Carol C. Gould: Socialism and Democracy
Perhaps the leading problem for both political practice and political theory today is the relation
between democracy and socialism. The problem in practice is that both Western democratic societies and contemporary socialist
societies fail in different ways to provide the conditions for full individual freedom
and meaningful social cooperation. Thus contemporary socialist societies, both in Eastern Europe and in the Third World, are
undemocratic in that they fail to protect individual civil liberties, such as freedom of expression and association, and political
rights, such as the right to choose one’s political representatives freely and the equal right to stand for office.
Furthermore, while such societies attempt to introduce cooperation as a principle of economic and social life, yet they exhibit
serious domination in the form of extensive bureaucracy, state control, the repression of individual differences, and personal
and psychological domination. On the other hand, Western democratic societies, while they protect individual civil liberties
and political rights to a significant degree, nonetheless are not fully democratic in that they do not permit effective political
participation by the poor, disadvantaged minorities, and even by the working people who comprise the large majority of the
population. This results from the distortion of the political process by the power of wealth and lobbying by special interest
groups. Such societies are also not fully democratic in that social and economic life outside the political sphere are characterized
by economic exploitation, special privilege, and forms of personal domination. Furthermore, Western democratic societies fail
to take seriously the principle of social cooperation as a condition for full human freedom.
these defects in practice are defects in the respective political theories of socialism and liberal democracy. Socialist theory,
in its development, places emphasis on the social whole and on the state as the articulator of the needs of the whole and
disregards the importance of individuality and of individual rights. Furthermore, in its stress on economic production, socialist
theory fails to take into account the significance of the social and political dimensions as spheres of human cooperation
and self-development. By contrast, liberal democratic theory places emphasis on individual freedom and individual rights and
disregards the importance of social cooperation and community as a condition for the full development of this individual freedom.
Moreover, liberal theory takes democracy as pertaining to political life alone and not also as applying to social and economic
and liberal democracy, both in practice and in theory, are faulty and stress one of the principles of social and political
reality – namely, either individuality or social cooperation – at the expense of the other. In light of these
defects in contemporary political theory, I would like to propose a new theoretical framework which brings the values of individual
freedom and social cooperation to bear on each other in a coherent way. Such a theory would also suggest concrete forms in
which these values could be realized in economic, social, and political life. In terms of this framework it will become clear
that socialism and democracy, on a certain interpretation, are not only not incompatible with each other, but in fact entail
Such an understanding
that socialism and democracy are essentially related may be seen to gain support from an examination of the root meanings
of the terms. In its original connotation, democracy meant self-rule by the people through a process of co-determination.
Furthermore, at least in modern political theory, the concept of democracy was closely tied to that of individual freedom,
in that political democracy was seen as the mode in which the equal individual liberty of the citizens could be preserved.
Similarly, in its original connotation, socialism meant the control by the people over their own activities in economic, social
and political life, through a process of social cooperation and co-determination. Here, too, the concept of socialism is closely
connected to that of freedom, in the sense of freedom from domination and exploitation and in the sense that socialism is
supposed to provide an equality of condition which would permit all individuals to develop themselves freely. Hence, both
democracy and socialism in their root meanings involve the ideas of self-rule and co-determination as conditions for freedom.
This connection between the concepts of democracy and socialism needs to be reclaimed. However, such a synthesis cannot remain
at the abstract level of the original meanings of the terms. Rather, what is required is a new theoretical framework which
would provide a philosophical foundation for the intimate relation between individuality and community or social cooperation,
as well as the proposal of some concrete ways in which such a synthesis might occur. In this paper, I can only give a sketch
of these philosophical ideas and a few concrete proposals as to how they could be realized.
foundation for a reconstructed democratic theory
If political theory
is to satisfy the requirements which are set forth above, namely, to give an adequate account of individual freedom and social
cooperation and of the relation between them, then the fundamental philosophical concepts and the normative grounds should
be clarified at the outset. I would propose that the fundamental value which a system of social relations ought to serve is
that of freedom, taken in the sense of the freedom of individuals to realize themselves. This value is posited in the nature
of human activity itself. Such activity is purposive, not only as involving the realization of particular purposes or intentions,
but as a striving toward the fuller development of the individual and of his or her capacities. This sense of freedom may
be characterized as positive freedom or freedom to realize or develop oneself. Yet the realization of the purposes
of an individual requires social interaction as its condition. That is, particular forms of social relations are necessary
for the expression and development of human purposes and capacities. In addition, various material conditions also serve as
necessary conditions for individual self-realization. Together, such social and material conditions may be characterized as
the objective conditions for such self-development or human freedom. Thus, freedom requires access to these objective conditions.
