You made me laugh with the invitation to a "short" comment on these theses.
I, for one, however, am absolutely in agreement with them and with their
general thrust, which is the need to initiate a critical discussion on the
theory of socialism. John Roemer has courageously kept writing on this
subject, though I personally find his vision of socialism way too limited.
Paul and Allin have also made some interesting suggestions about the
possibility of an information-processing solution to the problems of
allocation under socialism. Some time ago I questioned whether they had
really come to terms with Hayek's critique of Lange, but the discussion
At the moment my problem is twofold. First, I have a lot of difficulty
seeing how people could organize themselves to support a widespread
division of labor without markets, and I don't see how people are going to
sustain a high surplus economy without a division of labor. This leads me
to think of some type of market socialism, but I am too persuaded by Marx's
critique of commodity fetishism to feel really comfortable with the idea in
any of the forms that I have seen it put forward.
Second, a lot of non-market socialist ideas put tremendous emphasis on
political structures to support socialist economic institutions. Leaving
aside the catastrophic failure of the Bolsheviks to achieve a credible
model of political reproduction, most of the models of political democracy
we have are just as much a product of capitalist development as the market
itself. (Like many people, my actual experience with "participatory
democratic forms" in contexts like political movements and academic
institutions has not made me a particular fan of them as a way of getting
stuff done either, but maybe I should write that off to the distortion of
the ideas and the irritability of middle age....)
>Before my PC dies on me, I would like to advance 5 simple theses, on which
>I would appreciate any comment you may have. I would like your comment both
>as an objectivity check and because I am increasingly thinking about the
>subject area. The argument goes roughly as follows:
>1. It's a law of human psychology that you cannot achieve a goal unless
>you can clearly specify what it is.
>2. If socialism is conceived as an achievable goal (not just a movement),
>it must be clearly specified so we can plot the steps towards it.
>3. Socialism as a goal has not been clearly specified either at the
>national or international level so far by Marxists internationally so far,
>despite some brilliant attempts by individuals.
>4. Because socialism as goal has not been clearly specified, (a) it has
>been unclear what the realistic/feasible alternative to capitalism is, (b)
>socialism simply cannot be achieved yet.
>5. The critique of capitalism is inadequate unless socialists can specify
>what the socialist alternative concretely would amount to.
>I look forward to any short comment you may have.
Duncan K. Foley
Department of Economics
New School University
65 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sun Feb 27 2000 - 15:27:10 EST