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Liberman, E. G. (1971). Economic methods and the effectiveness of production A. Schultz & L. J. Kirsch, Trans. White Plains (N. Y.): International Arts and Sciences Press, inc.  
Last edited by: Dominique Meeùs 2012-02-21 14:39:50 Pop. 0%
      What, then, is the difference between “market socialism” and capitalist private enterprise ? As far as can be judged from certain “models of market socialism,” the difference lies in the fact fact that enterprises belong not to private owners but to society through self-governing collectives of enterprises as independently operating subjects. Naturally, there are many variations of this “model,” but they are all basically the same : it is something in the nature of corporative or guild socialism, a reminiscence of anarchistic and syndicalistic ideas that were condemned in fierce debates when Lenin was still alive.
     Essentially, it is the latent or manifest assumption of the theory of “market socialism” that intrabranch competition and orientation toward the market automatically lead society to progress in production without the aid of centralized decisions.
     Western commentators tend to confuse such concepts as “attention to the consumer” and “orientation toward the market.” Outwardly they appear to be similar, but in actual fact there are enormous differences between them. Attention to the consumer is a task which entirely corresponds to the economic interests of people under socialism. It is not by chance that today, at a time when a powerful production apparatus has been created, more attention is focused on the production of consumer goods. In 1968, 1969, and 1970, the growth rates of consumer goods production began surpassing the rate of production of the means of production. At the same time, the share of output of Department I remains dominant in the structure of the gross social product.
     But we have a completely different attitude toward the principle of “orientation toward the market,” which is written on the banner of champions of “market socialism.” This is not so much a question of the satisfaction of and the continuous increase in the population’s needs as of somehow “facilitating” the conscious management of social production. To this end, it is proposed that reliance be placed on spontaneous market relations and collisions and that success be judged according to the degree of profitability of production and the volume of sales of any goods and services, which means following habitual, frequently perverted tastes inculcated by the petty bourgeois way of life.
     Such “orientation” requires nothing more than the study of current demand or, more accurately, obsequiousness to the more profitable directions of such demand. Centralized plans (except for discussion of “indicative” programs) are unnecessary and are therefore rejected. Nor is there any need for an apparatus to actively influence the volume and structure of consumption by means of scientific forecasting, industrial research, and introduction of the sale of totally new goods and services promoting the ever more complete and all-around development of man’s capacities.
     Orientation toward the market is a manifestation of the fear of failing to cope with the truly serious problem of planning production on a bilateral basis : to take resources into account, to make optimal use of them, and to master the achievements of the revolution in science and technology on the one hand, and to consider consumer demand and satisfy it maximally on the other.
     Socialism is a society of creators. In a twofold process, the forces of nature are mastered to an ever-increasing extent, and the human mind is more and more restructured, man’s alienation from society is eliminated, and his capacities are developed in every way.
     Orientation toward the market is the “socialism” of skeptics, of those who lack a deep belief in the creative strength of the working people. […] And this is precisely the orientation that is persistently propagandized by people attempting to undermine socialism from within.
Magdoff, F. (2011). Ecological civilization. Monthly Review, 62(8), 1–25.  
Last edited by: Dominique Meeùs 2011-02-22 15:16:13 Pop. 0%
      Capitalism is incompatible with a truly ecological civilization because it is a system that must continually expand, promoting consumption beyond human needs, while ignoring the limits of nonrenewable resources (the tap) and the earth’s waste assimilation capacity (the sink). As a system of possessive individualism it necessarily promotes greed, individualism, competitiveness, selfishness, and an Après moi le déluge philosophy. (*) Engels suggested that “real human freedom” can be achieved only in a society that exists “in harmony with the laws of nature.” (**)
     Although it is impossible to know what future civilizations will be like, we can at least outline characteristics of a just and ecologically based society. As a system changes, it is the history of the country and the process of the struggle that bring about a new reality. However, in order to be ecologically sound, a civilization must develop a new culture and ideology based on fundamental principles such as substantive equality. It must (1) provide a decent human existence for everyone: food, clean water, sanitation, health care, housing, clothing, education, and cultural and recreational possibilities; (2) eliminate the domination or control of humans by others; (3) develop worker and community control of factories, farms, and other workplaces; (4) promote easy recall of elected personnel; and (5) re-create the unity between humans and natural systems in all aspects of life, including agriculture, industry, transportation, and living conditions. An ecological society is one that will need to be the opposite of capitalism in essentially all aspects. It would: (l) stop growing when basic human needs are satisfied; (2) not entice people to consume more and more; (3) protect natural life support systems and respect the limits to natural resources, taking into account needs of future generations; (4) make decisions based on long-term societal/ecological needs, while not neglecting short-term needs of people; (5) run as much as possible on current (including recent past) energy instead of fossil fuels; (6) foster the human characteristics and a culture of cooperation, sharing reciprocity, and responsibility to neighbors and community; (7) make possible the full development of human potential; and (8) promote truly democratic political and economic decision making for local, regional and multiregional needs.

