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Mutualism

Post by Aelred on Sat May 24, 2014 9:58 pm

What are your thoughts on Mutualism? Does Mutalism have anything in common with Syndicalism?
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Re: Mutualism

Post by Celtiberian on Sun May 25, 2014 9:54 am

Certain individuals define mutualism as a distinct mode of production while others consider it a principle which can be applied to a variety of conceivable modes of production. Proudhon seems to have used the term in both senses. Personally, I find both economic and ethical mutualism deficient. As a mode of production, traditional Proudhonian mutualism would fail for the same reason Robert Owen's National Equitable Labour Exchange did, i.e., because it lacks a mechanism for objectively determining the socially necessary labor time for producing goods and services. In its refined, Tuckerian configuration, it suffers from all the shortcomings of market socialism, e.g., distributive injustices, the internal contradictions of commodity production, and alienation—all of which undermine harmonious social relations. As an ethic, mutualism is inadequate due to its exclusive reliance upon reciprocity to secure justice. Luck egalitarianism, in my opinion, is a superior moral system because it provides a logical basis for distributing resources to those incapable of participating in reciprocal interactions (the sick, infirm, disabled).

As far as any association between mutualism and syndicalism is concerned, there have indeed been instances of such a connection. For example, Georges Sorel was not only influenced by Proudhon's principle of mutuality—and his philosophical work more generally—but considered mutualism to be the form a socialist commonwealth would likely take following the revolution. Several other figures involved in the French and Italian syndicalist movement were of the same opinion, although such views were always in the minority. It must be understood that syndicalism is, first and foremost, a theory of revolution, not an economic model. Thus one can be a syndicalist who supports anything from market socialism to anarcho-communism following the dismantlement of capitalism. The only unifying factor among syndicalists, in terms of economic proposals, is an insistence upon workers' self-management being implemented.

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"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: Mutualism

Post by Uberak on Sun May 25, 2014 12:29 pm

I identify myself as a mutualist, though I'm not exactly an anarchist. The greatest reason for my mutualism/market socialism is that there seems to be no way of forming a practical form of communism or any sort of non-market economy without restricting the economic liberty of the individual greatly. Additionally, I can't see how a non-market economy can address the different needs of different individuals. Though, I can say that non-market economies have an advantage in providing basic needs to everyone, though this can just as much be a justification of a welfare-like system of mutual aid as much as a justification for the abolition of a market-economy.

Celtiberian wrote:In its refined, Tuckerian configuration, it suffers from all the shortcomings of market socialism, e.g., distributive injustices, the internal contradictions of commodity production, and alienation—all of which undermine harmonious social relations. As an ethic, mutualism is inadequate due to its exclusive reliance upon reciprocity to secure justice. Luck egalitarianism, in my opinion, is a superior moral system because it provides a logical basis for distributing resources to those incapable of participating in reciprocal interactions (the sick, infirm, disabled).

The issue here is not in morality. If morality was the only index to determining the success of politics, we would have long ago establish an anarcho-communist utopia of voluntary communes in which there would no war or poverty. However, we have the limitations of reality, and thus we need to have a political and economic system that can work without compromising our goals too much. Getting your "luck egalitarianism" to work would require for the rather virtuous and, for myself, important value of liberty to be undermined greatly. And, I hope that you aren't looking for some utopia where all would hold hands and sing songs like a bunch of hippies when you say "harmonious social relations". Though, I agree that the anarchistic tendencies of mutualists to rely on pure reciprocity to secure justice is foolhardy, but that is more of a problem with anarchism as a whole than a problem with mutualism/market socialism.

As far as any association between mutualism and syndicalism is concerned, there have indeed been instances of such a connection. For example, Georges Sorel was not only influenced by Proudhon's principle of mutuality—and his philosophical work more generally—but considered mutualism to be the form a socialist commonwealth would likely take following the revolution. Several other figures involved in the French and Italian syndicalist movement were of the same opinion, although such views were always in the minority. It must be understood that syndicalism is, first and foremost, a theory of revolution, not an economic model. Thus one can be a syndicalist who supports anything from market socialism to anarcho-communism following the dismantlement of capitalism. The only unifying factor among syndicalists, in terms of economic proposals, is an insistence upon workers' self-management being implemented.

This is the most agreeable part of your post. All I can say is that you're right.
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Re: Mutualism

Post by Celtiberian on Mon Jun 02, 2014 5:21 pm

Uberak wrote:The greatest reason for my mutualism/market socialism is that there seems to be no way of forming a practical form of communism or any sort of non-market economy without restricting the economic liberty of the individual greatly.

What do you mean by "economic liberty" in this context?

Additionally, I can't see how a non-market economy can address the different needs of different individuals.

Participatory planning leaves ample space for individuals to specify their consumption preferences.

Though, I can say that non-market economies have an advantage in providing basic needs to everyone, though this can just as much be a justification of a welfare-like system of mutual aid as much as a justification for the abolition of a market-economy.

Communism also provides the means by which to extinguish economic exploitation in toto, whereas mutualism and market socialism can only mitigate its effects.

The issue here is not in morality. If morality was the only index to determining the success of politics, we would have long ago establish an anarcho-communist utopia of voluntary communes in which there would no war or poverty.

I happen to adhere to the fact-insensitivity approach to meta-ethics, whereas you appear to favor a constructivist methodology. Regardless, I don't believe that what's generally referred to as anarcho-communism today (social relations grounded in free access principles) is ethically superior to the communism I espouse.

However, we have the limitations of reality, and thus we need to have a political and economic system that can work without compromising our goals too much.

I take the feasibility of my proposals very seriously, I assure you.

