Questioning Effort Rating

As an advocate of the Participatory Economy model, I support the moral principle that differences in income from work should be based on differences in levels of sacrifice or effort, and not on ownership, bargaining power, or the value of one’s personal contribution. However, there is an issue which has been on my mind for a while about how we go about communicating the implementation of the principle.

In their presentations of the model, Robin Hahnel writes that every worker receives an effort rating from co-workers at work, and Michael Albert writes that income from work is based on “duration, intensity and onerousness of socially valued work”.

Getting more for working longer hours, yes; getting more for performing more unpleasant or dangerous work, yes; but getting more for an intensity rating has always sat uncomfortably with me. While supporting the moral principle, my impression is that many others are also turned off by the idea of being a member of a workplace where they are being evaluated or rated for their effort. While being a technically more accurate method to capturing overall effort, this has to be weighed against the workplace dynamics and impact of ongoing evaluation on well-being. From my experience of interacting with others about the model and following conversations online, I believe that people often end up dismissing the whole participatory economy model because they feel uneasy with the idea of getting an effort rating, which is a shame, but I think also unnecessary.

My personal estimation is that in practise, most worker councils will choose to use differences in hours worked for capturing effort, and either balance tasks for desirability or pay higher per hour for more unpleasant tasks, and very few would adopt evaluating intensity of work.

For these reasons, I would like to question whether it is beneficial for us to continue to emphasise effort rating or intensity in our language and whether it would be better to refer to income from work as simply income from work, with the default assumption being a flat hourly income for all workers in the economy that can be adjusted up for tasks that are more dangerous or unpleasant. And if certain workplaces do want to adopt effort rating evaluations, they have the autonomy to do so, but that this is a possibility that exists rather than the default norm that we stress in the main terminology for how we communicate about income.

What do you think?

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This is exactly how I describe the principle in what I’ve been working on, and I agree with everything you said regarding this. I think it’s best to drop as much of the technical jargon as possible when talking about this. This is how I describe it: “people receive income based on the amount of work they put in towards an economic activity.” That’s simple, to the point, and immediately makes sense to people. When you start talking about a rating, or the intensity of the job, that makes people start asking questions about how that would work instead of just saying “yeah that makes sense, let’s talk about the other aspects of how all this works.”

My interpretation is that the effort/intensity measure is just the other way of saying “let’s codify the incentive for people to exert effort where they otherwise might not”. I mean, if someone slacks off enough to jeopardise the plan, that means some other people have to put more effort to pick up for the slacker. So, it makes sense that the slacker should be remunerated less and those who covered for them should be remunerated more.
So it’s like a mechanism to dis-incentivise irresponsible attitude towards work. But I figure that in situations where the successful fulfilment of the plan or the quality of a given service is not in danger, those ratings shouldn’t be applied. And I don’t think it makes sense to apply some effort ratings for the whole groups (onerousness seems to be a good enough factor: if everyone in a group exerts more effort, that means the work is less pleasant overall).
So, maybe it’s a good idea to frame the effort/intensity considerations as a safeguard against irresponsible behaviour.

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I think all of the above commentary is insightful and sensible. Here is some historical background, and a few thoughts:

Michael and I came up with the word “effort” first. And at least in my mind the issue I was thinking about was that there are sometimes differences between people who are putting in a lot of effort… “elbow grease” as my father used to say… and others who are “coasting.” In that “mindset” I was always careful to say that how much effort anyone put in should be largely up to them unless low effort was impeding others who worked along side them. I talked about it as some people being “hippies” while others were “go-getters.” And I said that in my view there was no reason to dictate to people where they had to be on this spectrum, as long as those who wanted to work at a more leisurely pace were willing to accept less compensation.

At some point I came to realize that at least in my mind there was a more general and better word to describe differences in the work people perform other than simply the number of hours they work. The issue was that people do not always make the same “sacrifice” when they work, even if they work the same number of hours. And whenever it was not possible, or not desirable to eliminate differences in the sacrifices people were making, then those who made greater sacrifices deserved to be compensated for having done so. At that point I started using the word “sacrifice” instead of “effort.” And when asked why I was now saying “sacrifice” rather than “effort,” I said that putting in more “effort” was one way in which people might sacrifice more, but not the only way; and the philosophical “principle” really was commensurate compensation for any differences in sacrifices people were making in work.