Such availability of conditions is part of what is connoted by the term ‘’positive” in the idea of positive
freedom. Thus on this view, freedom connotes more than free choice as a capacity; it involves the freedom to realize oneself
through acting with others and by transforming the material means to suit one’s purposes or ends. Yet this sense of
freedom presupposes free choice as a universal feature of human activity. Such free choice is implicit in the structure of
human activity as a process of fulfilling purposes. This feature of human activity constitutes the capacity for freedom as
self-development. However, self-development or self-realization does not follow from this capacity alone, since it requires
the availability of conditions in terms of which one’s purposes can be fulfilled.
Since every human
being equally possesses such a capacity for freedom inasmuch as they are human, no individual has more of a right to the exercise
of this capacity than any other. That is to say, they have an equal right to self-development. But, as I have said, self-development
requires access to objective conditions, both social and material. Therefore, the equal right to self-realization implies
an equal right of access to such conditions .
Such an equal right to self-realization constitutes
the value of equal positive freedom which is a cornerstone of the new democratic theory.
as positive freedom presupposes that one exercise free choice, such positive freedom presupposes an absence of constraint
on the free choice of agents. This means absence of constraint by other agents or by the state. Such absence of constraint,
or “freedom from,” has been characterized in classical liberal theory as negative freedom. Thus equal positive
freedom has as its presupposition equal negative freedom. Such negative freedom includes the basic liberties, namely individual
civil liberties and political rights. Thus on this theory too, each individual has a right to the full realization of these
basic liberties compatible with a like right on the part of each of the others. Thus the liberal rights such as freedom of
speech, press, association, etc., as well as the political rights of citizenship are seen to be crucial elements in the theory
of positive freedom. It may be seen that such liberties and rights are among the social conditions for freedom as self-development.
Beyond this, the theory of positive freedom implies that each individual has a right to the fullest self-realization compatible
with a like right on the part of the others. It therefore follows that no individual has a right to dominate or exploit any
other. Each individual has the right to freedom from domination and exploitation. On this theory, therefore, the idea of negative
freedom extends beyond the sphere of civil liberties and political rights and includes the right to absence of constraint
in the domains of social and economic life.
to draw further normative conclusions from the concept of equal positive freedom, it may be useful to elaborate further the
conception of social relations which pertains to this view. Social relations may be considered under two heads. The first
consists of social relations among agents engaged in a common project. In such social activity, the individuals have a common
purpose and share an understanding both of this end and of the means to its achievement. Their cooperation thus becomes a
condition for achieving this common end. Such social activity may also serve as a way in which an individual achieves self-development,
for example by the exercise or improvement of a skill, by the production of something of use to the individual, or by the
satisfaction gained in the social interaction itself. The second type of social relations are those in which two or more agents
act with respect to each other in order to satisfy ends which are different for each agent. Such social relations range from
those in which each individual uses the other reciprocally as an instrument for the achievement of his or her own ends to
those forms of the relation in which each acts so as to enhance the freedom and development of the other. This entire class
of social relations may be called that of reciprocity. In general, a reciprocal social relation is one in which each agent
acts with respect to the other on the basis of a shared understanding and a free agreement, to the effect that the actions
of one with respect to the other are equivalent to the actions of the other with respect to the first. Thus, reciprocal social
relations range from those which are merely instrumental to those which one may characterize as fully mutual. In this relation
of mutuality, each individual in the relation consciously recognizes the other as free and as capable of self-realization,
each acts to enhance the other’s self-realization on the basis of a consideration of the other’s needs and the
individuals take such mutual enhancement as a conscious aim. Reciprocity in this full sense is a social condition for positive
freedom, in that for each individual to develop him or herself most fully, he or she requires the fullest self-development
on the part of the others.
Thus it can be
seen that positive freedom as self-realization has two aspects: the activity of the agent and the conditions for this activity.
Since individuals require social relations for their self-development, both in the form of social activity directed toward
a common purpose and reciprocal interpersonal relations, the freedom of their activity requires their control not only over
their own individual action, but also their control over their common or social action. However, since the concept of equal
positive freedom entails that each individual has an equal right to such self-control, it follows from this concept that each
individual has an equal right to participate in the co-determination of the social activities in which they are engaged. This
may be called the principle of democracy, and it serves as a norm for the achievement of equal positive freedom. With
respect to those social relations which are interpersonal and not institutional, the principle implies a mutual determination
on the part of the individuals involved, so that none dominates or controls the activity of the others. In institutional social
relations, e.g., in politics, the principle implies an equal right to democratically decide with others how such institutions
are to be organized and how they are to function.