(*) Après-moi le déluge! is the watchword of every capitalist and every capitalist nation. Capital therefore takes no account of the health and length of life of the workers unless society forces it to do so. (Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1, p. 381.)

(**) Frederick Engels, Anti-Dühring, in Marx and Engels, Collected Works, vol. 25, New York: International Publishers, 1975, p. 106.
Meiksins Wood, E. (2002). The origin of capitalism: A longer view. Londres: Verso Books.  
Added by: Dominique Meeùs 2016-02-21 22:55:19 Pop. 0%
      Begging the question

Capitalism is a system in which goods and services, down to the most basic necessities of life, are produced for profitable exchange, where even human labour-power is a commodity for sale in the market, and where all economic actors are dependent on the market. This is true not only of workers, who must sell their labour-power for a wage, but also of capitalists, who depend on the market to buy their inputs, including labour-power, and to sell their output for profit. Capitalism differs from other social forms because producers depend on the market for access to the means of production (unlike, for instance, peasants, who remain in direct, non-market possession of land) ; while appropriators cannot rely on ‘extra-economic’ powers of appropriation by means of direct coercion —such as the military, political, and judicial powers that enable feudal lords to extract surplus labour from peasants— but must depend on the purely ‘economic’ mechanisms of the market. This distinct system of market dependence means that the requirements of competition and profit-maximization are the fundamental rules of life. Because of those rules, capitalism is a system uniquely driven to improve the productivity of labour by technical means. Above all, it is a system in which the bulk of society’s work is done by propertyless labourers who are obliged to sell their labour-power in exchange for a wage in order to gain access to the means of life and of labour itself. In the process of supplying the needs and wants of society, workers are at the same time and inseparably creating profits for those who buy their labour-power. In fact, the production of goods and services is subordinate to the production of capital and capitalist profit. The basic objective of the capitalist system, in other words, is the production and self-expansion of capital.


Meiksins Wood, E. (1991). The pristine culture of capitalism: An historical essay on old regimes and modern states. Londres: Verso Books.  
Last edited by: Dominique Meeùs 2016-05-31 19:34:22 Pop. 0%
      Yet there is more to the debate than this. Dobb and Hilton certainly depart from the commercialization model by situating the ‘prime mover’ in the countryside instead of in the town, and by focusing on class struggle between appropriators and producers instead of on the expansion of trade. But one critical assumption stays the same : capitalism emerges when the fetters of feudalism are removed. Capitalism is somehow already present in the interstices of feudalism, just waiting there to be released.
      …, like Dobb and Hilton, Brenner looked for a dynamic internal to feudalism. But here is the major difference between his approach and theirs : what he was explicitly looking for was an internal dynamic that did not presuppose an already existent capitalist logic.

Class struggle figures prominently in his argument, as it did in Dobb’s and Hilton’s, but with Brenner it is not a question of liberating an impulse toward capitalism. Instead, it is a matter of lords and peasants, in certain specific conditions peculiar to England, involuntarily setting in train a capitalist dynamic while acting, in class conflict with each other, to reproduce themselves as they were. The unintended consequence was a situation in which producers were subjected to market imperatives. So Brenner really did depart from the old model and its tendency to assume the very thing that needs to be explained.

Brenner’s explanation has to do with the very specific conditions of English property relations, and he emphasizes not just the specificity of Europe in relation to other cases but the differences among various states in Europe. In other words, the distinctive conditions that, for example, Michael Mann attributes to Europe in general in the Middle Ages are, for Brenner, not enough to explain the development of capitalism, or the specificity of the process of self-sustaining economic growth that emerged in England. In fact, his argument makes it clear that the dissolution of feudalism had more than one outcome in Europe — in particular, capitalism in England and absolutism in France, an absolutism that was not, as it was for Perry Anderson, simply a transitional phase in a more or less unilinear path toward capitalism.