Not in the beginning, but early on when Michael and I were asked to explain who and how were differences in what we were still referring to as “effort” going to be measured, we agreed that this should be left up to individual worker councils. We talked about them setting up “effort rating committees,” because early on we were still using the word “effort.” However, we were VERY INSISTENT that:

  1. It was up to each WC to decide how to go about doing this.
  2. We anticipated that different WCs would in all likelihood go about doing it quite differently.
  3. We anticipated that some WCs would put a lot of time and energy into measuring differences in effort among them, while others would decide not to do so… but give everyone the same effort rating, or simply count hours.
  4. At least I started pointing out that presumably one thing workers would consider when deciding which WC they wanted to apply to work at would be if they found the WC’s method of determining differences in “effort” was to their liking.
  5. But most importantly, we said we were NOT proposing that there by an economy wide effort rating committee rating people’s efforts inside different workplaces.
  6. Not initially, but at some point I started pointing that our ACTUAL proposal was that this was entirely up to individual WCs to do… or not to do. That we envisioned a society wide ideological campaign to argue the case that compensation for differences in effort was fair and just, whereas compensation for differences in the value produced by one’s work was not, but there would be no “effort rating police” that descended on any WC which simply refused to rate one another according to effort. I’m not sure whether or not Michael has ever come out and been that clear that, in the end it is a “suggestion” and voluntary. Instead he usually talks about it as one of the institutional features that distinguish a participatory economy from all other models of socialism… which I have no problem with. There is a place in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie where someone says something about applying the “pirate code”… and one of the pirates volunteers that “the code” is more like “a guide line.” That’s the distinction we’re talking about here.

South End Press in Boston MA, and the Mondragon Collectives in Winnipeg Canada both tried to practice “effort ratings” for decades. Some of what others have said in this discussion is supported by what they decided to do, and not to do. But it is important that these were both workplaces which were self-consciously trying to “practice” participatory economics because (a) they personally WANTED to work in a place guided by self management, jobs balanced for empowerment, and remuneration according to “effort,” and (b) they wanted to prove that places practicing these principles could be very productive and efficient… which they both were!

One last thought: Neoclassical economics has a concept it calls the “disutility of work.” And according to neoclassical theory, as long as labor markets are competitive capitalist firms will be forced to pay “compensating wage differentials” for work that has a higher disutility. While there is probably something to this, in capitalism there are OTHER factors that overwhelm any compensating wage differentials in real capitalist economies… where the jobs with highest disutility are usually the worst paid, while high paying jobs are often rather pleasant to perform.

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Ditch the idea. It’s sort of redundant anyway because people always notice, eventually, who’s slacking or who’s putting in slightly more, maybe overworking even. But jeepers there’s supposed to be self-management and workplace meetings where people can sort out all this stuff in appropriate ways, like talking with each other. Further, effort rating is basically guessing. It’s like trying to figure out “one’s potential”??? I’ve always found it weird. And such guessing is what will piss others off. Someone or or a few guessing that Johnny is only working at 92.657% of his potential or capacity! The gall! I have no issue with things like “spying on one’s work mates” because as I said, people in areas notice stuff. People “spy” anyway. Noticing. Like living in a shared house eventually the other three members are going to call you into question for not doing any cleaning or whatever. Then you either do it or they ask you to leave.

Effort ratings and things like incentives are products of previous and existing horrendous competitive, unequal, unfair, unjust, soul destroying crappy and brutal economies. I’d put effort rating in the same place I put the idea of incentive. In the bin.

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Dear iDigressIndeed: I just want to state for the record that what “we” have PROPOSED… if there is a “we”… is that each WC handle this as they see fit. And, we have HYPOTHESIZED that we expect different WCs will go about this very differently.

Personally, I would be very surprised if there were not some WCs whose members feel very much the same as you do about this, and would proceed as you describe. I know I would try to join a WC which took the approach you suggest. I’ve even written in DEP that I think the more WCs who handle this as you would like to, the better; and, that one measure of social progress in a participatory economy would be a trend over time for all WCs to be… what shall I say… more trusting and relaxed, and less prone to draw “invidious” comparisons of how hard one another are working as they discover that unlike in capitalism, people are treated fairly in a participatory economy, and do therefore generally do their fair share.

