalism's non-profit and publicly owned firms, all demonstrate the pattern. In each case, it is out with the old 2% top dogs, goodbye owner capitalist class Elation. But then it is in with the new 20% top dogs. Hello, empowered Coordinator class Depression. I interject. Or in Dylan's words they say sing while you slave and I just get bored.

Speaker 1:

The chapter continues. This simple but incredibly important pattern is that, even after private ownership of a workplace is eliminated and even with workers' councils wanting to create new relations, if we keep a corporate division of labor, empowered employees will become a dominant coordinator class and will keep disempowered employees down as a subordinate working class. The former coordinators will rationalize that the workers need coordinator leadership, they need coordinator guidance. Not long after, the coordinators will look in their respective mirrors and tell themselves that they are better able to utilize and appreciate higher income and better conditions. I interject. This is because they feel themselves to be smarter, more creative, more energetic, etc. Because indeed their conditions convey to them more information, call forth from them more decisions, leave them less exhausted and more confident, and so on. It's sort of like this they get up each morning. They know they have better conditions, more income, etc, etc. What do they tell themselves is the reason for that? Do they tell themselves it's because they monopolized empowering tasks, that they didn't do anything worthy, that they just well sort of stole it? Or did they tell themselves that they are smarter, more creative, more energetic, etc.

Speaker 1:

The chapter continues, removing the old owner boss but retaining the old division of labor, elevates empowered employees to make virtually all decisions. Before long they enlarge their own incomes and the distorted beliefs that they deserve more than the workers they rule over. The coordinators see themselves as aiding workers below. The workers resent the coordinators at the same time as they want their kids to be one. I interject Is that not the case? Don't many working-class folks labor under the conditions of disempowerment, hating management, etc. Yet want their kids to become what they hate doctors, lawyers, engineers, managers? To me this is an incredible aspect of class division and rule.

Speaker 1:

Let me just tell a little story. I used to teach in prison a few times, and one time it was in a medium-security prison. That's sort of a lockup like you see on TV for prison. You know you go through lots of locks to get in etc. And they had a program that let people teach. And I was teaching a course on modern economics, capitalist economics, and in the course with the students we got along really well and there was a good dynamic and people were sort of freewheeling. And when I would talk about capitalists, owners, and describe their you know, their power and their wealth and their circumstances and so on, people were tuned to it, people understood it, but there wasn't much passion in the room. It wasn't as if we were talking about something that they had on their minds. But when we talked about doctors and lawyers and engineers and managers, the whole tone changed. The room had this palpable level of hatred. The people had encountered what I was talking about. They had firsthand felt what I was talking about, whereas most of them had never encountered an owner in their entire lives.

Speaker 1:

The chapter continues More. This division between coordinators and workers is structural. The opposed situations and interests are blatant and built in. So too are the contrasting behaviors and broad personal beliefs. The hierarchical results are undeniable. That nearly everyone accepts that the corporate division of labor is an unavoidable necessity is also evident and highly advantageous to those who benefit from the arrangement. The class antagonisms are intense but felt to be just the way it is Often in capitalism, coordinator worker antagonisms are more intense day to day than owner worker antagonisms, for the obvious reason that workers rarely directly personally encounter owner dismissiveness, arrogance, paternalism and cruel hostility head on. But workers do directly personally encounter all that from coordinator class members nearly all the time. But is this arrangement natural? Is it unavoidable? Let me interject again In that prison class talking about this kind of thing.

Speaker 1:

I asked them about how they viewed, how they knew, how they understood this group called the coordinator class and in one notable exchange one of them said you know, walking down the street, you're walking along and there's this person walking toward you and if it's one of those people, one of those empowered people, they carry themselves differently, they dress differently, they expect you to move aside and walk around them as they go straight forward, sort of like whites and blacks, women and men. A difference, a very real, palpable, important difference. The chapter continues To have managers, doctors, lawyers, accountants and public officials empowered by their work, while assembly workers, short-order cooks and cleaners do only disempowering, rote and routine tasks. Leaves the empowered employees to set agendas, dominate outcomes, accrue excessive income and feel that they deserve their greater power and wealth on account of their superior, socially monopolized knowledge, skills and capacities and that the disempowered workers deserve their subservience on account of their socially imposed lesser knowledge, skills and capacities. In other words, it demolishes prospects for equity, self-management and solidarity. It follows that to maintain a corporate division of labor and a new economy will subvert prospects for it being a desirable economy. In other words, as evidenced by the earlier description of the experience of Argentine workers, if workers take over, even if they have wonderful values and desires, if they preserve a corporate division of labor, their wonderful values and desires will fade away.

