Why Market Socialism? Voices from Dissent

Why Market Socialism? Voices from Dissent

Why Market Socialism? Voices from Dissent

Why Market Socialism? Voices from Dissent

Synopsis

A collection of essays on market socialism, originally published in Dissent between 1985 and 1993. Among other topics, they take issue with the traditional view that socialism means rejecting the use of markets to organise economic activities, and question the reliance upon markets.

Excerpt

Irving Howe once said that socialism is the name of our desire. Today it is also the name of our disappointment and (sometimes) our despair. Socialism conjures up both states of mind because it has come to mean two things--the achievement of a transformed society in which we would all like to live, and the struggles to go beyond the limits of the society in which we do live. I shall call the first image Socialism with a capital S, and the second, socialisms with a small s at each end of the word.

These are not propitious times to speak of Socialism. The collapse of the Soviet Union, however much socialists have always distanced themselves from that regime, haunts the object of our desire, and is likely to do so for a long time. Perhaps in the end, that collapse will have a salutary effect because it teaches us that Socialism is still beyond the reach of our practical capabilities--perhaps even of our imaginations. In the shorter run, the effect is not likely to be so salutary. As we might expect, many conservatives have already drawn the conclusion that all efforts to plan an economic system are doomed to disaster, forgetting the planning that keeps capitalism off the rocks. Worse, even liberal-minded reformers tend to believe that the very idea of socialism, however small the initial letter, has died along with its grander vision.

I think that defeatist conclusion is wrong. If Socialism remains an elusive object of our desire, there is nothing elusive about the Capitalism that is the object of our concern. Socialisms of the kind with which this book is concerned represent efforts to find where bound-

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