I have to confess that I am disappointed by the responses to my most recent post. ac raised an extremely important question for anyone, like me, who takes the idea of a socialist transformation of America seriously. I tried, albeit in a quite preliminary way, to explore that question and to set it in some institutional and historical context. What would a socialist economy and society really look like, and how would it differ in important experiential ways from the mature capitalist society we live in now? At the end of that post, as a throwaway snark, I made some snap remarks about Althusser and Gramsci. And that is all that anyone noticed, so far as the comments indicate.
Look: What thoughtful writers have to say about socialism is interesting and important, and what they have to say about the writings of Marx is also interesting and important. But in the end, it is much, much more important to try to think through how a socialist society would actually be organized on a day to day basis.
There is a reason why my books do not have many footnotes. It is not because I think no one but me has anything to say, although as a joke I sometimes describe myself as arrogant. It is because I care more about the truth than I do about the literature. I don't really care whether Althusser was a fraud. Even sitting here in Paris, on his home turf, I am not interested in that question. I want to know the answer to ac's question. A life spent working in an automobile factory or an IPhone assembly plant or as a salesperson in a Walmart store is, let us say, less than adequately fulfilling. How, if at all, would that change if the means of production were collectively owned? That is not a rhetorical question. I have a deep faith that collective ownership of the means of production would make it possible for the lives of countless men and women to be substantially improved. But at this point, I cannot cash that faith in with a detailed, well-reasoned argument in its support.
My post was an invitation to all of you to think about the question and offer your thoughts and experiences. Quoting something Marx wrote one hundred and fifty years ago is always a good start, but no more than that. The world has changed vastly in that intervening period, as Marx would have been the first to insist. I tried to begin to answer that question in my essay "The Future of Socialism" by taking off from a pregnant quote by Marx and looking at what is happening now in large corporations. I tried to extend the answer a little bit by making some remarks about modern macroeconomists. Both of those efforts were very preliminary and based on my very limited knowledge. But at least they were attempts to answer the right question.
So, I will ask again: How would living in a socialist America differ significantly from living in the America of today.