May Mutual Exchange Symposium: Decentralization and Economic Coordination

Mutual Exchange is the Center for a Stateless Society’s effort to achieve mutual understanding through dialogue. Right now we’re accepting essays for our next Mutual Exchange on Decentralization and Economic Coordination.

Initial essays are due May 15th. 

It has been sufficiently established that even in lieu of capitalist economic blockades and internal counter-Bolshevik revolts (both fascist and radical), authoritarian central planning is both untenable and undesirable. The style of massively centralized economic planning utilized in the Soviet Union faced inordinate and inherent problems of complexity coordination and political repression. Debate around these issues has often occurred in the context of discussion surrounding “knowledge” and “coordination problems” and usually took place between Austrian capitalists, Langean market socialists, state-socialists, and neoclassical economists since the original Austrian critiques. However, during and since this period a wide range of anti-authoritarian and much more decentralized tendencies have also been propagating their own critiques of Soviet and capitalist economics. These theories accompany movements that are putting them into practice, drawing from long-standing horizontalist traditions. For those that never believed in the totally centralized vision of a command economy, different questions arise. Some of these are: 

  • How much can a society economically plan?
  • What is required in order to plan anything?
  • How much decentralization is needed?
  • Can a decentralized and horizontal society exist without mediums of exchange?
  • If so, what limits on scale and complexity does that create?
  • If mediums of exchange are necessary, what risks are inherent to their utilization?
  • Are there mathematical and computational limits to what can be planned?
  • Will advancements in technology help us circumvent the limits facing Soviet or even more decentralized planners?

In order to constrain the scope of the exchange, while it will be necessary for contributors to explain some basics of their economic and political proposals and experiences, it is important that they limit those discussions to shared areas of interest. Some of these general themes are:

  • How does your proposal ensure that there is not formal or informal runaway power accumulation resulting in various forms of domination (both social and economic)?
  • How does your proposal concretely eliminate or utilize rivalrous conditions to facilitate economic coordination?
  • How do you ensure that preferences and supply availability are accurately reflected in production? 

These and other questions lurk around the edges of anarchist and libertarian discourse. While the many sides of the debate are quick to dismiss each other, there is great value within a range of critiques around more decentralized visions of economic planning. All of these questions come down to the central one of, “How can we create a radically free and equitable society that provides for the needs of all sentient beings?” that animates everyone across the anti-authoritarian spectrum. From this question a great plethora of answers and tendencies have emerged such as proponents of participatory economics (Parecon), p2p advocates, anarcho-communists and other social anarchists, libertarians, left-libertarians, mutualists, social ecologists, geo-libertarians, and much more. From a shared desire for this utopian society, it is worth opening up this discussion in ways that it has been inadequately explored in the past by largely academic focus on inter state-capitalist imperialist rivalries. 

We welcome contributions both theoretical and practical in nature. Through this symposium we hope to help chart a more nuanced path forward and expose the tensions inherent in these difficult topics in service to the radically free and nurturing society which we are all trying to cultivate.

Please respond to editor@c4ss.org and emmibevensee@email.arizona.edu for more information or to submit an essay draft.


If you need more inspiration or background info — check out this reading list:

Articles on C4SS

Knowledge and Coordination Problems

Criticisms of Standard Market Interpretations of Economic Coordination

Non- Market Approaches to Economic Coordination


Mutual Exchange is C4SS’s goal in two senses: We favor a society rooted in peaceful, voluntary cooperation, and we seek to foster understanding through ongoing dialogue. Mutual Exchange will provide opportunities for conversation about issues that matter to C4SS’s audience.

Online symposiums will include essays by a diverse range of writers presenting and debating their views on a variety of interrelated and overlapping topics, tied together by the overarching monthly theme. C4SS is extremely interested in feedback from our readers. Suggestions and comments are enthusiastically encouraged. If you’re interested in proposing topics and/or authors for our program to pursue, or if you’re interested in participating yourself, please email editor@c4ss.org or emmibevensee@email.arizona.edu.

The Anatomy of Escape
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
Free Markets & Capitalism?
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist