Anarchism / Marxism debates

Brett Knowlton brettk at
Wed Aug 18 18:10:05 PDT 1999


>but a question to those advocating planning as integral to
>marxism/communism: doesn't this assume that the problem with capitalism
>is the anarchic character of its production decisions? but, is it
>anarchic? surely, the aim of production in a marxist conception is
>surplus value -- not very anarchic there. and, without holding fast to
>this, isn't there the danger of transforming our versions of communism
>into a planned capitalism? a very real danger, i would think.

It is very difficult to argue this kind of thing - the terms are too loaded. Someone says "planning" and right away most people have preconceived notions which jump to the fore and which make discussion difficult.

First of all, production decisions in a capitalist system are _not_ anarchic (in the sense of being compatible with anarchist principles). I think you mean chaotic. Anyway, capitalist institutions are bad, but not because of the invisible hand (people doing their own thing with little outside direction). They are bad because they lead to outcomes like wealth and income inequality, which lead to social division and corrupt the political process, even if it is nominally democratic. They are bad because they are rife with externalities, ususally reinforcing selfish and anti-social behavior by under estimating the costs of goods and services which are consumed by individuals, and over estimating the costs of public goods. And so on.

The whole point of Albert/Hahnel (and perhaps other) blueprints is to devise institutions which will _prevent_ these kinds of perverse outcomes.

Finally, there is this insistence on calling these kinds of blueprints "utopian." Why are they utopian? Because they haven't been implemented yet? If that's the case, then we should abandon any socialist hopes we might have since socialism (or libertarian socialism at any rate) has never existed. _IF_ it is possible to have a socialist society, how can theorizing about what it might look like be utopian a priori? This makes no sense to me whatsoever.


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