Re: [OPE] socialist planning in capitalist firms

From: Adler Paul <>
Date: Thu Mar 11 2010 - 16:48:46 EST

I'm not sure what aspects of business planning are worth considering -- I am just trying to scope out the issues...

* I assume that stuff like CAD/CAM and OR applied to inventory planning are so straightforwardly technical that their value for socialist planning is obvious. (I recall reading something about cellular mfg and CAD/'CAM from the USSR in the 1980s).

* The case of scientific management and its new incarnation as lean production is obviously more complex historically, but as I read that dossier, it seems pretty clear how to use these techniques under socialism (like Sydney Hillman demanded: make it a joint mgt-labor investigation)

* transfer pricing between units: an old study by R. Eccles showed that many "related diversified" corporations used "rational trust" rather than cost-based prices or market-prices -- that seems interesting

* strategic planning: the research on how corporations formulate their annual (and longer-term) plans and budgets has (as best I can tell) dried up in recent decades. My understanding is that most big companies engage an iterative cycle where higher levels propose targets, lower levels come back with plans that aim to meet those targets or challenge the targets as infeasible, and the results cascade progressively down through the layers of authority (corporate -- sector/group -- business unit). Recently, this area of management practice has gotten more interesting with the introduction of the concept of "balanced scorecard" -- this makes explicits the business goals in several distinct dimensions -- not only for finances, but also for customer quality, internal process efficiencies, and employee "growth and learning".

So my query is about whether folks on this list are aware of any recent work that explicitly aims to assess progress in the emergent pre-figuration of socialist planning in the corporate sector.
... Or if they think I've posed the problem wrongly.

On Mar 11, 2010, at 1:13 PM, GERALD LEVY wrote:

>> Large capitalist firms have sometimes been characterized as islands of
>> planning in a sea of competition. I think Marx can be read as making
>> this point when he celebrates the socialization (albeit limited,
>> partial) that flows from concentration and centralization. I wonder if
>> anyone has studied corporate planning practices through these lenses.
>> In what senses do these practices pre-figure socialist planning? What
>> lessons for socialist planning might we learn from them?
> Hi Paul A:
> Well, I don't think Marx anticipated industrial pricing schemes by large
> firms in oligopolistic markets. And, I'm not sure what aspect of "planning" by these corporations you are referring to? "Scientific management" (Taylorism)? (Lenin and Trotsky referred to this under the NEP.) Operations research and linear programming? Well, that was
> also developed in a different context by planners in the USSR. Automated production systems which incorporate (no pun intended) planning functions (e.g. computer-aided manufacturing - CAM - and CAD/CAM)? Systems of inventory management and control (e.g. those associated with "lean production" systems? Etc? Etc?
> In solidarity, Jerry _______________________________________________
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Received on Thu Mar 11 16:50:35 2010

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