Speaker 1:

Institutions matter. Bad ones can trump good ones and even good intentions. Some changes take more time, more transition, but transition we must. But if it is essential to reject a corporate division of labor, what can take its place? I interject, I had a subheading here out with the old boss, in with no bosses. The method I suppose at work was to identify obstacles to attaining values that we aspire to and then don't pause, don't call them inevitable that is the hard part, but instead go forward, think up better to replace them with.

Speaker 1:

The chapter continues Once we ask for an alternative, a solution becomes evident. If we must reject defining jobs so that 20% of the workforce has means and desires to rule over 80% who lack means and expect to be ruled, then the solution must be to steadily redefine jobs so that daily tasks comparably prepare all employees to contribute to collective self-management. Let me just repeat that Once we ask for an alternative, a solution becomes evident. If we must reject defining jobs so that 20% of the workforce has means and desires to rule over 80% who lack means and expect to be ruled, then the solution must be to steadily redefine jobs so that daily tasks comparably prepare all employees to contribute to collective self-management. Imagine we visit a world where we see that the workforce has two parts. One part rules, the other part obeys. The ruling members all eat good food. The ruled members all eat horrible food.

Speaker 1:

Suppose it's also obvious that the good food strengthens and lightens and inspires people and the bad food weakens, stunts and depresses people. We would easily determine that to eliminate this hypothetical world's food-generated class division, we would have to let everyone share the good food. We would need to balance good food apportionment. We should even, of course, increase the amount of good food. If we failed to do all that, it wouldn't matter what else we wanted or even what else we did. The monopolization of good food by some while relegating others to bad food would overcome desires for self-management and even for meaningful democracy.

Speaker 1:

Okay, in our world, isn't it just as evident that to eliminate the worker-coordinator class division, based on a skewed distribution of empowering tasks, we would ultimately have to share among all workers not good food but empowering tasks? Isn't it just as clear that to eliminate the unwanted division of labor, we need to balance jobs so that we all do a fair share of empowering and disempowering tasks, precisely so that we are all well-equipped and inclined by our circumstances to participate in decision-making, precisely so that one group, the coordinator class, is not dominantly empowered and inclined, while another group, the working class, is subordinately disempowered and disinclined? If we want self-management, no matter how hard it might be or how long it may require to accomplish, won't we need to guarantee that no group monopolizes empowering tasks and dominates another group that is denied empowering tasks? It turns out that to attain self-management by eliminating class rule, not only would we have to remove the property relations that entitle capitalists to profits and dominion, but we would also have to remove the division of labor that makes coordinators a separate class above workers. We would have to ensure that all employees have shared interests in an ample capacity for decision-making. We would have to replace the corporate division of labor with a balanced distribution of empowering tasks. If we retain a corporate division of labor, we will preserve inequity, prevent solidarity and destroy self-management. If we establish what we call balanced job complexes, wherein everyone's work is comparably empowering, we will propel equity, solidarity and self-management.

Speaker 1:

This is the logic of institutions. They carry with them implications that they impose on people who fill their roles, who interrelate by their rules. Pick bad institutions impoverish life prospects. Pick good institutions enrich life prospects. I interject Okay, so the chapter did highlight what my spontaneous earlier interjections also tried to pinpoint. But now it would be reasonable if some were thinking yes, but is any of this possible? Would it introduce new problems like, say, bad decisions? I should perhaps note that sometimes I argue for balanced jobs on just that basis. If we are going to have workers' councils in which all workers participate and there is self-management, then how do we ensure that we don't have a bunch of ill-prepared, ignorant decisions being made? We balance jobs.

