Asking About Parecon/Parsoc

ZSplash Forums AskAlbert Asking About Parecon/Parsoc

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  • #724384

    Steven
    Participant

    You seem to make my point. E.g. you seem to presuppose a sort of laissez faire system when you mention the example of markets skewing things away from ecological issues. In a system where e.g. we would have an economic sphere of society which has market mechanisms, but the political sphere overlaps with the economic sphere to regulate or directly prevent pollution, the issue of markets not being ecologically sound wouldn’t even arise in that kind of model.

    Whether the idea that a thorough regulation of markets to do away with ill effects would end up in participatory planning is a question that of what we consider ill effects. Like the mentioned example of ecological concerns, objections to markets which talk about some ill effect of markets concerning X are inapplicable to systems which don’t use market mechanisms for X, like e.g. we can’t criticize a system for using markets by talking about market practices of child labor and slave trade if in the mentioned system those practices are excluded by action of the organization of polity, and such practices don’t exist even in some capitalistic systems (social-democracies).

    A system that I would consider good would have a mutualist base (all firms are worker coops, there is no ownership of land and natural resources- only usufruct, and there is no renting, including of money) and a superstructure of a social-democracy with a (directly) democratic polity that organizes welfare systems, regulations and prohibitions of practices that have negative externalties and a progressive tax. Virtually all objections against markets that I have seen market abolitionists give are inapplicable to a system that I have in mind, and it is a system which does have market mechanisms.

    On the question of why not opt for a non-market system, firstly I’d say that I don’t have any objection if it is to be done spontaneously and voluntarily, e.g. worker coops opting out of markets by forming federations which would function in a parecon-like way; also, I am sympathetic to systems that advocate comprehensive planning but allow dissent, e.g. like the anarcho-syndicalists in Spain, where virtually all collectivized communities had in their midst some people who didn’t want to join but continued to till their land or produce in their workshops (with no wage-labor or renting, of course) outside the collective with it’s common plan of production and distribution, and they would trade among each other and even barter with the collectives. But mainly, I’ve always been sort of afraid of ideas of comprehensive planning, even if it is all to be done democratically, ever since reading the short essay of Voltairine de Cleyre A glance at communism 🙂

    #724392
    avatar
    Michael Albert
    Participant

    Markets are markets – buyers and sellers competing and prices being set by the clash and jangle of their choices. You have not indicated even one thing about markets that you find good, desirable, and that you think participatory planning would not do as well or better. Your defense of markets is that we can mitigate their ills, at least somewhat. But it seems to me that you simply ignored my analogy to mitigating the ills of dictatorship being not a bad thing per se, though the dictatorship would constantly fight against the restrictions, but falling horribly short of replacing dictatorship with a better system.

    In a capitalist context, with markets each unit tries to maximize profits for owners. The rest of those involved get what they have the bargaining power to take.

    If we remove owners, then the units are trying to maximize surplus, or else markets won’t even do what they can in fact do, with the surplus presumably divided among all involved, with no owners to siphon off most, but, with markets, there will be a corporate division of labor, a coodinator worker division, so there will be very unequal power between these two classes, and thus unequal shares. This alone is more than enough reason to try to replace markets, to put it mildly.

    In either case, with or without owners, but with markets, of course a government can try to impose rules. And doing so can be progressive and positive. Such rules, however, will run up against the pressures of the market, and the elites who most benefit from the absence of those rules, and will be constantly fought against and dodged, and typically, if they are not structurally strengthened by eliminating markets, they will in time be neutered or rescinded. Still, you are certainly right that while in force, such rules can help mitigate some problems. But that is all they do.

    Now take your first example, the government imposes rules, like the EPA does currently, to regulate choices by firms in an effort to reduce pollution. It can happen – the government can try to do that. But if the economy has a ruling and an obedient class – the former will have very great power and will want to reduce the play of those rules, prevent their enforcement, get them ignored, and so on, side step them, rescind them, because such rules will impinge on its freedom to gain. Thus the constant battle.

    You can’t just posit x, in this case rules, you have to show why x can exist and persist. So even when we are talking about modest limits on behavior by those at the top who are benefiting in a market system and elevated by it, we have to realize that there will be opposition to those rules and it will come from the strongest elements in society. Even Swedish social democracy – largely restrictions on markets and rules to mitigate the most vile inequality – has of late largely succumbed to those pressures.

    I agree that if we make child labor illegal, and it is enforced, then there is no point talking about the effects of child labor in that system. We might point out, however, that elites will try to circumvent the rule/law whenever it is to their advantage to do so – which they do, now, even regarding child labor, and that is important. In contrast to child labor, you can’t make pollution outright illegal – it is inevitable. You can try to limit it, and you can try to have those who cause it pay, etc. But all this is like having rules against arbitrary use of authority in a dictatorship. It is better than not having those rules, but far far less than simply replacing dictatorship with a different political system.

    There are more problems, too. For example, who figures out what rules are needed, and designs them, and prosecutes them, and so on – well, it will be elements of the elites, typically, that are benefiting from the absence of rules. This too wrecks havoc with even modest gains from such rules.

    You are wrong about all market abolitionists objections being irrelevant to the system you mention. Not only is the presence of pressure against restrictions on harmful market behavior germane, because your envisioned system, supposing it could be won in the first place – and this is another problem, you want to beat owners and other elites into a new system, but the one you propose will not sufficiently motivate the rest of the population, I suspect, to wage the battle – but you seem to ignore that which, apparently, you think is not important. For example, you ignored comments about the impact of markets on consciousness, the skewing of production away from collective public goods, the mispricing of all goods, not just the most gross impingements on the ecology, though those too – and these are not relevant only regarding some goods, but all goods. Competitive markets – and that is the only thing that is a market, also totally warp motivations and income distribution. This too would be more than enough reason to prefer a different form of allocation that would not have these faults, and what not have its benefits continually under attack by society’s strongest sectors.

    You aren’t saying there are comparable or worse problems with participatory planning, and that is what I find confusing. If someone says I prefer system a to system b because a has all these virtues that b lacks, and, by the way b doesn’t just fall short of doing good, it does incredible damage due to its intrinsic logic and structure. It seems to me, the best reply defending b, which in this case is markets, would be to show that it doesn’t have the problems at all, it does do good comparably to a, and that a has problems of its own, even more damning than those of b. All you are doing, instead, is saying it is possible to have some regulations that limit that worst impacts of b… Now I think you exaggerate that, and its stability, but mostly, I don’t think it much matters to the overall case, because alone it is just like saying something godawful which we can replace with something that has many missing virtues, could have some of its worst faults reduced a bit.

    I do not know the person you reference, but there is simply nothing much in common between anything typically called communism and parecon when people are critiquing communism, and parecon.

    Again, I am not going o write a book here. The above comments of mine about participatory planning are all claims, not compelling arguments with evidence. But the latter is available in many longer pieces. So, okay, if you want to make a case for markets as being a better option than participatory planning, fine. Take a look at the longer discussions of markets, and of participatory planning, by myself and others, and make a case why market allocation isn’t subject to our criticisms – skewing prices, distorting motives, alienating decisions, perverting personalities, mis pricing not only all public goods, but everything, generating class division, and so on. And make a case that participatory planning is as bad, or worse than markets on these indices, and perhaps on others you come up with as well.