Getting your "luck egalitarianism" to work would require for the rather virtuous and, for myself, important value of liberty to be undermined greatly.

How so?

And, I hope that you aren't looking for some utopia where all would hold hands and sing songs like a bunch of hippies when you say "harmonious social relations".

You misunderstand me. By "harmonious social relations" I mean thereby a society devoid of oppression and exploitation. This doesn't imply that everyone will love one another and conflict of other varieties will be eliminated.

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Re: Mutualism

Post by Uberak on Fri Jun 06, 2014 11:42 am

Celtiberian wrote:What do you mean by "economic liberty" in this context?

Well, I define it as individual autonomy and freedom from exploitation, defined as individuals not earning their rightful fruits of their labor.

Participatory planning leaves ample space for individuals to specify their consumption preferences.

How so, without your system being an overly complicated and cumbersome?

Communism also provides the means by which to extinguish economic exploitation in toto, whereas mutualism and market socialism can only mitigate its effects.

I define economic exploitation, as previously said above, as one's rightful fruits of their labor not being earned due to the interference of an authoritative entity, usually a capitalist. Which is what the Marxist theory defines it as.

I happen to adhere to the fact-insensitivity approach to meta-ethics, whereas you appear to favor a constructivist methodology. Regardless, I don't believe that what's generally referred to as anarcho-communism today (social relations grounded in free access principles) is ethically superior to the communism I espouse.

It is, in my opinion. There is absolute liberty as all individuals are free to do as they please and remove themselves from the communes. There is absolute equality due to the free access system. Every individual is unlimited in his or her pursuit for improved quality of life. The problem is that the scarcity of the world's resources and the fact that the system can easily be negated and ignored makes it more of a pipe-dream than anything else. In fact, historical anarchist mass movements usually end up reverting towards a form of market socialism or a communism more like yours.

I take the feasibility of my proposals very seriously, I assure you.

Maybe I was wrong to question the feasibility of your proposals, but rather I should question the desirability of having a state or state-like entity run an economy. Do you want a state, even a decentralized worker's state, to plan the economy or do you not? After all, every plan needs to be enforced to work.

How so?

Well, you would need to have a system in place to enforce the decentralized planning, right? Unless, you want at least a minority of the populace to absolutely ignore any plan that ends up being made. You also would have deal with people forming markets underground for goods that are not necessarily within the plans agreed upon by worker syndicates, consumer councils, and/or etcetera.

You misunderstand me. By "harmonious social relations" I mean thereby a society devoid of oppression and exploitation. This doesn't imply that everyone will love one another and conflict of other varieties will be eliminated.

And, I agree with you here, but we apparently have different definitions of oppression and exploitation.
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Re: Mutualism

Post by Celtiberian on Thu Aug 07, 2014 1:50 pm

Uberak wrote:Well, I define it as individual autonomy and freedom from exploitation, defined as individuals not earning their rightful fruits of their labor.

I see. But on what basis do you assume the worker is entitled to the undiminished proceeds (excluding, of course, deductions for reinvestment in the firm and taxation) of his or her labor? The only concepts I'm familiar with which seek to defend this view are Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's and David Ellerman's respected revisions of John Locke's labor theory of property, and both are fraught with errors. For example, Proudhon's theory was deduced from the premise that since labor is the sole source of value, it is naturally entitled to its product. The problem here is that labor is merely the source of exchange value in an economy engaged in generalized commodity production, not of use value. As Karl Marx argued in the Critique of the Gotha Programme:

"Labour is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labour, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labour power. . . . The bourgeois have very good grounds for falsely ascribing supernatural creative power to labour; since from the fact that labour depends on nature it follows precisely that the man who possesses no other property than his labour power must, in all conditions of society and culture, be the slave of other men who have made themselves the owners of the material conditions of labour. He can only work with their permission, and hence live only with their permission."
Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme (Rockville: Wildside Press, 2008), p. 18.

Like Locke, Proudhon and Ellerman accept(ed) the private appropriation of land as a legitimate practice—although Proudhon included the strict proviso that it be for active, personal use. But this is wholly arbitrary. In my opinion, it is more rational to view natural resources as our common inheritance (since none of us did anything to bring them into existence) and, as such, they should be appropriated by no individual. And if we adopt the position that the world is jointly owned by its inhabitants, it follows that the means of production and consumption are subject to collective ownership and/or regulation. Thus individual workers are not entitled to the product of their labor (since the instruments and articles of their labor are derived from natural resources), but rather a compensation commensurate with what the public deems just. As a luck egalitarian, I'm of the view that the most sensible criteria would be the effort and sacrifice one expends in the performance of social labor.

How so, without your system being an overly complicated and cumbersome?

Every year workers would estimate the consumption rate of the specific goods and/or services they chose from an online database containing the nation's products. This order would then by submitted to their local consumer council to be negotiated with workers' councils until a national plan was agreed upon by both parties.

It's a simple process which would enable humanity to be in control of its economic life instead of being at the mercy of blind, alienating market forces. If you're interested in studying the process I outlined more thoroughly, I recommend reading Chapter 3 of Michael Albert's and Robin Hahnel's The Political Economy of Participatory Economics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991).

I define economic exploitation, as previously said above, as one's rightful fruits of their labor not being earned due to the interference of an authoritative entity, usually a capitalist. Which is what the Marxist theory defines it as.

Karl Marx never argued that workers were entitled to the full fruits of their labor, as I demonstrated in the previously cited passage from the Critique of the Gotha Programme. The preponderance of Marxist and non-Marxist communists instead agree(d) with the sentiments expressed by Joseph Déjacque, that "it is not the product of his or her labor that the worker has a right to, but to the satisfaction of his or her needs, whatever may be their nature." As you know, I disagree with this principle of free access (excluding for basic necessities), so my views represent a minority among communists.