An important consequence
of this view is that democratic decision-making must be extended beyond the political sphere to which classical political
theory had assigned it. From the principle presented here, it follows that individuals have a right to co-determine all social
decisions that affect them, whether these are in the domain of politics, economics, culture, or social or community life more
A second principle
follows from the concept of equal positive freedom. It concerns the objective conditions of action, both material and social.
It will be recalled that positive freedom requires the availability of conditions for the actions of an individual or a group
of individuals, in order that their purposes may be achieved. We have also seen that equal positive freedom implies an equal
right to the social and material conditions of action and further that freedom defined as self-development involves control
over the conditions required for realizing one’s purposes in activity. But I would argue that control over the conditions
or means of activity is the meaning of property and this includes both social and material conditions. Therefore, there is
an equal right to such property. This gives rise to what we may call the principle of property right. Namely, individuals
have an equal right to means of subsistence and personal means for their own self-realization, which belong to them as their
personal or private property; and they have an equal right to control the material and social conditions or means of their
common activity, which take the form of social property. The first aspect of this property right, namely the right to personal
property, connotes that each has a right to means of subsistence and to the conditions of their own self-expression compatible
with a like right on the part of the others. The second aspect, namely the right to social property, connotes that all those
who engage in a common productive activity or joint project have an equal right to control the conditions, that is, to co-determine
their use and function. It therefore excludes the possibility that only some of those engaged in the activity would control
it to the exclusion of others or that any external agents not engaged in the activity would be in control of it. Thus this
second aspect of the principle of property rules out domination and exploitation in productive life and in social activity,
just as the first aspect rules out domination in personal relations. Thus the principle excludes private ownership of social
means of production, and it also excludes control by others over the means or conditions which individuals need for their
individual or social activity.
It may be seen
that this principle of property right entails conclusions about decision-making concerning the means of social production
which are similar to the consequences of the first principle concerning the right of democratic participation in social decisions.
Thus the principle of social property entails the right to control with others the means of a common productive activity and
thus to participate equally in decision-making concerning such social production. Thus democratic decision-making is required
both in economic production and in social and political activity.
From the analysis
of the philosophical foundations thus far, it is clear that the concepts of democracy and socialism, on a certain interpretation,
entail each other. For the principle of democracy states that each individual has an equal right to participate in the co-determination
of all social activities in which he or she is engaged. As we have seen, this includes not only the sphere of political decision-making,
but also decisions in economic, social and cultural life as well. But such co-determination or common control over social
activity in these spheres, if it is to be meaningful, requires also co-determination or common control over the conditions
for this activity. For if control over the conditions of such activity belong to others, then the democracy involved in control
over the activity would remain severely limited. But the common control over the conditions by those engaged in the activity
is precisely what I designated as social property, which is one of the fundamental aspects of socialism. Conversely, the principle
of social property was seen to involve common control over the social and material conditions of social production by means
of democratic participation in decision-making concerning the use of such means. But this is a mode of democratic decision-making
concerning the means which is closely related to the principle of democracy.
The equal right
to participate in social decisions concerning both the activity and the means, as I have discussed it earlier, also has implications
for the form and nature of the democratic process. Specifically, it implies that where feasible, the form of democratic decision-making
should be participatory. For where such participation is feasible and an individual is excluded from such participation, then
others are making decisions for that individual and violating the equal right which he or she has to co-determine these decisions.
Furthermore, a participatory rather than a representative process is the most direct and surest way of taking into account
each individual’s choices. In addition, participation serves to develop the range of choices which an individual has,
as well as the individual’s capacities to deal with diverse situations. In this sense, also, it is a means for the fuller
development of an individual’s freedom. The realization of equal rights in social decision-making thus requires the
extension and development of participatory processes. However, such processes of direct participation clearly cannot be instituted
in all contexts, as for example in large-scale and centralized policy-making in government, industry, and cultural affairs.
Here, what is required is an adequate system of representation founded on participation at the lower levels. Such participation
and representation would not only characterize the political sphere but would also apply to decisions in economic, social
and cultural life as well. In these various spheres, each would have an equal right to be represented and to serve as a representative.
Furthermore, the representatives or delegates would be held accountable to those whom they represent by regular elections
and regular consultations with those whom they represent, as well as by being subject to recall.