    I wonder what you mean by you are afraid of ideas proposing comprehensive planning. If planning – which is just deciding economic outcomes – is self managed, if there is equity, if it is classless, etc. etc., what are you afraid of? I would wager that whatever it is, however warranted the fear might be for it occurring in parecon – and I can’t know what I think about that until you tell me what you are afraid of – I would bet dollars to donuts, even before knowing, that whatever it is, I can make a case it is happening now more even than you fear it might conceivably happen in a parecon. Of course I could be wrong about my being able to do that – but it is my guess…

    #724465

    Steven
    Participant

    Thanks for the answer, I appreciate it.

    I didn’t adress the analogy with dictatorships because I don’t see it as valid, it is based on the presupposition that markets always have ill effects like dictatorships do, but that idea is precisely what we’re discussing, being that I don’t think that markets, as opposed to dictatorships (or any relations of domination for that matter) are bad per se. This is somewhat connected to why I think it only necessary to reply to objections to markets, and not positivelly advocate them by providing arguments as to why are they better then alternatives, because markets are the null hypothesis, they are the sum of free, unhindered, spontaneous action of people, and if someone wants something else, he advocates establishment of regulations and organization that hinder the free and spontaneous action of people, and it is he that must give arguments, not the one advocating market. In that sense, analogy to dictatorships could be made for any non-market system, because it is any interference with liberty that requires justification, not liberty itself. As I have already said, I do accept many such interferences, but I don’t take them as self-justified, no matter what (alleged) bad consequences freedom has, I am aware that I must have arguments for any type of regulation and dirigism (no matter how democratic) I support, such as prohibitions and sanctions concerning negative externalities, welfare, etc.

    I haven’t seen any convicing arguments that go to prove that markets would necessarily produce corporate division of labor inside firms, even the free markets that are non-capitalistic such as proposed by Anarcho-Individualism (advocated by e.g. Benjamin Tucker) or by Proudhonian Mutualism, but that is even more the case with a system which I support where there would be free education availabe to all, social welfare would mean that there is no poverty and everyone is free to get educated and trained without having to forgo schooling in order to work, and where market competition would be dampened by progressive taxation.

    In such an economy, I don’t think that it would be possible for any group to concentrate power and use it to evade rules that the polity enforces. As to who figures out the rules and prosecutes them, the polity would be (directly) democratic.

    Impact of markets on consciousness, warping motivations, I suppose you mean by that the abscense of solidarity, markets will make people neglect solidarity and there will be poverty and the disabled will go uncared for, etc, firstly I don’t think this is the case even on free markets, workers had friendly societies and various other mutual help organization during the early, more laissez faire capitalism, where they lived in the wild free market, also today coops as a rule engage in community building, they don’t turn into ayn rand followers just because they have to worry about survining on a market; but secondly, the system that I support would have organized social services, which are based on solidarity, so the objection holds water even less.

    Even in a totally free market, I don’t think that the profit motive necessarily warps people’s motivations, being that markets are about supply and demand, I don’t see why would a person making or selling something, or providing services on markets necessarily need to have some ominous disposition of mind, thinking only about his own profits, he could also think about how what he’s doing is about satisfying other people’s wants. I remeber Chomsky mentioning in a interview happy-looking ice cream vendors, who like that they’re providing ice-cream to children, and they do that on the market. And there is even less reason for it to be the case in the system I propose, because there would be progressive taxation to fund various services concering collective public goods that the citizents decide to sustain, so even if one were to strive to expand his market share (even though progressive taxation is an incentive against it), he would by doing that progressively help the public good.

    Voltarine was a 19th century anarchist, and in a couple of short essays in 1893 she was commenting on decentralized (/participatory) planning proposed by anarcho-communists. Interestingly, she makes a comment about authoritarian communism which might be applicable to Parecon, when she says: “He cries: “Down with property and competition,” and means it. For the one he prescribes “take it” and for the other “suppress it.” That is very frank.” That connects to the question of dissent in Parecon, I mentioned that the (AnSyn) communists in Spain did tolerate dissenters, so if a small town agreed to collectivize, but a few artisans in their workshops didn’t want to join, the collective didn’t have anything against them running their small workshop as a coop and trading with similar worshops and farms that were coops, they even bartered with them. There is the question of what about dissenters in Parecon, which I don’t remember seeing adressed in what I’ve read about Parecon. What would happen e.g. to my brother if Parecon were to be instituted in my society, and he didn’t want to join? Namely, he and his family have a small plot of land behind their house, two small greenhouses (about 5 ares each), a rototiller, they grow veggies and sell them to a few shops, and sell them themselves in the marketplace. What if Parecon were to be instituted, but they, along with some other people, don’t want to participate, they want to continue to produce on their own and continue to trade among each other, how would the Parecon system treat such a minority?

    What I mentioned that has made me a little afraid is her comment about the proposal of economic plannig, when she notes that there would have to be some “board, with branch offices everywhere, which should proceed with a general kind of census-taking regarding the demand for every possible product of manufacture, of agriculture, of lumber, of minerals, for every improvement in education, amusement or religion. “Madam, about how many balls do your boys lose annually over the neighbors’ fence? How many buttons do your little girls tear off their frocks? Sir, how many bottles of beer do you stow away in your cellar weekly for Sunday use? Miss, have you a lover? If so, how often do you write him, and how many sheets of paper do you use for each letter? How many gallons of oil do you use in the parlor lamp when you sit up late? This is not intended as personal, but merely to obtain correct statistics upon which to base next year’s output of balls, buttons, beer, paper, oil, etc. ” I am not convinced in the necessity of such comprehensive cataloguing and planning in advance, I do not see how it is worth it to do all that so to prevent the over or under-production that would happen in non-capitalistic markets, I would rather go along with Voltairine when she says “I had rather a few thousand cabbages should rot” then go through all that, especially if in the case which I support, where there would be various systems of social security available and I am never in danger of starving if my cabbages do rot due to lack of demand for them.

    #724472
    avatar
    Site Administrator
    Participant

    > Thanks for the answer, I appreciate it.

    You are welcome, but I do think we are going to have to agree to disagree, soon…very soon…

    > I didn’t adress the analogy with dictatorships because I don’t see it as valid…

    Okay, fine, that is your view. But honestly, it is not asking me anything about parecon. And I just don’t have it as a priority, right now, to blast markets since I have done it, at length, numerous times and places.

    Markets requires that buyers and sellers compete – buy cheap, sell dear. Every economist advocate of markets will verify that they fail in the absence of that. This creates a horrible pressure on personalities, producing the worst kind of individualism. It is an elementary prediction, and it is borne out all around us, all over the planet. Markets misprice anything with external effects beyond the buyer and seller. Again, every economist advocate of markets will acknowledge that. And this is a large problem, because everything has such external effects. It leads to particularly horrible results in biasing against public and collective goods. Markets are not efficient, because they use incorrect prices. Interestingly, in a serious discussion, must economists will admit that as well, but claim there is nothing better. Markets create a context very very useful, however, for those with more power to aggrandize themselves at the expense of others, and the environment – which markets horribly violate – to the tune of threatening the continuation of the human species. Markets also produce class division, though it is a harder case to make. If firms don’t try to maximize revenues and cut costs they will be outcompeted, and not enjoy the gains that would accrue. But, to pursue advantage, or just survive in context of others doing so, requires all kinds of self destructive decisions regarding those in a workplace. This is far far easier to carry out with an internal hierarchy wherein those at the top are immune to the effects of cutting air conditioning, spewing gases, having rote jobs on vicious assembly lines, and on and on. It is those in that hierarchy who become the new class, I call the coordinator class. There is much more to say – about all of this – and I have done so, many places.