Paul Burrows worked for years in a worker cooperative in Winnipeg which tried to apply participatory economic principles. I know from discussions with him and other members at the A-Zone and Mondragon Caffe that some members felt exactly as you do. But if I remember correctly there were other members who felt that more “collective self-monitoring” was needed. It was always a subject for active discussion… which I think is the lesson we should draw from the limited experience we have: It will always be a subject of debate. But not only should it be a subject of debate within WCs, it is a good thing if people with different views on the subject can find WCs whose practice is more to their own personal liking, which has always been part of “our” vision.

I understand that position. I’ve heard it many times. Maybe there are people in the world who collectively self-monitor with some sort of strict worked out rating system whereby individuals get docked or get extra for slacking or working harder (working harder? Putting in more effort? Weren’t they working at full effort to begin with? No one can work harder than 100% whatever that is). Or every month or whatever. But as I write that I’m weirded out by the thought of how that can even be done with any accuracy at all. The whole notion of working at full effort or just below or whatever and that others can actually know this enough to create a scale by which someone’s access to the social pie is effected I find strange. It kind of sounded ok at first, when I first came across it, like it may be a reasonable thing to do, but I don’t know anymore. I just don’t think it can actually be done, at least accurately.

I was asked what do I think, and that is what I think. I think collective self monitoring actually goes on all the time anyway just by human nature. But what I cannot totally get anymore, having thought about it a lot, is how anyone can be sure how much they can “dock”, if that’s the word, someone’s pay. I believe effort is in the discussion category, at a meeting, between workers, whereby people merely say to individuals, pick up your game or. Maybe there’s a threat to dock a certain amount if they are recalcitrant. I don’t know. Even that irks me. But I’m not a fan anymore of an anonymous (or even open) formalised situation whereby people’s access to the social pie is affected by essentially what I see as a guess. I also find it a little annoying that people would have to now not just look for BJCs they like at some WC, but also find a WC where the effort rating method is to their liking. Restricting.

I just don’t like it anymore as a part of the formal remuneration method of PE. I’m not even sure those who think it worthy could actually do it with any accuracy at all. But, yeah each to their own I suppose.

Maybe I’m not explaining myself well enough.

To be clear, I am actually saying it should be ditched from the formal remuneration aspect of PE. Remuneration is for hours worked and sacrifice or onerousness. Effort is just assumed. People go to work in their BJCs under the assumption that they, along with everyone else in their WC, are going to actually work…do stuff…to the degree they are meant to and have agreed to do.

Therefore, of course, individual workplaces can do what they wish regarding how to monitor whether workers are slacking. Assuming they aren’t going out of their way to monitor whether Sue has picked up her work effort beyond anyone else’s or beyond 100% and deserves more than she planned for while those monitoring her, who thought they were putting in enough effort, hang their collective heads in shame. But this seems rather informal and would just be, at least to me, kind of normal practice. I certainly wouldn’t want to work in some place that had some specific scale worked out, even if it was work I really enjoyed doing and wanted to do. So maybe it’s ok that some workplace does that because they reached that position through good self-managed decision making. But now I gotta find work I enjoy further out of town because of a bunch of overly zealous effort monitoring nerds putting in the extra effort to accurately assess their workmates effort!

I mean, as Jason pointed out, the “effort” issue creates significant resistance. And given many anarchists, and those with anarchist predilections like Chomsky find the whole notion of remuneration for work insulting, I think the effort as part of PE remuneration should be ditched. Effort is not some formalised part of remuneration, but just something that society as a whole deals with through individual workplace council practice and discussion if the issue arises at all.

That’s also why I see it like the incentive/innovation problem. If you’ve already developed an economic scaffolding, collectively agreed upon, that fosters to the best of our ability as humans, equity, solidarity, diversity, self-management and ecological sanity, then, to me, incentive, in any sense, is already assumed. Everyone has agreed to this economic system. If over all it is less innovative (highly highly bloody unlikely) than say bloody market capitalism…and it is bloody…then, well, so be it. It’s maximised for those other values not bloody incentive and bloody innovation. In my opinion.

