Notebooks

## Socialism, Market Socialism

22 Mar 2018 11:51

Political control of economic life is not the consummation of world history, the fulfilment of destiny, or the imposition of righteousness; it is a painful necessity.
---Ernest Gellner, The Rest of History [archived copies] (1996)

Notoriously, of course, many millions of people (among them most of my mother's family, since the 1830s) have thought that the political control of economic life was the consummation of history, the fulfilment of destiny, the prelude to the rule of the saints. (In the early '90s, a Berkeley street-band played a rousing version of "When the Saints Come Marching In" which alternated the title line with "when the red revolution comes.") Incredible things were done in the name of this messianic, millenarian belief, some of them noble and heroic (like resistance to Fascism, and the creation of democratic welfare states), others scarcely matched for wickedness (like Stalin's purges and deliberate famines) and stupidity (like Mao's Great Leap Forward and apparently unintentional but highly foreseeable famines).

Attempts to define socialism are as futile as attempts to define democracy, justice, religion, or, indeed, almost anything else outside of formal deductive systems, like mathematics. Accordingly, I shan't even play at that game here. (Defining "true socialism" is even more pointless.) Generally, though, socialism includes some notion that the economy should not just be under political control, but that that control should be exercised for the common good, and in the direction of eliminating destitution and minimizing inequalities. In the abstract, I think this is an excellent thing; but God and the Devil both are in the details, to which we socialists have, typically, given far less thought than they deserve, to the point, sometimes, of criminal folly.

"Market socialism" is a current of ideas, starting, it seems, with the Polish economist Oskar Lange, for how to make extensive use of markets without thereby creating gross economic and political inequality. Making rational economic decisions about really big, unavoidably political issues, like, say, education or public health is hard enough; there's no reason to add to the burden any more than it has to be, and markets are very good at letting us live our economic lives without thinking too hard about them. (As Whitehead said someplace, it's a profound mistake to believe that we should think about what we are doing.) On the other hand, modern states are powerful enough as things stand; to turn the economy wholly over to them is a bad idea. To combine markets with socialism seems like an elegant and feasible solution, at least technically, and it's one which I support; I've discussed the details elsewhere. (I don't think it has a chance in hell of being realized anytime soon; but part of being a hereditary leftists is an irresistable attraction to lost causes.) It seems disrespectful to the defining political idea of the twentith century to reduce it to work-a-day and unheroic and reformist policy proposals; but better this disrespect from its friends than the crimes of its fanatics.

The history of socialist movements is complex and fascinating, bound up with the histories of organized labor, of economics and left-wing politics in general, and, less honorably, with that of revolutions and totalitarianism. Leftists, of course, tend to be historically-minded, so we're very good at writing our own histories, at remembering ancient incidents and finding precedents in them. Of course, like everyone else, we're also very good at convenient amnesia. Few of us care to remember just how much support the Soviets had, long after it had become clear to anybody with an eye cracked open that they were far, far worse than capitalist democracies, and in a league (after the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact in 1939, literally) with the Fascists. (That topic deserves a separate notebook, in lieu of which it'll get some jottings here.)

Recommended (very misc.):
• Johanna Bockman, Markets in the Name of Socialism: The Left-Wing Origins of Neoliberalism [Review in Dissent]
• Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis
• Democracy and Capitalism [Sensible ideas, unfortunately written for hardened addicts of social theory]
• Recasting Egalitarianism: New Rules for Communities, States and Markets [Far clearer]
<li>R. H. S. Crossman (ed.), <cite>The God That Failed: Six Studies in


Communism [A book much more often praised or reviled than read with anything like attention, or even open eyes. The current American edition, for instance, includes an introduction by the idiotic Norman Podhoretz, who ignores the fact that the ex-Communists who wrote it remained socialists, and manages to mis-spell Gramsci's name.]

• Colin Crouch, Making Capitalism Fit for Society
• Robert A. Dahl, A Preface to Economic Democracy
• Milovan Djilas, The New Class: An Analysis of the Communist System
• Albert Einstein, "Why Socialism?", Monthly Review vol. 1, no. 1 (May 1949) [Einstein's views on anything but physics carry, of course, no more weight than those of any other thoughtful and intelligent person; but this is good essay. Online; thanks to reader W.B. for tracking it down.]
• Michael Ellman, Socialist Planning
• Peter Frase, Four Futures: Life After Capitalism
• Vivian Gornick, The Romance of American Communism [recommended as an attempt at emphathetic understanding, not as political proposals]
• Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914--1991 [Hobsbawm remains a Marxist, and he makes a good case for Communism being, as a critical but respectful reviewer put it, the tragic hero of the twentieth century.]
• James Joll, The Second International
• Leszek Kolakowski, Main Currents of Marxism
• Oskar Lange, On the Economic Theory of Socialism [First proposal I've found for market-based socialism; has serious flaws.]
• Alec Nove
• The Economics of Feasible Socialism [The lessons to be learned from Marx and Marxist economics and "really existing socialism", all negative; and a plausible scheme for market-based socialism, which patches some of the bugs in Lange's proposals. Second edition titled The Economics of Feasible Socialism Revisited.]
• An Economic History of the USSR, 1917--1991 ["Third and final edition." The coincidence of Nove's dates with Hobsbawm's is not, of course, a coincidence.]
• Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies
• John Roemer
• A General Theory of Exploitation and Class [A reformulation of Marxist economics quite as rigorous as mainstream work; it ends up demolishing the labor theory of value from within, using ideas from game theory to give a better theory of class and exploitation.]
• A Future for Socialism [Review: The Red Monday Efficient Allocation Blues.]
• Frank Roosevelt and David Belkin (eds.), Why Market Socialism? [A grandson of the Franklin Roosevelt, as if to confirm the worst suspicions about "That Man".]
• Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy [Schumpeter was arrogant, elitist, reactionary and brilliant. Half the time he had me saying "why didn't I see that?" and half the time he has my blood boiling. These two states are not mutually exclusive. --- My father suggests that Schumpeter should be counted as the most unorthodox Marxist ever, but perhaps he must share the honor with Neurath.]
• Francis Spufford, Red Plenty [My attempt at a review grew into something much larger; see below]
• Joseph Stiglitz, Whither Socialism? [Attacks market socialism on the grounds that capitalist markets are much less efficient than standard neo-classical economics makes them out to be! This is more reasonable than it sounds, but the main value of the book in any case is as an excellent primer on the theory of markets with imperfect information and imperfect competition. Review by Steve Laniel]
• Leon Trotsky [Recommending these works does not, in this case, constitute endorsement[
• The Defense of Terrorism
• Their Morals and Ours
• "The Soviet Economy in Danger"
• Adam Westoby, The Evolution of Communism in the Twentieth Century
• Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station

