Market System "structural incentives" as the real problem?

Dear Dr. Wolff, I agree with your criticisms of Capitalism, and I find your suggestion to democratise the workplace very interesting. I own a very small distribution company in a very small part of the world, and may put those ideas into practice there. However, the solution does not do away with the incentive to out-compete competitors - which I see as an equally problematic issue. This same economic incentive to outcompete competitors can be spun to sound like a good thing, but it is the very same incentive that leads countries to war with each other over resources. I feel strongly that the problem is not Capitalism per se, but the Market System construct. The Market System has it’s own “structural incentives”, and often, a gaming strategy is required by the individual/state/company to “get ahead” in the game of Market. This usually means to acquire wealth for yourself, and taking it from the other guy. Are my criticisms naive? Am I missing something? I did not study economics, but I feel that we need to transition into an “Access system based on automated labour” from a “Market system based on human labour” to really detach ourselves from the same self-perpetuating problems of the Market. I have more to say on this topic, but will end it here for now. Best, Andrew

Official response from submitted

The social organization of production (that has historically taken such forms as master-slave, lord-serf, and now employer-employee) is one thing within an economy and the mode of distributing resources and products among enterprises and people is something else. Today we have an economic system comprising a capitalist organization of production and a market system of distribution. The combination of these two elements produces that competition to which your email refers. I focus my criticisms on the capitalist organization of production chiefly because its negativities are insufficiently understood, appreciated and targeted for change. However, I know that for a long time now, thoughtful analysts have offered very powerful criticisms also of the market as a mechanism of distribution. Indeed, when I teach my courses I ask students to read the powerful critiques of markets offered in ancient Athens by Plato and Aristotle. So let me suggest that we collaborate: you with your focus and emphasis on the problems of markets and me with min on the problem of how we organize production/the workplace. Both elements call for change and transition to far better social arrangements, especially now.

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  • Andrew Ponton
    commented 2017-01-30 13:19:42 -0500
    Thanks for your answer. Yes, I welcome your suggestion for a collaboration. I will continue to watch and support your work. And I will heed your advice and look into Plato and Aristotle’s critiques of the market. All the best, Andrew.
  • Andrew Ponton
    tagged this with good 2017-01-30 13:19:41 -0500
  • Richard Wolff
    responded with submitted 2017-01-29 21:22:10 -0500
  • Andrew Ponton
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-01-29 21:00:40 -0500