I think this is a natural response, and it’s important to emphasize as the original poster did, that “remuneration on the basis of effort and sacrifice” can be accomplished largely by the first two of these examples, without worrying too much about the third. “Intensity” can relate to the amount of time worked, as well as to the type of work, as well as to something more difficult to quantify and assess – like whether or not you “gave it your all” or not, or whether you were on Facebook all shift, instead of doing what you yourself agreed to do, or many other things. Sometimes the best judge of our effort is ourselves. Sometimes it is our peers. Under capitalism, this task is left to managers and owners – and so this task is already done by people who don’t care about your opinion. In a democratic workplace, however, peer review by a workers’ collective is the only real check and balance on the so-called “free rider” problem. It’s actually not fair to everyone else that someone continue to share in all the benefits of the workplace and social pie, while shirking the tasks they themselves ostensibly agreed to do. So while it’s true that no one really wants to evaluate others’ efforts, we most certainly do it in informal ways, particularly if we’re the ones who will have to pick up the slack because a co-worker, openly or otherwise, decided to put in less effort for some reason.

I did write about the complexities of applying this principle in practice a bit in a critical reflection on our participatory workplace at Mondragon in Winnipeg – which zeroed in on exactly the original poster’s concerns. There is a whole section in that article on remuneration according to effort and sacrifice that may be of interest here. For example, in that piece I wrote:

Parecon theory assumes that individual workers will be motivated to work, in part because they will have a direct say over setting work norms and priorities, and in part because people will share the basic politics and values underlying the entire social and economic order. It also assumes that they will be motivated because their income will be directly tied to something they can actually control (i.e., personal effort). If they work more or harder, they’ll get more. If they work less, they’ll get less. Finally, it assumes that motivation will also come from being held accountable by one’s own co- workers, through a mechanism of peer review and effort ratings (which will be more or less formal depending on the particular workplace and workers’ councils).

In a period of transition, where isolated workplaces attempt to implement parecon-inspired norms in the midst of capitalism, each and every one of these factors can and does influence worker motivation, but there are added complexities and constraints. People may share the politics, values, and vision of the workplace, but there are always different levels of commitment, and different understandings as to what constitutes the acceptable “average” effort for the workplace or the “minimum” work expectations. Clarity and communication related to job responsibilities and expectations is obviously critical. But even beyond establishing clear norms and expectations regarding average effort, the role of peer review and effort rating is more problematic in a transition period than perhaps suggested by the model.

Alternative workplaces operating within capitalism are almost by definition marginal. Most struggle merely to survive with their principles intact, and paying workers a minimum “living wage”—while far from what we aspire to—is nevertheless a victory in the current context. (Many valuable community institutions cannot afford to pay anyone.) Evaluation of effort, and adjustments (up or down) to a worker’s already marginal income, is quite a different matter from the situation in a full participatory economy. The stakes are much higher. The consequences of being assessed negatively are potentially serious, threatening one’s ability to pay rent or buy groceries, and one’s coworkers know this. Furthermore, it is quite common for people working in alternative, progressive situations (including collective workplaces) to be friends—and to develop bonds far beyond the basic, everyday empathy one might feel for a coworker. Finally, people committed to building parecon-based institutions are more often than not committed opponents of authority and hierarchy, who instinctively (or politically) despise the notion of monitoring, evaluating, or “policing” one’s coworkers and comrades. Even if they understand, in theory, that there is no better mechanism or body able to do so, and believe that it is important to have “checks” against “free riders,” in practice, they find the task reprehensible.

All of these things make the evaluation and rating of coworkers’ effort much more problematic in practice. Even if they think the theory makes sense, most people do not want to do it in practice—at least, not in any systematic or precise manner. At best, people consider it a “rote” task to hold others accountable or to monitor their coworkers. At worst, they find that attempting precision in the realm of peer review is socially or politically offensive (some mistakenly call it “authoritarian”), but in any case, they feel it is not at all conducive to a harmonious work environment. I have serious doubts that many workers’ collectives would choose to implement an effort rating system with the degree of formality and precision suggested (albeit as one extreme) by the model. This does not mean that anything goes. At Mondragón, formal peer review and negative repercussions arise, but only as a consequence of major work deficiencies, and consistent patterns of unacceptable behavior or job shirking. In “normal” situations, if Mondragón is any indication, there will likely be differences in effort and remuneration that are unfair. Some people will work harder than others, without getting extra pay or acknowledgment. Some people will occasionally shirk duties and “get away with it,” with or without their coworkers’ knowledge. But I think most people, in practice, are willing to accept a little imperfection, perhaps even a lot, if it means the overall work environment is more welcoming and supportive and relations with one’s coworkers remain good.