Among the social
conditions necessary for the realization of positive freedom is not only equality but also what I have called reciprocity
and mutuality. Reciprocity as I discussed it earlier characterizes a social relation in which agents or groups of agents freely
take each other’s actions to be equivalent. It may be seen that the democratic process in social decision-making embodies
this relation of reciprocity. In the process of co-determination, each individual takes the others as having equal rights
to participate in the decision. In this sense, each takes the relation to the other to be equivalent. But beyond this, a democratic
process may come to encourage the development of mutual social relations among individuals, in which each recognizes the other’s
rights to self-realization and each acts to enhance the other’s agency. In the process of participatory decision-making
which aims at a common agreement, people would most likely learn to take each other’s needs and purposes into account
and would learn to respect differences among themselves. Furthermore, in the course of such interactions, they would create
a richer mutual environment of ideas, options and practices which would in turn enhance the possibilities of self-realization
for each of them.
foundations for the theory of democracy which I have sketched here may be seen to imply a distinctive conception of the basic
entities and relations which constitute social reality. Such a conception of the nature of social reality may be characterized
as a social ontology. In the social ontology which underlies this theory, the basic entities are individuals-in-relations,
or social individuals. Such individuals in relations constitute social institutions and society as a whole through their various
interactions. The social relations among these individuals may be regarded as internal in the sense that these individuals
are essentially changed through their interactions with each other. Yet, since these individuals are agents, they fundamentally
constitute or change these social relations by their choices. Thus this view contrasts with the ontology presupposed by the
classical liberal theories of democracy which takes as its basic entities isolated individuals who relate to other individuals
only in external relations and on the basis of self-interest. Yet the view here shares with the liberal conception an emphasis
on individuals as free agents who act to realize their purposes. Furthermore, the ontology implied by the view I have proposed
contrasts with socialist views as they have developed inasmuch as most of these views regard individuals as being who they
are by virtue of their place within the totality or social whole and do not see social relations and the social whole as constituted
by agents who are fundamentally free. Yet the ontology presented here shares with the socialist view an emphasis on the internality
of social relations.
III. The new democracy
– Some concrete proposals
model of democracy and the value of equal positive freedom on which it is based need to be interpreted in terms of concrete
social and institutional forms which would serve to realize them. The general political, economic and social forms which I
will propose here seem to me to be required by the principles which I have discussed, although particular details of these
forms may vary. In the formulation of these concrete proposals, I am concerned not only with the realization of these principles
and values, but also with the feasibility of the institutional forms. In particular, it is important that they be suitable
for large, complex societies and not serve simply as suggestions for small social experiments.
There are several
general remarks which may be made before turning to the specific proposals. First, it follows from the theory that all the
institutions of society – social, economic, political and cultural – should be democratized. Furthermore, the
legitimation of the functioning of such institutions on the grounds of equal positive freedom requires the fullest degree
of participatory decision-making feasible. Also, the institutions should be designed so that the political, economic and socio-cultural
spheres each function separately, although they bear on each other. Such a separation contributes to the preservation of balance
among these spheres, and to the prevention of any monolithic control of the society as a whole. It also contributes to diversity
in the options for democratic participation and individual self-development. Finally, democracy in these institutional contexts
has to be founded on reciprocity and mutuality in interpersonal relations. It is not sufficient to propose changes in objective
institutional structures without at the same time recognizing the importance of changes in relations among people.
The first set of
concrete proposals concerns the economic sphere. The four points I will deal with here are workers’ self-management,
the market, planning and regulatory functions, and the distribution of income. One of the most decisive features of the proposed
social structure is the democratic management of economic activity by the workers themselves. This would be in the form of
ownership, control and management of each firm by those who work there . Such worker
self-management means that the workers in a given firm jointly determine the planning and production for the firm, and the
work process (including allocation of work, rates of production, hours of work and work discipline). They also decide on the
distribution of the firm’s income, including reinvestment in production, depreciation costs and the division of wages
to be paid among themselves. In addition, the workers control the sale of their firm’s products. The capital of the
firm is the workers’ joint or social property, which is to say that they have the legal rights to possess, use, manage
or alienate this property.
self-management does not entail that all the workers decide on every feature of the production and sale of their products.
They may well decide to appoint directors or managers of various aspects of the firm’s activities. However, such delegation
of powers and functions rests entirely upon the democratic decision of the workers. This democratic decision-making should
involve the direct and immediate participation by the workers up through as many levels of the firm’s activities as
It may be seen
that these forms of democratic and participatory control by the workers of their own economic activity are required by the
principle of equal positive freedom. For, as will be recalled, such equal positive freedom implies each individual’s
right to control the conditions of his or her activity, and thus it implies the right to co-determine those common activities
in which an individual is engaged, as well as the conditions for such activity. Therefore, the workers’ activity as
well as the objective conditions of this activity, namely the means of production, must be under their own control. This requirement
is realized in workers’ self-management, as I have described it.