Speaker 1:

The chapter continues. Consider any workplace. Balanced job complexes, once attained, would mean no one would just do surgery or just clean up after surgeons. No one would only teach or only sweep. No one would dig resources from a mind or only schedule the mind's operations. Balanced job complexes would mean all workers do a mix of tasks such that each job's overall empowerment effect is broadly like that of all other jobs. I apply to some workplace for a job that I like. Unlike now, all available jobs are balanced for empowerment effects so that everyone's work prepares them to make informed, confident decisions. If we can balance job complexes without incurring some dire offsetting damage, then balanced job complexes will answer our question who does what? By eliminating the coordinator working class hierarchy, it will fulfill the need that five out of five employees of workplaces once all citizens are also earlier well educated, would be able to participate successfully in workplace decision making. But can we balance jobs without incurring dire offsetting damage? Can we get rid of the Coordinated Working Class Division that is based on empowerment differences? Can we make self-management viable and effective without crippling output or oppressing people? Ultimately, can we have classlessness by not only getting rid of the cause of capitalist class power, but by also getting rid of the cause of Coordinated Class Power?

Speaker 1:

In a hospital, perform brain surgery as well as every other hospital function. Balance jobs wouldn't eliminate different people doing different things as part of a sensible whole job. That is essential. But balance jobs would ensure that over some reasonable time frame, all who are able to work would have responsibility for some sensible sequence of tasks for which they would be well trained, but also such that no one would enjoy excessive elevation by the empowerment effects of their work. First, we should clarify that to do so, those who assemble cars today need not assemble computers tomorrow. Much less would each person have to assemble every imaginable product, nor would everyone who works in a hospital perform brain surgery as well as every other hospital function. Balance jobs wouldn't eliminate different people doing different things as part of a sensible whole job. That is essential. But balance jobs would ensure that over some reasonable time frame, all able to work would have responsibility for some sensible sequence of tasks for which they would be well trained, but also that no one would enjoy excessive elevation by the empowerment effects of their work. Eliminating the source of consistent differences in empowerment effects would not mean that we have doctors who occasionally clean bedpans or secretaries who every so often attend a seminar. Parading through the ghetto would not yield solidarity, nor would slinking through a country club confer status, short-term stints and alternative circumstances, whether slumbering or admiring, would not rectify long-term inequities and basic responsibilities. Eliminating the source of consistent advantages and the empowerment effects of their work would mean instead that everyone would have a set of tasks that composed his or her job, such that the overall implications for empowerment of that whole set of tasks would be broadly like the overall implications of empowerment for all other jobs for all other workers.

Speaker 1:

Further and this is even controversial for some advocates of the new economy we are aiming for, balancing must also occur across workplaces. The idea is that for an entire workforce to do only elite work in one workplace to have balance there, or for another workforce that does only rote work in one workplace to have balance there would not challenge the hierarchical arrangement of the two relative to each other. We would need to balance job complexes for empowerment in each and every workplace, yes, but we would also need to ensure that workers have a combination of tasks that balance across workplaces. This would provide a new division of labor that would give all workers an equal chance of participating in and benefiting from workplace decision making. This would establish a division of labor which does not produce a class division between permanent order givers and permanent order takers. I interject just to perhaps make it a little more concrete. Imagine a publishing house which retains editorial tasks for its employees and other empowering tasks but instead of employees doing a balanced mix of those and other rote tasks, like, say, cleaning up or answering the phone, etc. The workplace contracts with another one. The latter provides the rote services. Or, on a bigger scale, consider a workplace with engineers and lawyers or whatever, and another one that at night sends in workers to an empty garbage and so on. You can imagine how an economy like that, instead of having 20% coordinators and 80% workers in each workplace, could have 80% of workplaces that had disempowering circumstances, with 100% or nearly so working class employees and 20% of workplaces that have empowering, with 100% or nearly so coordinator class employees. I should say I interject two years after writing no bosses.

Speaker 1:

Some advocates of participatory economics and of balancing jobs inside workplaces think the need for cross workplace balancing would introduce too much hassle and complexity to be worth it. But I disagree because, on the one hand, eliminating class division is of paramount importance and also because I think it would not prove particularly cumbersome, especially if we get creative about merging various workplaces with others. At any rate, the chapter continues. Since disparate empowerment at work inexorably destroys participatory potentials and creates class differences, and since, as we will shortly see, differences in quality of life at work could be justly offset by appropriate remuneration, we can hear focus on only empowerment. In practice, though, there is probably not that much difference. Balancing empowerment likely takes us a long way toward balancing quality of life.

