Type: M.E.S. Papers/Theses
This paper examines the historical Socialist Calculation Debate, some critiques of the command economies in the late 20th century as well as some New Socialist economic models. These models were assessed with regards to their feasibility for practice as well as their relation to a theorized historical trajectory in style of immanent critique. This trajectory can be broadly sketched in terms of the implicit dynamics of capital accumulation, the size of the state sector and relative class power. This paper finds that although critics of both socialist models and socialist historical economies present some significant obstacles to the prospects of central calculation and planning, their feasibility is likely to increase with greater data processing capacity and through the increasing feasibility of greater firm growth. It is contended that critics and some advocates misrepresent the obstacles confronting socialist states by assuming that various limited unidimensional criteria are the basis for decision making and economic organization in these states. For instance, one of the major assumptions they make is that shortterm institutional economic efficiency is the key target of decision making. These assumptions overlook key contingencies and neglect the dynamics of real decision-making, instead assuming habit or mere formalism can just be imposed without sufficient leverage. Despite their flaws, some of these critiques might reveal an unfolding rationalization mechanism that begins with less computational capacity, relying on more crude political direction to those that would rely on a more detailed form, which could progressively shrink the domain of the market. I argue that although many models might be presented as competitors, they might be better understood as highlighting different aspects that might be emphasized at different stages in a developmental progression towards greater economic centralization and greater class power in a progressively more socialist regime. Like Marx’s immanent critique of capitalism, the growing inefficiency of v lower forms should progress to more efficient detailed modes of calculation as is required by the scope of economic responsibility of the state. Their structural limitations do not invalidate them as potentially useful for a period of time, they just reveal the need for more nuanced forms of ex ante calculation that suits its economic breadth of responsibility as more of the economy comes under its purview.
A copy of this MRP is available through the YorkU Space website