How Did You Find Out About Participatory Economics?

When did you first hear about Participatory Economics and how did it happen? I’m curious to hear everyone’s stories!

I found out about this a few years back (around 2016 I think). I was researching alternative economic models and discussing one with someone on Twitter. During the discussion they recommended that I look into Participatory Economics and the rest is history!


I learned about it through ZNet all the way back in the early 2000s. After going through an intense Chomsky phase in my early 20s (I’m sure I wasn’t the only one!) and getting a basic understanding of how society works and what is wrong with it, I was ready to hear about systemic solutions. I read Michael Albert’s book ‘Life After Capitalism’, and discovered a website that had been set up for a group here in the UK called, Project for a Participatory Society UK. I joined the forum and met lots of others here who had also been inspired by the ideas of Participatory Society Theory and Vision. Over the years, I’ve been involved in organising events (we’ve had both Michael and Robin over to the UK) and have given talks myself, written articles and have been involved with various initiatives in trying to promote the ideas (some more successful than others). Currently I maintain this website and interested in looking at ways to promote the model through creating software.


That’s cool! I remember discovering Chomsky back in high school. It was in the later 2000s when the Iraq War and terrorism was a hot topic. I had intuitions about those things, but Chomsky talked about it so clearly and it helped me think through what I was feeling if that makes sense. From there I also had an intense phase and kept trying to find new videos on YouTube from him.

I never heard him talk about participatory economics, but after discovering all this I realised it’s something he has endorsed!

Thanks for sharing!

I was in a small neighborhood bookstore in Winnipeg in 1991 (it was actually a new age-y bookstore that also sold music, candles and crystals and stuff like that!) and found the big green-covered edition of “Looking Forward” that had just been published by South End Press. I knew who Mike Albert was because of Z Magazine. I had been buying Z regularly at the local Communist Party-run bookshop since about 1988, so was already familiar with his politics, and I think Chomsky had a blurb on the back cover, which didn’t hurt either. So on a whim I decided to buy Looking Forward, because I figured I should learn a bit more about economics.

Obviously, the ideas in there resonated with me. Within a year or so of picking up the book, the student group I was involved in at U of Manitoba brought Albert in to Winnipeg to give two talks: one on participatory economics, and one on the question: “Is capitalism compatible with the environment?” I probably still have the crappy posters I made for those talks. That was the first time I had met Mike in person.

By 1994-95 we were beginning the first planning steps towards founding the Winnipeg A-Zone and Mondragon Bookstore/Cafe collective, using participatory economics as an inspiration for the workplace structure. Albert came to speak at the grand opening in the Fall of 96 to standing-room only audiences, and I think we also arranged to get him an interview with campus radio as well as Canadian Dimension magazine. Mondragon went on over the next few years to sell about 500+ copies of Looking Forward, because people were genuinely interested in our internal structure and decision-making, and wanted something that mixed theory with practice. We had a pamphlet on the tables in the restaurant that discussed food politics, books, as well as workplace democracy without hierarchy , and the fact that we had balanced job complexes across the bookstore and restaurants – and this pamphlet led customers waiting for their food to often ask questions, and sometimes led to them buying a copy of Looking Forward. It was probably one of our “best sellers”. 500 isn’t a lot from the standpoint of a corporate bookstore chain, but for us it was a lot.

And also within a year or so of Mondragon’s opening, Arbeiter Ring publishers and G7 Welcoming Committee Records both started up in the same building, organized along participatory economics lines as well. So there was a lot of simultaneous cross-pollination happening, and it also helped shape some of the workplace struggles and unionization drives in other workplaces in Winnipeg. I remember being asked to speak with workers at two other places, both food co-ops, about participatory economics and workplace democracy – because the workers in those self-described co-ops felt they had no say in what was a traditional hierarchical structure. One of these places eventually unionized with the I.W.W. because they had no other way to effect positive change.

Anyway, “parecon” became something of a household term (amongst leftists at least) in Winnipeg in the late-90s because of all this activity. Over the years Mike came to speak several times for special events, and then much later on (after 2005 or so), Robin came for a couple talks as well. It’s not an exaggeration, though, to say that all of this happened the way it happened because of that fateful decision to buy Looking Forward in an incense-filled New Age bookstore in 1991. Lol.


Haha that’s an awesome story! Thanks for sharing. I wish there were places like the ones you describe close to where I live. Sounds like Canada has some pretty awesome places for people to hang out!