Speaker 1:

Almost everyone is aware that typical jobs in familiar corporate contexts combine tasks with roughly the same empowerment characteristics, so that each worker has a homogenous job, complex, and most people do one level of task. In contrast, to establish appropriate empowerment for all, a participatory economy will offer balanced jobs where everyone typically does a few levels of tasks. In that case, each worker has a particular bundle of diverse responsibilities and each person's whole bundle, his or her whole job, prepares him or her to participate as an equal with everyone else in a self-managed workplace and also in societal decision-making. Have I repeated myself? Yes, I have. Why? Because these observations often fail to register as intended. I repeat, but even so I worry whether I have been clear.

Speaker 1:

Let's try another version unrealistically mechanical and thus not quite real, but perhaps clearer for that reason, consider an idealized and simplified hypothetical capitalist approach to defining jobs, where someone lists all possible tasks to be done in a workplace. Someone gives each task a rank of 1 to 20, with higher being more empowering and lower being more deadening and stultifying. We have hundreds or perhaps thousands of stripped-down tasks which our chosen workplace combines into actual jobs. No single task is enough to constitute a whole job. Some jobs may take only a few tasks, some may take many. When the corporate approach is adopted, each defined job is a bundle of tasks, but each task in that bundle has very nearly the same reading as all the others. As a result, in the hypothetical case, the corporate job bundle may come with a 1, a 7, a 15, or a 20 as its average empowerment rating. The average could be any number on the scale, but the job itself will be a fairly homogenized bundle of tasks all rated about the same. In other words, the job will be pegged to a position in a 1 to 20 hierarchy and all its component tasks will be at that rank or just a bit above or below. Rose gets mostly 5, some 4s and 6s. Robert gets mostly 17s, some 6s and 18s. Of course, in reality nothing remotely this mechanical occurs, but the result is attained nonetheless.

Speaker 1:

Now suppose we switch to an idealized and simplified hypothetical participatory economic workplace. There are quite a few differences in tasks due to the transition to a new type of economy, for reasons to be discovered as we proceed, but still it is a long list. The tasks are still differentiated in terms of their empowerment effects, just as in the capitalist economy. Imagine, unrealistically, that we again rank each one of them from 1 to 20, though there are fewer at the low end than before due to new investment priorities. However, tasks combined into jobs change dramatically. Instead of combining a bunch of 6s into a 6 job and a bunch of 18s into an 18 job, every job is now a combination of tasks of varied levels, such that each job in the workplace has essentially the same average grade.

Speaker 1:

Maybe the workplace is a coal mine and the overall average is 4, or maybe it is a factory and the average is 7, or it is a school and the average is 11, or it is a research center and the average is 14. Whatever the average for the unit is, everyone who works there has a job whose combination of tasks yields that same average. In the coal mine, where the average is 4, jobs may have tasks that are all rated near 4, or maybe a job has some 7s, 4s and 2s, but an average is to 4. Mechanical, yes, fictitious, yes, it is a simplified image. In the research plant someone may have all 14s, or maybe a 4 and 5, a bunch of 13s, 14s and 15s and a 19 or 20.

Speaker 1:

The point is that every worker has a job. Every job has many tasks. The tasks are suited to the worker and vice versa. The tasks combine into a sensible agenda of responsibilities. The average empowerment impact of the sum of tasks in any job in any workplace is roughly the same as the average empowerment for all other jobs in that workplace. When the workers come together in their workers' councils, whether for work teams, units, divisions or the whole workplace, there is no subset of workers whose conditions have prepared them significantly better and left them significantly more energetic or provided them with significantly greater relevant information or skills relative to everyone else, such that they will predictably dominate debate and outcomes. The preparation for participating owing to involvement in the daily life of the workplace is roughly equalized.

Speaker 1:

Of course, in real circumstances the procedure of job balancing are not precisely or likely even remotely such a precise numeric accounting. Actual procedures would instead likely involve a steady social exchange, meshing and merging tasks into jobs, with workers broadly assessing the overall combinations and bringing them into accord with each other by tweaking the combinations far more fluidly than parceling out the tasks as if from some gigantic menu. But the graded menu image conveys the rough reality. What should be clear already is if it turns out to be preferred and desirable there is no law of nature or of job definitions that precludes doing as we have suggested to a reasonably high degree of attainment of the sought end. Of course it cannot be perfect. There is no perfect grading of tasks, no perfect meshing of graded tasks into balanced jobs and thus no perfect numeric balancing. In practice this occurs as a social dynamic enacted by human beings in complex circumstances. Of course it cannot occur at the flip of a switch or the casting of a law. Full implementation requires transformation, transition, materially and socially. But shorter perfection.