The second major
feature of the proposed economic structure is the market. Firms are free to buy and sell to other firms, institutions, or
to individual consumers. The market therefore determines prices and serves as an instrument for adjusting supply and demand.
Thus, the market functions as the locus for the exchange of commodities. However, unlike the capitalist market, what is excluded
here is the market between capital and labor. Rather, the workers’ incomes are determined by their own division of the
net revenue or profits of the firm among themselves.
In terms of the
values and principles discussed earlier, the virtues of such a market scheme are three: First, it preserves the freedom of
workers to determine what to produce and the freedom of consumers to determine what, and from whom, to buy. In the market,
the firms relate to each other and to individual consumers as free and equal exchangers. Second, the market is an efficient
means of reflecting the needs and wants of consumers and of adjusting supply to meet the effective demand. Third, the market
fosters variety in what is produced because it expresses the multiplicity of wants and it leaves producers free to satisfy
them. In all these respects, the market is superior to a centralized planning scheme in which decisions are made from the
top down, as they are in many contemporary socialist countries. Such centralized planning removes the autonomy of the workers
in determining production, is often inefficient, and fails to provide variety because the planning bureaucracies tend to be
insensitive to differentiated demands and cumbersome in adjusting supply to demand . However,
in claiming that the market is well-suited to realize the principles, I do not mean to imply that it is the only system that
could satisfy these principles. But the market form is already available and well-developed and requires no third party to
intervene between producers and consumers, or to validate their choices.
The third feature
of the proposed economic structure is that there should be planning and market-regulatory commissions. The planning commissions
would affect the direction of production in the economy indirectly, by making funds available for new investment to existing
or prospective worker-managed firms. The commissions would derive these funds from taxation of the social capital of firms.
They would operate regionally where possible, though some national planning would be necessary.
All of these commissions
would be political bodies in the sense that they would be made up of elected representatives of the people. They would not
be chosen as representatives of the workers in the firms, but rather by the workers in general, in their capacity as citizens,
who would presumably be in a better position to make decisions in the interests of society as a whole. The unit to be represented
on the planning commissions will, therefore, be a political unit at the most local levels possible, rather than an economic
unit (e.g., a firm or an industry).
commissions will function to see to it that the market is free of abuses, such as price-fixing, monopolistic practices, violations
of contract, or deceptive advertising or merchandising practices. Thus, these commissions are not intended to control the
market, but to permit it to operate fairly and effectively. Like the planning commissions, the market-regulatory commissions
will also be democratically elected entities representing the public.
Both the planning
commissions and the market-regulatory commissions are necessary to correct malfunctions of the economy and to help it to meet
social needs. Thus, although worker self-managed firms together with the market are seen as the principal moving force and
adjustment mechanism, respectively, of the economy, nonetheless, these cannot be expected to meet all needs optimally, or
may sometimes meet them in a haphazard or distorted way. The commissions, in representing the general social interest, are
thus balancing and corrective mechanisms, and can also foster innovation to meet important social and economic needs.
The fourth feature
of the proposed scheme concerns the principles and mode of distribution of income. It combines elements of the two well-known
principles of distribution according to work and distribution according to needs. The scheme excludes deriving income from
investment or from exploitation of the work of others.
income will be distributed by the workers in each firm, by a process of participatory democratic decision in which they determine
the allocation of the net revenue of that firm among themselves. Since this is an autonomous democratic procedure, the principle
that they use for distributing income is up to them. However, since the amount of net revenue to be distributed among the
workers in a firm depends in part on their work, the principle of distribution of income is to this degree a principle of
distribution according to work.
In terms of the
principle of equal positive freedom, the justification of such democratic allocation of income follows from the requirement
for common control over the activity of production. I take such activity to include not only the conception and process of
production, but also its product. Therefore, each worker has an equal right to control the common product of his or her work,
and therefore also an equal right to co-determine the distribution of the income from that work.