Exploitation involves one instrumentalizing another's relative vulnerability for the purpose of his or her self-enrichment; it's a relation of domination. Proudhon's mutualist proposal, if it could function (which it couldn't, for reasons elucidated by Marx in The Poverty of Philosophy), would eliminate exploitation due to its application of labor vouchers. The more viable models of mutualism espoused by individualist anarchists (e.g., Benjamin Tucker), however, would exhibit a form of non-capitalist exploitation, since skilled professionals and managers would remain in a position to demand scarcity rents for their labor from the general working population.  

It is, in my opinion. There is absolute liberty as all individuals are free to do as they please and remove themselves from the communes. There is absolute equality due to the free access system. Every individual is unlimited in his or her pursuit for improved quality of life.

Yes, but it would also permit the indolent to live off of the labor of industrious, which is ethically objectionable.

Maybe I was wrong to question the feasibility of your proposals, but rather I should question the desirability of having a state or state-like entity run an economy. Do you want a state, even a decentralized worker's state, to plan the economy or do you not? After all, every plan needs to be enforced to work.

I want society to collectively plan production, not a board of technocrats appointed by state officials.

Well, you would need to have a system in place to enforce the decentralized planning, right? Unless, you want at least a minority of the populace to absolutely ignore any plan that ends up being made. You also would have deal with people forming markets underground for goods that are not necessarily within the plans agreed upon by worker syndicates, consumer councils, and/or etcetera.

This would no more infringe upon individual liberty than would a market socialist commonwealth prohibiting capitalist acts between consenting adults.

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—J. B. S. Haldane Hammer Sickle

"Nationality. . . is a historic, local fact which, like all real and harmless facts, has the right to claim general acceptance. . . Every people, like every person, is involuntarily that which it is and therefore has a right to be itself. . . Nationality is not a principle; it is a legitimate fact, just as individuality is. Every nationality, great or small, has the incontestable right to be itself, to live according to its own nature. This right is simply the corollary of the general principle of freedom."
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Re: Mutualism

Post by Uberak on Tue Nov 04, 2014 3:39 pm

Celtiberian wrote:I see. But on what basis do you assume the worker is entitled to the undiminished proceeds (excluding, of course, deductions for reinvestment in the firm and taxation) of his or her labor? The only concepts I'm familiar with which seek to defend this view are Pierre-Joseph Proudhon's and David Ellerman's respected revisions of John Locke's labor theory of property, and both are fraught with errors. For example, Proudhon's theory was deduced from the premise that since labor is the sole source of value, it is naturally entitled to its product. The problem here is that labor is merely the source of exchange value in an economy engaged in generalized commodity production, not of use value. As Karl Marx argued in the Critique of the Gotha Programme:

"Labour is not the source of all wealth. Nature is just as much the source of use values (and it is surely of such that material wealth consists!) as labour, which itself is only the manifestation of a force of nature, human labour power. . . . The bourgeois have very good grounds for falsely ascribing supernatural creative power to labour; since from the fact that labour depends on nature it follows precisely that the man who possesses no other property than his labour power must, in all conditions of society and culture, be the slave of other men who have made themselves the owners of the material conditions of labour. He can only work with their permission, and hence live only with their permission."
Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme (Rockville: Wildside Press, 2008), p. 18.

Well, it is the tax that is the way of the worker contributing to the society that provides the land. Whilst I don't see the land value tax as being the only tax that a state can implement, I do think that it is a way of resolving exactly that. Once the taxes based on society's aid and the land itself have been paid, the only value that remains is the exchange-value produced from labor, and thus the worker must have all the actual fruits of his/her labor once these taxes have been paid. Yes, this isn't exactly Proudhonian mutualism, but honestly I agree that his analysis is flawed. But, you can also find flaws within any person's analysis from the position of having different values and living in a time period where you have both technology and hindsight that Proudhon and Marx didn't have.

If the labor theory of value somehow has a use for justifying capitalism, then why do most capitalist economists reject it past the 19th century? This includes the most ardent of laissez-faire advocates, within the context of capitalism of course. In fact, the idea of labor being important to creating value is actually subversive to the idea of capitalism, as it practically invalidates the wage-labor relationship. If labor creates wealth, then it would be most logical that labor owns the wealth produced. One of the main mechanisms of Capitalism is in fact the devaluation of labor's worth through constantly lowering wages despite the value it creates. I would like to go more into this, but that would be for a thread that criticizes capitalism.

Like Locke, Proudhon and Ellerman accept(ed) the private appropriation of land as a legitimate practice—although Proudhon included the strict proviso that it be for active, personal use. But this is wholly arbitrary. In my opinion, it is more rational to view natural resources as our common inheritance (since none of us did anything to bring them into existence) and, as such, they should be appropriated by no individual. And if we adopt the position that the world is jointly owned by its inhabitants, it follows that the means of production and consumption are subject to collective ownership and/or regulation. Thus individual workers are not entitled to the product of their labor (since the instruments and articles of their labor are derived from natural resources), but rather a compensation commensurate with what the public deems just. As a luck egalitarian, I'm of the view that the most sensible criteria would be the effort and sacrifice one expends in the performance of social labor.

The Proudhonian idea of "private appropriation of land" isn't arbitrary. It is based on the idea that it isn't the land that one can claim ownership of, but rather the products of labor that one has produced out of the land. In that sense, the Earth itself is owned by all, but the products that one has produced through his/her labor.

