On The Content of Socialism II

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Lazy Riser
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Nov 13 2006 19:59
On The Content of Socialism II

Hi

http://libcom.org/library/on-the-content-of-socialism-ii-socialisme-ou-b...

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This enterprise is the plan factory. Its central workshop will, to start with, probably consist of a computer whose "memory" will store the technical coefficients and the initial productive capacity of each sector. If "fed" a number of hypothetical targets, the computer will "produce" the productive implication of each target for each sector (including the amount of work to be provided, in each instance, by the "manpower" sector).

Bless. After all, it was 1957. It’s difficult to be a fan of Castoriadis’s “Plan Factory” model, it’s difficult to believe it was novel even at the time other than in its specific reliance on computers.

Maybe it shouldn’t be taken too literally. The underlying point is that planning is primarily a technical discipline that does not require a bourgeois clique to apply its superior entrepreneurial skill. The extrapolation of automating “strategic” management decisions and the application of technology to manual labour is bound to give rise to large numbers of people who are not required to work, and hence do not participate in a Workers’ Council. Castoriadis admits that such councils won’t be the only organs of power, and he begrudgingly recognises the drive to shorten the working day and that his own work ethic may not represent the will of population as a whole. The whole “equal hourly wage” business is a bit of a non-starter, for, amongst other reasons, Castoriadis fails to decide how professions might be allocated under such a scheme. Perhaps it’s not too far-fetched to think it would sort itself out.

The more concrete a suggestion, the easier it is to criticise. A flawed line in the sand, but a line nonetheless. A bit like Dr Johnson’s dog.

Its severe weakness is that throughout its long-windedness there is not one clue as to what meaningful action might be taken in order to develop toward its goal.

Love

LR

lem
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Nov 13 2006 20:03

I thought it was OK. He goes off on one on how to decide which tools should be made. Fascinating.

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Lazy Riser
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Nov 13 2006 20:16

Hi

Fascinating indeed. I can never work out how to draw the line between objects which qualify as consumer goods and those which constitute productive machinery. Computers for instance.

Love

LR

afraser
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Nov 13 2006 22:26

Thanks for bringing that article to our attention.

Notice that Castioradis is proposing using the market to determine production of consumer goods. See "The Market for Consumer Goods" section:

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Planning decisions therefore ... will not delve into the detailed composition of this consumption. ... Socialist society will have to regulate the pattern of its consumption according to the principle of consumer sovereignty, which implies the existence of a real market for consumer goods.

However, he fails to resolve the contradictions between that and his central control, especially in holding wage rates identical for all workers in all factories. A central plan is to dictate to factories what to produce, how much of it to produce, at what timescales to produce, how much input materials to consume, how many workers to employ, the length of the working day, and the wage rate. That doesn't seem to leave much for the actual workers councils in the factories to decide on. You are left wondering: why bother with factory councils at all? Wouldn't those be left with being just (at best) what trade unions are in capitalist factories today? And how do factories then know to respond to price fluctuations in Castioradis' consumer goods market?

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Nov 14 2006 19:59

Hi

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And how do factories then know to respond to price fluctuations in Castioradis' consumer goods market?

The Good Lord only knows. Maybe he just didn’t think it through. We both know the theory is fixable, I don’t know why he didn’t see it himself.

Love

LR

posi
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Nov 17 2006 18:45
Lazy Riser wrote:
We both know the theory is fixable, I don’t know why he didn’t see it himself.

Humour me.

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Lazy Riser
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Nov 20 2006 20:31

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Quote:
Humour me.

Only if you promise not to snigger. Before debugging Castoriadis, one must decide whether or not we want what Castoriadis wanted. His model may solve his political problems, but I’m not sure it solves mine.

Castoriadis wrote:
Taken together, these measures mean the abolition of economic coercion and constraint in production—except in the most general form of "those who do not work do not eat" —as a form of discipline externally imposed by a specific coercive apparatus.

Adam Smith’s particular spin on the meaning of existence. Castoriadis was of the same psychological predisposition I reckon, and their political extrapolation is onerous precisely because it is founded on this cranky work ethic.

Having said that, I’m satisfied that products and services could be moved between the competitive market and the strictly planned (“unmarketed”) sector by citizens’ initiative under Castoriadis’ model. Perhaps he’s relying on the same direct democracy to fix the rest of his economic model for him, otherwise I’m afraid the realm of necessity may be both lengthy and austere.

Maybe I’ve got this wrong, it seems Castoriadis suggests neighbourhood councils should allocate jobs to the otherwise unemployed as required by the Great Computer. The complications that ensue as Gargantu-Brain juggles job descriptions in order to attract candidates at the standard terms and conditions are beyond computation, and leave us in the realm of the Balanced Job Complex and other solutions looking for a problem. The very unattractive and chronically lazy will have to be imprisoned or declared “disabled”, assuming the incapacitated get to eat at all.

Contrary to Castoriadis’ founding principles, reduction of the working day is key. Many prefer short bursts of onerous work interspersed by hedonistic pleasure to drawn out life-integrated-careers of mildly stimulating routine. As such the workers themselves should determine professional terms and conditions when applying to the Neighbourhood assembly for capital to fund an enterprise. This reverses the direction of planning altogether, with enterprises collaborating by advertising demand and either buying or building based on the state of the art. To enable this, given the vagaries of demand and technological advance, in addition to any “wages” the workers in an enterprise choose to draw whilst in employment, the Assembly should grant people a universal income untied from labour. The Federation of Neighbourhood Assemblies would have wide powers to redeploy capital and issue fiat currency, set prices and ensure a good supply of housing and other staple goods and services.

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…or Great Britain (where, inversely, the main problem would be that of the country's extreme dependence on food imports).

Tell us about it.

Love

LR

kronstadt
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Nov 20 2006 21:33

Good thread.

Funny, cause I'm currently reading "The Castoriadis Reader." He's a writer I've been meaning to read for a while - along with Socialisme ou Barbarie-related stuff.

To be fair to Castoriadis, he does state [in "An Organ of Critique and Revolutionary Orientation"] that immediate and practical necessities of class struggle (at the time, 1949) led Socialism ou Barbarie to review its revolutionary outlook. Thus rejecting Marxist dogma - concluding that "without *development* of revolutionary theory, no *development* of revolutionary action." This might be a favourable reading (and "Content of Socialism II" was written almost 10 years later), but it wouldn't seem that Castoriadis' wouldn't set his theory in stone, rather, it would need to be revised and developed with the practicalities of class struggle and action. I read it as a general prescription, rather than a blueprint.

Anyways, I'm not to familiar with this stuff so I may be way off. Besides, I'm also a little uneasy about the use of the market for consumer goods.