The section on remuneration and how (or whether) to assess effort in any rigorous sense is relatively long, but it basically concludes by saying:

Finally, problems with motivating workers, problems with productivity and accountability, problems with workers taking initiative and setting their own standards and pace of work, have led some of Mondragón’s own collective members to question the effectiveness of rewarding work on the basis of effort. They see areas of work that are consistently neglected, they see disparities in terms of the labor that different co- workers are willing to conduct, they see critical tasks getting performed poorly or not at all, they see some people treating the workplace like they are full partners (keeping the “big picture” in mind, doing “extra” tasks, trouble-shooting as needed), while others often act like employees (shirking duties, foot-dragging, remaining silent about business direction and political vision—except insofar as it might affect their immediate work circumstances). In my opinion, these are all serious problems that any collective needs to face and resolve. But they are not a consequence of attempting to reward people for effort—as opposed to rewarding people for something seemingly more tangible, such as productivity and desired outcomes. In my opinion, these problems arise in part because Mondragón has failed to actually implement the principle—not because the principle fails . Mondragón, strictly speaking, does not reward people on the basis of effort. It tries to approximate such a principle. It pays people equal pay for equal hours shifted and, over time, the kind of work performed by each worker is roughly balanced with every other worker. But Mondragón leaves some tasks to individuals (who often perform unequal non-shifted “volunteer” work), and more important, workers’ relative efforts on and off shift are not weighed and evaluated in any strict sense. Poor perfor- mance or under-average effort is not penalized, unless it becomes a systematic pattern and problem that others become unwilling to further tolerate. (Occasionally, people mark themselves off a certain number of paid hours, on a kind of honor system, if they feel they have worked significantly less hard than expected while on shift. Or they will request extra paid hours to accomplish some task necessary for the business. But this is fairly informal and rare.) Paying people equal pay for equal effort would involve hold- ing one’s coworkers accountable for, say, getting things done at agreed-upon times. It would involve more systematic judgment and evaluation of effort on and off shift, than actually happens at Mondragón, precisely because many are reluctant to do it. And it would probably involve acknowledging, and attempting to mitigate or correct, some of the class and income disparities among collective members which operate outside the workplace.

All of these things are complicated. My gut feeling is to generally agree with the original poster that judging “intensity” within a given 8-hour shift (for example) is an extremely subjective thing. But it’s also not completely mythological either. We know, ourselves, when we’re not putting in the effort we wanted to, or the effort we already agreed to do. So it shouldn’t be a surprise when our co-workers in a traditional top-down workplace, OR in a participatory democratic one, also notice.

I am against “docking” someone’s pay cheque within capitalism based on a below-average effort rating. But let’s be clear: in a typical capitalist business, that would simply lead to getting fired. In a democratic non-hierarchical workplace, what it means is that the person who is “free riding” is actually taking advantage of their co-workers by forcing them to pick up the slack. If it’s a one-off thing, and you’re having a bad day or week, and you ask your co-workers to take that into account, they’ll probably be fairly sympathetic. But if you don’t, and you continue to drop the ball on agreed-upon tasks that either harms the workplace, or forces others to do more … and it become a pattern … then yes, people will indeed be evaluating your “intensity” more than your ability to punch a clock and collect a paycheque.

So as anathema as this all may seem, there is no better judge of one’s effort than a) an honest look in the mirror, and b) one’s actual co-workers. No one wants to be a cop in the workplace, monitoring a co-workers’ every move. But that is precisely why it can be taken advantage of by free riders. Saying we don’t want to monitor other people’s effort can also be a cop-out, because what it does is make holding one’s co-workers accountable into a rote or managerial task itself. And that, too, ought to be divided fairly, if we believe in balanced job complexes. The person who avoids holding others accountable for fear of conflict, or for fear of jeopardizing work relationships, is making different co-workers appear to be the so-called “bad cop” for holding their peers accountable. Arguably, that’s also unfair in a balanced job complex.

Anyway, these are complicated questions, and there are no easy answers. But evaluating “intensity” isn’t completely subjective. It’s an empirical question, for example, if you spent half your shift on social media pretending to work. It’s an empirical question if you opened the store an hour late, but still claimed to have been there. It’s an empirical question if you spent a third of your serving/hosting shift in a restaurant chatting with a friend who came in to the store, instead of helping your co-workers clear tables. So judging “intensity” isn’t just projection. And your co-workers have a right to assess that, because they’re directly affected. It’s not an abstract thing.