is complemented by the principle of distribution according to need in important areas of social and economic life. Thus, every
individual is assured of free access to education and health-care according to their needs. In the case of education, this
should be taken to include the provision of higher education to all those who want it. A principle of need should also be
in effect with regard to subsistence needs which should be available to all regardless of their work. With respect to those
unable to work because of age or illness, or those who are unemployed, this would mean that they should be provided with incomes
approximating the average of those who work. With respect to those (hopefully few) who refuse to work, this principle would
mean the provision of minimal subsistence needs. The principle of distribution according to need may also require that the
state guarantee a minimum income for those who work, which would provide not merely means of subsistence but also means of
It may be seen
that this combination of principles of distribution according to work and need is required by the value of equal positive
freedom as discussed above, at least under the conditions of scarcity. This value was seen to imply not only the equal right
to control over the work activity, but also the right of each individual to the means of subsistence and the conditions for
self-realization, compatible with a like right on the part of each of the others. This latter aspect of the principle excludes
exploitation of some by others, or some profiting from the work of others, in two senses: it excludes the accumulation and
control of capital by those who have not produced it; and it also excludes parasitism, in the sense of those unwilling to
work benefiting from the labor of others. Yet, because of the supreme value of human life, the principle of equal positive
freedom implies that everyone has a right to the means of subsistence. These interpretations of the second part of the principle
of equal positive freedom, combined with the first part which asserts the equal right of everyone to control their activity,
seem to me to yield the principles of distribution sketched above.
Just as democracy
is necessary in the economic sphere, so too is it necessary in the organization and relations of social and cultural life.
I therefore turn to the question of how the social and cultural institutions and activities of society may be democratized.
These institutions and activities include educational institutions such as schools and universities; cultural institutions
such as museums and various arts organizations and activities; health services, including hospitals, community health organizations,
etc.; welfare organizations; scientific institutions; sports; the media, e.g. newspapers, radio, T.V.; religious organizations;
and charitable organizations. There would also be a wide variety of voluntary associations of individuals organized to pursue
their various social and cultural interests. One may also include under the general heading of social and cultural life, the
family and other child-raising and living arrangements.
With respect to
the funding of these institutions, one would expect that some would operate wholly within the market, some would be publicly
funded, some funded by firms, some privately funded, and many, perhaps most, would derive their funds from a mixture of these
sources. It seems to me that in social and cultural affairs, such a proliferation of funding sources is important. Thus, for
example, it would be good if the arts were funded from a multiplicity of sources, in order to preserve diversity and to prevent
any control by the state, as well as to prevent the subservience of the arts to market fashions or requirements.
Here, as in the
economic sphere, the institutions should be self-managing, and for the same reason: namely, to provide the conditions for
the individuals’ self-development by participating in the control of their own social activity. Thus, each such institution
will have a managing board made up of those who work there or those who are involved in the range of that institution’s
activities. More specifically, where the social or cultural institutions operate in the market and are therefore subject directly
to considerations of what consumers want, it is sufficient to have the board made up of the workers in the institution, who
together decide upon the policy and activities of that institution. Where the institutions are partly or wholly exempt from
market function, and depend largely on public funds, it would seem appropriate to include on the board not only those who
work in the institution but also representatives of those who benefit from or use the institution, as well as representatives
from the public at large, or the state .
In addition, there are those institutions
which have to take into account the needs of consumers in a way which is more direct than a market permits, even though such
institutions may function in the market. In such cases, the managing boards should have representatives of the users, in addition
to those who work in the institution. Examples of this latter type of institution would be privately funded universities or
hospitals which would operate in addition to those publicly funded ones that provide free education and health benefits.
In social and cultural
institutions as in economic ones, self-management should be understood to operate in a participatory way. That is to say,
the workers in such institutions, as well as representatives of those who use them or take part in their activities, have
a right to participate in formulating policy and procedures. This is not to say that everyone should participate in deciding
on all aspects of the institution’s operation. Rather, all have a right to decide general matters of policy, as well
as to make decisions concerning those areas directly related to their functions. Furthermore, decisions which require special
expertise in order to make competent judgements should be reserved to those who are certifiably competent to make such judgements.
An example of this requirement of expertise would obviously be medical or surgical judgements.
of social and cultural institutions has to be understood as founded upon greater mutuality in interpersonal relations. That
is, changes in the institutions can be fully effective only if people at the same time generally relate to each other as equals
and with respect for each other’s individuality. The reason for this is that the very process of participatory democratic
decision making which is required for the functioning of these institutions, if the principle of equal positive freedom is
to be realized, entails that each participant treat the others as fully equal, and that they respect the differences among
themselves. Such participation at the institutional level would very likely be undermined by lack of reciprocity in interpersonal
relations, and would not endure for very long without such reciprocity. Conversely, the achievement of full mutuality in personal
relations requires some changes in institutions, as well as the introduction of new institutions. Among the important inter-personal
relations are male-female relations. Greater equality and mutuality here seem to me to require not only the elimination of
domination, but also greater freedom to introduce new forms of child-raising, as well as new forms of living arrangements.
