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7

Socialism for Realists

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sketching out how a utopian economic system would work. co-ops, co-determination, etc. goodreads:

Sam Gindin highlights the utopian possibilities of socialism and delves into the weeds of what systems could be necessary to manage production in a way that is democratic and equitable without sacrificing too much efficiency.

Gindin, S. (2019). Socialism for Realists. Jacobin, 7, pp. 7-46

21

At the heart of finding a way to manifest social property is the tension between planning and markets. In this section we insist that that this is not a matter of planning versus markets but of discovering creative institutional mechanisms that structure the proper place of planning and markets. Marx rightly argued that praising the voluntary and efficient nature of markets apart from the underlying social relations in which they’re embedded fetishizes markets. But markets are also fetishized when they are rejected as an absolute and treated as having a life of their own independent of those underlying relations. The place of markets under socialism is a matter of both principle and practicality — and dealing creatively with the contradictions between the two. Some markets will be banished under socialism, some welcomed, and some reluctantly accepted but with constraints on their centrifugal antisocial tendencies.

markets to plan for things that are not essential i guess? for goods that are rival and excludable?

tbh im having a hard time seeing why that would be better than a more planned or publicly-funded system. a voucher system would be better than a market in most places, even though the mechanism is similar, purely because markets reify inequality

—p.21 by Sam Gindin 1 year, 6 months ago

At the heart of finding a way to manifest social property is the tension between planning and markets. In this section we insist that that this is not a matter of planning versus markets but of discovering creative institutional mechanisms that structure the proper place of planning and markets. Marx rightly argued that praising the voluntary and efficient nature of markets apart from the underlying social relations in which they’re embedded fetishizes markets. But markets are also fetishized when they are rejected as an absolute and treated as having a life of their own independent of those underlying relations. The place of markets under socialism is a matter of both principle and practicality — and dealing creatively with the contradictions between the two. Some markets will be banished under socialism, some welcomed, and some reluctantly accepted but with constraints on their centrifugal antisocial tendencies.

markets to plan for things that are not essential i guess? for goods that are rival and excludable?

tbh im having a hard time seeing why that would be better than a more planned or publicly-funded system. a voucher system would be better than a market in most places, even though the mechanism is similar, purely because markets reify inequality

—p.21 by Sam Gindin 1 year, 6 months ago
23

Markets will be necessary under socialism. But certain kinds of markets must be unequivocally rejected. This is especially so for commodified labor markets. The argument runs as follows. Planning — the ability to conceive what is about to be constructed — is a universal characteristic of human labor: “What distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality.” A core critique of capitalism is that the commodification of labor power robs workers of that human capacity. Individual capitalists plan, capitalist states plan, and workers as consumers also plan. Yet in selling their labor power to get the means to live, workers as producers surrender their planning capacities and human potential to create. This original sin of capitalism is the foundation for the broader social and political degradations of the working class under capitalism.

Yet the question of reallocating labor remains and, if workers are to have the right to accept or reject where to work, this implies a labor market of sorts. But this would be a labor market of a very particular, limited, and decommodified kind. Based on the need to attract workers to new sectors or regions, the central planning board would set higher wages (or more favorable housing and social amenities), adjusting them as needed if the workforce falls short. Within the wage framework set by the central plan, the sector councils could likewise raise wages to allocate workers across workplaces or into new ones. Workers could not, however, be fired nor lose work through competitive closures of workplaces and should there be a general shortage of demand relative to supply, demand could be stimulated or worktime reduced as the alternative to the creation of a reserve army to discipline workers.

i like the model in the dispossessed better, but ofc that assumes a workforce that has been trained to be socially responsible even at individual cost

—p.23 by Sam Gindin 1 year, 6 months ago

Markets will be necessary under socialism. But certain kinds of markets must be unequivocally rejected. This is especially so for commodified labor markets. The argument runs as follows. Planning — the ability to conceive what is about to be constructed — is a universal characteristic of human labor: “What distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality.” A core critique of capitalism is that the commodification of labor power robs workers of that human capacity. Individual capitalists plan, capitalist states plan, and workers as consumers also plan. Yet in selling their labor power to get the means to live, workers as producers surrender their planning capacities and human potential to create. This original sin of capitalism is the foundation for the broader social and political degradations of the working class under capitalism.

