What we like
A review of Michael Albert’s ‘No Bosses’ by Bertrand Bob Guevara
No Bosses? I’m In
by Bertrand Bob Guevara
I have seen the future of economics and it is no fucking bosses. No profits. No markets. No hierarchical division of labor. In this future, people collectively, freely, justly, rationally produce for one another. Workers and consumers minimize waste, maximize human fulfillment, and escape class division. There is equity for all, dignity for all. Everyone lives in accord with nature. We become our most caring thoughtful selves, moved by feelings of love. The muse wakes us all. Who wouldn’t want no more crazy sorrow? No more cruel leaders or leaders who turn cruel? Many corporate fools and fanatics wouldn’t want that. Many masters of war wouldn’t want that. Too bad for them. I am for new economics for a better world. What about you?
Sure, you are probably for new economics too. Why else would you read this review? No more grey flannel bosses. No more blood drenched profits. No more malicious markets. But wipe away bosses, profits, markets, and corporations, and what’s left? A humungous vacuum. Nature abhors that. So, what would fill it?
When movements overcome the past, sometimes they get too much nothing. They kick up noise and turmoil. The dust settles. They are back where they came from. Other times when movements overcome the past, they cause big change. The dust settles. They suffer a new boss in place of the old boss.
The book, No Bosses, A New Economy for a Better World describes how movements might escape class rule smartly, equitably, sustainably, and with dignity for all. No Bosses’ introduction savages existing relations. Its opening chapter sets out positive values to use to orient and judge economics. Subsequent chapters answer who owns what, who decides what, who does what, who earns what, and who allocates what. They propose new institutions wherein we decide our own lives with equity, solidarity, and dignity for all. Finally, two concluding chapters discuss winning a new economy and offer a bit of personal and social context for the whole perspective.
No Bosses doesn’t paint a full picture of future daily life. It doesn’t speculate on second, third, or fourth order details. It doesn’t dictate how long future people will choose to work each day, precisely how they will conduct their personal relations, or even what they will individually or collectively consume. No Bosses doesn’t conjure up electric car designs. It doesn’t celebrate bio chemically improved health care. It doesn’t predict much less dictate contingent future circumstances.
No Bosses’ agenda is instead simple and even elegant. Passionate indignation pursuing truth. Perceive a world where people freely decide and implement their own life choices with no bosses who severely impose inequality, enforce anti-sociality, and destroy the very planet our lives depend on.
So what new features does No Bosses propose?
- A productive commons from which we all borrow to produce things socially desired.
- Workers and consumers self managed councils where we cooperatively decide our economic lives.
- Jobs and work where we are all empowered to participate in decision making with confidence, skills, and knowledge commensurate with informed, effective, choices.
- Life in which all who work get a share of the social product based on how long, how hard, and the onerousness of our socially valued work. And where we who can’t work get a full income for being alive.
- And finally, what No Bosses calls participatory planning, or a collective, decentralized, cooperative, self managed means for us to collectively determine economic inputs and outputs.
No Bosses lays bear each of these five proposed defining features’ logic. It reports each of these features’ implications for individuals, for groups, and for our social and natural surroundings. And finally, No Bosses addresses predictable concerns about each of the proposed features.
No Bosses is not a book about replacing bad people in high positions. It is not a book about reducing corruption. It is not a book about bandaging gushers of pain.
No Bosses is a book about eliminating high positions. It is a book about producing integrity. It is a book about removing the causes of gushers of pain and implementing instead fields of dignity and fulfillment.
No Bosses is a book about economic and social revolution. It is a book about after our ship comes in.
No Bosses is timely not because we are going to win our new world overnight, but because to win it as early as our accumulated past history now permits, we will have to self-consciously work towards it, and we will have to do so with clarity as well as openness to learning our way as we go.
The world is bleeding. All too many people passively view the rivers of blood and barely blink. All too many people are rendered passive by hopelessness or habit. There is too little shared passionate indignation. Too much atomized pain and anger. And even people who courageously and collectively resist passivity rarely contemplate actually winning a wholly new economy in a wholly better world. There is too little audacity. Yet we not only only need indignant outraged vision of a better world to collectively rise up against climate change, racism, misogyny, violence in all forms, and an economics built on bosses. We need indignant outraged vision of a better world to sustain hope, orientation, and confident commitment, and even to avoid savaging ourselves in circular firing squads. Can we muster loving, honest, truthful hope, orientation, and commitment against a slippery slope to suicide? Can we muster it to reverse our suicidal slide? Can we muster it to chart a path to a better world?
So, does No Bosses deliver? Is its writing sufficiently clear and concise, much less poetic—and is it appropriately passionate? No Bosses shouts out for more effort, more experimentation, and especially more program and struggle that knows where it wants to wind up. To dream together. But there is a rub.
Once a book is read, what happens? For a book like No Bosses, tallies of sales mean nothing. Volume of pages read mean little. A book like this doesn’t earn points for entertaining. It doesn’t even earn points for enlightening. What does reading it engender? That is the question. Not just to understand, but to affect. That is the purpose.
Will No Bosses help foster constructive, respectful, mutual movement relations that steadily grow and enrich activism and organizing? It depends in part on how many read it, but even more so, it depends on what the people who read it then do with what they have read. Truth needs action needs truth.
Ten thousand readers who forget it all a month later? Little to celebrate. Five readers who use the lessons conveyed for months and years. Much to celebrate. The appropriate metric to assess a social change book (speech, article, or event), is not sales revenues. It is not even smiles while reading. It is what comes after readers set aside the book (speech, article, or event).
So I Bertrand Bob Guevara review No Bosses and give it my blessing, not as a formal exercise, not to cleverly sing praises, not to earn a paycheck, not to expand a resume. I review it in hopes you who are reading these words will next read No Bosses, and will then think on, refine, enrich, and correct its words, and let others into your reading and yourselves into their’s—to breathe shared life into the vision.
Bertrand (Russell), Bob (Dylan), and Che (Guevara) did not write this review but they did write large parts of the history and culture leading toward its vision and to my choosing to write it. Their actions, ideas, and words did contribute to the contents of the vision that No Bosses presents.
Authors matter. I am an author. So what? Mentors, friends, partners, lovers, and mostly readers matter more.
I said that. And, dear reader, what do you say? That is what now matters.
And yes, I am Michael Albert, an aspirant to a new economy for a better world who in a fit of frenzy while awaiting No Bosses publication happened to imagine the sentiments offered in this review.
Audacious? Maybe. Desperate? For sure. We inhabit a world at a crossroads. There is a dream we ought not defer.
And so here I am. Younger once. Older than that now. Trying hard to advance a vision summarized as No Bosses. You bet I am. Why wouldn’t I? How about you?