Speaker 1:

Workers' councils in an established new economy, in an established new society, could certainly balance jobs in each workplace quite well, tweaking the results over time to get an ever more just pattern of work. Still, even recognizing that we could achieve this, and even assuming compatibility with the rest of the economy, there remains a problem. Before addressing that problem. However, we should add a clarification to avoid a possible confusion. Balancing empowerment across jobs is not the same as balancing the amount or the type of intellect required for that job. That is, if you do some highly abstract theoretical physics Theoretical physics that only a few people on earth can understand your activity is not necessarily immensely more empowering than it is for me to help decide how we can best build automobiles, or for a chef at a restaurant to decide how to best cook a meal. If it were simply a question of intellect, then arguably no amount of balancing is going to get me and a new Stephen Hawking equalized. Thinking about unified fields requires too much intellect to balance.

Speaker 1:

But when we are talking about empowerment, there are empowering tasks in all kinds of workplaces, including those that involve figuring out how to best do other jobs, how to best satisfy consumers, how to plan for the future. Discussing such matters, making proposals about such matters and, in any case thinking about elementary particles or cosmic black holes, may not turn out to be that socially empowering. In balancing job complexes within each workplace for equal empowerment, the goal is to prevent the assignment of tasks from preparing some workers significantly better than others to participate in decision making at that workplace. But balancing job complexes within workplaces does not guarantee that work life will be equally empowering across workplaces. To return to our simplified characterization, one workplace could average out at seven, another at fourteen, or even at three and eighteen. In such cases, those in the more empowering industries would be far better able to manifest their preferences throughout the broader economy. Indeed, over time they could further polarize workplaces in the economy, with a subset of workplaces housing all the most empowering jobs and with the least empowering work.

Speaker 1:

Get our eyes off into disempowering and menial workplaces, where the former oversee and rule the latter. Since this is obviously not our aim, we deduce that establishing conditions for a truly participatory and equitable economy will likely require some cross workplace balancing in addition to balancing within each workplace. The only way I can see to balance for empowerment across workplaces is to have people spend some of their time outside their primary workplace, offsetting advantages or disadvantage that its average may have compared to the overall societal average. I interject, Okay, I finally disagree. Another approach is to change what goes on in workplaces. We add to a highly empowering one new tasks that are disempowering, and vice versa. We add to a highly disempowering one new tasks that are empowering, but the chapter continues Using the simple model again.

Speaker 1:

If you work in a coal mine that is a four and society is a seven, so to speak, you get to work considerable time outside mine in another venue, raising your average to seven. If you work in a research facility that is a 13 and a society's average of seven, you would have to work outside the facility a considerable chunk of each week at rather onerous tasks to get down to the social average of seven. How might a participatory economy actually calibrate these balances? For that matter, how might people wind up in a particular workplace in the first place? Though any full answer requires a more developed picture of a participatory economy, including its means of allocation, and though no more complete answer would be unique in any event, as we can't know all the approaches that might emerge from future experiences, and though, in any event, it is for future experimentation and preferences to decide between worthy options likely differently in different situations, we cannot reasonably go further regarding job complexes without providing at least some clarification.

Speaker 1:

In a participatory economy, everyone will presumably have the right to apply for work wherever they choose and presumably have education and home life suitable for work they choose, and every workers council will presumably have the right to add any members they wish, using appropriate decision making methods. Of course, we have no choice but to wait until after describing participatory allocation to consider when and why workers councils would wish to add or release members. But for now, it is sufficient to know that once an economy has a work plan for a coming period, each workers councils may have a list of openings for which anyone can freely apply, so any worker could apply for any opening and move to a new workers council that wants them, should they prefer it to their present council. In this respect, participatory job changing will presumably be superficially like changing jobs in a typical capitalist economy, but while the situation looks somewhat like traditional labor market, it would be quite different. First, in a traditional labor market, people generally change employment to win higher pay or to enjoy better working conditions generally considered more desirable, not solely conditions they themselves prefer. But since the economy we propose would balance jobs across as well as within workplaces, and since it would remunerate effort and sacrifice but not output, much less bargaining power, as we will soon describe, people will be unable to attain these traditional goals by changing workplaces. Instead, everyone will always have typical job and typical income conditions and thus also an instance of the best available income and job conditions. On the other hand, if a person would prefer a different group of workmates or working at a different combination of tasks, due to his or her personal priorities and interests, of course, she or he might have a very good reason to apply for a new job, perhaps even at a new workplace. In fact, to the extent that job complexes are balanced and pay is for effort and sacrifice, such personal reasons will be the only motives to move. Conversely, people's freedom to move to other workplaces will provide a check on the effectiveness of balancing job complexes across workplaces. Higher pay will not be available by changing jobs, nor will objectively better working conditions.

Speaker 1:

I interject the above wasn't quite right and I knew it, but cheated a bit. More accurate would be to note that while a workplace might have more onerous conditions, its workers would then earn more. But I guess I didn't want to confuse things. This is just the problem that every aspect of a full vision affects the rest. So a full feeling for any aspect depends on a full feeling for all other aspects. You can't assume that full feeling went only in Chapter 4, so stick with it for a steadily better comprehension of how the various core aspects fit together.

Speaker 1:

The chapter continues just as workers must balance jobs internally in each workplace through a flexible discussion process whose exact character could vary from workplace to workplace, so might delegates of workers from different councils and industries develop a flexible rating process to balance across workplaces. As one plausible solution there could be job complex committees both within each workplace and for the economy as a whole. These committees might be responsible for proposing ways to combine tasks to achieve and, when necessary, update, balance work complexes within workplaces. The economy-wide committees would presumably arrange for those who work in less desirable and less empowering primary workplaces sometime in more desirable and more empowering environments and vice versa, within a workplace. It would become clear that more fine-tuning of job assignments was required when more and more or fewer and fewer members of a workers' council apply for one job or another. Similarly, the need for better balancing of conditions of job complexes across workplaces becomes evident the same way, that is, through excessive or minimal applications to switch from one workplace to another. I interject. I would interject when I am thinking reading this, but I am pretty sure it would be redundant. I bet it comes up in what follows.

Speaker 1:

The chapter continues, it should be clear that creating perfectly balanced job complexes is theoretically, abstractly conceivable. But can it be done in real-life situations? Of course not. We are not talking about pure geometry or even the engineering of bridges. We are talking about actual people and real social arrangements. But the point is, in an established new economy it could be done quite well, and with deviations and errors being only deviations and errors, not systematic biases. Over time, such errors would not multiply or snowball, but would instead invite correction More. The entire process would be collectively self-managed. There would be no elite eager or even able to bend everyone else to their will. Each person would have circumstances collectively agreed upon by procedures respecting each person's appropriate input. If people combine their informed efforts at creating balanced jobs with participation in well-designed self-managing councils, there is every reason to expect them to attain a venue favorable to non-hierarchical production relations, enable to promote equity and participation and facilitate appropriate voting patterns.

Speaker 1:

Still, you might reasonably wonder, in practical, real-world situations, could workers really combine tasks to define balanced job complexes within and across workplaces? Even reasonably well? Much less as well as we suggest, provided we understand that we are talking about a social process that never retains perfection and that it need only fulfill workers' own sense of balance. The answer, surely yes. The idea is that workers within each workplace could engage in a collective evaluation of their own circumstances. As a participatory economy emerged from a capitalist or from a market or centrally planned socialist past, there would no doubt be extensive discussion and debate about the characteristics of different tasks.

Speaker 1:

It would take time, call transition, not only to define new jobs but to train for them. Indeed, it would be a matter of demands, victories and sometimes setbacks. But once the first approximation of balanced job complexes within a transformed workplace in a transformed economy had been established, thereafter regular adjustments would be relatively simple. For example, if the introduction of a new technology dramatically changed the human impact of some tasks, thereby throwing old jobs out of balance, workers might simply move some responsibilities within and across affected complexes to reestablish a desirable balance. Well, they might change the time spent at different tasks in affected complexes to attain a new balance.

