[OPE-L:4728] Re: opposition to Hayek

Paul Cockshot (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Fri, 11 Apr 1997 01:29:29 -0700 (PDT)

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Sometimes I wonder whether members of Ope really have lived through
the 20th century or not.

The politics of the 20th century have been dominated by the epochal
political struggle between socialism and capitalism. For most of this
century two quite different economic systems have existed on this
planet with correspondingly different theoretical reflections. The
theoretical proponents of each system have tried to construct a
systematic critique of the other system. Marxist theory has obviously
been one of the main forms of socialist critique of capitalist
economies. The corresponding body of theory on the other
side has been the austrian school of von Mises and Hayek. This
school has as its prime objective the critique of socialist economy.
This is probably the most significant new component of bourgeois
political economy this century.

Until socialism became a practical reality this century, there was
simply no need to perform a critique of socialism. With the comming
to power of both reformist socialist governments such as the Austrian
social democrats, and revolutionary socialist governments such as
the Bolsheviks, it became a matter of central importance to the
property owning classes. The Hayekian school provided the ideological
impetus to both the Thatcherite rolling back of reformist socialism,
and the Eastern European counter revolutions of the late 80s against
revolutionary socialism.

A key element of the Hayekian school is its emphasis on the market
as the mechanism that validates prices. Their argument is that there
can be no rational economic calculation in the absence of market
prices. The market itself, rather than production conditions is seen as the
factor in determining prices. It is a social subjectivist school
in that it treats the market as a social mechanism, but one that is seen
as unifying the multiplicity of distinct subjects engaging in trade,
each of whom has knowledge which is essentially private and subjective
about the conditions of production.

It is ideological in that its main aim is the critique of socialism and
the defence of capitalist forms of economy.

> From: Michael Williams <mwilliam@compuserve.com>
> Paul C writes:
> > It [Mike L's account of the determination of value] may not be an
> individual subjectivist view, but it is in accord with
> > the Hayekian social subjectivism that is currently the chief
> > enemy of socialist political economy.
> >
> I'm not sure what this means:
> 1. In what sense is 'Hayekian social subjectivism' ideological?
> 2. What is an 'ideological enemy' if a social theory such as 'socialist
> political economy'.
> Underlying these questions is my puzzlement as to what scientific (small
> 's'...) import we can give to the political economy of a non-existent
> (socialist) system. A critique of an actually existing social system
> (capitalism) through a critique of its major theoretical expression
> (bourgeois economics), now that is something else ... .