Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Human self-realization, the point of the game with socialism

And anarchism. A perspective that's sometimes missed is the socialist humanist underpinnings of both Marx and anarchist thought of the 19th and 20th century. Marx in his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, as well as in "The German Ideology", puts forward an conception of socialism where the resolution of the problem of capitalism's division of people into owners and workers is a foundation for a socialist society of truly integrated human beings. This would be a society where both the head and the muscles get the opportunity to be put to full use and creativity and where creative action would inform personal, work, and social life. Coming off of Hegel's "Master/Slave Dialectic", portraying a semi-capitalist situation where the Masters are educated for executive decisions but don't have the skills to put the decisions into action, and where the Slaves are educated for action but not encouraged to make executive decisions, Marx outlines the foundations of an ideal state that would resolve the parallel capitalist situation, leading to a cooperative society where the capacity for full self realization by all would be possible.

The gist of it is that, on top of the division of society into capitalists and workers being unjust in a Master-Slave way, capitalist society makes labor the property of one class, with another class forced to sell their labor to it, and on top of that labor is in reality both collective and individual.While one class of people should not be able to monopolize creative initiative, one group of people should not be the only buyers and then possessors of labor, and labor itself has both an collective and individual aspect. This is true because most of the products we use and deal with, and most of the work that individuals do, are the products of collaboration with others and not done on an individual basis. If this is not explicitly the case it is the case implicitly in the sense that most products that are made are made based on modifying the work of others. Because of this, the benefits of the labor of society should accrue both to society and to individuals. If one group no longer owns the labor of society it should belong to society as a whole in one aspect and to individuals in another, with individuals, receiving both general social benefits and subsidization in many areas of life, and then also receiving a component of individualized compensation commensurate with differences in individual contribution to social labor. The labor that would go back to society would be labor that is appropriated currently by capitalists. This includes both collective and individual labor. A component in this type of socialist society could also be a higher return to individuals of compensation for their own unique labor, but it would have to co-exist with social benefits, and would possibly be merged with them to some degree in the form of higher wages across the board, because of the presence of both collective and individual labor in the appropriation of capitalists.

*on edit: Marx makes the point that although individual labor can be seen to a certain point in certain paradigmal occupations, after a certain point it becomes impossible to see where one person's labor stops and another person's labor starts, because of mutual reliance and cooperation in modern work. When that happens, it's no longer fair to try to reduce compensation to a purely individual standard, although again, differences in individual effort within a group setting should still count for a difference in collective compensation. The collective compensation accumulates to society as a whole, as collective cooperation builds on collective cooperation, and therefore should come back to society as a whole in the form of a literal common-wealth, a common higher standard of living gotten from everyone doing their best in their work.

*on edit again: social labor compounds on social labor across businesses and occupations until everything is united in a web of mutual interdependence and cooperation, where everyone does good through everyone doing good at their jobs, ultimately in an ecological way.

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