    Are these the same problems as dictatorships impose. No. Are they immense problems, yes, I would say so. And interestingly, really no economist in a serious discussion will disagree, they just may not place much value on the losses…and will claim that there is nothing better, though without bothering to look.

    You know what mainstream economists critique parecon for – workers will choose, freely to work less. There is no built in pressure to work longer and harder if people would prefer more leisure, less stuff. You are all about liberty, you say, but markets introduce a context that makes what people want, irrational to seek. Economists admit this, freely, they claim it is a virtue. They say in parecon people will cut the work week length drastically, and that is such a problem that we can’t have parecon.

    > This is somewhat connected to why I think it only necessary to reply to objections to markets, and not positivelly advocate them by providing arguments as to why are they better then alternatives, because markets are the null hypothesis, they are the sum of free, unhindered, spontaneous action of people, and if someone wants something else, he advocates establishment of regulations and organization that hinder the free and spontaneous action of people, and it is he that must give arguments, not the one advocating market.

    I have to tell you in all honesty, I find this formulation, while prevalent, so ridiculous that I have little patience for trying to argue with you about it. To say that an institution that breeds – thrives on and that fails without – competition, and that rewards bargaining power and, of course, allows advantages in bargaining power to snowball, thus not only produces horrible distortions of personality that destroy solidarity, has a short time line, etc. etc. are just some kind of neutral free thing, has always sounded weird to me. But I will just leave it…

    Markets at their very best – that is, as you envision them – are utterly impossible – that is, the dynamics of markets push further and further away from the sought condition. But intact, I would find the sought optimum, even it could last, horrendous in any event.

    You seem to agree that market logic leads to all kinds of horrible results – things like, oh, child labor, dumping, etc. etc. And so you say, let’s regulate them, try to mitigate the ill effects, etc. And I say, well that is better than just having them run wild, sure, but why not have an allocation institution that doesn’t need to be guarded against and that won’t constantly promote subversion of what is desired?

    > In that sense, analogy to dictatorships could be made for any non-market system, because it is any interference with liberty that requires justification, not liberty itself.

    This is just weird, honestly. Saying that markets promote liberty or freedom, when they tell each actor to fleece other actors or be fleeced, and when, if you successfully fleece others, you are in position to do it even more so, and will have developed a disposition to, and, in any case, if you don’t you will just get fleeced, yourself, is absurd. Institutions are not neutral but have implications built into their dynamics. When one person’s freedom, or unit’s, curtails comparable freedom for others, the system is flawed…mightily.

    Markets destroy solidarity – in fact rewarding anti sociality, they create a competition in which any gain snowballs into further gain. They generate prices, used in decision making, that systematically diverge from a measure of true social costs and benefits. Again, these are not full arguments – but I have made those in many places. But they are also not controversial claims. Even most advocates of markets – other than very strange libertarian market advocates, would acknowledge their validity. So if you are interested in my views of markets – great – you should take a look.

    As to parecon, honestly, it seems your only interest in it is that it threatens markets…unless I am misremembering, I don’t think you have asked anything about it.

    > As I have already said, I do accept many such interferences, but I don’t take them as self-justified, no matter what (alleged) bad consequences freedom has, I am aware that I must have arguments for any type of regulation and dirigism (no matter how democratic) I support, such as prohibitions and sanctions concerning negative externalities, welfare, etc.

    Do you realize that having negative externaliities which pour garbage into people’s lungs, or CO2 into the air, etc. etc. are not a matter of freedom…but violations of it, for most. To say we should be free is fine – but only insofar as one person’s freedom is matched by everyone else’s. To say a company should be free to ruin the environment of a neighborhood, has no freedom logic at all.

    When my freedom creates a context curtailing your choices – for clean air, for sensible climate, for fair income, and on and on, then my choice doesn’t respect freedom for all, and honestly, only talks about freedom, typically, to advance my own agendas. Markets force everyone to act individually, without concern for, and by and large without information about, impacts on other people, much less other people having a say commensurate to effects on them.

    > I haven’t seen any convicing arguments that go to prove that markets would necessarily produce corporate division of labor inside firms, even the free markets that are non-capitalistic such as proposed by Anarcho-Individualism (advocated by e.g. Benjamin Tucker) or by Proudhonian Mutualism,

    Okay, fair enough, but, I suspect, nor have you looked. That is, I don’t think you have read serious market critiques I, Hahnel, and others have offered. You certainly have not said, here, there, and here, you are wrong – and shown why you think that. Try the book Quiet Revolution in Welfare Economics…

    The freest markets in history, I suspect, were in early England – and it was one of the most abhorrent messes in history…

    > Even in a totally free market, I don’t think that the profit motive necessarily warps people’s motivations, being that markets are about supply and demand, I don’t see why would a person making or selling something, or providing services on markets necessarily need to have some ominous disposition of mind, thinking only about his own profits, he could also think about how what he’s doing is about satisfying other people’s wants.

    Okay, you think that. Fine that you do. If you want to see a full discussion of these matters, market pricing, market motivation, markets and class, great, take a look.

    > Voltarine was a 19th century anarchist, and in a couple of short essays in 1893 she was commenting on decentralized (/participatory) planning proposed by anarcho-communists.

    Well, I rather doubt it was the same…but let’s see…

    > Interestingly, she makes a comment about authoritarian communism which might be applicable to Parecon, when she says: “He cries: “Down with property and competition,” and means it. For the one he prescribes “take it” and for the other “suppress it.” That is very frank.”

    Effective writing, I suppose, but irrelevant. The property was taken…now it just needs to be re distributed to all again. Competition has its place, in sports, but not as the logic of economic interaction.

    > That connects to the question of dissent in Parecon, I mentioned that the (AnSyn) communists in Spain did tolerate dissenters, so if a small town agreed to collectivize, but a few artisans in their workshops didn’t want to join, the collective didn’t have anything against them running their small workshop as a coop and trading with similar worshops and farms that were coops, they even bartered with them.

    For the most part, it is an unreal issue. Once you have an allocation system, to think people are going to operate outside it, in significant degree, is unreal. Where does one get electricity, roads, schooling, etc. etc. Is it allowed to disconnect from society? Sure. I guess a few might do it, but not many.

    > There is the question of what about dissenters in Parecon, which I don’t remember seeing adressed in what I’ve read about Parecon.

    But it is addressed, in many places. I think you are here defending markets – not addressing parecon. That is okay, fine, up to a point – but then we just have to agree to disagree, it seems to me.

    > What would happen e.g. to my brother if Parecon were to be instituted in my society, and he didn’t want to join? Namely, he and his family have a small plot of land behind their house, two small greenhouses (about 5 ares each), a rototiller, they grow veggies and sell them to a few shops, and sell them themselves in the marketplace. What if Parecon were to be instituted, but they, along with some other people, don’t want to participate, they want to continue to produce on their own and continue to trade among each other, how would the Parecon system treat such a minority?

    I don’t believe it will happen – but it would be no problem, except in one respect. Your brother would want electricity, to use roads, schools, to get food that others produce, maybe have a computer produced elsewhere, and on and on. So the question becomes, can he participate in the economy, using its venues and resources and methods, and also grow stuff in his yard and trade it with neighbors. Answer, sure.

    > What I mentioned that has made me a little afraid is her comment about the proposal of economic plannig, when she notes that there would have to be some “board, with branch offices everywhere, which should proceed with a general kind of census-taking regarding the demand for every possible product of manufacture, of agriculture, of lumber, of minerals, for every improvement in education, amusement or religion.

