James Wilson

Musician and picture framer

Melbourne, Australia

9 November 2012



Dear Jeff,


It has been approx 12 years since you wrote Disciplined Minds, and I am just finishing it now.  I just wanted to write and let you know I have found it compelling, informative and with regard to your own background and job as an editor, extremely honest.  I have also found myself in agreement with all of it so far.  I find your notion of the "cooling out" process revealing and helpful when discussing the idea of societal change, as such processes seem to come into play from the most "ordinary" of folk (meant in a good way!) to dispel my arguments and quiet me down!!  What you wrote on pp. 195-196 regarding the hierarchical nature of our system rings completely true for me.  That it cannot possibly keep the promise of upward social mobility due to its very nature is something I have been saying for years, even before I was politically aware.  It has been a somewhat intuitive idea for me.  A truism as Chomsky would say.  When I read the same thing coming from people who have researched something thoroughly and presented sound arguments and themselves come from out of the professional class, a certain feeling of vindication for my thoughts and a sigh of relief comes over me as I stand in solidarity with a fellow thinker (who has done all the hard work!!).


I am at moment a member of IOPS (International Organisation for a Participatory Society), a sustainer of ZNet and an enthusiast, fan or whatever, of Participatory Economics (Parecon), developed by Robin Hahnel and Michael Albert.  It is in Parecon that the issue of workplace hierarchy is tackled seriously and head on in ways I have never really seen before.  In fact most previous progressive ideas for systemic economic change don't really bother to tackle them.  Even in co-op, worker owned/run models such as Mondragon, workplace hierarchy is often skipped over as if it isn't so much of a problem.  I was struck by how your book acknowledged and sustained a clear argument for how the current system maintains and develops such hierarchy and inequality and gives solid support for the existence of what Albert and Hahnel call the coordinator class.  What Barbara Ehrenreich and her husband called the professional managerial class.  Your statement on p. 196,


"If jobs were designed in a way that did not force people to specialize in the uninspiring parts of work, and if decisions in the workplace were made democratically..., two of the main goals that drive individuals to seek opportunity would already be met: more fulfilling work and a fair share of power."


I don't know if you know of Parecon, but it endeavours to do precisely that within the context of a greater participatory society that considers all spheres (kinship/gender, polity/authority, cultural/community and economics) of influence in society to be of equal importance if we are to transform our society into a more equitable and just one.


Haven't finished the book yet, but soon!  Slow off the mark, 12 years, but thanks again for a great read and great book.