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In Marxist theory, socialism refers to a specific historical phase of economic development and its corresponding set of social relations that eventually supersede capitalism. Socialism is a mode of production where economic activity is based on directly maximizing use-value through conscious economic planning, where monetary relations in the form of exchange-value and wage labor cease to exist out of obsolescence. Socialism is characterized by the working-class effectively controlling the means of production and the means of their livelihood either through cooperative enterprises or public ownership (with the state being re-organized under socialism) and democratic management.[1]

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Mode of Production

Socialism is a post-commodity economic system, meaning production is carried out to maximize use-value (to directly satisfy human needs, or demand) rather than to exchange on the market to generate a profit (or to maximize exchange-value). The stage in which the accumulation of capital was viable and effective is rendered insufficient at the socialist stage of social and economic development, leading to a situation where production is carried out independently of capital accumulation in a planned fashion. Planning can refer to participatory planning, industrial democracy or scientific economic planning. Instead of relying on the coercive forces of the market to compel capitalists to produce use-values as a byproduct in the pursuit of exchange-value, socialist production is based on the rational planning of use-values and coordinated investment decisions to attain economic goals.[2] As a result, the cyclical fluctuations that occur in a capitalist market economy will not be present in a socialist economy. The value of a good in socialism is its physical utility rather than its embodied labor, cost of production and exchange value as in a capitalist system.

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Intermediate Phases

The period in which capitalism becomes increasingly insufficient as an economic system and immediately after the proletarian conquest of the state, an economic system that features elements of both socialism and capitalism will probably exist until the productive forces of the economy fully develop, along with the cultural and social attitudes, to the point where they satisfy the requirements for a fully-developed socialist society. Specifically, market relations will still exist but economic units are either nationalized or re-organized into cooperatives. This transitional phase is sometimes described as "state capitalism" or "market socialism".

Social Relations

As a set of social relationships, socialism is defined by the degree to which economic activity in society is planned by the associated producers, so that the surplus product of the population is controlled by a majority of the population through democratic processes. The sale of labor power is abolished so that every individual participates in running their institution and no one controls anyone else.[3] The incentive structure changes in a socialist society given the change in the social environment so that individual laborers' work becomes increasingly autonomous and creative, creating a sense of responsibility for his or her institution as a stakeholder. The individual is no longer alienated from his or her work, but is instead a means by which the individual fulfills his or her humanity.

Inequality and incentive-based systems would still exist under socialism, but to a diminishing extent as all members of society are de facto workers. This eliminates the severity of previous tendencies towards inequality and conflicts arising from these.[4] The method of compensation and reward in a socialist society would be based on an authentic meritocracy, along the principle of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his contribution".[5]

The role of the state

In Marxist theory, the state is a mechanism dominated by and utilized in the interests of the ruling class to subjugate other classes, legitimize the existing socio-economic system and to promote the interests of the dominant class.[6] After a workers revolution, the state initially becomes the instrument of the working-class. Conquest of the state apparatus by the working class must take place to establish a socialist system. As socialism is built, the role and scope of the state changes as class distinctions (based on ownership of the means of production) gradually deteriorate due to the concentration of means of production in state hands. From the point where all means of production become state property, the nature and primary function of the state would change from one of political rule (via coercion) over men by the creation and enforcement of laws into a scientific administration of things and a direction of processes of production; that is the state would become a coordinating economic entity rather than a mechanism of class or political control, and would no longer be a state in the Marxian sense.[7]

See Also

Notes

  1. ^ http://marxists.org/glossary/terms/s/o.htm#socialism
  2. ^ Market Socialism: The Debate Among Socialists, by Schweickart, David; Lawler, James; Ticktin, Hillel; Ollman, Bertell. 1998. From "The Difference Between Marxism and Market Socialism" (P.61-63): "More fundamentally, a socialist society must be one in which the economy is run on the principle of the direct satisfaction of human needs...Exchange-value, prices and so money are goals in themselves in a capitalist society or in any market. There is no necessary connection between the accumulation of of capital or sums of money and human welfare. Under conditions of backwardness, the spur of money and the accumulation of wealth has led to a massive growth in industry and technology...It seems an odd argument to say that a capitalist will only be efficient in producing use-value of a good quality when trying to make more money than the next capitalist. It would seem easier to rely on the planning of use-values in a rational way, which because there is no duplication, would be produced more cheaply and be of a higher quality."
  3. ^ Market Socialism: The Debate Among Socialists, by Schweickart, David; Lawler, James; Ticktin, Hillel; Ollman, Bertell. 1998. From "Definitions of market and socialism" (P.58-59): "For an Anti-Stalinist Marxist, socialism is defined by the degree to which the society is planned. Planning here is understood as the conscious regulation of society by the associated producers themselves. Put it differently, the control over the surplus product rests with the majority of the population through a resolutely democratic process...The sale of labour power is abolished and labour necessarily becomes creative. Everyone participates in running their institutions and society as a whole. No one controls anyone else."
  4. ^ http://www.economictheories.org/2008/07/karl-marx-socialism-and-scientific.html
  5. ^ Critique of the Gotha Programme, Karl Marx.
  6. '^ Definition of 'State, on Marxists.org: http://marxists.org/glossary/terms/s/t.htm#state: "The state is the institution of organised violence which is used by the ruling class of a country to maintain the conditions of its rule. Thus, it is only in a society which is divided between hostile social classes that the state exists."
  7. ^ Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, on Marxists.org: http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/soc-utop/ch01.htm: "In 1816, he declares that politics is the science of production, and foretells the complete absorption of politics by economics. The knowledge that economic conditions are the basis of political institutions appears here only in embryo. Yet what is here already very plainly expressed is the idea of the future conversion of political rule over men into an administration of things and a direction of processes of production."

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