Yet the question of reallocating labor remains and, if workers are to have the right to accept or reject where to work, this implies a labor market of sorts. But this would be a labor market of a very particular, limited, and decommodified kind. Based on the need to attract workers to new sectors or regions, the central planning board would set higher wages (or more favorable housing and social amenities), adjusting them as needed if the workforce falls short. Within the wage framework set by the central plan, the sector councils could likewise raise wages to allocate workers across workplaces or into new ones. Workers could not, however, be fired nor lose work through competitive closures of workplaces and should there be a general shortage of demand relative to supply, demand could be stimulated or worktime reduced as the alternative to the creation of a reserve army to discipline workers.

i like the model in the dispossessed better, but ofc that assumes a workforce that has been trained to be socially responsible even at individual cost

—p.23 by Sam Gindin 1 year, 6 months ago
24

On the other hand, who can imagine a socialism without a marketplace of coffee shops and bakeries, small restaurants and varieties of pubs, clothing stores, craft shops, and music stores? If the underlying conditions of equality are established so these markets are about personal preferences not expressions of power, there is no reason to be defensive about welcoming them. It is when we turn to the commercial activities of workplace collectives that the role of markets takes on their greatest, and most controversial, significance.

—p.24 by Sam Gindin 1 year, 6 months ago

On the other hand, who can imagine a socialism without a marketplace of coffee shops and bakeries, small restaurants and varieties of pubs, clothing stores, craft shops, and music stores? If the underlying conditions of equality are established so these markets are about personal preferences not expressions of power, there is no reason to be defensive about welcoming them. It is when we turn to the commercial activities of workplace collectives that the role of markets takes on their greatest, and most controversial, significance.

—p.24 by Sam Gindin 1 year, 6 months ago
29

Closing the performance gap between workplace collectives would especially be reinforced by significantly centralizing research and development (though some might still be workplace specific) and sharing the knowledge across the sector rather than seeing it as a private asset and source of privilege. As well, regular sectoral production conferences would take place to share techniques and innovations, cross-workplace exchanges would be facilitated to learn best practices, and teams of “fixers,” including both engineers and workers, would be on call to troubleshoot particular problems and bottlenecks in workplaces and among suppliers.

yes!!

—p.29 by Sam Gindin 1 year, 6 months ago

Closing the performance gap between workplace collectives would especially be reinforced by significantly centralizing research and development (though some might still be workplace specific) and sharing the knowledge across the sector rather than seeing it as a private asset and source of privilege. As well, regular sectoral production conferences would take place to share techniques and innovations, cross-workplace exchanges would be facilitated to learn best practices, and teams of “fixers,” including both engineers and workers, would be on call to troubleshoot particular problems and bottlenecks in workplaces and among suppliers.

yes!!

—p.29 by Sam Gindin 1 year, 6 months ago
33
  1. Guaranteeing full employment, universal access to necessities, and a living income.
  2. Setting the relationship between present and future consumption through determining the share of GDP to be allocated to investment and growth.
  3. Allocating investment to sectors and regions, which they in turn reallocate within their respective jurisdictions.
  4. Generating the revenue for its activities.
  5. Curbing impediments to society’s solidarity and equality goals not only across individuals/households but across workplace collectives, sectors, and regions.
  6. The constant development, through educational institutions and at work, of popular functional skills and democratic and cultural capacities.
  7. Governing the pace of decommodification through the distribution of expenditures between collective and individual consumption.
  8. Regulating the production-leisure trade-off by influencing the share of productivity that goes to producing more vs producing the same with fewer hours of work.
  9. Enforcing the stringent adherence to environmental standards, with the state ownership and pricing of resources, as well as allocation of investment, being critical here.
  10. Navigating the relationship with what will likely still be a predominantly capitalist global economy.
—p.33 by Sam Gindin 1 year, 6 months ago
  1. Guaranteeing full employment, universal access to necessities, and a living income.
  2. Setting the relationship between present and future consumption through determining the share of GDP to be allocated to investment and growth.
  3. Allocating investment to sectors and regions, which they in turn reallocate within their respective jurisdictions.
  4. Generating the revenue for its activities.
  5. Curbing impediments to society’s solidarity and equality goals not only across individuals/households but across workplace collectives, sectors, and regions.
  6. The constant development, through educational institutions and at work, of popular functional skills and democratic and cultural capacities.
  7. Governing the pace of decommodification through the distribution of expenditures between collective and individual consumption.
  8. Regulating the production-leisure trade-off by influencing the share of productivity that goes to producing more vs producing the same with fewer hours of work.
  9. Enforcing the stringent adherence to environmental standards, with the state ownership and pricing of resources, as well as allocation of investment, being critical here.
  10. Navigating the relationship with what will likely still be a predominantly capitalist global economy.
—p.33 by Sam Gindin 1 year, 6 months ago
36

Followers of von Mises similarly foreclosed the possibility that entrepreneurship could take place in a variety of institutional settings. Yet even under capitalism, the history of technological breakthroughs was always about more than a series of isolated thinkers suddenly seeing lightbulbs flash above their heads. As Mariana Mazzucato has shown in her detailed study of some of the most important American innovations, it is the state that is in fact “willing to take the risks that businesses won’t” and “has proved transformative, creating entirely new markets and sectors, including the internet, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and clean energy.”

