[OPE-L:2181] Re: socialism in a single moon?

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Mon Jan 17 2000 - 07:19:21 EST

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000 13:37:50 +1100
From: Steve Keen <s.keen@uws.edu.au>

I like the "single moon" quip; but that aside, Le Guin's work does warrant
a read--as both good musing and good literature.

On innovation in capitalism, no argument: I actually have a minor
collection of examples of innovation stifled under capitalism--such as a
80186 4 kilo portable which predates the first IBM PC, Ralph Sarich's
orbital engine which has never seen the light of day, and an Australian
telephone innovation killed by its major distributor.

But Kornai's point about the impact of resource constraints vis-a-vis
demand constraints on the overall level of innovation is a serious one, and
worth consideration.

Especially if you have ever ridden a 1980 Kossack motorbike--better known
as the 1936 BMW.

At 08:54 AM 1/16/00 -0500, you wrote:
>Re Steve K's [OPE-L:2165]:
>> Finally, a read of a bit of fiction might be in order: Ursula le Guin's
>> "The Dispossessed". For those who don't know it, it's the tale of an
>> anarchist moon orbiting a capitalist planet, and the theoretical
>> development of the physics of "simultaneity". The point for this
>> discussion is that this ideal anarchist society develops its own
>> conventions which stifle innovation, leading to one group forming the
>> "syndicate of spontaneity" to disturb these conventions. Well worth a
>> read for anyone hypothesising about how future societies might overcome
>> the deficiencies of historical ones.
>1) Socialism in a single moon?
> ===========================
> Perhaps the above can be interpreted as a critique by an anarchist
> (LeGuin) of the possibility of an anarchist community developing
> "side-by-side" with a capitalist world. If that is part of her implied
> critique, then it seems to me that it has a lot in common with Marx's
> rejection of "Utopian socialism". Or, expressing it in the language of
> the 20th Century, is it possible to have socialism in a single moon (or
> country) that falls within the orbit of a capitalist planet (world)?
>2) Re innovation and spontaneity in capitalism and socialism
> =========================================================
> a) There are a lot of myths surrounding the process of innovation under
> capitalism. To begin with, it tends in practice not to be a very
> "spontaneous" process. Rather, decisions by corporations concerning
> whether one should move from invention to innovation tend to be very
> deliberate. Indeed, there are many inventors and artists who
> complain bitterly that corporations are often afraid to take
> chances, depart from SOP, and innovate. Moreover, if one considers
> the diffusion curve for new innovations (especially in means of
> production) then one sees that it tends to be a much more
> protracted process than is commonly appreciated. Of course, it could
> be argued that capitalists have an incentive to innovate. Yet, firms
> also have an incentive not to take unnecessary risks. I.e. while the
> failure to innovate can lead to a reduction in individual profit
> and the risk of being driven out of the market, a descision to
> innovate which is proven _ex post_ to be unwize can have the same
> result! Furthermore, most of the assumptions commonly made about
> spontaneity/innovation tend to assume highly competitive markets
> (even "perfect competition") rather than oligopolistic markets in
> which product differentiation rather than technological change
> becomes the primary way in which rivalry among firms in the market
> takes place. And oligopolies tend not to be very "spontaneous"
> organizations! Finally, the very process of invention tends within
> the context of modern corporations not to be very "spontaneous" at
> all -- hence the allocation of large sums of money, planned for
> years in advance, on R&D.
> b) One could also argue that socialism has the capacity to promote
> innovation in ways that capitalist firms can not. For instance,
> capitalist firms only innovate when it is believed that the
> expected (individual) rate of profit will increase. Thus,
> innovations which are socially beneficial or useful but are not
> profitable are averted. Then there is the whole patent system which
> makes an invention (and hence the capacity to innovate) private
> property. These institutional constraints that arise from the nature
> of the commodity-form would not exist under socialism.
> c) Finally, there is the issue of spontaneity for the working class.
> What kinds of ways is working-class spontaneity limited and
> represssed under capitalism? What are the ways in which the working
> class, on the other hand, can act spontaneously in our own interests
> (and even define and re-define those interests)? Also: aren't there
> ways in which spontaneity is presumed under socialism (even if, in
> practice, it might have to be continually fought for, possibly even
> including the formation of a "syndicate of spontaneity")?
>In solidarity, Jerry
Dr. Steve Keen
Senior Lecturer
Economics & Finance
University of Western Sydney Macarthur
Building 11 Room 30,
Goldsmith Avenue, Campbelltown
PO Box 555 Campbelltown NSW 2560
s.keen@uws.edu.au 61 2 4620-3016 Fax 61 2 4626-6683
Home 02 9558-8018 Mobile 0409 716 088
Home Page: http://bus.macarthur.uws.edu.au/steve-keen/
Workshop on Economic Dynamcs: http://bus.macarthur.uws.edu.au/WED

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