Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Values, competition, and socialism

I think that although the danger of a non-competitive socialism has been grossly exaggerated there still is definitely a potential for lack of competition to have adverse affects on society. I see competition as a secondary, but necessary, part of society, something that's encapsulated in a dialectical moment, so to speak, between collective phases.

Competition in the sense that we're familiar with, associated with capitalism, partially came about as a response to the completely static society of the feudal middle ages, where there was no possibility of social mobility whatsoever. You were stuck in whatever social position you were born into, unless you could escape to the city and try to reinvent yourself. With the decay of feudalism and the revolt against it, individual competition came into its own, but just as feudalism, with it's all encompassing, static, stifling, system, went too far, so the ethos of competition go too far in the other direction. All supports, social and otherwise, were jettisoned as being unnecessary and oppressive, as opposed to simply some of them.

We can see the consequences of this today, where health care, for example, is strangely enough linked to individual competition in the philosophies of some, in that if you're responsible enough you should be able to either pay for medical care outright or get adequate health insurance. What this ignores is the huge weight of society against the individual, a weight that is not geared towards the human scale but completely overwhelms it. Issues like this, if they're going to be addressed, need to be addressed socially, without simply saying that an individual alone can solve all the problems him or her self.

Yet, individual initiative, the impulse to improve ones self, the impulse to go out and do things that are creative and interesting, as a good thing, is a very important contribution. The comparison that some people have drawn between socialism and feudalism is only partially true, in that in my opinion it's apathy, rather than any sort of forcing a person into a certain occupational mode, that's the real potential source of stasis. I suppose that what's considered the "Party Line" could also play a role, but if that "line" also includes positive, integrative, values that help both the individual and society as a whole lead positive, successful, lives, then that's not quite as bad.


|\|@ said...

I totally agree. Stated otherwise,as with almost all things moderation is key.

Lorraine said...

Competition is best when it's optional, but what isn't?