While it is necessary for a socialist economy to be run for the benefit of the vast majority of the people rather than for a small aristocratic, plutocratic, or capitalist class in order for it to be considered “socialist”, its use of markets is not “unsocialistic”. In fact, socialist economies must adhere to the laws of the market as much as any other economy without being capitalistic. Therefore, a socialist economy can operate without contradiction or the risk of undermining its principles within the global market economy. It should therefore be understood that
Capitalism and the World-Economy
One possible way to better understand socialism is to distinguish it from the capitalist system that dominates the world-economy. A capitalist economy gives priority to the endless accumulation of capital. However, if we say that a system “gives priority” to such endless accumulation, it means that there exist structural mechanisms by which those who act with “other motivations” are penalized in some way, and are eventually eliminated from the social scene, whereas those who act with the “appropriate motivations” are rewarded and, if successful, enriched.
According to economist and historian, Immanuel Wallerstein:
World-economy and a capitalist system go together. Since world-economies lack the unifying cement of an overall political structure or a homogenous culture, what holds them together is the efficacy of the division of labor. Historically, the only world-economy to have survived for a long time has been the modern world-system, and that is because the capitalist system took root and became consolidated as its defining feature.
Fortunately, the biggest weakness of the capitalist system is that it cannot exist within any framework except that of a world-economy. A world-economy with so many strikingly conflictive interests is too tumultuous for capitalism’s long-term survival, especially considering the explosion of readily-available and accessible information that is reaching more people in more manifold ways. Capitalism demands a very special relationship between its capitalists and the holders of political power. If the latter are too strong, their interests will override those of the economic producers, and the endless accumulation of capital will cease to be a priority. So what would this mean for capitalism if political power were held by an increasing number of people, the working class, or a “rogue” nation such as
Even in the modern world of mass information, households still serve as the primary socializing agencies. They seek to teach us knowledge of and respect for the social rules by which we are “supposed” to abide. They are of course seconded by state agencies such as schools and armies as well as by religious institutions and the media. But none of these come close to the family in actual impact. What however determines how the households will socialize in their members? Largely the way in which the secondary institutions frame the issues for the households demonstrates exactly how to socialize one’s family members. It also cannot be understated the how defenseless overworked and fractured families are to the effects of oppressive secondary institutions.
Of course, the powers that be in a social system always hope that socialization results in the acceptance of the very real hierarchies that are the product of the system. They also hope that socialization results in the internalization of the myths, the rhetoric, and the theorizing of the system. Although this does happen rather comprehensively in highly nationalistic countries such as the
There is little question that across the globe today, people are more fully aware of the political issues that affect their personal lives then at any time in the past. They are more aware, more willing to struggle for their rights, more skeptical of the rhetoric of the powerful. More importantly, one not need look any further than Venezuela to see the effects of political power that is shifting into the hands of the masses.
One must remember that history is not at its end, and that every time elites have claimed some “golden era” which was reflected in their satisfaction with the status quo, events followed shortly after that highlighted the ridiculousness of those claims. Remember the decades that followed the “Roaring 20s” or the 1950s? Perhaps more salient to this discussion, can we all recall the victory dances of 1990s when grand pronouncements were made that socialism was forever dead, and capitalism has proven its superiority? So as we get closer to a point when the majority of the world is vastly more aware of the oppressive power structures and the capitalist system that is rushing us towards destruction, perhaps we will be able to think in terms of building a political economy based on systems of cooperation, equality, self-government, and individual freedom.