In addition, in order to achieve women’s equality at work, which would be one of the foundations of their equality more
generally, extensive day-care facilities would be necessary. These proposals for the democratization of social and cultural
life, together with economic democracy, bear upon the democratization of the political sphere to which I now turn.
The political sphere
has traditionally been the domain in which democracy has been thought to apply. Democracy in this sphere has connoted forms
of political representation, popular elections, and the protection of civil and political rights of individuals, among other
features. Such features are also important in my proposed structure. Thus, a crucial aspect of democracy is the constitutional
protection of equal civil liberties or basic freedoms (such as freedom of speech, press, association, etc.) as well as equal
political rights (such as the right to vote, to be elected, etc.).
The principle of
the separation and balance of powers is also of great importance, both among the various functions of government, as well
as among the levels of government. Thus, the division of powers among the legislative, executive and judicial functions of
government, together with a system of checks and balances, helps to prevent any one of these branches of government from dominating
the others. A similar check on the over-centralization of power is provided by the division of political decision-making into
various levels, e.g., local, state, regional, national. In addition, the separation of the political sphere itself from the
economic sphere is also important in preventing the excessive concentration of power in either of these spheres. Furthermore,
the universal right to vote, periodic free elections and a system of representation are important features of the proposed
political democracy. As is clear, these are already features of modern political states. Yet, even with such features, these
states are not fully democratic. This is in part because their political democracy is undermined by the lack of democracy
in the economic and social spheres. Thus, the power of concentrated wealth can be used to influence the political process
in its own interests. Or again, economic and social alienation may lead to feelings of political powerlessness and to voter
apathy, leaving the process of governing without genuine popular support. The democratization of economic and social life
in the structure proposed here should contribute to the elimination of alienation and of the distortion of the political process
by the power of money. The proposed structure would therefore permit the fuller realization of these forms of political democracy.
However, the achievement
of political democracy in these senses is not yet sufficient for the full democratization of the political sphere. It will
be recalled that such full democracy is required by the principle of equal positive freedom. The crucial additional feature
which is necessary is the development of participatory forms in political life. Such participatory decision-making is characterized
by direct and immediate involvement in the process of decision-making by the individuals concerned. Thus, in this process,
the authority of the individuals is not delegated to some representative, but is exercised directly by them. Further, all
the individuals have a right to engage in the discussion, and they co-determine the outcome by their vote, according to appropriate
rules which they have adopted.
democracy can only be effected if there are local political institutions which have the power to decide local issues. This
requires the introduction of non-party political organizations at the neighbourhood or community level which would themselves
be part of the structure of government. These local political units would not merely delegate authority or choose representatives
to higher bodies, but would themselves have the power to decide on a wide range of local issues. For example, they could make
decisions regarding local public educational institutions, neighborhood housing, recreation facilities, etc. One possible
model for such neighbourhood political organizations is the Town Meeting form, found in smaller communities in New England
and elsewhere, in which all the residents of the community have an equal right to participate in discussion and decision-making
concerning the community.
A system of representation
is necessary at higher levels of government. However, it is possible to introduce a greater degree of participation at those
levels than exists in present forms of representative democracy, where participation is usually limited to voting for representatives.
First of all, the process by which candidates for political office are nominated or selected can itself be democratized by
being removed from the control of small political cliques or powerful economic interests. Where such electoral processes take
place, as they most often do, within political parties, this requires that the party structures themselves be made more participatory.
A second way of
increasing participation at higher levels of government is by assuring greater responsiveness of representatives through clear,
well-structured and feasible mechanisms of referendum and recall. In the case of recall, a political constituency can choose
to remove its representative from office, outside of the ordinary electoral procedures, if they judge that such a representative
has failed in his or her function or has betrayed their trust. In a referendum, the possibility exists for a direct decision
by the electorate, bypassing the usual means of decision by representatives. Other means of involving the larger public in
political decision-making at higher levels are the use of new electronic technology to make possible two-way consultations
of constituents with their representatives, and to permit the public to play an active role in formulating some of the issues
to be considered by the legislature. Moreover, efforts can be made to involve a greater number of people in actively testifying
at or participating in committee hearings, which may be made accessible to a larger public either by electronic means or by
being held regionally.
A crucial condition
for the possibility of participation in government is that the public have access to knowledge concerning the proceedings
and activities of government. This involves not only the openness of proceedings to the public, but also access to the background
information relevant to government policy-decisions, as well as the responsibility of representatives to inform their constituents
A major role in
the dissemination of information about government is played by the communications media. They also play a role in both interpreting
and shaping public opinion. On the present proposal, where the media would not be dominated by powerful business interests,
they could be expected to inform the public and to interpret public opinion more objectively. In addition, in order to permit
access to a diversity of opinion, it would be useful to encourage smaller and independent media organizations, through public
subsidies if necessary.