This is not to imply that a socialist state will inevitably be as innovative as the American state has been, but rather that greed need not be the only driver of innovation. Dynamic efficiency can also come from socially concerned scientists and engineers given the resources and opportunity to address society’s needs, as well as from mutual cooperation within worker collectives and the interactions of workplace committees with their suppliers and clients. Even more important, socialism can introduce a flourishing and far broader social entrepreneurship focused on innovations in how we live and govern ourselves at every level of society.

yes!!!!

—p.36 by Sam Gindin 1 year, 6 months ago

Followers of von Mises similarly foreclosed the possibility that entrepreneurship could take place in a variety of institutional settings. Yet even under capitalism, the history of technological breakthroughs was always about more than a series of isolated thinkers suddenly seeing lightbulbs flash above their heads. As Mariana Mazzucato has shown in her detailed study of some of the most important American innovations, it is the state that is in fact “willing to take the risks that businesses won’t” and “has proved transformative, creating entirely new markets and sectors, including the internet, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and clean energy.”

This is not to imply that a socialist state will inevitably be as innovative as the American state has been, but rather that greed need not be the only driver of innovation. Dynamic efficiency can also come from socially concerned scientists and engineers given the resources and opportunity to address society’s needs, as well as from mutual cooperation within worker collectives and the interactions of workplace committees with their suppliers and clients. Even more important, socialism can introduce a flourishing and far broader social entrepreneurship focused on innovations in how we live and govern ourselves at every level of society.

yes!!!!

—p.36 by Sam Gindin 1 year, 6 months ago
38

[...] Intuitively, it is a stretch to assert that a social system with a wide range of goals of which the development of the productive forces is only one, will surpass a society consumed by the singularity of that goal. The incentive-egalitarian balance highlights that trade-off. And if we accept that the path to socialism will involve sacrifices and choices all along the way, including in its construction, then winning people to the socialist cause and keeping them there will have to be based on their desire for something different rather than the questionable promise of socialism bringing not only more justice, more democracy, more workplace control, but also more growth.

The point is that the notion of “efficiency” is contested terrain. For capital, unemployment is a class weapon functional to enforcing working-class discipline; for socialists it represents an unambiguous waste. Accelerating the pace of work is a plus for corporate efficiency, a negative for workers. Time spent in democratic deliberations is a non-value-added cost for capitalist employers, a priority for socialists. Reducing hours of work for full-time workers is, for capitalist employers, a Pandora’s box not to be opened; for workers it is a principle reason for improving productivity. What defending socialism demands isn’t efficiency comparisons with capitalism, but whether a society structured to address the full and varied potentials of all its inhabitants can, on its own terms, also be reasonably efficient in coordinating its activities; advancing the development of new technologies, products, and forms of democratic organization/administration; and freeing up the capacity to labor so it can be applied to other human pursuits.

i love everything about this

—p.38 by Sam Gindin 1 year, 6 months ago

[...] Intuitively, it is a stretch to assert that a social system with a wide range of goals of which the development of the productive forces is only one, will surpass a society consumed by the singularity of that goal. The incentive-egalitarian balance highlights that trade-off. And if we accept that the path to socialism will involve sacrifices and choices all along the way, including in its construction, then winning people to the socialist cause and keeping them there will have to be based on their desire for something different rather than the questionable promise of socialism bringing not only more justice, more democracy, more workplace control, but also more growth.

The point is that the notion of “efficiency” is contested terrain. For capital, unemployment is a class weapon functional to enforcing working-class discipline; for socialists it represents an unambiguous waste. Accelerating the pace of work is a plus for corporate efficiency, a negative for workers. Time spent in democratic deliberations is a non-value-added cost for capitalist employers, a priority for socialists. Reducing hours of work for full-time workers is, for capitalist employers, a Pandora’s box not to be opened; for workers it is a principle reason for improving productivity. What defending socialism demands isn’t efficiency comparisons with capitalism, but whether a society structured to address the full and varied potentials of all its inhabitants can, on its own terms, also be reasonably efficient in coordinating its activities; advancing the development of new technologies, products, and forms of democratic organization/administration; and freeing up the capacity to labor so it can be applied to other human pursuits.

i love everything about this

—p.38 by Sam Gindin 1 year, 6 months ago