    Well, again, I think you should take a close look at participatory planning, if you are interested in it.

    > “Madam, about how many balls do your boys lose annually over the neighbors’ fence? How many buttons do your little girls tear off their frocks? Sir, how many bottles of beer do you stow away in your cellar weekly for Sunday use? Miss, have you a lover? If so, how often do you write him, and how many sheets of paper do you use for each letter? How many gallons of oil do you use in the parlor lamp when you sit up late? This is not intended as personal, but merely to obtain correct statistics upon which to base next year’s output of balls, buttons, beer, paper, oil, etc. ”

    I hate to tell you this, but what you worry about currently exists. That is, google and amazon and a few others know nearly everything about everyone…and far beyond just their consumption and work levels.

    > I am not convinced in the necessity of such comprehensive cataloguing and planning in advance, I do not see how it is worth it to do all that so to prevent the over or under-production that would happen in non-capitalistic markets, I would rather go along with Voltairine when she says “I had rather a few thousand cabbages should rot” then go through all that, especially if in the case which I support, where there would be various systems of social security available and I am never in danger of starving if my cabbages do rot due to lack of demand for them.

    Well, sure, if you describe a nightmare, and then minimize problems in the other option you get a particular result. But what if 30% – or 40$ of all food is wasted in a market system? What is to make more revenues all kinds of actions are taken with animals, to sell more meat, higher, that have horrendous impact, but make sense for the proximate buyer and seller. And what if participatory planning would take less time than dealing with markets and market regulations, eliminating all kinds of time wasting, etc. Now the choice swings the other way – not to mention what if producers in one case have a huge incentive to despoil the environment, and in the other case, not. What if in one case there is real equity, and in the other, growing and in time grotesque inequality, and so on.

    So, okay, take a look at the actual proposed vision. And at the discussion of markets you are unlikely to see in books whose purpose is to defend them, celebrate them, etc. And then see what you think. If, after that, you believe something I describe about buying and selling, etc., or participatory planning, is wrong – let me know.

    #724533

    Steven
    Participant

    We don’t have to agree, I’m happy if a discussion ends up with understanding each other’s positions and arguments. And we do agree on what I would say are more important points, like that there should be no relations of domination in society and that no one should be able to get income on the basis of owning something. And what you say about dissent, if that is the ‘official’ position of Parecon (/Parsoc), does away with the main reservation that I had and allows me to support Parecon (promote it, maybe join IOPS etc), even though I don’t agree with some less important points. There are movements and people, mainly among the left-communists, that I cannot support in any way even though they, too, are anti-capitalist and horizontalist- because they advocate prohibition of trade and use of money, in the manner of authorian communists that Voltairine mentions.

    Now, concerning those less important points. 🙂 I actually went through the book you mention as well as a few other of Hahnel’s books as well as yours and of many others through the years. But notice what I said, I do try to be precise, my statement is that I haven’t seen arguments that *prove* that markets *necessarily* produce the bad things that they are criticized for. I think that this is the main point of contention here, more fundamental then the discussion about this or that consequence individually, so I will not go on about them, and would rather elaborate on that. When you call “the market” an insitution and talk about it, it seems you (like many others) see it as some sort of a monolithic institution on par with organizations, and I think that’s wrong. I see “the market” as simply a set that we make up and categorize in it the unorganized, very, very indirectly interacting, economic transactions of a (large) number of people. Do (sets of) unorganized actions (both economic and non-economic) of people have bad consequences? I think they sometimes do, and in some instances have a tendency to. But being that, as I have said, liberty is the null hypothesis, the starting position, I have to have arguments for my views that say that some things should not be voluntary (let alone spontanous), I have to defend every instance of my advocacy of (imposed) rules, I can’t simply say: disorganized actions of people have bad consequences (which they do, but not per se) and therefore we should have all interactions of people collectivelly planned. It seems that market abolitionists do precisely that for economic acts. To me market abolitionism look similar to prohibitionism. Yes, drunk driving, alcohol related violence and such similar stuff are very serious problems, yes, alcohol does have horrendus consequences, but does it *necessarily* have bad consequences so as to warrant alcohol prohibition? Maybe prohibition really is justified (I read that the only contemporary libertarian community, the Chiapas Zapatistas, have decided on one referendum to institute and have instituted prohibition) but that has to be very strongly argumented. I personally do think that there should be regulations, sactions, some mechanisms to deal with bad consequences of drinking that would be imposed, and I should, and I think I can, give arguments for them, but I order to advocate prohibition, I would have to I prove that drinking per se has bad consequences. Being that I think it is reasonable to assume that “the market”, that is- the set of free, unhindered, spontaneous economic actions of people, is the starting position, I think my request, as stated in the statement near the beginning of this passage- is legitimate- that in order for market abolitionitionism to be accepted, it has to be *proved* that markets *necessarily* have bad consequences, with neither of those conditions lacking, so- neither an argument that *strongly suggests* that markets *necessarily* have bad consequences, nor an argument that *proves* that markets *generally* have bad consequences sufficies to justify market abolitionism, let alone an argument that would just strongly suggest that markets generally have bad consequences, as a lot arguments against markets do. And notice that if someone were to give an arguement that proves that the market necessarily has bad consequences in this or that instance, such an argument doesn’t apply to a system where the market in that that instance doesn’t function, like in the example we mentioned that criticism of markets which would prove that markets necessarily produce child labor is inapplicable to a system that has effective mechanisms that preclude child labor.

    • This reply was modified 7 years, 4 months ago by  Steven.
    #724538
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    Michael Albert
    Participant

    I have my doubts, honestly, about whether you understand my views – you make no reference to even most my views that bear on parecon – for example, you don’t comment on self management, or on balanced job complexes, etc., not that you have to, of course – but I don’t have evidence of agreement on those matters, and many others. For example, remuneration for output is rejected – or power, of course. I haven’t even seen indication you know what the critique of markets is. But honestly, I don’t want to take this further – I just don’t have the time right now.

    This forum is called ask albert, and the topic is asking about parecon and parsoc, you haven’t done that, right from the outset, I believe. Instead, you are bringing your views of markets being worthy and desirable, if regulated, to me, and you want me to address them – and I have to tell you, though your views seem solid and worthy to you, to me they are not. Not remotely. So there is only so much of my time I want to give to them.

    I see no reason to think your views on this are going to change. Mine certainly aren’t in response to the things you are saying. So, why pursue it?

    But each time you write, I feel I have to reply…it is a responsibility in a forum named askalbert…

    Prohibiting trade means nothing – no one does that, even if they may have postured with words to that effect, in something you read. Trade is another name for exchange. You seem to rule out Capitalist trade, by ruling out private ownership of property. Okay, some others rule out trade that is mediated and defined by other institutions, too…but that is not ruling out trade, or exchange.

    People who rule out money invariably mean they are ruling out money used in certain ways – to buy the time of wage slaves, to earn profits, etc. etc. Some posture as though they are saying we should not have some index to help have just exchanges, and some even really mean that – but I don’t support such views, either.

    As far as proof about markets problems, that is why I recommended Quiet Revolution in Welfare Economics – for the proofs that it offers. You say you want proofs, okay, go read it. It offers proofs in the only sense that the discipline called economics utilizes the term. But there is an intrinsic limit to proving things social. How do you prove dictatorship is intrinsically horrible. Point to instances? Good. Describe the structure the label refers to and show that it has deleterious effects. Better – especially if the effects match the history. Now suppose someone says, sure, but that was dictatorship with the needed regulations. Now what? Point out that you put in all the regulations needed and you know longer have dictatorship? Point out that while there is dictatorship every regulation will be unstable? All good, but someone who won’t bend – well, won’t bend.

