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Date: Sun, 16 Jan 2000 16:55:53 +0100
From: Jurriaan Bendien <email@example.com>
> b) One could also argue that socialism has the capacity to promote
> innovation in ways that capitalist firms can not.
Why such timidity ? If you ask me, the whole idea that a socialist economy
would stifle innovation because it lacks competitive pressure etc. is
simply an ideological hoax. It is based on the experience of poor countries
which lacked a democratic civil society, seeking to industrialise under the
tutelage of a despotic bureaucratic caste which referred to socialist
ideology to justify itself.
This bureaucratic caste stifled all innovation and innovators which it
perceived as a threat to its interests, and made the generalised
application of innovations very difficult except in those areas which it
prioritised and rewarded. Even so, you cannot say that e.g. Soviet science
and art, or Chinese science and art, have not been extremely innovative in
many areas, making decisive contributions to human progress from which the
West has benefited. And bourgeois society can be just as repressive towards
innovative behaviour if it does not conform to the logic of markets and the
profit motive, or even just to bourgeois norms of behaviour. Indeed it can
ruthlessly exploit innovators and creative people, or place them in
Faustian-type dillema's, thereby repressing innovation.
In essence, the process of innovation simply requires freedom for
experimentation, for doing something different from "normality" or
tradition. This is I think far more a political, ideological, juridical,
cultural, and moral question than a question of economics. The economic
issue concerns more the application and generalisation of inventions,
ensuring the institutional arrangements which allow inventions to be
appropriately applied and generalised. Admittedly, the two overlap in
regard to the question of "moral and material incentives". But if (1) you
do not accept Stalinism or Maoism etc. as the socialist model for
innovation, and if (2) you break with the myth that innovative behaviour is
chiefly caused by capitalist economic behaviour, and if (3) the existence
of markets does not gurantee freedom for the majority, the field of
possibility is really wide open. If socialism is about anything, it is
about the liberation of the creative powers of the working classes. Maybe
we should be more concerned about lack of innovative thinking among
socialist economists !
As the French students said in 1968, "L'imagination au pouvoir" !
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