The Promise and Peril of the Third
Wave: Socialism and Democracy for the 21st Century
(page 5 of 7)
By Carl Davidson, Ivan Handler and Jerry Harris
The Chicago Third Wave Study Group / May 1, 1993
Education and Science: The Key To The Politics of the Third
democracy, there is no science. Without science, there will
be no sustainable technology and economic life. And without
sustainable economics, there is no socialism worthy of the
name. Scientific inquiry is inherently democratic. It is the
open investigation into life and its environment in which
knowledge is true or false not because of the declarations
of powerful authorities, but because statements can be validated
or invalidated as fact by anyone.
there are powerful scientific elites, which protect the interest
of the ruling class. But they are not only anti-democratic
they are anti-scientific as well. Their willingness to support
the aims of the highest bidder compels them to restrict challenges
to established views. It thus impedes the growth of objectivity,
and represses democratic debate and investigation.
Because of the information revolution, third wave society
will undergo a decentralization of mass industrial patterns.
The only path in which the new productive forces can be fully
used is one where information is shared through universal
education and open scientific discussion. Capitalism's tendency,
however, is to own and restrict information, thus increasing
the stratification of society and corrupting the liberating
potential of the post- industrial world.
wave socialist democracy requires a radical restructuring
of educational and cultural life. Every citizen needs access
to the growing wealth of knowledge in order to pursue their
own interests and to enrich the common good. To flourish,
such a democracy must affirm opportunities for diversity,
since expanded access to knowledge rests upon the empowerment
of all races, nationalities and social strata. Multiculturalism
is thus a natural component of the third wave, but it can
develop best within a socialist and democratic framework.
Long Learning"--the provision of ongoing, affordable,
high quality educational resources for people of all ages--is
essential to third wave democracy. In a society in which information-rich
processes are the key mode of production, access to knowledge
is the key to equality. Moreover, the full creative force
of society can only be realized through education. The revolutionary
use of information in all spheres of life; the expansion of
art, science and leisure; the discovery of new knowledge and
the saving of the ecosphere--all these challenges of the future
require democratic access to knowledge. Lifelong learning,
in and out of the classroom, is a condition of survival in
the short run and liberation in the long run.
In a third
wave socialism, all of society would be involved in scientific
debate. Many scientific issues--such as pollution, reproductive
rights, or the effect of drugs or chemicals on people--affect
everyone in their daily life. By organizing a continuous platform
for open investigation and debate, the institutions of science
will become stronger, as will the institutions of democracy.
not all issues concern all people equally. But the radical
restructuring of education will provide the channels of access
for all people to participate in the public discussions that
concern or interest them, including scientific discussion.
This will strengthen their democratic impulse to participate
effectively and fully in societal decision- making. By respecting
and drawing on practical life experience coupled with scientific
education, all of our institutions can become more open and
the form of democracy where sovereignty resides in the people
themselves. This means no class, party or state institution
or social grouping has an unrestricted or unlimited power
that can stand over and against the will of the people. Given
the vast inequalities of wealth, power and privilege, democracy
in this sense is still mainly a goal to be won and established,
even in the countries calling themselves democracies.
with the theory that the state throughout history has never
been a neutral institution, but an instrument of the dominant
classes. The over centralized state power of second wave industrialism
especially must be broken up and radically reconstructed if
a new popular government is to serve the needs of empowering
a new coalition of those previously excluded from government.
A participatory democracy of this type, we believe, draws
upon the best of the Marxist tradition with American radical
tradition of John Dewey and W.E.B. DuBois.
a socialist democracy of the third wave, centralization is
scaled downward while communications are vastly enhanced.
Participation becomes more practical; more power will be decentralized
and directly elected officials will run more institutions.
Institutions relating to the administration of justice, the
care of the environment, the maintenance of universal health
care, the upkeep of the educational infrastructure and the
control of the police--all these processes can come under
the greater supervision of the citizenry.
and sustainable democracy is therefore one where the people
have the power and ability to participate in the decisions
that affect their lives. To be practical, socialist democracy
thus must not only recognize each individual's democratic
rights, but also the rights of groups of individuals that
have been excluded from participation and singled out for
oppression over the years--oppressed nationalities, racial
and religious minorities, women, gays and lesbians, and others.
For the oppressed nationalities, this means political power
and self-determination in their areas of concentration.
way, socialist democracy means that the legacy of oppression,
both past and present, can be worked out explicitly through
social policies and grass-roots empowerment, rather than resolved
as a mystical or automatic outcome of formal or legal equality.
Socialist democracy thus values not only each individual,
but takes into account each individual's social identity as
Features of Third Wave Socialism: The Democratic Alienation
of Control from Ownership
and dynamic socialist economy will depend on two key features:
first, the separation of ownership of capital from the control
of capital and second, and the guided use of markets for the
distribution of capital, goods and services.
that this is not an orthodox statement. Marx defined capitalism
as the economic system that was driven by the alienation of
labor from capital. In other words, the people that created
wealth did not own the means of creating it. Previous socialists
held that the solution was to unite labor and capital under
the control of labor. We believe this view has failed.
to argue for a new viewpoint. We see socialism as the economic
system that alienates the ownership of capital from its control.
Capital is a social pattern of value. Since it is collectively
produced and depends on the organization of society for its
effective use, it is reasonable to limit what individual,
private owners can do with capital. This is not a necessarily
a new idea; both eminent domain and product liability laws
are based on this notion. More >>