Re: T.I.N.A.?

From "Sun Wukong" <>
Date Fri, 22 Oct 2004 07:41:38 +0000

Brian wrote:

>Perhaps where we'd disagree is I think TINA to markets (not necessarily 
>capitalist markets as you see and 
>augmented--are applicable to all sorts of institutional arrangements).  
>Central planning is an alternative to markets, but not really a desirable 
>one as an overall system (for parts of the economy, sure).  The alternaties 
>to BOTH central planning and markets is hazy territory indeed.  The only 
>sincere attempt I ever read is the PARECON idea (participatory economics, 
>Michael Albert).  I agree with one socialist author who called that idea 
>"quite mad".  That system would surely evolve into something very similar 
>to central planning, unless you want to spend your whole life in meetings 
>arguing with your fellow countrymen about why you should be allowed to have 
>a new t-shirt this month.

Brian, you touch on a topic of particular interest to me. A lot of radicals 
shy away from this kind of logistical question-- for some very good reasons, 
such as the practical need to focus on interpreting and contributing to 
really existing social struggles, and the relative futility of sketching 
blueprints for ideal social arrangements that we have no power to put into 
practice. But David Schweickart and others have pointed out that there is a 
very real political need to convince people logistically that "another world 
is possible". He has developed the most convincing model of an alternative 
"market socialism" that I have seen-- he calls it "economic democracy", and 
he argues that it is truly "socialist" as opposed to mixed economy models 
because all means of production are owned collectively by the whole society 
and contracted out to groups who run enterprises that compete in a market. 
See _Against Capitalism_ for the long version, _After Capitalism_ for the 
short; for the very short, see his article in _Market Socialism: The Debate 
among Socialists_, edited by Bertell Ollman. This last book is a collection 
of articles by four Marxist theorists, two pro-market and two pro-plan, who 
pose their models, then write critiques of each other's models, and finally 
respond to the critiques. I personally found Bertell's critique and defense 
of the planned economy pretty convincing, but I'm trying to remain open to 
new arguments. A very different approach to the question is Sharryn Kasmir's 
ethnography of the Modragon Cooperative Corporation (_The Myth of 
Mondragon_, in which she argues that workers' ownership does not necessarily 
abolish capital-- that in the context of a capitalist market, in Marx's 
words, workers "become their own collective capitalist" (Capital Volume 3, 
Chapter 27), and that, moreover, this is not just a theoretical curiosity, 
but a real problem with concrete consequences for workers. I actually wrote 
some notes on this, if you're interested:

But, like I said, I'm far from settled on this question and eager to hear 
new perspectives. One constellation of perspectives I'm just beginning to 
grapple with is what, for simplicity's sake, we might call autonomist 
schools, including anarcho-syndicalists like the IWW, council communists 
like herman gorter and paul mattick, the italian new left (itself a diverse 
constellation of perspectives), as well as what we might call neo-anarchists 
(or neo-utopian socialists?) like michael albert (i think you're right to 
point out its impracticality, although the anarchists retort that they 
already practice a form of parecon on their communes, and that its 
practicality as a general model only depends on people's willingness to 
follow their example). Not that these models don't have problems, but i 
think it's worth studying them. If you're interested, here are some links:

I note that you still have some faith in not only the market, but even a 
reformed version of the capitalist market. I'd like to turn this problematic 
over to some of the more learned radical scholars on this list, but my 
abbreviated spiel is that Keynesianism failed historically because, even 
though the capitalist classes compromised with workers for a few decades, 
they remained in a position of power (can you have a capitalist class that 
is not in a position of power?) so that it has been pretty easy for them to 
violate that compromise through their power to tighten the economy and 
create recessions, crack down on organized labor, etc. Another direction 
from which to critique Keynesianism is a world systems approach-- to point 
out that the relatively high standard of living enjoyed by what Mao called 
the "labor aristocracy" came (& necessarily comes, according to Marxist 
theory) only at the expense of the hyper-exploitation of other workers, 
along with the "accumulation by dispossession" (Harvey) of people who 
previously enjoyed "substantive economies" (Polanyi) or "natural economies" 
(Luxemburg). According to Luxemburg, when there's no one left to dispossess, 
capitalism faces a fatal crisis, and that may be what we're facing today, 
and that may also be a factor underlying the state of permanent war we seem 
to be entering (I've heard that Hardt & Negri deal with this in _Multitude_; 
more traditional Marxists are calling this the transition to "barbarism"). 
For more along these lines, I highly recommend _The New Imperialism_ by 
David Harvey. (I assume you've read Bob Weil's _Red Cat, White Cat_ for an 
excellent critique of Dengist "market socialism" that also has implications 
for the market in general. Schweickart has his own critique of this book, 
but I still tend to agree with Bob.)

I don't want to sound over-confident-- if you know of some good responses to 
these critiques in defense of Keynesianism, pray tell.



Matthew Hale
ph.d. student
Anthropology Department
University of Washington
Seattle, WA 98195-3100

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