Capitalist economic theory seems pretty accessible, seeing as it's taught in schools and found in the business section of the local newspaper. It's pretty easy to be familiar with the models and theories, the curves and graphs and efficiency and all that.
I've long found myself agreeing with radical left critiques of capitalism (wage labour being bad, inequality being bad, corporate control of political decision-making, etc), but have been hesitant to move from progressive welfare liberalism to socialism because, unlike capitalist theory, which consists of models demonstrating how it maximizes efficiency, I am not familiar with any socialist models or theories that demonstrate that an optimal allocation of scarce goods is possible.
Von Mises seems to have demonstrated that central planning is doomed to fail because the lack of price signals means producers have no information about how much to produce. However, I've never been a fan of central planning or authoritarian socialism anyway, and have more anarchistic sympathies.
Is there literature on how decentralized socialism could work well? What should I read? I only have vague inkling about the existence of mutualists, syndicalists, the Parecon, etc., but I know nothing about the systems they advocate and how those meet the challenges of socialism. Any good texts?
If you want to get into Socialism, read the Communist Manifesto if you haven't already. Socialism is a lower form or Communism. That will give you the most correct foundation. You need the philosophical foundation to give meaning to the economics.
From there I recommend reading Socialism: Utopian and Scientific. And finally Das Kapital (or just Capital, depending on your version) for the actual marxist economics.
Hypothetically you could skip Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, but Das Capital is not a beginners text (assuming you are a beginner). You can read it without Socialism or the Manifesto of course, but reading all three should yield the best understanding
Most important thing is that you read from the original sources, Marx and Engels. Everyone has their own interpretation, so get yours from the OG's
Most "casual" Marxists, and specifically Social Marxists (whom I dislike) generally haven't read any of the texts. Just pick it up listening to others. So at this point I have low expectations. But any interest in reading the texts is a great thing and should be nurtured
This book does a good job of showing why any economics, capitalist or socialist, that is ultimately reducible to simple numbers cannot possibly capture the social fabric we live in.
Socialist economics, basically by definition, cannot be as rigorous as capitalist economics, even if capitalist economics are wrong. Hell, Marx's crowning glory as an economist was an analysis of capitalism, not socialism.
All that said, here's the best attempt I've seen: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2012/12/the-red-and-the-black/
Hey I might not be a Marxist. I might stay a conventional social democrat. Or be a non-Marxist socialist. That's why I gotta read the stuff to find out what arguments are sound.
I didn't start with Smith, because I felt typical micro- and macroeconomics courses covered by bases for that stuff, but I'll check him out too, now, I guess.
Let me use this thread to ask another question.
I know that the gap between theory and practice is one tough to bridge and there are many theories on that, but I'm curious about something regarding that subject.
Marx said somewhere in the manifesto about the expansion of the guilds as a precursor of private property and capitalism (or something like that, I don't remember that well)
That means, assumedly, that looking back he probably saw that development as a more important economic development than any of the criteria the people who lived to see this process judged "prosperity" by.
If that's the case, shouldn't marxists be more concerned about the development of technology and corporate arrangement that can maybe start seeding the way to socialism? They seem, instead, more worried about the "overall" economic development which I don't see point in. Capitalism can only lead to more capitalism.
Economic theories aren't models of capitalism, they are models of markets. The only part that models capitalism specifically is investment models, because that's what capitalism is.
Economic models do not show, or attempt to show, that "capitalism maximizes efficiency". What would that even mean, lol. Economic models are just simplified systems to help explain market behavior and market phenomena.
If worker cooperatives and credit unions became more common than publicly traded and privately owned firms (in other words, if there was a socialist economy) then economists would simply have to create models to describe, predict, and explain the behavior of those institutions and of whole markets given their dominance. And they would stop caring about investment models because they would no longer be relevant. Those are the only changes necessary. And a socialist market would be efficient or inefficient for pretty much the same reasons that a "capitalist" (with private firms) market would be efficient or inefficient.
"capitalism vs socialism" isn't about competing economic models or theories, it is about morality and how the institutions in society should be structured. Economic models just describe markets as they are, GIVEN the way that society is structured, and they are not quite as innately ideological as you make them out to be.
I've got another question about socialism, which will probably reveal my superficiality a bit...
So, seeing as a socialist system would probably cut a lot of the cruft that capitalism produces, like all the money going into marketing and meaningless product differentiation and whatnot, would a socialist economy not have very diverse products?
I mean, I LIKE some of that meaningless product differentiation. I like this brand of footwear better than that brand because of the styles they make, for example. Will a socialist economy just have functional "boots" for everybody, instead of me being able to get this particular style of chelsea boot I like, for example?
I'm guessing it depends on whether it's centrally-planned by a government producing as many widgets as citizens need, or if it's just a bunch of artisans making whatever it is they like making and putting their own stamp of creativity on it because nobody controls their work.
The latter scenario sounds like it'd mean more product differentiation... but how would these producers know how much of what to produce to allocate goods efficiently? What if a lot of people enjoy making boots, but nobody enjoys making oven mitts?
According to Marx culture, ideology, etc are functions of the material conditions of society. Socialism will only be possible after a capitalist economy has become advanced and the material conditions of society have become conducive to it. Therefore the industrialization of the third world and the integration of the entire world into the globalized capitalist system is a necessary prerequisite.
>Capitalism can only lead to more capitalism
Marx disagreed with this explicitly. He thought capitalism contained the seeds of its own destruction; the entire project of Capital is to explain exactly how. He would say very much the opposite: that capitalism can only lead to socialism.
