Monday, October 29, 2018

Robert Paul Wolff — SOCIALISM?

One of the Anonymati [Anonymouses? Anonymice?] asks that I write a critique of the oh so sober, serious analysis of socialism, complete with charts and graphs, produced by the President’s Council of Economic Advisors....

I have read the Executive Summary of the report and scanned through the report itself, but I do not intend to take issue with it, and my reason for not doing so is the real subject of this post. Let me begin by reminding you that Karl Marx, who wrote 5000 pages, more or less, on the history, anatomy, laws of motion, and mystified ideology of capitalism, wrote maybe 50 or 60 pages, if that, about socialism. It was not a lapse in memory on his part. He had a reason for not writing about how socialism would work, and that reason is the very heart of his economic and historiographical theory.

Marx believed that just as capitalism had developed slowly, organically, within the existing socio-economic system of feudalism, so too the social relationships of production appropriate to socialism would develop within the structure of capitalism until the contradiction, as he called it, between the two would produce a revolutionary transition. Socialism would not come about as a result of manifestos, or theoretical analyses, or counter-cultural utopian experimental communities. Rather, the inner development of capitalism itself would create the new social relations of production out of which socialism would emerge. In effect, capitalists themselves would be the gravediggers of capitalism....
The Philosopher's Stone
Robert Paul Wolff | Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts Amherst

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In what follows, I propose to take as my text a famous statement from Marx’s A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy1—a sort of preliminary sketch of Das Kapital2—and see what it can tell us about the capitalism of our day. I shall try to show you that Marx was fundamentally right about the direction in which capitalism would devel- op, but that because of his failure to anticipate three important features of the mature capitalist world, his optimism concerning the outcome of that development was misplaced. Along the way, I shall take a fruitful detour through the arid desert of financial accounting theory.
Here is the famous passage, from the preface of the Contribution, published in 1859:
No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed, and new, higher re- lations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society.3
Robert Paul Wolff, "The Future of Socialism"35 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 1403 (2012)

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In a slender volume edited by Heinrich Geisenberger “The Great Regression”, fifteen, among the most important left-wing social thinkers of today, ask the following question: what is the future of social-democracy now when global neoliberalism is crumbling and the forces of nationalism and xenophobia are on the rise? I would not be letting you in on a big secret, nor do I think I would undermine the book’s appeal, if I say that they do not have an answer; neither individually, not collectively. The reason is simple: the answer, as of now, is elusive, and it might even seem that it does not exist....
Global Inequality
What is to be done? Fifteen authors in search of a solution.
Branko Milanovic | Visiting Presidential Professor at City University of New York Graduate Center and senior scholar at the Luxembourg Income Study (LIS), and formerly lead economist in the World Bank's research department and senior associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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When we launched the Niskanen Center in January 2015, we happily identified ourselves as libertarians. Sure, we were heterodox libertarians, but there are many schools of libertarianism beyond those promoted by Charles Koch’s political operations. The school we identified with was a left-libertarianism concerned with social justice (a libertarian perspective that I’ve defended in debates with more orthodox libertarians here and here). That worldview lacked an institutional voice in 2015. Our ambition was to create a space for it and, in so doing, redefine what it meant to be libertarian in the 21st century.
 I have abandoned that libertarian project, however, because I have come to abandon ideology. This essay is an invitation for you to do likewise — to walk out of the “clean and well-lit prison of one idea.” Ideology encourages dodgy reasoning due to what psychologists call “motivated cognition,” which is the act of deciding what you want to believe and using your reasoning power, with all its might, to get you there. Worse, it encourages fanaticism, disregard for social outcomes, and invites irresolvable philosophical disputes. It also threatens social pluralism — which is to say, it threatens freedom.
The better alternative is not moral relativism. The better alternative is moderation, a commodity that is rapidly disappearing in political life, with dangerous consequences for the American republic.

My hope is that I might best convince you to leave ideology behind by holding up a mirror to an ideological culture that is likely not your own — the world of libertarianism — and discussing the reasons why I left it behind. I suspect that, for those who hold to an “–ism,” the ideological culture of my old world doesn’t look too terribly different from your own.
I do not aim here to settle old scores or to criticize friends and former colleagues. After all, the beliefs that I find wanting today are the very beliefs that I myself held for most of my adult life. I simply mean to put in stark relief the pitfalls of ideological thinking, to illustrate those pitfalls in the world I know best, and to make the case for something better...
Niskanen Center
Jerry Taylor

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What happens when the rising tide doesn't lift all boats.

Conversable Economist
Remembering Albert Hirschman's Tunnel Effect
Timothy Taylor | Managing editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, based at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota

1 comment:

Marian Ruccius said...

Major Typo: Albert not Alfred Hirschman

The tunnel effect is a version of the hiding hand, which, as Steve Keen once explained to me in a post, could be viewed as the public sector version of Schumpeter-Minsky's ponzi finance arguments. Tunnel effect = animal spirits