In England, an exceptionally large proportion of land was owned by landlords and worked by tenants whose conditions of tenure increasingly took the form of economic leases, with rents not fixed by law or custom but responsive to market conditions. It could even be said that there existed a market in leases. The conditions of tenure were such that growing numbers of tenants were subjected to market imperatives — not the opportunity to produce for the market and to grow from petty producers into capitalists but the need to specialize for the market and to produce competitively — simply in order to guarantee access to the means of subsistence and to the land itself. This was in contrast to peasants, who, because they remained in direct possession of their means of subsistence, were shielded from competition and the compulsions of the market, even if they engaged in market exchange.

At the same time, landlords in England were also in a special position. Although they controlled a uniquely large proportion of the best land, they did not enjoy — and did not really need — the kinds of extra-economic powers on which, say, the French aristocracy depended for much of its wealth. The English ruling class was distinctive in its growing dependence on the productivity of tenants, rather than on exerting coercive power to squeeze more surplus out of them.

In other words, English property relations had what Brenner calls their own distinctive ‘rules for reproduction’. Both direct producers and landlords came to depend on the market in historically unprecedented ways just to secure the conditions of their own self-reproduction. These rules produced their own distinctive laws of motion. The result was to set in train a new historical dynamic: an unprecented rupture with old Malthusian cycles, a process of self-sustaining development, new competitive pressures that had their own effects on the need to increase productivity, reconfiguring and further concentrating landholding, and so on. This new dynamic is agrarian capitalism (which will be discussed in greater detail in Part II), and it was specific to England.

Although Brenner was clearly influenced by Dobb and Hilton, the diEerence between his argument and theirs should by now be clear. The operative principle in his argument is compulsion or imperative, not opportunity. If, for example, the petty commodity producer or yeoman farmer plays a major role here, it is not as the agent of an opportunity but as the subject of an imperative. Yeomen were typically the very kind of capitalist tenants who were subject to competitive pressures, and even owner-occupiers would be subject to those pressures once the competitive productivity of agrarian capitalism set the terms of economic survival. Both landlords and tenants came to depend on success in the market, as the former relied on the profits of the latter for their rents. Both had an interest in agricultural ‘improvement’, the enhancement of productivity by means of innovative land use and techniques, which often implied, among other things, enclosure — not to mention the increasing exploitation of wage labour.

In a sense, Brenner also answered Sweezy’s question about the ‘really revolutionary way’. The capitalist tenant in England was not just a petty producer who had grown into a capitalist. His specific relation to the means of production, the conditions in which he had access to land itself, in a sense made him a capitalist fiom the start — that is, he became a capitalist not just because he had grown to some appropriate size or level of prosperity, not even just because his relative wealth allowed him to employ wage labour (non-capitalist farmers even in the ancient world were known to employ wage labour), but because his relations to the means of his own self-reproduction from the outset subjected him, together with any wage labourers he may have employed, to market imperatives. 