• Ackerman, The Stakeholder Society
• Robin Archer, Economic Democracy: The Politics of Feasible Socialism
• Joseph S. Berliner, The Innovation Decision In Soviet Industry
• Eduard Bernstein, Evolutionary Socialism, a.k.a. The Preconditions of Socialism
• Norman Birnbaum, After Progress: American Social Reform and European Socialism in the Twentieth Century
• Noberto Bobbio, Which Socialism?
• Carl Boggs, The Socialist Tradition: From Crisis to Decline
• Valerie Bunce, Subversive Institutions: The Design and the Destruction of Socialism and the State
• G. A. Cohen, Why Not Socialism?
• Isaac Deutscher
• Stalin
• Trotsky
<li>Gregory K. Dow, <cite><a href="http://cambridge.org/9780521522212">Governing the Firm: Workers' Control in Theory and Practice</a></cite>
<li>Duncan Foley, "Towards a Critical Theory of Socialism: From


Vienna to Santa Fe" [Part I, Part II]

• Albert Fried, Communism in America: A History in Documents
• Emilio Gentile, Politics as Religion
• Zellig S. Harris, The Transformation of Capitalist Society [review by Bruce E. Nevin]
• Francisco Herreros, "The Dilemma of Social Democracy in 1914: Chauvinism or Social Dilemma?", Rationality and Society 15 (2003): 325--344 [Abstract: "In 1914, socialist parties voted in favour of war credits. This was a surprising decision given their pre-war commitment to the keeping of peace. The decision has usually been explained by the so-called chauvinist preferences of the socialist leaders. In this article, an alternative hypothesis is advanced. A game theoretic model is used to explain why socialist parties betrayed their pre-war commitments. It is maintained that the socialist parties' voting decision is compatible with pacifist preferences. The game theoretic model indicates that socialist parties were trapped in a coordination problem that they could not solve. They voted in favour of war credits even though they were pacifists because they could not coordinate themselves in a joint negative vote. This conclusion goes against the common perception of historical fact."]
• Imprints: A Journal of Analytical Socialism
• János Korani, The Socialist System: The Political Economy of Communism
• Andrew Levine, Arguing for Socialism: Theoretical Considerations
• Seymour Martin Lipset and Gary Marks, It Didn't Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States
• David McNally, Against the Market: Political Economy, Market Socialism and the Marxist Critique
• Eden Medina, Cybernetic Revolutionaries: Technology and Politics in Allende's Chile
• C. Wright Mills, The Marxists
• Charles Nordhoff, The Communistic Societies of the United States, From Personal Visit and Observation (1875)
• Alec Nove
• Markets and Socialism
• Socialism, Economics and Development
• Studies in Economics and Russia
• Klaus Nurnberger, Beyond Marx and the Market: Outcomes of a Century of Economic Experimentation
• Philippe van Parijs, What's Wrong with a Free Lunch?
• Adam Przeworski, Capitalism and Social Democracy
• John Roemer, Equal Shares: Making Market Socialism Work
• Massimo Salvadori, Karl Kautsky and the Socialist Revolution, 1880-1938
• Donald Sassoon, One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century
• Francis Sejersted, The Age of Social Democracy: Norway and Sweden in the Twentieth Century
• Robert Service, Comrades! A History of World Communism
• David Ramsay Steele, From Marx to Mises: Post-Capitalist Society and the Challenge of Economic Calculation
• Manfred B. Steger, The Quest for Evolutionary Socialism: Eduard Bernstein and Social Democracy
• Vladimir Tismaneanu, [Stalinism for All Seasons: A Political History of Romanian Communism
• Trotsky
• The Russian Revolution
• Eddy U, Disorganizing China: Counter-Bureaucracy and the Decline of Socialism ["these societies were not bureaucratic enough."]
• Kate Weigand, Red Feminism: American Communism and the Making of Women's Liberation
• Erik Olin Wright, "Taking the 'social' in Socialism Seriously" [PDF. Per Tom Slee's recommendation.]