If communism is against workers receiving the fruits of their labor, then I am fully against communism, though I would prefer it to capitalism by a long shot. Now, I do think your model of communism with free access being restricted to basic necessities is perfectly viable and an improvement over the model with complete free access, but I still think that such system would be inflexible, especially with production schedules being planned yearly, and I don't support society having such a power over individual producers or associations of producers. The difference between market socialism and your form of communism on individual liberty is that I believe that market socialism focuses on abolishing something that infringes on the rights of others, much like the abolition of individuals being able to consensually enter a relationship of debt slavery or chattel slavery. It is preventing individuals from withdrawing their rights due to differing positions. Also, exploitation has a different meaning in economics from common use, though the two practically overlap a lot. I believe that the overwhelming power of the rest of society would allow society as a mass to exploit the individual worker. My fear is not in state technocrats or such, but rather for the majority of society to have little limit in how they deal with individuals.

Karl Marx never argued that workers were entitled to the full fruits of their labor, as I demonstrated in the previously cited passage from the Critique of the Gotha Programme. The preponderance of Marxist and non-Marxist communists instead agree(d) with the sentiments expressed by Joseph Déjacque, that "it is not the product of his or her labor that the worker has a right to, but to the satisfaction of his or her needs, whatever may be their nature." As you know, I disagree with this principle of free access (excluding for basic necessities), so my views represent a minority among communists.

Exploitation involves one instrumentalizing another's relative vulnerability for the purpose of his or her self-enrichment; it's a relation of domination. Proudhon's mutualist proposal, if it could function (which it couldn't, for reasons elucidated by Marx in The Poverty of Philosophy), would eliminate exploitation due to its application of labor vouchers. The more viable models of mutualism espoused by individualist anarchists (e.g., Benjamin Tucker), however, would exhibit a form of non-capitalist exploitation, since skilled professionals and managers would remain in a position to demand scarcity rents for their labor from the general working population.

Now, I believe that power relations within enterprises should be prevented and worker's self-management be instated. So, skilled professionals, whilst perhaps earning more, won't be able to exploit any workers, and managers wouldn't even exist, at the very least in their current form. And if some sort of class society emerges from this, then it merely means that the revolutionary struggle will continue on and history will continue on. I honestly don't believe in any "End of History" scenarios. Conflict will occur in a socialist world in the same way that conflict occurs in capitalist societies. That is the natural flow of history.

Yes, but it would also permit the indolent to live off of the labor of industrious, which is ethically objectionable.

About anarcho-communism, I was talking about a hypothetical society where scarcity does not exist. As in, an unlimited amount of goods to demonstrate the flaws of free-access. I admit that this does not apply to your ideology, but it does apply to any utopian assumptions of how a post-revolutionary society will work.
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Re: Mutualism

Post by Altair on Fri Dec 05, 2014 3:37 am

I fail to accept that a socialist market system would be potentially more egalitarian and less prone to manipulation than a planned economy with decentralized democratic councils determining labour remuneration.

Uberak, it seems that the main point you raise throughout your postings is to democratic operations on a larger scale possibly being manipulated, and then use this belief to justify a market socialist system, among your other reasons. Theoretically, a democratically run system of any size could be exploited, and to counter that possibility, there should be measures in place to combat that sort of manipulation; something akin to checks and balances.

I am curious as to how a system dictated by a market is any less prone to unfair remuneration than a planned one. For example, how do you rectify the possibility that labourers of any certain good-producing industry, who produce goods that are either more highly priced or are faring better in the market, could make more than labourers of another company who have done the exact same amount of work?

Furthermore, in a planned economy, workers wouldn't be suddenly out of a job due to their product falling out of favour in the market. How do you ensure the job security that is already a part of a planned economy?

What Celtiberian is referring to is not workers failing to receive the full fruit of their labour, but rather that they receive the value of what they produced it in the most just manner possible. As I stated above, when market forces are dictating the price and demand of goods, labourers who produce more sought after goods or higher priced goods - something they and other workers making less valuable goods have no control over - are going to be making more money than their counterparts doing the same amount of work. I don't think this is exactly fair. What I do find fair is the workers themselves deciding how their earnings will be distributed - within the scope of a planned economy.

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Re: Mutualism

Post by Rev Scare on Thu Dec 18, 2014 1:19 am

Uberak wrote:Well, it is the tax that is the way of the worker contributing to the society that provides the land. Whilst I don't see the land value tax as being the only tax that a state can implement, I do think that it is a way of resolving exactly that. Once the taxes based on society's aid and the land itself have been paid, the only value that remains is the exchange-value produced from labor, and thus the worker must have all the actual fruits of his/her labor once these taxes have been paid.

The defect in your conception of private holdings of products extracted from commonly held land and covered by a single land tax—a position derived from Henry George—is that there is no ethical reason why communists should consider it more legitimate than viewing the products created from the resources of that land as jointly owned. The only rational argument that those who work the land are entitled to the resultant products has made recourse to Lockean self-ownership, which Marxist philosopher G. A. Cohen sharply impugned. Left-libertarians (used loosely here) begin with self-ownership (a thesis that is counterintuitive and cannot function as an axiom, as Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen convincingly argues in a paper titled “Against Self-Ownership”), extend it with Lockean property theory (modified so that unappropriated natural resources belong to everyone in an egalitarian manner), and, upon this basis, assert that “labor is entitled to its product.” There is simply no need to accept this chain of logic any more than the similar rationale offered by capitalist apologists.

Communists can thus rightfully object, on grounds of logic and reason, that rather than moral ownership of the particular use values workers (along with nature and social resources) create, individuals are instead entitled to a just compensation decided by the public, so that they can possess the means to pursue aspects of self-fulfillment they might otherwise be denied. The communist position is also superior because it would enable more socially harmonious relations to predominate by terminating the exploitation of man by man.