Mireaux, É. (1954). La vie quotidienne au temps d’homère. Paris: Librairie Hachette.  
Last edited by: Dominique Meeùs 2011-05-28 20:50:49 Pop. 0%
      Ce grand changement a son point de départ dans le développement rapide, à partir du milieu du 8e siècle, du commerce maritime et de la colonisation hellénique le long des côtes de la Méditerranée.
     Il affecte d’abord la corporation des charpentiers.
     […] Le maître charpentier est désormais avant tout l’homme de la construction navale.
     Or, la possession et la construction d’un vaisseau sont privilèges de la richesse et de l’aristocratie, lesquelles se confondent dans la cité homérique.
     Seuls les riches aristocrates sont à même de recruter dans leur domesticité ou leur clientèle les équipes de bûcherons et de tâcherons qui iront dans les forêts de la communauté, couper, préparer, transporter les bois qu’il faudra ensuite laisser sécher sur le chantier pendant une année au moins. […]
     Ces exigences matérielles ne sont pas les seules. Il en est d’autres, d’ordre politique. Dans la cité homérique, les vaisseaux appartiennent à qui les a fait construire, mais ils ne sont pas une propriété exclusivement privée. Tout propriétaire de navire est tenu de le mettre, le cas échéant, à la disposition de la cité sur décision de l’assemblée du peuple. On lui fournit alors l’équipage dont il a le commandement. Tout armateur a donc, de par sa fonction même, rang de chef et de magistrat. Ce ne peut être qu’un membre de l’aristocratie. […]
     Ce qui est certain, en tout cas, c’est que la possession et l’armement d’un navire sont réservés, en général, aux gens de la plus haute classe. Le temps est venu où dans les cités maritimes en pleine expansion, à Milet, par exemple, à Corinthe, à Chalcis, à Mégare, à Égine, celle-ci se constitue en une aristocratie privilégiée d’armateurs, organisateurs de chantiers navals.
     La vieille corporation des démiurges charpentiers, si honorée dans le plus ancien passé, descend ainsi progressivement au rang d’une profession de mercenaires au service du capitalisme grandissant.
      Une évolution analogue se dessine dans le domaine de la métallurgie et dans celui de la poterie, mais elle s’effectue dans un sens un peu différent. Les deux corporations anciennes ne sont pas absorbées par le capitalisme nouveau. Mais, à côté de l’artisanat traditionnel, grandit rapidement la concurrence de plus en plus puissante d’exploitations plus vastes qui travaillent en grande série. Les raisons de la transformation sont ici d’ordre commercial.
     Dans la métallurgie du bronze, l’approvisionnement en matières premières devient de plus en plus précaire, au fur et à mesure que les besoins se développent. Les filons des mines de cuivre locales s’épuisent, en Eubée notamment. La presque totalité du cuivre nécessaire est désormais importée de Chypre, de Thrace, de Chalcidique. L’étain, lui, est toujours venu de l’extérieur. Au 10e, au 9e siècle, il arrivait encore par terre en suivant les pistes de l’Asie Mineure. Mais la consommation se développe et les besoins grandissent ; l’étain n’est plus seulement employé comme métal d’alliage pour la fabrication du bronze, mais aussi comme motif de décoration. On ne peut plus attendre passivement sa venue. Il faut devancer la concurrence et aller le chercher au loin, par voie de mer, à sa source même.
     Dès la première moitié du 8e siècle, des convois maritimes s’organisent à cet effet. Les uns cinglent vers le Caucase, par l’Hellespont, le Bosphore et le long de la côte méridionale du Pont-Euxin, les autres vers l’Étrurie par le détroit de Messine et les traverses de l’Italie méridionale. […] Le grand fait qui nous intéresse ici, c’est que l’approvisionnement en matières premières de l’industrie du bronze et par incidence cette industrie elle-même se trouvent placés désormais dans la dépendance directe des armateurs des grandes cités maritimes.
     Cette aristocratie commerçante devient du même coup une aristocratie industrielle. Elle crée la fabrication en série dans des ateliers relativement vastes, peuplés d’esclaves dont elle fait aussi le commerce. Une bonne partie de sa production est exportée au loin, dans les colonies nouvelles, et jusqu’en Égypte où les premiers Pharaons de la 26e dynastie luttent contre la domination assyrienne avec des troupes de mercenaires équipées à la grecque.
     Même transformation dans l’industrie de la poterie. À côté de l’exportation des armes et des articles de métal s’organise, en effet, celle du vin et de l’huile. Celle-ci exige un abondant matériel d’amphores, qu’il faut fabriquer en série dans des ateliers que les riches armateurs sont seuls en mesure de fonder. Ces ateliers se consacrent naturellement bien vite aussi à la fabrication en masse de la poterie d’exportation qui se répand sur tous les marchés de la Méditerranée, de l’Égypte à l’Étrurie.
     Notons, incidemment, que la vieille industrie familiale du textile commence à évoluer, à son tour, dans les mêmes conditions. De véritables ateliers de tissage sont créés au sein des manoirs seigneuriaux. La vieille Hécube dirige à Troie, dans le palais de Priam, un atelier de voiles brodés où travaille une équipe d’esclaves sidoniennes que Pâris a amenées de Phénicie.
     Quoi qu’il en soit, le vieil artisanat des démiurges de la forge et de la poterie se trouve progressivement relégué à l’arrière-plan dans l’ordre économique et social. Il ne faut pas s’étonner si vers le milieu du 7e siècle il finit par se révolter, par donner son appui aux jeunes tyrannies d’allure démocratique qui se dressent contre la toute-puissance de l’aristocratie et de la richesse. Cypsélos et ses successeurs interdiront à Corinthe l’introduction de nouveaux esclaves pour le protéger contre la concurrence des ateliers capitalistes.
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