Paul

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I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s comments on this! I would just add that I think it’s important to keep in mind the audience when deciding how to talk about this. If we’re writing to a general audience that’s not familiar with any of these ideas, I would strongly encourage talking about this like how Jason suggested to avoid misunderstanding and to get people on board quicker. If we’re talking to an audience that’s actually implemented a parecon type workplace, then I think it makes sense to go into more detail.

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Thanks everyone for the valuable contributions to this discussion so far. I think this is a useful debate (Paul - where can we read more about your reflections on Mondragon Collective?).

It’s useful to see others have also been thinking along same lines as me on this topic. I think what we are saying is this: Is it the best choice for us to continue to use the terms effort rating or intensity in standard presentations around income from work in a Participatory Economy, when:

a) it is up to WCs to decide and they do not have to use ratings or intensity. As you say, Robin: “when Michael and I were asked to explain who and how were differences in what we were still referring to as “effort” going to be measured, we agreed that this should be left up to individual worker councils.”

b) it seems few of us here even think that WCs would likely choose to implement it. I would also personally not want to work in a workplace where I have to give others a rating or receive one, and the point is that I don’t have to, which is misleading in the terminology. And as Paul says: “I have serious doubts that many workers’ collectives would choose to implement an effort rating system with the degree of formality and precision suggested”

c) is not needed to deal with any problematic instances of persistent ‘slacking’, if it is an issue in a context where workers have autonomy, meaning and mastery over their work (conditions which studies by psychologists have shown are the key factors for motivation), and this can be handled in other ways which have already been said by others here, i.e it doesn’t necessarily require remuneration scoring/rating to deal with.

d) the impression that you will be rating and being rated at work is needlessly putting a lot of people off of the model and is distracting attention away from other important aspects of the model and the bigger picture. For example, in all the presentations I have watched or read by Michael Albert, he prescribes that income from work includes measuring intensity, and this is compounded by the fact that, as has been said, he also emphasises this as one of the key institutional features of the model. I find that most of the attention of the discussion, especially the ‘intensity’ aspect, goes into debating this topic, much to the detriment of the rest of the model - especially from learning about the full magnificence of participatory planning!

Given this, can we make improvements to the standard way of communicating about income from work with the model that addresses the above?

My personal suggestion would be to simply say that the default starting point is that every worker receives a flat hourly payment. After that, WCs are free to tweak this and adapt this as they prefer based on their preferences and circumstances at their workplace. Recommendations can be made, but just like it is recommend that WCs balance tasks for empowerment, it’s not like these can be enforced in any case.

I would go even further to say that those who believe that there should be no correlation between work and income, as many in the socialist tradition do, and that income should be only for need, should still be able to embrace the Participatory Economy model because it provides a coherent decision-making structure that enables citizens to make these kinds of decisions and choose if they wish to receive greater levels of collective consumption and allowances over work income.

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Thanks for the thoughtful reply, and the kind remarks!

A direct link to my chapter from Chris Spannos’ book Real Utopia can be found here from my Black Cat Red River blog:

https://blackcatredriver.ca/index.php/2008/05/01/participatory-economics-workers-self-management-mondragon/

If people are generally interested in reflections on such workplaces by members who worked there, I’d also recommend reading the contribution by the late Lydia Sargent on South End Press, and others, also included in that anthology.

South End was an inspiration for us, when we were starting Mondragon. And our own experiences were inspirations for other activists in other cities, including (for example) Red Emma’s in Baltimore. We sent them a copy of our 30-page “policy handbook” back when they were getting started, for example, and communicated a bit over e-mail about everything from the philosophical to the mundane. I suspect that workers at Red Emma’s would, in turn, have a lot to teach us about workplace democracy too, whether or not they have consciously adopted features of the participatory economic model discussed here – or are just forging their own paths.

I think this latter point should be hammered home more often: that even workers’ collectives that have never heard of “parecon” are still very often experimenting with the exact same questions, and struggling with the exact same difficulties of meshing the theories and practices of egalitarian visions in the midst of capitalism.

