J.S. Mill: Progressive or Elitist

JKSCHW at aol.com JKSCHW at aol.com
Mon Jan 31 21:25:46 PST 2000

In a message dated 00-02-01 00:00:33 EST, you write:

<< Yes, Justin, you could read him as a market socialist -- but I am not sure that

it would be true to his vague writings. Smith also wrote about why employers

would have to be nice. So did Alfred Marshall.

Mill says: "The form of association, however, which id mankind continue to improve, must be expected in the end to predominate, is not that which can exist between a capitalist as chief, and workers without a voice in the management, but the association of the workers themselves on terms of equality, colectively owning the capital with which they carry on their operations, and working underr managers elected and removeably by themselves." (Principles IV, 7.5)

That doesn't strike me as particulatly vague. It's at least as precise and explicit as anything in Marx. And if it' not market socialism, it will do till that comes along.

> But none of them -- and Keynes too -- would have anything to do with workers'

control of any kind until they became properly bourgeoisfied. Slave owners used

the same logic. These are children. Once they mature, we can give them more

rights. >>

Actually, in the same passge, Mill goes on to discuss how the workers themselves will reject the idea that "their natural anfd legitimate state [is] to be instruments of production" and can escape from wage labor by setting up cooperatives where they are also the owners. "It is hardly possible to take any but a hopeful view of the prospects of mankind when . . . the osbcure depths of society contain simple working men whose integrity, good sense, self-command, and honirable confidence on one another have enabled them to carry these noble experiments . . . ." After a while, when coopeartives proliferate, "it is not proabble that any but the least valuable work people will any longer consent to work all their lives for wages merely."

Now we may dispute whether cooperatives could push out capitalsit enterprises and why this has not happened. But the picture is not consistent with the idea that Mill thinks there will be no progress without enlightement of the ignorant by the bourgeois thinkers, who msut hold the reins until that time. Sure, he thinks that the workers will come to manifest bourgeois virtues ("increase of intelligence, of education, of the love of independence among the working classes . . . attended with a corresponding growth of good sense which manifests itself in provident habits of conduct" [he means contraception]). But is that wrong and are those bourgeois virtues not rael virtues? Are they not conditions of any scheme of worker;s self-managenent, planned or market?


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