Since the marignalists, a common assumption to microeconomists (and, to a lesser extent, in most macroeconomic theories) is that markets tend towards allocatively efficient equilibriums.
I appreciate you sticking up for economics as a positive science, but functionally for the most part it's still very much normative, very much contains the assumption that markets are always better (or, even more deeply that "markets already exist" and other bureacracies or processes just hide them).
Economics as it is taught in high school and college classrooms very much teaches that the profit motive drives the economy and suggests that without it nothing would work or happen.
Oh, I think I see where I've conflated "market" with "capitalism." I assumed that capitalism was simply "the economic system with privately-owned firms and consumers operating in markets,"
Durning-Krugar effect. I know so little that I don't even know what I don't know yet.
>a common assumption to microeconomists... is that markets tend towards allocatively efficient equilibriums.
Yeah, this is one thing that never sat well with me, either.
I get the definition of "efficient" that they are using (lowest average cost, no way to increase one party's gains without decreasing another's), but it always bothers me how econ profs are always like "this group of people below this curve are the ones who don't value the good high enough to buy it at the equillibrium price," and I'm going "who cares about what they 'value' it at if the 'good' we're looking at is food and they're all fucking hungry?"
They make it sound like a bunch of homeless people are going "$4.99 for a taco? No sale, bucko. I prefer starving."
>Economics as it is taught in high school and college classrooms very much teaches that the profit motive drives the economy and suggests that without it nothing would work or happen.
Well, we would certainly have trouble without profits. But what is easier to explain, that less profits=bad or dense, philosophical theory on what could replace it and still function or function better (keep in mind profit is very, very easy to show and make concrete)? Sure, you could argue that this is wrong and just forwards the Capitalist agenda but by the time you take that one trivial course in high school your public education is already fucking you over. Might as well brush it off as a Wittgenstein ladder and move on. Chances are the socialist/communist revolution won't happen in our life time.
I had assumed that the ideas Smith pioneered are what's taught in basic economics courses these days, so I didn't figure that I needed to read it. But it sounds like reading it will be useful to me after all.
Okay the thing is really long, and you could probably glean all the historical use out of it from Book V, but at the very least read Book V, which is indeed an ancillary book to the epic monolith that sprawls years of economic activity.
If it is, it's a Wittgenstein's ladder that lots of adults later repeat unchallenged. There's a thread somewhere else on here about the term "fiscal conservative"--a term used pretty much entirely by people with an Econ 101-level understanding of the economy who wield their minimal knowledge like a dull cutlass. A huge amount of the discourse on economics in the US comes from people who describe themselves as "realists" or "practical" but are basing their opinions essentially on something that is only true in pure theory-land.
Also, for what it's worth, I'm not a communist or revolutionary, something more like a basic income socialist, or libertarian socialist, something like that.
Yes, I agree. One thing introductory economics consistently glosses is that money in a capitalist economy is the ability to demand, and that without the ability to demand, you're functionally not part of the market. I recommended the Graeber book above and I really think that's about the best work on economics from the left in the last few years, but I also liked Nitzan and Bichler's "Capital as Power," which another anon recommended here, and which does a much better job than I just tried to do examining the "ability to demand" in a capitalist economy.
>Capitalist economic theory seems pretty accessible, seeing as it's taught in schools and found in the business section of the local newspaper
I worry sometimes which kind of stupid is going to wipe half of us off the planet again, but never if.
Socialism is by definition centrally planned and authoritarian. There is no decentralized socialism. Why not read something that isn't retarded to cure yourself of your progressiveness?
>Not the proles. All of us. Either we reach Socialism or capitalism drives us back into barbarians
well the thing is socialism is really an asymptotic state: we will never reach it and 'anarchy' is not for tomorrow, unless occurrence of a major event.
The final stage of Communism might be utopian, but Socialism is pretty possible. (the final stage being where no government is required, and no human must work unless they choose to. i.e. Utopia)
I don't understand the relevance of anarchy here, why did you bring it up? No sarcasm, I literally don't understand
That large occurrence is the revolution. That's what it would take. You need that radical shift in order to entirely change the structure of a government
Whats wrong with market socialism? Capitalism sucks, but it's pretty obvious that markets are the best means for distributing goods, and that central planning and parecon are ridiculous and not going to work.
Also 'A Future for Socialism' could be what is useful for you to read here's another review:
The problem is encapsulated by quotes in >>6034409 A Future for Socialism review by
>'A Future For Socialism makes – and I believe proves – a bold thesis. It argues that a socialist economy is entirely compatible with prosperity, innovation, and consumer satisfaction – just as long as by “socialism”, you mean “capitalism”.'
ah good, Slate Star Codex posts. barely 100 words in and he starts making grand pronouncements about what "everybody knows" without anything to back them up. thank you for helping me open, then close two tabs, and remember why I don't read Mencius-Moldbug-for-slightly-less-retarded-people.
>I don't understand the relevance of anarchy here, why did you bring it up? No sarcasm, I literally don't understand
I assumed that barbary was synonym to anarchy . What do you call barbary ?
People in this thread are giving me cancer. The central tenet of Orthodox Marxism aren't Marx's empirical claims but his dialectical materialist model for understanding capitalism as a social totality that produces a society, not just an economy. A social economics can't exist until the capitalist totality is destroyed. Viewing the realm of freedom from the realm of necessity is impossible because our thought is conditioned by the reification of commodities.