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This actually describes me haha. My personal view is that receiving income exclusively for need will remove all of the messiness around income measurement (assuming everyone receives the same amount). However, I don’t have a strong opinion against income for work either; I actually think it makes sense to have it at first while we transition out of the current economic system.

I guess my point is that, to me, the most important part of all this is the democratic planning procedure. I’d rather not open a debate around small details like this since the planning procedure is going to feel very alien to most people. Receiving income for need and work doesn’t feel alien, so there’s no reason for this to take focus away from the other parts of the model. Again, I’m saying this while keeping in mind a general audience that’s unfamiliar with these ideas.

I tried to figure out some way of rating everyone’s effort on this thread but after some time I gave up. Just can’t be bovered.

Something tells me that neither Raj nor Sheldon would like balanced job complexes at all, even if there was no “effort rating” or peer review system. Funny episode though!

This thread is very important because how people are “rewarded” for the work they do is an issue that many people care a great deal about. So a “high quality” discussion like the one we are having here is important and useful.

Some quick observations:

  1. The fact that “we” can disagree over what system we personally would prefer to work in is a strong argument for envisioning a system in which different WCs handle this question very differently.

  2. The biggest issue, on which we all DO agree, is that income should NOT be based on the social value of one’s work, i.e. how much an hour of your worktime contributes to the social value of production. And that distinguishes us from how most people approach this issue, including many “anti-capitalists.”

  3. I worked in the economics department at American University for over 30 years. It was clear to all of us who were professors that in any given year there were some professors who were putting a lot of effort into their teaching, their research, their attempts to increase “knowledge” globally by publishing, or into serving as undergraduate or graduate student advisor, department chair, or simply serving on necessary committees of various kinds. At the same time, in any given year there were other professors who, were, for a variety of reasons, NOT sinking as much effort into all these activities. There were many among us who did not find it unreasonable to take these differences into account when it came time to make recommendations about what American University called merit pay.

  4. I think those who are inclined NOT to get into “invidious comparisons” of this kind … and many on this discussion threat are so inclined… IMPLICITLY assume that everyone SHOULD work as hard as everyone else, and the only cases that must be dealt with are egregious cases of neglect through intervention, or firing. But why shouldn’t we leave the trade off between higher effort and less pleasant work and more relaxed and more pleasant work up to people to choose? There were years when my parental responsibilities and balancing childcare with a partner whose work was sometimes more demanding of her time meant that I did not want to prepare to teach a new subject, and did not want to stay up at night working on an article or book to publish. In other words, I wanted to put less effort and energy into my university job. As long as I am willing to accept lower pay, where is the harm in this. But if I am NOT willing to accept lower pay, it seems to me that my university colleagues would have every right to feel aggrieved.

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This sort of discussion itself is the sort that may take place within a workplace regarding such matters.

Exactly… And it would be a healthy thing.

And that’s exactly right. Health in the workplace. Workers go into a healthy environment, have healthy interactions and come out everyday, hopefully, healthier for it. Then they can enter their leisure time healthily, without feeling like they have to endeavour to retrieve something lost while at work, which for most today is impossible being mentally and physically exhausted.

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Yes, I agree, these are very important points, which I think support the argument for not using the term Effort Rating as a formal way to communicate about income from work in a PE. The word rating implies that every worker is graded for their effort at work (which is not true and turns many off), and it doesn’t convey that WCs decide on their own procedures.

With points 3 and 4, if it was a workplace I was in, I wouldn’t expect everyone to work exactly as hard (intensity wise), as everyone else. My idea would be that we choose the number of hours that we want to work, and that there is a minimum level of effort everyone is expected to put in during those hours to get the work we’ve agreed to do done.

If someone has other responsibilities, such as Child Caring that means they have to work less, they work less hours and get less pay, but they’d get more income via the need-based social allowance.

With any issues of co-workers lacking motivation and dropping below a minimum level of effort/intensity expected, I would want to find out why, how they are feeling, what needs of theirs are not being met, and explore solutions together. There could be a range of reasons. Perhaps the job isn’t a good match for them. I’d favour this approach over having different grades of effort linked to pay.

That’s my preference, but I can understand the reasons why some might want to do it the way you suggest. I think the point that we all agree on is that WCs have autonomy to decide how they share their pie, and they do so in the context of there being a separation of income from labour costs, so if we can reflect that better in our presentation of the model to avoid putting those off who dislike the idea of effort ratings, we should think about how to do that.

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