    You agree markets have various really damning flaws – no one really denies that, actually. You claim, however, like others, that regulatory reforms, if they persist against opposition, can mitigate some of the negative effects. Also true, and also no one denies it.

    Now, I ask why would you want a mode of allocation which in theory, and in every instance of practice to date, each consistent with the other, has quite horrible implications, purely on grounds we can mitigate some of those implications if we struggle constantly to maintain regulations – instead of hoping for and seeking an institution that accomplishes many positive gains markets don’t even remotely come near, as well as not having the debits?

    Of course one answer would be to say I don’t think any other allocation system has such virtues. Well, I offer one, so, you might examine it and ask about flaws you think you find, because if it does accomplish what I say, then even without agreeing with my more damning dismissals of markets, it would make sense for you to support the alternative.

    You want to use the word markets your way – against the entire profession of economics, all advocates of markets I know of, etc. It makes it hard to communicate – but, okay.

    Markets, are, you say, a name for unorganized interactions undertaken by individuals with other individuals – without being overtly coerced – or I guess groups as in the case of a production units.

    Well, now the only remaining attributes defining markets, at least in what you are talking about, is that it is unorganized action and no one is overtly forcing people to engage in exchanges, or not. Really? And that is supposed to be a virtue? You say you would need to discover that unorganized activity – and the idea that market exchange is that is a vast distortion, so how about, individually undertaken acts of buying and selling for prices that are determined by the clash and jangle of all the actors but which once established create a quite coercive context – has negative implications and see why having people actually use their brains in concert, rather than acting only as isolated individuals, and acting in light of collectively and carefully developed and disseminated knowledge of implications, both for individuals and for groups, both immediate and longer term, both on self and on others – corrects those problems and introduces new benefits. But that, of course, is precisely what the discussions and arguments advocating participatory planning and the rest of parecon, do.

    Prohibition of alcohol was undertaken, I suppose, because of some implications of drinking – though it is more likely, I know nothing about it, that it had to do with motives of commerce and profits. It didn’t solve the problems of drinking and introduced new ones.

    Switching from markets to participatory planning will be done because of the negative effects of virtually every implication of market exchange plus the contrary positive implications of participatory planning, and you have yet to suggest the former has even a single virtue, except I guess that people do what they want (which is simply false if our view extends more deeply than was there someone ordering them around), nor have you indicated any reason to think participatory planning would fail to remove the problems or would introduce new debits.

    Saying that market exchange is free and unhindered so it has a kind of existential naturalness is poppycock – sorry I am getting tired of this, and it seems I have to be a bit more forceful. Markets are not neutral conveyors of human will, neutral abettors of freedom, so to speak, and nothing more. They, instead, establish roles – buyer and seller – and dynamics, that distort human preferences and will, do not abet freedom, and have many other debits, as well.

    This is going nowhere, honestly. You want me to discuss with you, your views. Okay, I can understand wanting that, but using a forum called askalbert to pursue that, just isn’t reasonable. If you have questions for me, that is fine. But I have to read everything in here, because it is a forum for me to react to concerns that people have, questions they raise, etc., and honestly, I just don’t have time to not only address your views, but then do it over and over…

    Again, I claim markets annihilate equity, crush solidarity, destroy freedom, reduce diversity – even – and obliterate self management. They demolish environmental sanity, as well, pervert human preferences, produce class division, and bias the outcomes of human interactions. I claim that while all these effects are worse with private ownership, they persist even if that ill is removed. I claim participatory planning eliminates all those faults, and indeed reverses the ledger, to instead literally generate equity, solidarity, freedom for each in accord with delivering freedom for all, diversity, self management, true expressions of human desire, environmental sanity, and classlessness. I acknowledge that I have not offered, here, in a few paragraphs, in a forum, a full case about any of this. That is why I suggest looking at longer presentations, if you are interested. Telling me you did, and are unconvinced – well, fine, okay, that’s the end of that. Unless you say, I am unconvinced because there is this flaw in your argument about snowballing divergence from true social costs and benefits prices, or your argument about effects on personality, or any of the rest. Here is the flaw – how do you reply?

    #724547

    Steven
    Participant

    There are quite a few clarifications to give and some more answers beyond them, but being that you hold that we shouldn’t continue, I will retire. I am fairly satisfied with how I have, in my last message, summarized my position as to why I don’t think market abolitionism is justified, so let’s leave it at that. I want to thank you again, even though it was maybe a little hasty and short, it was nevertheless great to have this exchange. Cheers.

    #724549
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    Michael Albert
    Participant

    Okay. It doesn’t have to be over. I just think for me to give much more time, I need actual criticisms of views I have offered, or questions about them.

    #724600
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    Joe H
    Participant

    Hi, maybe I can start another strand about the ParSoc set of ideas. I wanted to ask two questions (related) about class in general and its relevance for anticapitalist (or any progressive economic) activism.
    (1)
    One view (pretty typical in a certain type of modern activist): capital is just as a bunch of organisations, mainly large corporations. These organisations want profits and market share, and often act for the maintenance of the system by which they get those things. We see the horrible results. We conceive of the organisational decisions as not particularly reflecting some abstract self-contained individual wants, but only the combined interests of players constrained by their positions in the institutions, and “working their angles”, from the CEO to the janitor.
    How does a class analysis add or deepen this way of thinking? Class says that there are two or three special groups of people who decisively differ in their relation to production. This makes such a difference to their “angles” that they have many mutual interests, as well as outlooks, values, habits etc.
    Now, Marx essentially made the claim that these group interests are the Newton’s laws of human history. ParSoc says that they play an important role too. What is it? How does it fit in with, add to, or deepen the analysis by “interplay of institutions” in this view?
    For example, in the understanding I outlined above, there’s nothing obviously impossible about having an institution that works against the public good even in a classless society. Somehow it could have bad relations inside it that lead to bad outcomes. Class analysis seems to say the opposite, that one way or another such an institution would crumble without some class interests backing it up. Do you hold this view, and if so can you explain why this should always be the case? For Marxists that would be true for the bureaucracy in central planning (only there because of outside pressures for Trots, I think), for Parecon this would have the co-ordinators to fight back as a class I guess. IS that right? What else does the concept of class do for us that the “interplay of institutions” doesn’t?
    (2) Do you think that imperialism benefits workers in the US and UK, e.g. materially, as against the most conservative changes to things you can imagine that would end imperialism? Sometimes non-anticaptialists I know claim this (and think that if “we” weren’t doing it someone else inevitably would) even if they see that imperialism has bad effects. It seems like arguing against this entails a lot of anticapitalist ideas so it’s usually a tougher sell than e.g. that the war in Iraq was a bad thing.

    #724603
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    Michael Albert
    Participant

    Hello Joe,

    I am not entirely sure what you are asking.

    The first part says we can look at society and see various organizations, and understand that they affect the actors in them and who relate to them – people who fill the roles they offer – etc. Okay, I agree.

    Then, I think you are asking, why bother going another step? Why look at that a bunch, and discover, say, that there are owners, coordinators, and workers – or women and men, or different races, or disabled and abled, or tall and short, or whatever else you might want to highlight and give a name? The answer is, you would to it to focus attention and to ease communication, and not have to start from scratch over and over – on the one hand, and in the case we are talking about, to identify group actors, not just lone individual ones.

