Fri, 22 Oct 2004 03:15:38 -0500
Mozilla Thunderbird 0.6 (Windows/20040502)
A world with no compulsion to work, relative egalitarianism throughout
the world, institutional practices and cultural practices that support
this, general freedom and human flourishing all around, and I don't have
to clean up my room no more! Sign me up. I think we disagree when you
say this is possible under capitalism. You might want to run your plan
by a capitalist or two and get his/her opinion.
Also, I agree with Alex that capital is based on the separation of
people from their means of subsistence. Capital is not identical with
the means of production. It is not a pile of stuff or money. It is a
social relation. What you describe (a world of petty producers) is
utterly and completely incompatible with capital.
I also have a strong sense of your TINA arguments. You first set up
'bad' capitalism with 'bad' versions of socialism, and then further
denigrate Michael Albert's participatory scheme. None of your arguments
are convincing to me. You just flat out state that central planning is
bad, and that PARECON will seemingly inevitably evolve into central
state planning. To this you posit a vision of a world of petty producers
with a non-central state system of institutions that will forever
maintain world egalitarianism. Thank god you didn't oppose one
utopianism with another, and instead kept your feet firmly planted on
the ground of the real world.
brian turner wrote:
>> liberal myths put forth in China. How is it possible
>> to have a "relatively equal distribution of capital"?
> Again, I'd say you are partaking in some of the
> There have to be institutional practices, cultural habits,
> rules/regulations, taxes/spending or other conditions that don't lead
> to concentration of capital. There are historical examples of this,
> at least not extreme concentration. Whether this is good or not is a
> debate question, but I think it's clear egalitarianism (or avoidance
> of extreme concentration) is possible under various institutional
> arrangements, either socialist, mixed, capitalist.
>> Capitalism is founded upon the separation of people
>> from their means of subsistance so that all they have
>> to sell is their labour power.
> That is the aspiration of some, and in certain contexts forces push
> that way. In other contexts the process is counteracted by other
> forces or deliberate policy choices.
>> Without this
>> separation (in which two classes are constructed)
>> there can be no capitalism.
> Fair enough, but then what label would you give to a bunch of small to
> smallish-medium private proprieters with relatively equal capital
> holdings, no market power for any one, all interacting in markets?
If everyone in the world is a petty-producer, then socialism. If there
is still wage labor, private property, etc., then capitalism.
> You might say that's just a stage that would lead to concentration,
> but what if policy choices are deliberately made to counteract it?
> Again, I'm not expressing a preference. (Though I have mine).
I think the consensus is that what you are talking about is not a stable
formation, even if it could ever be realized in the form you mention.
Concentration (in terms of ownership) and thus a return to capitalism is
one option. A move towards communism would be the other.
>> This process is called
>> primitive accumulation or the accumulation of
>> dispossession (see David Harvey on the last term). If
>> there is a "relatively equal distribution of capital"
>> there is no capitalism, for there are no dispossessed
>> workers that have to sell their labour power; ...
> Workers might choose to sell their labor power for reasons other than
> survival desperation. In mty view of a just society, such would be
> the case nearly always. Maybe they are risk averse and prefer a
> steady wage to the up and down of being a sole proprieter or partner
> or member of a co-op. Maybe they don't want to put in the number of
> hours necessary for that, etc.
If they could do something else other than sell their labor power, then
they would cease to be workers, and become petty producers.
> thus, there is no productive process to invest in ...
> Why not?
>> ...and extract surplus value from.
> They can't make a profit by adding value to raw materials or providing
Categorical awareness please?
How can there be profit if we are all petty producers and are selling
our own products? Profit implies that the value of our sold goods is
greater than our costs, which in this case would be our reproduction
costs. But how can we know our reproduction costs when we are also the
direct consumers of whatever goods we can purchase from the direct sale
of our labor? Reproduction costs assume that labor has already been
alienated from the means of production and is dependent on a wage. Only
then can we know the average reproduction costs of labor (the wage), and
thus have a residual from the sale of commodities: profit. If we just
consume all the stuff we get via the sale of our produced goods, where
is the profit?
If we allow individuals to work hard (or through some other less
scrupulous means) and accumulate use values and turn them into means of
production via employing others, then capital would indeed be back in
town, and the category profit would have validity again. The category
of profit is unintelligible in the (socialist) utopia you posit. We
would have to alienate ourselves and start paying ourselves wages.
But other places in your post you allude to a 'wage', and thus the
existence of capitalists even though you say there is no compulsion for
workers to sell their labor. They must have an alternate means of
subsidence. Let's look a little more carefully at how profit could
emerge from this system. First, for profit to exist, there would have to
be surplus value, and thus an inequality between labor and labor power.
But we're already assuming that there is a wage, and thus capitalists
only have to pay the reproduction costs of labor, and not their true
value (that is, the value of the labor embodied in the commodities). If
workers only produced enough to reproduce their labor, then there would
be no profit. If they produced more, then they would be donating effort
to the capitalist for nothing in return. It's hard to see why workers
with their independent means of production would submit to this regime.
How could there be justice if this was generalized in your utopian
society? And if they own their own means of production, then they can
maintain the same level of consumption and work less! They have no need
to work for a boss! If this is a democratic and egalitarian society, why
would workers willingly engage in unequal exchange if they have recourse
to another means of subsistence? Whence profit in a truly democratic and
Putting aside the apparently thorny question of how we create a world of
egalitarian petty producers, there's also the problem of how prices
form, how the cooperation of labor should operate within large-scale
industrial and knowledge processes that operate at a global scale if we
are all own-account petty producers. Also, do we remunerate reproductive
labor, or only labor that is valorized in the sale of commodities via
the market? Shall the market be left to determine the relative prices of
> Depends on what you are asking. TINA to what?
I think Alex was referring to your idea that there is no alternative to
liberal democratic capitalism. The beef is with the last term. I (and I
think Alex) find it an utterly and irreconcilably contradiction with
freedom. You don't. We disagree.