From Marx to the Market: Socialism in Search of an Economic System

From Marx to the Market: Socialism in Search of an Economic System

From Marx to the Market: Socialism in Search of an Economic System

From Marx to the Market: Socialism in Search of an Economic System

Synopsis

Distinguished economists Brus and Laski--who were involved with the Planning Office of the Polish economy in the 1950s and 1960s--here develop a theoretical system of economic management which avoids the failings of both market capitalism and central planning. This book examines Marxists claim to socialism's economic rationality and studies the application of the concept in the "real socialism" of Communist party orthodoxy as well as in the tentative attempts at "market socialism", particularly in Hungary and Yugoslavia. The analysis focuses on general features of the evolution of the socialist economic system, but national experiences are used to point out the advances that have been made and the flaws in the theoretical models that have been developed.

Excerpt

We have been prompted to produce this book by a strong desire to reappraise our stand with regard to socialism as an economic system. Each of us in his own way had been in the past fascinated by the apparent ability of a socialist economy to overcome the irrationality of capitalism on a macroscale--the coexistence of excess capital, excess labour, and unsatisfied wants. At first the possibility of combining this ability with microcconomic efficiency seemed to be only a question of time, and would allow the perfection of planning techniques and the full development of cooperative behaviour by the new socialist beings. When the dismal experience of the command system in our native Poland and throughout the Soviet bloc made us look for the prospect of reform after the mid 1950s, we still strove for a compromise solution, blending macroeconomic central planning with autonomy of market-regulated state enterprise. Subsequent continuous and careful observation of the tortuous reform process, including the Chinese one over the last ten years, brought us to the conclusion-not particularly original nowadays--that such a compromise was conceptually unviable, and that if marketization is the right direction of change it must be pursued consistently. In practice a tendency towards fully fledged market socialism began to manifest itself in the 1980s in most countries committed to economic reform.

The trouble with these conclusions and observed practical tendencies was, however, that they could not easily be accommodated within the same framework of socialist economics. They demanded--so we felt--a reconsideration of a number of fundamental issues against the background of a general survey of the main stages and aspects of the evolution of the socialist economic system. The results of this reconsideration are presented here--in a book the size of which conceals rather than reveals the amount of time and toil put into it by the authors. But this, of course, does not concern the reader, who will judge the product on its own merit.

Linz and Oxford September 1988 . . .

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