Another flaw in your argument is your conflation of the labor theory of value with the labor theory of property. Though the two share a common origin, they are conceptually distinct. The former is a theory about labor as the measure of exchange value, whereas the latter sees labor as the exclusive source of use values. Marxists dismiss the claim of the labor theory of property due to an understanding that labor is not the sole originator of use values. As such, it is untenable to maintain that workers be granted ownership of a portion of the joint product on the basis of being responsible for the creation of use values, which were generated using natural resources in the context of a highly interdependent social labor process, but even if this weren't so, the conclusion simply does not follow from any sustainable premises. What is more, if one accepts the LTV, the most internally consistent version having been developed by Marx, they must realize that attempting to distinguish an individual laborer's contribution to the social product in a market would be a futile endeavor, since the value of a commodity is determined by the socially necessary labor time expended to produce it, a social average, and not a direct summation of actual labor hours.

Yes, this isn't exactly Proudhonian mutualism, but honestly I agree that his analysis is flawed. But, you can also find flaws within any person's analysis from the position of having different values and living in a time period where you have both technology and hindsight that Proudhon and Marx didn't have.

Proudhon's mutualism is deficient on ethical and economic grounds. Apparently, Marx did have enough foresight, as he never advocated mutualism of any kind.

If the labor theory of value somehow has a use for justifying capitalism, then why do most capitalist economists reject it past the 19th century? This includes the most ardent of laissez-faire advocates, within the context of capitalism of course.

It is not the LTV that is deployed to justify capitalism, but the LTP (sans the Lockean proviso, and only as a last resort in philosophical terms).

Bourgeois economists abandoned the labor theory of value for two main reasons. The first is that the class dimensions of the LTV were recognized early on, by Adam Smith but perhaps most notably proposed by the Ricardian socialists in their, to borrow from The Poverty of Philosophy, “equalitarian application of the Ricardian theory,” and including others, such as Proudhon himself. After Marx perfected it, drawing out the full political implications of the capitalist mode of production, it was no longer possible for the bourgeoisie to tolerate its hegemonic status in political economy. The prominent 20th century Marxist theoretician Ernest Mandel explained it thus:

“Eclectic political economy failed, however, to give complete faction either to scholars who continued to try to answer the question which previous generations had bequeathed to them or to the bourgeoisie itself, which found itself constantly exposed to the risk that, starting from the popularisation of Ricardo’s ideas, economists might pursue some point in the direction of socialism (as happened with John Stuart Mill). In order to neutralise the “socialist danger”, which was felt with especial keenness after the revolution of 1848, and above all after the Paris Commune (1871), the entire structure based on the labour theory of value had to be demolished. This was the great turning-point of bourgeois political economy, towards the marginal theory of value, which was prepared so early as 1855, 'independently of each other,' by Hermann Gossen and Richard Jennings, and which culminated in the British (Jevons, 1871), Viennese (Menger, 1871) and Swiss (Walras, 1874) neo-classical schools.”
“The marginalist theory of value and neo-classical political economy,” from Ernest Mandel's Marxist Economic Theory (1962).

The second motivation for forsaking an objective value theory was a theoretical problem in classical political economy that marginalist economists were either too incompetent or unwilling to resolve. This was a complication stemming from a contradiction in David Ricardo's formulation of the labor theory of value, which Marx reconciled.

For more comprehensive knowledge on this subject, I highly recommend reading From Political Economy to Economics by Dimitris Milonakis and Ben Fine, which gives a detailed historical account of political economy's transformation from a broader social analysis to the narrowed scope and methodological approach of neoclassical economics, and Simon Clarke's Marx, Marginalism and Modern Sociology, which is a powerful Marxist critique of liberal social theory.

In fact, the idea of labor being important to creating value is actually subversive to the idea of capitalism, as it practically invalidates the wage-labor relationship.

That is incorrect. Labor has been recognized as a basic factor of production since the dawn of political economy, and it continues to be acknowledged as such by modern bourgeois (marginalist) economists. The mere fact of it poses no ideological threat to the capitalist order.

If labor creates wealth, then it would be most logical that labor owns the wealth produced

Unfortunately, that is a non sequitur. The working class as a whole creates the social product, and so the working class as a whole should appropriate it. Its dispensation, therefore, is to be settled communally.

The Proudhonian idea of "private appropriation of land" isn't arbitrary. It is based on the idea that it isn't the land that one can claim ownership of, but rather the products of labor that one has produced out of the land. In that sense, the Earth itself is owned by all, but the products that one has produced through his/her labor.

If it is arbitrary to claim private ownership of land, then it is arbitrary to claim private ownership of the products emerging from the utilization of that land. Again, self-ownership and the Lockean theory of property cannot provide refuge from the communist critique.

If communism is against workers receiving the fruits of their labor, then I am fully against communism, though I would prefer it to capitalism by a long shot.

Communists are against workers receiving the undiminished proceeds of their labor for—apart from the need to reinvest a portion of surplus for the purposes of reproducing means of production (which is a matter of fact, not open to dispute) and public services—it would preclude the distribution of resources to the sick and infirm on the basis of need. We also find it ethically indefensible that individuals should be remunerated according to their access to resources, mental and physical abilities, and differential success in the market as opposed to the only faculties under their direct control: effort and sacrifice. In a word, market relations and the distributive principle you espouse would engender levels of inequality that anybody committed to a full egalitarian ethos should not abide, and you have failed to supply a compelling argument to think otherwise.