Speaker 1:

A new balance need not and could not ever be perfect, just as prior old balances weren't perfect. Nor would adjustments be instantaneous. Nor would everyone be likely to agree completely with every result of a council-based determination of job composition, even in a well-established new economy, much less early on the road toward it. Individual preferences that deviate from one's workmate's preferences would presumably determine who would choose to apply for which balanced job. Much obvious If I am less bothered by noise but more bothered by dust, I would no doubt prefer a job whose rote component required dealing with noisy machinery rather than a job with a responsibility to sweep. You might have opposite inclinations. In practice.

Speaker 1:

Balancing between workplaces would be more complicated. How would arrangements be made for workers to have responsibilities in more than one workplace? Over time, balancing across workplaces might be determined partly through a growing familiarity with the social relations of production, partly as a result of evaluations by specific committees whose job includes rating complexes in different plants and industries, and partly as a result of the pattern of movements of workers. That all this would be possible within some acceptable range of error and dissent ought to be pretty obvious once we realize that we aren't talking about instant corrections or, for that matter, complete initial implementation all in one quick leap, or even attaining some perfect result.

Speaker 1:

Basically, presumably participatory economic job complexes would be organized so that every individual would be regularly involved in both conception and execution tasks, with comparable empowerment circumstances for all. The precision of the balance would depend on many factors and would likely improve over time. The mechanical notion of numeric ratings of tasks would, I suspect, virtually never occur. Instead, workers would discuss the characteristics of different tasks, different jobs, and come up with compromises and mixtures, seeking a balance sufficiently accurate to fulfill the overarching aim. And that aim at the heart of the proposal would be the advisory that no set of individuals should permanently occupy positions that present them with unusual opportunities to accumulate excessive decision making, say. Every individual should instead occupy a position that guarantees him or her an appropriate amount of empowering tasks. In essence, by being careful about what tasks are grouped together into jobs, the empowerment, costs and benefits of work would be equitably distributed. Corporate organization would disappear, council organization plus balanced job complexes would prevail. The potential questions that would remain are whether, in concert with other essential innovations of a new participatory economy, balanced job complexes would have as much positive impact for solidarity, equity, diversity and self-management as we seek, whether they would permit effective utilization of talents and resources to produce desired output, and also whether they would have undesirable effects that would outweigh their benefits.

Speaker 1:

I interject At this point. I had a subheading that asked a question you may quite legitimately be asking as well, is this for real? In other words, have I ignored a way, devastating problems, thereby hiding that changing from a corporate division of labor to balanced jobs would be a disaster? Well, let's see. The chapter continues.

Speaker 1:

If Margaret Thatcher, british prime minister of neoliberal pain, was still around at this point, she would bellow Get serious. Of course, this idiot proposal would have horrible effects. Doctors should clean bedpans, managers should assemble products, engineers should tote dirt. Are you insane? You have major proposal, clear, all right. Clear that its losses would be enormous. Your alternative would be no alternative at all. It would so drastically diminish output as to negate any other modest gains. This is nonsense on stilts. Mr Moneybags would gleefully aggressively shout agreement. Many doctors, lawyers and other coordinator class members would concur, though one hopes, less gleefully and aggressively. Even some, and perhaps many workers, at least nowadays, would echo the sentiment.

Speaker 1:

Are our resurrected Thatcher and her various comrades correct? The first thing to note is that ending class hierarchy would be no modest gain. It would be enormous. But let's set that aside for a minute. If we balance jobs, will we suffer serious losses at all? Much less losses greater than those gains. Consider a hospital, if we compare one that has a corporate organization to the same one that would have balanced job complexes, even if we ignore, having eliminated in the latter the conflicts, tension and waste that ensues from class hierarchy. What do we see?

Speaker 1:

Thatcher sees the people who were surgeons doing some rote tasks. She calculates the loss of their life-saving efforts and deduces we have lost 30% or maybe 40%, whatever, of their creative contributions to health. That is abysmal. And she asks a new economy advocate. What are you saying about this obvious truth? You seriously want me to believe that, from among people who before were cleaning rooms, we will enjoy enough newly emerging quality surgery to make up for that decline. That is lunacy. Thatcher has pinpointed an underlying issue. In a corporate arrangement, 20% do empowered tasks, 80% do not.