    A physicist could say we look at the clash and jangle of tiny little entities in context of certain relationships that always hold – conservation laws, etc. True. Now why go on and name the entities – electron, photon, quark, gluon, and so on… Well, the reason, again, is that we see these similarities among some of the entities, and we find it is useful to be able to talk about all of a type, and is critical to pay attention to the relations of one type, and other types, and so on.

    A biologist identifies in the complex mass that is humans, but then examines further and sees lungs, heart, kidney, even circulatory system, say, and gives each a name. This is to allow amassing information about each, and their relations, to easily communicate about it all, etc. But the biologist does not give a name to the combination of wrist and knee. Each alone, yes, but not the two, together. Vein and capillary alone, but also together, and with much else, called the circulatory system. The reason is purely a matter of purpose. There is a massive complex whole – and looking at it at the first level you indicate, we tease out aspects, give them a name (that’s a concept) and then, having done so, we pay close attention to what we are highlighting and we can easily discuss and develop related claims, communicate quickly about them, and so on.

    Okay, back to society. Some think we should highlight economic institutions and then key constituencies (classes) that our examination of those institutions reveals. Why? Because, they must believe, paying close attention to them and their relations and dynamics (as compared to paying close attention to red heads or people who are left handed, or who are over six foot 5) makes sense and indeed is critical for purposes of acting to change society. Someone else might say, well, yes, but I think culture is also central and or polity and gender, and here is why I believe that, and in light of that, why I tease out, from the whole, other elements than just economic ones to pay close attention to.

    Now, does it matter? Well, here is but one example. Everyone who forms a workplace coop may well agree with you and feel they practice what you outline at the outset. They may even go a step further, and identify owners and workers. So they know they should have no owner and be non profit because they have analyzed institutions far enough to have that in their set of beliefs. But suppose they do not identify the coordinator class, it just isn’t a concept for them – they haven’t pinned a name on it, and analyzed the relations it has, and so on, and they do not have as part of their understanding that it arises from a corporate division of labor, and so they don’t decide to get rid of that, but instead they preserve it. Around the block a different bunch of workers, does have that concept, does have that understanding, and so institutes balanced job complexes constituting a new division of labor. Clearly, this matters.

    On a larger scale, a movement for ending poverty forms and develops a program. One decides to appeal to owners – they have the most power and wealth. Another decide to appeal to the coordinator class types. A third decides to appeal to working class folks, and to pressure the other groups. Very different.

    One movement says race and gender evidently concern people, but our concepts say they are just ancillary to race and to be efficient and effective we should understand them simply in relation to their effects on class unity, etc. etc. Others instead, conceptualize these and highlight aspects and so understand them in their own right, as well as in interconnection.

    OF course in a classless economy – an economy that has institutions which, whatever else they do, they do not generate classes and class rule – there can be other problems. Class analysis per se doesn’t deny that. What would deny that is a mindless – in my view – stance that says the economy causes all that matters, and a classless economy therefore leads to good in all respects, inexorably.

    You could have, for example, a classless economy in which ignorance of greenhouse effects leads to choices that doom humanity…at the extreme. Or one in which women are treated as subhuman, say.

    So the interplay of institutions approach you identify we can call top level, if you like. Then, however, we use it – wanting to see how society works in order to be better able to change it in directions we desire. So we do that and we learn things, and it turns out one thing we learn is that certain groups of people play a big role in historical trends, so we identify them and try to understand them, and then, if important, and it is, we add the new insights to our conceptual toolbox, if you will.

    Can ripping off other countries lead to some benefit not only for the very rich and powerful, but even for others in an imperial country? Yes. Sure. But not relative to having a better economy.

    Suppose the mafia runs your neighborhood. They give some very modest benefits to some subset of the population, but keep must of their plunder, themselves, of course. They create a climate of hate and fear. They block all kinds of beneficial approaches, and so on. Now, did the subset that got some fruits of their violence get that? Yes. Did they on balance benefit compared to a better situation, no? But additionally, should someone getting some benefit from the ravaging of others be appealed to first and foremost on the grounds that they could do better, some other way? Not really. I think their horrendous moral stance ought to, albeit carefully.

    But now consider another possibility. Take England’s relation to India. At the height of that colonial/imperial relation, some estimate that England spent two billion a year on maintaining the subservience of India, and remitted back to England only one billion. BUT – the two billion came from the general population, in taxes. The one billion went to elites, owners, etc. This extreme case is the more general situation. The population pays diverse costs that allow elites to rip off other countries – the broad population not only doesn’t benefit, it loses.

    #724609
    avatar
    Michael Albert
    Participant

    > I’m asking about the relative importance of the concept of class in analysing capitalism. For example for a pendulum we have to consider gravity or we get absolutely nowhere, but we can neglect friction for some important questions. For a Marxist class is like gravity, at least. I’m asking roughly if class can be thought of like friction once we understand the drive for profit and corporate power.

    Class, if we want to understand capitalism, is certainly of immense importance. You say you understand what I wrote – but I think that that recognition flows from it. I should say however, that I am personally not interested in understanding capitalism for the pleasure or insight of doing so – like I am invested in understanding gravity or natural selection for the pleasure or insight of doing so – but only to change the economy to something new.

    > Consider the statement “Corporations have to wreck the environment for reasons x,y and z,” an analysis that doesn’t say anything about class.

    But it isn’t actually an analysis, and if it becomes one, it will, even if only implicitly, be in part about class. That is, what are x y and z. Turns out for example, they are short time horizon as well as skewed prices arising from the functioning of markets, desirability of pawning off costs on others – for example, polluting rather than spending to not pollute, as well as other factors

    But now someone says, wait a minute, why markets, if they have problems – and why not regulate that. Why dump in a neighborhood – don’t they have the slightest human solidarity? It can’t be that everyone making decisions is a sadist, can it?

    The answer is profit seeking and maintaining the conditions of being able to accrue the profits. Who, is that? It is the owners. That is class. If you say it is joe the owner of company x, you have no generalization at all. Just an isolated observation, important, perhaps, for prosecuting joe if he broke a law, say, but not much else. Now if you say, well, Joe is an owner and his position in economic relations compels him with incredible force to behave thusly, as it does all owners – you have a meaningful observation. But it is also about class…not an individual.

    Suppose we ask, why does the government spend so much on military, so little on education, and a great part of that only on education for a small number, and so little on, say, welfare and unemployment insurance, and why is there so much opposition to these programs? Well again, this is hard to understand without taking into account implications for large constituencies – general patterns that pertain, and thus classes. Some kinds of government expenditures redistribute wealth down, other kinds up. More subtly, some kinds further empower those at the top, other kinds further disempower those below. The threat of being fired is a huge factor in weakening working people vis a vis employers. So if you reduce the potency of that threat – either with full employment, or with a very substantial safety net for those who are fired, the the threat to fire is weakened and the bargaining power of working people as a group rises, and then the distribution of the social product shifts more toward them. Does the government do so little for the unemployed because they are sadistic and callous to the individuals? Because they want to keep them in as much pain as possible. Or to avoid the implications that being humane would have, not specifically for those folks, but for the whole class? The latter.

    > It seems almost like a second order concern to say there’s a particular bunch of people that relate to these corporations and in whose interests all this is, in a way that it’s not for the janitors (constrained as they all are by the institutions they relate to). What does that analysis add?