Now, I do think your model of communism with free access being restricted to basic necessities is perfectly viable and an improvement over the model with complete free access,

Though I am opposed to “free access,” as such, I neither believe the communist slogan need be interpreted (or was intended by Marx) to suggest unbridled free access and limitless satisfaction of wants nor that it must be restricted to provisioning its citizens with only those articles deemed “basic necessities.” Increases in productivity (i.e., the introduction of labor saving technologies) mean that more is available for less over time, which, along with production tradeoffs and subject to absolute natural limits, is what actually circumscribes what society can provide freely (or very cheaply) to its citizens at any stage of development of the productive forces.

but I still think that such system would be inflexible, especially with production schedules being planned yearly,

The general production and consumption goals would be planned annually, but it is not as though such a system would be incapable of continually updating the production process in light of new information. It is not difficult to envision means by which to do so, and furthermore, economies exhibit great regularity from one year to the next, so it would be possible to introduce sophisticated prediction algorithms into the planning procedure. Assuming a yearly plan is arbitrary and irrelevant to the debate, however, and clearly Albert and Hahnel present it this way only for the sake of theoretical simplicity and because it seems natural, but in essence, an economic “period” would be determined, and I see no reason why multiple time frames couldn't operate concurrently or why the common plan couldn't be subdivided into smaller, more tractable plans.

Do take into account, for it is critically important, that producers and consumers would no longer be isolated from each other as they would in a market, their interactions mediated by the price mechanism, but instead, it would be possible for them to remain in constant, direct communication, facilitated, of course, by information technology. They could agree collectively how to best use society's resources. This is an infinitely superior arrangement to allowing market fetishism to dictate social production.

The difference between market socialism and your form of communism on individual liberty is that I believe that market socialism focuses on abolishing something that infringes on the rights of others,

I happen to believe that such a society would offer the individual more effective liberty than one dominated by the law of value. We propose to restrict certain liberties (e.g., the ability to acquire private property and market relations) to expand freedom in an egalitarian direction.

For all your lofty rhetoric regarding the “right” preserving properties of the market (which is false), you've presented us with a rather hollow case for thinking so.

much like the abolition of individuals being able to consensually enter a relationship of debt slavery or chattel slavery.

What is meant by this? Communists seek to abolish these same "freedoms" but take it one step further by eliminating contracts governed by the law of value.

My fear is not in state technocrats or such, but rather for the majority of society to have little limit in how they deal with individuals.

There is no reason to think that there would be unreasonable curtailments of individual liberties. Basic individual rights are not incompatible with economic democracy.

Now, I believe that power relations within enterprises should be prevented and worker's self-management be instated. So, skilled professionals, whilst perhaps earning more, won't be able to exploit any workers, and managers wouldn't even exist, at the very least in their current form. And if some sort of class society emerges from this, then it merely means that the revolutionary struggle will continue on and history will continue on.

I have explained this to you on a previous occasion in another thread, but market relations are inimical to self-management. The profit motive and competition under market socialism would continue to apply substantial pressure on firms to perpetuate a strict internal division of labor. Those performing more empowering work would come to disproportionately influence decision making—even worse, the majority in a cooperative might be persuaded to hire external management to specialize in oversight.

Why bother with a socialist revolution without minimizing the possibility that class domination would reassert itself?

I honestly don't believe in any "End of History" scenarios. Conflict will occur in a socialist world in the same way that conflict occurs in capitalist societies. That is the natural flow of history.

You misunderstand what Marx and Engels meant by “the end of history.” According to historical materialism, “history” refers to successions of modes of production, during which “men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please.” In the wake of the communist revolution, the contradictions moving historical development would disappear, and man's self-realization would finally be met in accordance with Enlightenment values. In other words, man would become master of his destiny and no longer a slave to history.

It does not mean there would be no conflict under a global socialist order or that love would conquer all. On the other hand, the conditions that give rise to imperialist wars, ecological ruin, much (perhaps most) criminal behavior, and other social pathologies would be eliminated. For my own part, I doubt I will ever share any deep love of humanity.

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Re: Mutualism

Post by Uberak on Wed Jan 14, 2015 2:18 am

Rev Scare wrote:
Another flaw in your argument is your conflation of the labor theory of value with the labor theory of property. Though the two share a common origin, they are conceptually distinct. The former is a theory about labor as the measure of exchange value, whereas the latter sees labor as the exclusive source of use values. Marxists dismiss the claim of the labor theory of property due to an understanding that labor is not the sole originator of use values. As such, it is untenable to maintain that workers be granted ownership of a portion of the joint product on the basis of being responsible for the creation of use values, which were generated using natural resources in the context of a highly interdependent social labor process, but even if this weren't so, the conclusion simply does not follow from any sustainable premises. What is more, if one accepts the LTV, the most internally consistent version having been developed by Marx, they must realize that attempting to distinguish an individual laborer's contribution to the social product in a market would be a futile endeavor, since the value of a commodity is determined by the socially necessary labor time expended to produce it, a social average, and not a direct summation of actual labor hours.