The substitute for popular participation
in government today is often lobbying by powerful groups who attempt to influence political representatives through massive
campaigns supported by vast funds. Though lobbying has been a means of representing a plurality of interests to central government,
it has become largely a means dominated by big business to serve its own ends. In the proposed model, because such concentrations
of wealth and power would not exist, the political process would not be likely to be undermined in this way. The more legitimate
function of representing a plurality of diverse interests to the central government would remain.
A final condition
for greater participation is obviously the sort of education which generates critical and politically responsible people.
Reciprocally, as has often been noted, the practice of participation itself has an educative effect; people become self-active,
critically aware, and learn to make political judgments and decisions in the course of these interactions .
concerning the concrete structures and practices of economic, social and political life are intended as realizations of the
values and principles discussed earlier, namely, the value of equal positive freedom and the principles of democracy and of
property right. My attempt was to synthesize the best features of liberal democracy on the one hand, and of socialism on the
other, both in the theoretical system which I presented and in the specific proposals which I have discussed. However, I do
not see this as a combination of presently existing forms of democracy and socialism, or of presently available theories.
Rather, it seems to me that a start has to be made which, though it draws on both these traditions, introduces a decisively
new foundation for social theory, namely, one which takes fully seriously both the values of individual freedom and of social
1. C. B. Macpherson presents a similar view
concerning the equal right of access to what he calls „the means of labor,“ and also stresses the value of positive
freedom and self-development. See his Democratic Theory: Essays in Retrieval (Oxford, 1973), especially chapters 1,
3, 5 and 6. However, there are important differences between the theory presented here and his. Among these are differences
concerning the interpretation of self-development, the meaning of property, the importance given to social relations, and
the scope and nature of participatory democracy. For a further discussion of these and other differences, see my “Contemporary
Legal Conceptions of Property and their Implications for Democracy” (Journal of Philosophy, Vol. LXXVII, No.
11, November, 1980) and my “Freedom, Reciprocity and Democracy” (unpublished manuscript).
2. Similar proposals for workers’ self-management
have been made by a number of other authors, among them M. Marković, “New Legal Relations for New Social Institutions,”
in Proceedings of the IVR World Congress, 1975, and “Philosophical Foundations of the Idea of Self-Management,”
in B. Horvat et al, ed., Self-Managing Socialism, (New York, 1975), pp. 327-350; C. Pateman, Participation
and Democratic Theory (Cambridge: Eng., 1970); R. Selucky, Marxism, Socialism, Freedom (New York, 1979); D. Schweickart,
“Should Rawls be a Socialist? A Comparison of his Ideal Capitalism with Worker-Controlled Socialism,” in Social
Theory and Practice, vol. 5, no. 1 (Fall, 1978), pp. 1-27; J. Vanek, The General Theory of Labor-Managed Market Economies,
(Ithaca: N.Y., 1977); P. Rosanvallon, l’Age de l’autogestion? (Paris, 1978).
Although my proposal
is similar in many respects to these, yet it differs from each of them in important ways. Thus, for example, although my proposal
shares with Markovic’s an emphasis on participatory democracy in all spheres of social life, it differs from his in
keeping the political and economic spheres separate from each other. Again, my proposal has in common with Selucky’s
an emphasis on the role of the market, on political democracy, and on the importance of the protection of individual rights.
Yet my view, while holding that the market is important, does not regard it as the most decisive factor, as his does. Moreover,
unlike him, I stress the need for the further democratization of the political sphere in addition to the economic sphere.
Although my proposals are similar to Schweickart’s in basic features of worker control, market and democracy, my differences
with him concern his insufficient emphasis on democratizing the political sphere, and what seems to me an overextended planning
function of the state, inasmuch as on his view it controls virtually all new investment, and dispenses it through a general
plan. Furthermore, as will be seen, my proposal differs from several of those above in that it regards the social means of production as the common property of the workers in each firm rather than as belonging to society
as a whole. However, some large-scale social means of production, e.g., utilities and railroads, and some natural resources
should be owned by society as a whole.
3. On the import or usefulness of the market,
cf Selucký, op. cit., esp. Chapter 5; and Schweickart, op. cit.
4. A similar point is made by Selucký, op.
cit., p. 182.
5. On this point, see J. S. Mill, Considerations
on Representative Government, C. Pateman, op. cit., and C. B. Macpherson, Life and Times of Liberal Democracy,
esp. chapters 3 and 5.
First published in Praxis International, (1:1) April 1981.