    I don’t know what to tell you – if you don’t see it, I may not be able to convey it more than I already have. IF you have no general judgments about class, then in every workplace you have to assume the owner is just another nice guy and expect good behavior – if you do have a general understanding, then you know whether the owner is nice or not is beside the point. Suppose you are formulating a program – is it just neutral vis a vis owners and workers – and I would add coordinators in between – or do you want it to serve one, and not the others? If you don’t look at the circumstances of the groups – classes – you can’t really raise the question and certainly can’t discern what would serve one class as compared to another.

    > You could restate the quoted statement in a round-about way using class concepts (Mr Moneybags and all that) but that doesn’t prove the concept is the best one to use.

    What can I tell you – if you don’t like it, if it doesn’t seem to you to encapsulate insights that are of value and to point you toward paying attention to things that matter, don’t use it. But here is a little bet. If you were previously unfamiliar with parecon, I am betting you didn’t spend very much time when thinking about capitalism, much less how to change it, thinking about the nature of the relationship between doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. – and assembly workers, short order cooks, etc., much less the kind of organizational structures that produce those relations and divisions. I would argue that missing that relationship not only undercuts understanding how the system works, but even more so, critical issues of how it might be changed.

    I really could go on endlessly, but I don’t think it would help, if what is already offered doesn’t help. A concept – word – is just the name for something that you think is important to keep track of, keep your eyes on, understand the relations of, etc. Take people. Woman and man, are concepts. They are a step beyond just using the concept people. If we simply don’t have words for women and men, only people, we are quite unlikely to talk much, much less intelligently, much less strategically, about eliminating sexism – which would itself be hard to even notice. It is pretty analogous.

    With capitalist and worker concepts, practitioners see exploitation of a particular sort. But if they do not have the concept coordinator class – they are very likely to miss much of importance, or they may even be intentionally obscuring it Neocalssical economists, in service of capitalism, rarely discuss class, for that reason. Here is a big example of this kind of thing, on the left. There are many socialists who have the concept capitalist and worker, but not coordinator. So they think there are really just, ultimately, two types of economy. One in which capitalists rule. Another in which workers rule, but more accurately, there are simply no longer classes, on only one, workers. Okay, in that case, what was the old Soviet Union. Their answer: Some would say socialism – meaning worker rule. Some would say capitalism meaning owner rule. Some would realize each was problematic, and say it was state capitalism, or deformed socialism, and so on. Now, having the concept coordinator, one might take a look with that concept in hand and a conceptual inclination to pay close attention to it, and say, well, wait, maybe this is neither capitalism or socialism, but, instead, an economy that the coordinator class rules. Indeed, a perceptive which leaves out coordinator class as a concept – might be making an honest mistake, or might be obscuring reality in the interests of coordinator class rule.

    > This often seems to be the case with the most important things that come up as an anticapitalist. Can you point to something that can only be explained with the capitalist class concept, or explained much better with it?

    I think there are a great many things, and, again, if nothing I have already said works for you, and nothing here does it, then I think nothing will, honestly. It is certainly true one can dispense with the word, just as one could dispense with the word electron. Then, two possibilities. One keeps talking about the exact same content, just not using the word, but instead, constantly using a paragraph or two of description to be sure people know what you are referring to, or perhaps using a different word, or, instead, one simply doesn’t talk about the same content at all. For example, very few marxist leninists talk about coordinator class power and program.

    > Individual campaign contributions?

    Notice the word individual – class isn’t about individuals, though it give us a framework to understand much individual behavior, after the fact, or to even predict with high probability. It is about trends for a large group… shared interest of a large groups, common circumstances of a large group. If you want to know how Koch donates, I guess you research him. If you want to know, on average, how owners donate, you have to be able to discern who fits the category, and to be able to talk about them. A particular one may deviate from what the analysis says most will do. But, unless the analysis stinks, most will not deviate.

    This reply from you has made no reference to my last answer. It is hard for me to know why that is, or why if you didn’t agree with what I wrote, that was true for you.

    > Personal affinity between the big players in the corporations?

    If I want to understand Joe or Sue, I should talk to or research Joe or Sue. But if I want to understand, more generally, the relations between, say, owners, and high officials and managers and such, and either or both and assembly workers – how each typically views the others, how each is remunerated, what powers they have, and so on – and how a movement might speak compellingly about it all to the workers, then I think understanding class plays a huge rule. If you don’t, so be it.

    > The ease with which mobs of rich students can be motivated by big capital to fight workers, in Venezuela or 19th century Britain? These don’t seem that important compared to the quoted statement above, more like friction than gravity.

    I don’t know what statement above you have in mind, but this type of material is very very far from unimportant to issues of social change. It may in fact be pivotal, there and in many places. What can one say to young people, or provide them, to prevent that kind of attitude from taking hold? Well, what is it about their view of society, and people in it, that leads to that type of view? These are class issues – and, indeed, I would suggest more about coordinator class aspirations than capitalist class aspirations, and are far from unimportant to working for social change. On the other hand, if you want to understand what ingredients are needed to produce rubber, say, or even why carbon spewing is problematic for the planet, then, yes, they are secondary, if that.

    > As another example, is class a necessary concept to give a good reason to fight against capitalism?

    Nope. But it is a necessary concept to do it well, and to have a chance of winning a new economy that is classless…

    > Ask a Marxist for such an argument and it’s all bourgeois this and proletariat that. To me it hardly seems necessary to explain class in order to give such an argument. It seems like you can come up with pretty good reasons just by talking about the bad effects of the drive towards profit and the power wielded by big conglomerations of capital, and so on.

    Sure. So? This is true, but honestly not relevant to your overarching question.

    > The fact that it elevates certain classes over others need not come up as a root cause of the problems.

    Let’s try a different tack – why don’t you want it to come up? You seem to agree that it identifies something that really exists. That is one reason, by the way, to dispense with a concept – if it refers to something unreal, dispense with it. Plogiston…was like that. Another reason is it just has no real utility – it doesn’t point us to something that really matters greatly for our agenda. Okay that is what you seem to think about the concept class. No point to have as a concept, class, capitalist, worker, coordinator – and who knows what else – because they don’t have utility for our agenda, trying to change the world and to communicate with others about doing so, etc. But, they do have great utility…

    > Do you think that’s valid or is class more important than I am painting it here, and if so how?

    What I feel is that I already answered, and now have done so again, and you have, honestly, as best I can tell either not heard what I offered before despite presumably looking at it, or you simply rejected it all but without addressing it, or ignored it. Whichever it is, it doesn’t give me any basis to continue, other than to repeat myself.

    > My motivation comes from arguing about co-ordinator class concepts with Marxists. You can’t get started because there is so much baggage around the concept of class for them: how can co-ordinators rule if their interests don’t align with the development of productive forces… how can co-ordinators be a class when it says classes always have such and such a property in volume 3 of Capital..?

    What they are doing is, of course, defending an ideology with out the slightest inclination to actually address what is being said. For them, their identities, years of their practice, are at stake, and defending that trumps reasonably understanding and responding. Very many people suffer this at various points, probably all of us – doing it and encountering it. But it in no way indicates that class concepts are useless, rather that a kind of political fundamentalism is counter productive. And, indeed, for this example, I was say class may well be very helpful to understand it. The resistance to thinking seriously about the idea of the coordinator class can itself be a manifestation of a class agenda – that of the coordinator class. Or it can just be attachment to a heritage…

    > Countering this set me thinking about what exactly I *should* think about class, if I want to reject what they are saying and propose some other analysis (easier than unravelling the tangled yarn-ball of ideas they are referencing, which seems to have no beginning and no end to me despite many attempts).