Bourgeois economists abandoned the labor theory of value for two main reasons. The first is that the class dimensions of the LTV were recognized early on, by Adam Smith but perhaps most notably proposed by the Ricardian socialists in their, to borrow from The Poverty of Philosophy, “equalitarian application of the Ricardian theory,” and including others, such as Proudhon himself. After Marx perfected it, drawing out the full political implications of the capitalist mode of production, it was no longer possible for the bourgeoisie to tolerate its hegemonic status in political economy. The prominent 20th century Marxist theoretician Ernest Mandel explained it thus:

“Eclectic political economy failed, however, to give complete faction either to scholars who continued to try to answer the question which previous generations had bequeathed to them or to the bourgeoisie itself, which found itself constantly exposed to the risk that, starting from the popularisation of Ricardo’s ideas, economists might pursue some point in the direction of socialism (as happened with John Stuart Mill). In order to neutralise the “socialist danger”, which was felt with especial keenness after the revolution of 1848, and above all after the Paris Commune (1871), the entire structure based on the labour theory of value had to be demolished. This was the great turning-point of bourgeois political economy, towards the marginal theory of value, which was prepared so early as 1855, 'independently of each other,' by Hermann Gossen and Richard Jennings, and which culminated in the British (Jevons, 1871), Viennese (Menger, 1871) and Swiss (Walras, 1874) neo-classical schools.”
“The marginalist theory of value and neo-classical political economy,” from Ernest Mandel's Marxist Economic Theory (1962).

The second motivation for forsaking an objective value theory was a theoretical problem in classical political economy that marginalist economists were either too incompetent or unwilling to resolve. This was a complication stemming from a contradiction in David Ricardo's formulation of the labor theory of value, which Marx reconciled.

For more comprehensive knowledge on this subject, I highly recommend reading From Political Economy to Economics by Dimitris Milonakis and Ben Fine, which gives a detailed historical account of political economy's transformation from a broader social analysis to the narrowed scope and methodological approach of neoclassical economics, and Simon Clarke's Marx, Marginalism and Modern Sociology, which is a powerful Marxist critique of liberal social theory.

In fact, the idea of labor being important to creating value is actually subversive to the idea of capitalism, as it practically invalidates the wage-labor relationship.

That is incorrect. Labor has been recognized as a basic factor of production since the dawn of political economy, and it continues to be acknowledged as such by modern bourgeois (marginalist) economists. The mere fact of it poses no ideological threat to the capitalist order.

If labor creates wealth, then it would be most logical that labor owns the wealth produced

Unfortunately, that is a non sequitur. The working class as a whole creates the social product, and so the working class as a whole should appropriate it. Its dispensation, therefore, is to be settled communally.

The Proudhonian idea of "private appropriation of land" isn't arbitrary. It is based on the idea that it isn't the land that one can claim ownership of, but rather the products of labor that one has produced out of the land. In that sense, the Earth itself is owned by all, but the products that one has produced through his/her labor.

If it is arbitrary to claim private ownership of land, then it is arbitrary to claim private ownership of the products emerging from the utilization of that land. Again, self-ownership and the Lockean theory of property cannot provide refuge from the communist critique.

If communism is against workers receiving the fruits of their labor, then I am fully against communism, though I would prefer it to capitalism by a long shot.

Communists are against workers receiving the undiminished proceeds of their labor for—apart from the need to reinvest a portion of surplus for the purposes of reproducing means of production (which is a matter of fact, not open to dispute) and public services—it would preclude the distribution of resources to the sick and infirm on the basis of need. We also find it ethically indefensible that individuals should be remunerated according to their access to resources, mental and physical abilities, and differential success in the market as opposed to the only faculties under their direct control: effort and sacrifice. In a word, market relations and the distributive principle you espouse would engender levels of inequality that anybody committed to a full egalitarian ethos should not abide, and you have failed to supply a compelling argument to think otherwise.

Now, I do think your model of communism with free access being restricted to basic necessities is perfectly viable and an improvement over the model with complete free access,

Though I am opposed to “free access,” as such, I neither believe the communist slogan need be interpreted (or was intended by Marx) to suggest unbridled free access and limitless satisfaction of wants nor that it must be restricted to provisioning its citizens with only those articles deemed “basic necessities.” Increases in productivity (i.e., the introduction of labor saving technologies) mean that more is available for less over time, which, along with production tradeoffs and subject to absolute natural limits, is what actually circumscribes what society can provide freely (or very cheaply) to its citizens at any stage of development of the productive forces.

but I still think that such system would be inflexible, especially with production schedules being planned yearly,

The general production and consumption goals would be planned annually, but it is not as though such a system would be incapable of continually updating the production process in light of new information. It is not difficult to envision means by which to do so, and furthermore, economies exhibit great regularity from one year to the next, so it would be possible to introduce sophisticated prediction algorithms into the planning procedure. Assuming a yearly plan is arbitrary and irrelevant to the debate, however, and clearly Albert and Hahnel present it this way only for the sake of theoretical simplicity and because it seems natural, but in essence, an economic “period” would be determined, and I see no reason why multiple time frames couldn't operate concurrently or why the common plan couldn't be subdivided into smaller, more tractable plans.

Do take into account, for it is critically important, that producers and consumers would no longer be isolated from each other as they would in a market, their interactions mediated by the price mechanism, but instead, it would be possible for them to remain in constant, direct communication, facilitated, of course, by information technology. They could agree collectively how to best use society's resources. This is an infinitely superior arrangement to allowing market fetishism to dictate social production.

The difference between market socialism and your form of communism on individual liberty is that I believe that market socialism focuses on abolishing something that infringes on the rights of others,

I happen to believe that such a society would offer the individual more effective liberty than one dominated by the law of value. We propose to restrict certain liberties (e.g., the ability to acquire private property and market relations) to expand freedom in an egalitarian direction.

For all your lofty rhetoric regarding the “right” preserving properties of the market (which is false), you've presented us with a rather hollow case for thinking so.

much like the abolition of individuals being able to consensually enter a relationship of debt slavery or chattel slavery.

What is meant by this? Communists seek to abolish these same "freedoms" but take it one step further by eliminating contracts governed by the law of value.

My fear is not in state technocrats or such, but rather for the majority of society to have little limit in how they deal with individuals.

