The discussion provoked by my post about socialism growing in the womb of capitalism has been fascinating, but completely irrelevant to what I was trying to say. Let me explain. I was not arguing that socialism would be a good thing rather than a bad thing. I was not arguing that socialism was likely to replace capitalism any time soon [in fact, the conclusion of my paper is that it is not.] I was actually trying to think in the way Marx thought. I was asking: what developments now taking place in the advanced sectors of capitalism are preparing the sorts of new social relationships of production that would be manifested in a socialist economy. In short, I was asking: Is socialism growing in the womb of capitalism? It was their failure to ask this sort of question that led Marx to call his predecessors “Utopian socialists.”
If in fact, as I argued in that paper, advanced capitalism inevitably and unavoidably transforms purely economic decisions of profitability and efficiency, driven by the prices presented to the firm by the market, into quasi-political choices among alternative policies, driven by questions of desirability [according to some measure], then the structural pre-conditions for socialism may well be developing within the womb of capitalism, just as Marx’s analysis of the transition from feudalism to capitalism led him to expect.
Would I look forward with pleasure to the prospect of socialism? Indeed. Do I think there would be many difficult questions to be answered, among which is how to promote technological innovation? To be sure. But if I am right that socialism is, in a sense, growing in the womb of capitalism as we speak, then the relevant question is not whether these new relations of production are a good or bad thing, as though we had the option of turning back the clock to the earlier stages of capitalist development. The relevant question is whether we can establish collective democratic control over these new relations of production in a way that has proved impossible with regard to capitalist relations of production.