Re: [OPE] market - and other kinds of - socialism

From: howard engelskirchen <>
Date: Mon May 02 2011 - 11:47:56 EDT

Hi Michael,

In answer to your question, market socialism I think must be understood as a transitional form and is market *socialism* when it is dominated by political forces that work step by step to overcome capital's separations.

Here's what I mean. Marx thought different forms of production were like different species of living things. We want to know what features decisively characterize them, their differentia specifica, that is, what distinctively accounts for what they are and how they persist as what they are -- what accounts for how they maintain themselves in a homeostatic relationship to their environment.

I've argued that in this respect capital is characterized by two separations -- the separation of workers from the conditions of production and the separation of productive entities from one another. There's more to it for full understanding, for sure, but starting there a couple of things stand out.

One, whatever label we happen to give to social arrangements in place, if we leave capital's separations in place capital is being reproduced.

Two, if we want to replace social life based on capital with social life based on some other social arrangment, then we have to transform those separations -- we would be after social relations of association rather than separation.

Some consequences follow. First, the material structure of separation that accounts for market exchange has been around for a very long time and is likely to be with us for quite a long historical period still -- you don't decree the material separations of social life out of existence. So the market, which reproduces the separation of producers, will be with us for a good while. But because it functions to reproduce separation, it can nonetheless only be a transitional form, and the goal must be to get beyond it.

Second, as a transitional form, market socialism will be socialist to the extent that social arrangements are dominated by political forces that work comprehensively, step by step, to overcome capital's separations. That does not appear to be the case in China.

Notice that in this perspective the issue isn't plan or market, either of which can reproduce and develop capital's separations, and both of which have. The issue is whether any step we take moves from separation to association.

Bapuji and Ranganayakamma capture the basic idea in a concluding paragraph of the article to which you refer:

"There has to be either a 'mode of production based on independent producers" or a "mode of production based on associated producers" if we do not want exploitation of labour or existence of classes in human relations. But mode of production based on independent producers keeps the producers as isolated and separated individuals without any connection with one another. It deprives them of cooperation from fellow human beings in sharing hardships or comforts. Mode of production based on associated producers will alone contribute to the development of higher values and higher forms of existence."



  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Michael Webber
  To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
  Sent: Monday, May 02, 2011 5:17 AM
  Subject: Re: [OPE] market - and other kinds of - socialism

  jerry and alejandro:
  to clarify the terms of this discussion, i quote wikipedia:

  Market socialism refers to various economic systems where the means of production are publicly owned, managed and operated for a profit in a market economy. The profit generated in a market socialist system would be used to directly remunerate employees or go toward public finance. Theoretically, the fundamental difference between a traditional socialist economy and a market socialist economy is the existence of a market for the means of production and capital goods under market socialism.

  Market socialism generally refers to three related but distinct economic systems.

  Early forms of market socialism consisted of proposals for cooperative enterprises operating in a free-market economy, so that exploitation would be eliminated and individuals would receive the full product of their labor. Early market socialism was expressed by Ricardian socialists, mutualists, individualist anarchists and syndicalists.

  The maturing of neoclassical economic theory led to various new proposals of market socialism in the early twentieth century. The traditional neoclassical market socialist proposals consisted of state-owned industries and a central planning board (CPB) that sets prices to equal marginal cost, thereby achieving pareto efficiency.

  Market socialism has also been used to refer to an economic system that utilizes a free price system for the allocation and distribution of all resources, with public ownership being reserved to "strategic" sectors of the economy. Within this model, the state would utilize market mechanisms to direct economic activity in the same manner governments affect economic decisions in capitalist economies, including the use of (external) regulation over the otherwise autonomously-operating enterprises. This allows for the public enterprises to function in a decentralized fashion.

  now back to me: i take it that the discussion is really centering on the third of these ideas. however, i just do not understand the use of the noun, socialism, here. there is nothing socialist about china: the state is operating as a capitalist. like any capitalist, it has various uses for the surplus that its capitalist production generates: some is expended, some is accumulated. and like any capitalist, it seeks to use (other arms of) the state to advance its own interests: eg, infrastructure-building stimulus packages. i know that the term 'market socialism' is still used by the leadership, but that's placating the masses (especially those older folk who thought that on balance mao was pretty good for ordinary people).


  On 2 May 2011 17:52, GERALD LEVY <> wrote:

> I any case, I would like to
> deal with less purely ideological statements when I discuss with you.


    That's why I originally in this thread raised the subject in terms of
    economic history (including the experience of market socialism in
    the former Yugoslavia, China under Deng Xiaoping, Hungary
    under the NEM beginning in 1968, etc.). My point was simply that you
    should discuss apples for apples: i.e. if you wanted to reference
    the experience of centrally planned economies then you should also
    reference the experience of market socialism AND/OR if you wanted to talk
    about a different conception of market socialism than that historically
    experienced that you could compare that to OTHER conceptions of socialism
    which have not been tried (such as the C-C model).

    In solidarity, Jerry
    ope mailing list

  Michael Webber
  Professorial Fellow
  Department of Resource Management and Geography
  The University of Melbourne

  Mail address: 221 Bouverie Street, Carlton, VIC 3010

  Phone: 0402 421 283


  ope mailing list

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Received on Mon May 2 11:48:23 2011

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