Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Neoliberals, Liberals, Progressives, Social Democrats, and Democratic Socialists

I guess this is a post on current events in the United States. Some articles I have recently found interesting are:

I take it socialists want to work towards a society in which, "The free development of each is the condition for the free development of all" (Karl Marx). The idea is that each person should be able to develop their talents to the fullest extent possible, both for their own sake and to contribute as much as possible to society. This is a Christian idea as well, put forth in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25, verses 14-30).

I think traditional conservatives do not agree. They think the vast majority must be consigned to nasty and grubby grunt work. Only those at the top can flourish. Neoliberals put forth a vision of personal development which I find narrow and stilted. In neoliberalism, everybody is an investor developing their human capital for validation by the market. If you have a skill that does not pay - too bad. You wasted your time. For more on this, see Wendy Brown's Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism's Stealth Revolution.

Somewhere in here I should probably say something about meritocracy. Also, if one wants to look for authoritative Marxist-Leninist accounts of the distinction between socialism and communism, one might look at Marx's private letter, Remarks on the Gotha Program, or Lenin's State and Revolution. But these documents are not what this post is about, since they do not seem relevant to why debates on the post topic are current events.

A crucial question, I think, is whether capitalism could ever be a society in which the free development of all is possible. Social democrats say, "Yes". They think the cruelties of capitalism can be tamed with a generous enough welfare state. One might say, they want a capitalism with a human face. Democratic socialists think not. They want to eventually move beyond capitalism.

I do not see that social democrats and democratic socialists need disagree on immediate, short term programs. Such a tactical coalition can include progressive and liberals. I was curious that none of those three articles linked at the top mentioned Eduard Bernstein. Sure, Otto Von Bismarck created many elements of the first welfare state, as a reactionary response to growing worker power. One might also mention Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, on the rights and duties of labor. But Bernstein's Marxist reformism - "The movement is everything, the final goal is nothing" - is also important in considering the historical origins of social democracy and democratic socialism.

I was annoyed with Wilentz's suggestion that those further left than him have forgotten John Maynard Keynes. Keynes was historically and globally important in designing the post war Bretton Woods system, a system that brought general prosperity for three decades. For national and international policies, Gunnar Myrdal, Michel Kalecki, Nicholas Kaldor, and Joan Robinson had some influence. Myrdal and Kalecki came to their Keynesianism independently of Keynes.

Where democratic socialists want to go when transcending capitalism is not exactly clear. I do not see that they need to agree. Developing sovereign wealth funds; developing Universal Basic Income (UBI) programs; and supporting labor unions, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), and workers cooperatives are elements of a program fairly radical for these barbaric times.

Update (14 July 2018): A Nicholas Colin article in Medium. There's probably a lot more on-topic current articles.

1 comment:

Emil Bakkum said...

What is your opinion about the economic theory of property rights? Notably about the role of the shareholders for the evaluation of the value of the firm?