There is no reason to think that there would be unreasonable curtailments of individual liberties. Basic individual rights are not incompatible with economic democracy.

Now, I believe that power relations within enterprises should be prevented and worker's self-management be instated. So, skilled professionals, whilst perhaps earning more, won't be able to exploit any workers, and managers wouldn't even exist, at the very least in their current form. And if some sort of class society emerges from this, then it merely means that the revolutionary struggle will continue on and history will continue on.

I have explained this to you on a previous occasion in another thread, but market relations are inimical to self-management. The profit motive and competition under market socialism would continue to apply substantial pressure on firms to perpetuate a strict internal division of labor. Those performing more empowering work would come to disproportionately influence decision making—even worse, the majority in a cooperative might be persuaded to hire external management to specialize in oversight.

Why bother with a socialist revolution without minimizing the possibility that class domination would reassert itself?

I honestly don't believe in any "End of History" scenarios. Conflict will occur in a socialist world in the same way that conflict occurs in capitalist societies. That is the natural flow of history.

You misunderstand what Marx and Engels meant by “the end of history.” According to historical materialism, “history” refers to successions of modes of production, during which “men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please.” In the wake of the communist revolution, the contradictions moving historical development would disappear, and man's self-realization would finally be met in accordance with Enlightenment values. In other words, man would become master of his destiny and no longer a slave to history.

It does not mean there would be no conflict under a global socialist order or that love would conquer all. On the other hand, the conditions that give rise to imperialist wars, ecological ruin, much (perhaps most) criminal behavior, and other social pathologies would be eliminated. For my own part, I doubt I will ever share any deep love of humanity.

Some of your points like "the end of history" are appreciated. As for the labor theory of property and the rise of neoclassical/marginal economics, I already knew about this, but I admittedly forgot to put it in my posts. Other points like the division of labor really got me thinking. Never mind that Proudhon rejected the labor theory of property actually. The very idea of property as in an absolute claim over land is rejected in favor of possession.

However, the combination of lacking the time to address the sheer amount of arguments thrown at me, my recovery from my depression, and the lack of reading first-hand sources has made me decide that maybe I should put off this debate. It is quite clear that I am looking at this from a more individualist (not rejecting class struggle, but viewing it more as a relationship between individuals that has become predominant in society.) viewpoint, whilst you are all more collectivist about this. I want to help the sick and infirm through public welfare done through a direct democratic government, something that would resemble mutual aid and communism to a certain point. Additionally, I am in fact ambiguous about whether money or labor notes would be a better form of currency. Basically, this is currently a period of learning when it comes to myself and economics, and our ethics are just different. I don't see your ideas as any less right than mine. I agree with you all on a lot of issues, and I still see your system as more viable than capitalism, especially since you explain it better than a lot of people did. However, I still disagree with it. Thankfully and hopefully, we are a pluralistic forum and can accept differences in opinion as long as we advocate for a form of bonafide socialism where the working class owns the means of production, whether individually or socially, and some form of nationalism. (If we are going to "tighten" the forum's ideological focus, we should start by declaring racialism as inherently reactionary, especially in light of the Americas having a very racialized class system historically.)

Fundamentally, I value different things from the forum's "old guard". I don't know if that means I'm incompatible with you people or that I can't participate as much as I hoped I can, but one thing I know is that this debate isn't going to go anywhere as long as I'm too busy with my university life and recovery from depression to do the reading and writing required. I hope you can understand this. Additionally, I think that the value dissonance in this debate is creating situation where there would probably be no winner. So, the best solution is to perhaps agree to disagree for now at least.

And, please be much easier on me if we debate this again. I can't reply to three posts at once without my post becoming a bloated behemoth. The exception being if there are enough mutualists here to lower the burden on myself in responding to these posts.
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Re: Mutualism

Post by Rev Scare on Tue Feb 03, 2015 8:36 pm

I suppose it is possible to interpret Proudhon's personal possession principle to conform to a more communistic ethos, but to be honest, I am not familiar enough with the nuances of his work to make that determination. I know that Iain McKay, the primary figure behind An Anarchist FAQ, actually argued that Proudhon was not only misinterpreted by Marx and Engels, along with Bakunin and "scores" of his own disciples, but went so far as to claim that he was a major and direct theoretical predecessor to all of them. Frankly, I find McKay's arguments largely unconvincing, but I am not inclined to debate this matter at the present time.

I can relate to your feelings of dejection. Listen to this. It's what us big boys listen to when we're feeling glum in this garbage society. And of course you may post freely, Uberak. When have you ever been unwelcome on this forum?

If we are the "old guard," then you must be the new guard, eh? I am not sure if the generational rift between us is wide enough to warrant the label. Wink In any case, though I am a wizened old guardist, I do not believe I value individual liberty any less than you seem to. It might be a matter of emphasis in the end.

If we should have another skirmish, I shall be sure to use less firepower. The only problem is that I am an asshole, and I quite enjoy being one...

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Re: Mutualism

Post by MutualistPhilosophy on Tue Apr 28, 2015 3:10 am

Mutualism is often misunderstood because it is neither property absolutist like anarcho-capitalism nor is it property abolitionist like Marxism. Rather I would describe it as taking a property pragmatist stance not unlike the position of democratic socialism which I once supported.That is to say rent,usury,landlordism,excessive taxes upon workers are abolished.However unlike in Marxism money is retained,we do however support the labor theory of value.Some mutualists such as Kevin A. Carson,one of my major political influences, synthesize the labor theory of value with the subjective theory of value.Carson is highly critical of marginalism as well as more authoritarian socialists.
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