Speaker 1:

Thatcher's claim is that losing some part of the undeniably life-saving contributions of the 20% is an unacceptable price to pay. My contrary claim is that among the 80% there resides more than enough untapped capacity to do much more than what the 20%, after job balancing, would no longer do. Their new contributions would more than make up for the loss due to balancing all jobs. Who is right? Consider 50 years ago Overwhelmingly only white men were surgeons. Women, blacks, latinx and so on were not, of course, most who were not surgeons among women, blacks and Latinx, and also, for that matter, among white men, would under no circumstances become surgeons in a new economy. They would lack relevant capacities or inclinations. But history has already shown for those too racist or sexist to have earlier seen what was always obvious that what we might call the surgeon potential among blacks, latinx and women was earlier depressed by social subjugation, not by innate deficiency.

Speaker 1:

Similarly, the participatory claim isn't that the 80% under capitalism will, with balanced jobs, all do brain surgery. It is that among the 80% with full training, enriching life circumstances and full empowerment and freedom, over time there will emerge enough surgical talent and inclination to make up for the 20% from earlier who already had those talents and inclinations, newly having to do balanced jobs, and also enough talent and inclination to simultaneously make up all of the coordinator tasks as well. Just as women, blacks and Latinx constituencies now generate ample talent and inclination for empowered jobs, so too for the 80% working class. The claim is that the 80% don't now lack innate capacity for doing a balanced job, with some doing surgery and some doing some other empowering work, but that they're on the job circumstances in corporate jobs as well as in also class-defined prior home and school circumstances and training literally suppresses and even obliterates those innate capacities and inclinations.

Speaker 1:

Thatcher is resilient, she rallies, but even if that's true, she urges. Think how much more of society's capacity would have to go to training more doctors, more lawyers, more scientists and all the rest. It is a grotesque waste. Inefficient, inefficient. If I was answering in person, I have to admit that at this point I would have to struggle hard to not exude outrage and disdain but to instead merely answer yes, you are right, exactly so. Oh, ok, so I would partly lose my self-control battle and inject a bit of sarcasm. Just think of it. I would go on. Society would have to spend considerable time and resources to develop the full capacities and inclinations of 80% who would otherwise be relegated to subordination. What a horrible pursuit, what a gross outrage.

Speaker 1:

Instead of home life, education and on-the-job circumstances, preparing four-fifths of the population to only endure boredom and take orders, their capacities having been stifled, their inclinations having been crushed, in this new abominable situation that you label inefficient, home life, education and on-the-job circumstances would liberate all To Thatcher's eyes and sadly, not only to her eyes in a last-ditch attempt to reject balanced jobs and increase education and improve circumstances for 80% of the population. She deemed such a change a damnable cost and not a magnificent benefit. It is quite like a racist or a sexist claiming that liberating women's, blacks and Latinx sexes of the sectors of the population to nurture their potentials is a damnable cost, not a wonderful benefit. What is depressing and infuriating is that nowadays, so many so reflexively accept these kinds of assumptions and the ensuing subjugation for working people, just as 50 years ago, and sadly sometimes still, so many accepted similarly anti-social claims about women, blacks and Latinx people. Liberating 80% will not sacrifice output for an abstract claim. It will instead finally overcome an abstract imposition that has for so long curbed potentials in most and corrupted potentials in the rest.

Speaker 1:

To institute job balancing for empowerment would not only remove the basis of coordinated domination of workers, but would also hugely expand productive and creative potentials. It would advance conditions of equity, solidarity and self-management for all. Who does what? The title of this chapter is no Small Matter. Want class rule? Maintain the corporate division of labor? Want classlessness? Balance jobs for empowerment. Which do we choose?

Speaker 1:

Since we want classlessness and not coordinate a rule, we propose balancing jobs for empowerment as our third essential feature of a worthy new economy. This provides future citizens a context in which they can freely discover and implement their own desires. But how do we link workers here and there to consumers here and there and vice versa, without undoing balanced jobs, without subverting self-management and without reimposing class division? A first step to that end, leading toward considering allocation writ large, is to next consider what we should do about income. And then that ended chapter four. And that said, this is Michael Albert reminding you to please consider using social media, email and word of mouth to let others know about Revolution Z, and also signing off until next time for Revolution Z.

Class Division and Empowering Work
Corporate Division of Labor's Impact
Balancing Jobs for Self-Management Success
Balancing Empowerment in Participatory Workplaces
The Concept of Balancing Job Complexes
Balancing Jobs for Empowerment Cost
Balancing Jobs for Empowerment