    Well, if you want to understand the framework that is bugging you, I can certainly give you references, etc. But, honestly, at some level, why bother. Instead, develop your own view, test it, become adept with it.

    Interesting what you say about costs and benefits of imperialism in India — can you remember a reference (or maybe vague reference to a reference)?

    I am afraid not, sorry…

    #724619
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    Joe H
    Participant

    Maybe I’m just writing in a confused way. First I said something like, well can’t we often think about what corporations generally do, and how people inside them act in the light of the institutional relations they have to the corporation, rather than start from class. You say, well as soon as you take that line of thought anywhere useful you *are* talking about class, because those relations separate people into classes and that has everything to do with how the corporations act. That’s class analysis. So the choice I was posing doesn’t make any sense.

    That looks right; I was being unclear. I vaguely had in mind on the one hand (a) “things that corporations do” as a result of the relations that define them, which admittedly has a great deal to do with class, and (b) “things that a capitalists do” other than the things they do directly through corporations i.e. anything they do that can’t be reduced to (a). Even this division isn’t even very clear cut I guess. It seems to me like the latter was a bit like “friction for the pendulum.” E.g. for your example of downward pressure on welfare we can talk about the capitalists doing it, but it seems like they are almost always acting through the corporations (and subsidiary bodies like business roundtables etc.) to do so, so this is (a). For a clear example of (b) I pointed to angry rich students who may not have any direct relation to a corporation at all (you’re right, this kind of thing can be much more important than I painted it).

    Most of the important dynamics seems to be (a) to me. At this point though I think I was just confused, because I can no longer see why this distinction is that crucally important…

    #724620
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    Michael Albert
    Participant

    The distinction does matter – but not quite in the way you were indicating. Class is not something that exists on its own, rooted in genetics say, or chemistry. Classes arise due to the economic structures people engage with to produce, consumer, allocate. If you just focus on classes, then once you have said workers and capitalists – and now you don’t look at the underlying institutions but just use those concepts – you will never notice that, whoops, there can be, and indeed is, another key class – the coordinator class.

    Institutions, and the interaction with people, are at the root of it. That you are certainly quite right about. Class emerges. But then classes – groups that have circumstances such that the members have similar interests and often even similar values and ideas, and at times most importantly, shared actions and agendas, are critically important. And we don’t have to return every time we talk about and think about social relations and dynamics, to the causes of classes, etc. Sometimes we take them as a given, many of whose features we understand, and reason in light of those. Just like we do, other times, with underlying institutions like, say, markets or corporate divisions of labor, and so on. But thinking that because classes are results means we don’t need a concept for each, and we don’t need to assemble insights about each and their relations – that doesn’t make sense. It would be a bit like saying, because a cell phone, or anything else (like, say, a kidney) is a result, and dependent on dynamics of a deeper sort (electromagnetic theory, bio chemistry, etc.) we don’t need to have a label for cell phone or kidney, and to amass knowledge about them so we can talk about and think about their properties, without having to return to the deeper level. And, there is another element – some of their properties don’t owe to the deeper level, or could not be discerned at that level, because they arise from the cell phone or kidney in particular context which give them additional attributes, and ditto for classes.

    Again, we opt to label something a concept, with a name, to highlight it as something to pay attention to, and to amass an understanding of its features and relations to other things, and be able to talk about it, etc. For purposes of trying to change the world, class is something to highlight – whereas red headed person, “redson,” is not…

    #724636
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    Joe H
    Participant

    Thanks, that clarifies matters. I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but here is another question that inspired some of this.

    Ernest Mandel has an article called “Why The Soviet Bureaucracy is not a New Ruling Class” which is the clearest expression of the orthodox Trotskyist view I could find. The substantial point behind this is that “Stalinism, the victory of the bureaucracy in the Soviet Union, is the result of partial defeats of world revolution.” I.e. we anti-capitalists don’t have to worry too much about bureaucratic rule, it will take care of itself. He argues that we shouldn’t call it a new class because it’s not stable in the way the owning class is, and would be swept aside without much trouble by workers in the absence of outside pressure. Why is it not stable? Well, as opposed to capitalists who have an interest in expanding production, which perpetuates the system and reproduces their class, the interests of the bureaucrats get in the way of production and destabilise their own position. In the end they wouldn’t be able to reproduce themselves in the face of worker opposition. With outside pressure they might slide back to capitalism (which happened after he wrote this). So let’s not bother calling them a class.

    He has lots of other points and I can guess some of the answers you might give to many of them. What do you think about the argument paraphrased above? Roughly, don’t bother putting so much stress on “bureaucracy” or “co-ordinatorism”, whatever you want to call this group they’ll be a push-over after we deal with the owners. Their rule is a transient thing and not to be compared to stable economic systems. I guess you think that (a) a less bureaucratic, more desirable system could have been achieved in the USSR even without world revolution if more anti-captialists of the time had recognised the problem, (b) even with world revolution we might get stuck with co-ordinatorism. Now, (b) seems to entail that you think such a system wouldn’t immediately implode, that they wouldn’t be a push-over. Why do you think that, if so? Do you have an opinion on how stable that system could be or what would happen afterwards if not? It’s difficult to see how we could know that given the state of our understanding (which I think Marxists sometimes overestimate).

    #724642
    avatar
    Site Administrator
    Participant

    Apologies, but I real am pressed so I will answer a bit briefly..

    In the old Soviet Union – at the time of the revolution, there was a rather small and weak coordinator class. So the political elite from the Bolsheviks was running both the economy and the state. That is what has been called Stalinism, rather like fascism being a political elite running the state and economy, with owners still receiving profits.

    It caused people to look at that elite and call it a bureaucratic – meaning, I think, essentially, political product.

    The discussion you point to refuses to even entertain that in the economy there can be a structural basis for a class, the coordinator class, which can even be the ruling class. Once you rule that out – not having any concepts with which to even think such thoughts – you are left with explaining the problem in that social system as just a political feature. And, if you also believe economics dominates politics, then you come up with his notion that you report – the problem is temporary – though one wonders why, for those who thinks society is built upon economic relations and forces, there is no effort to find economic factors even in part responsible for the Soviet outcome.

    I think what you relay is all way off the mark. First, a dictatorship, the political problem, doesn’t have to be so temporary, itself. That is just a kind of economics will have its way formulation. There is an element of truth to it in this case, however, because the collapse of the system was likely largely due to all kinds of elites feeling they would be better off with a transformation toward capitalism…

    Second, there can be an economically based class – the coordinator class, dominating an economy, the thing Mandel seemingly can’t even contemplate.

    And finally, even if the coordinator class is relatively week, in some case, and the political elite is quite strong and impedes the living standards of that class, the possible outcomes are a more democratic coordinatorist result, or reversion to capitalism, or moving on toward a participatory and classless result, but that it was reversion that occurred undercuts sen the notion that it is okay to pass through this arrangement. In China, indeed, the highly authoritarian state persists, plus economic reversion.

    I agree that certain combinations are unstable – certain – and indeed, there is a sense in which pretty much everything is… but that just doesn’t say much.

    But mainly there is a whole additional dimension, far more relevant in the west, just completely left out. That is, the difference between the coordinator class and the working class is such that some modes of organizing and organization elevate the former, some the latter – and those that elevate the former, unlike in the old Soviet case, or China, etc. etc., are unlikely to get enough allegiance in the west to accomplish much of anything, due to working class skepticism or outright hostility.

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