Saturday, November 08, 2008

Corporatism and hierarchy

db0 draws a comparison between corporatism and Stalinism. I think he's mistaken on a number of points.

First of all, there's a lot of confusion, even within the socialist/communist world, between the economic foundation of a society and its political superstructure. Even Marx acknowledged that these two components of a society have a large degree of independence from each other. While some economic foundations might be incompatible with some political superstructures, it is equally the case that a particular economic foundation does not entail one particular superstructure.

People concentrate too much, I think, on the details of the formal structures of organizations. But the key question, in my opinion, is the underlying balance of power, and how well the structure is suited to and maintains that balance of power.

db0 observes that corporations, like Stalinist communism, are top-down and hierarchical. However, merely having a hierarchical organization does not necessarily mean that those at the top of the hierarchy have all the power and those at the bottom have none. (Of course, such an imbalance is, however, possible.)

In a capitalist corporation, those at the bottom have — or can have — the power to quit, the power to strike, and the power to slack. Those at the top need not only the worker's work but also their more-or-less willing cooperation: a cooperative worker produces more surplus value than one mindlessly obeying out of fear of starvation.

When you have proper unionization and the effective freedom to quit (both of which have been effectively realized in practice), the power of the workers balances the power of management to the benefit of both. The problem with capitalism is not that it employs hierarchical management, but rather that it tends to destabilize this balance of power, especially when the economy is static or contracting.

Those interested in socialist political systems must focus on restoring the balance of power between competing interests that is being systematically eroded by capitalists — and there is little evidence that President-elect Obama intends to restore that balance — and take steps to preserve that balance. Preserve the balance; the fine details of decision making will evolve on their own.

5 comments:

  1. In a capitalist corporation, those at the bottom have — or can have — the power to quit, the power to strike, and the power to slack.

    I think however that you are talking about a capitalist corporation within a state with at least some socialist rules. In a state where no such rules exist (as in the dreamworld of libertarians where the state is only there tp prevent aggression) you do not have the right to strike or of minimum wage etc.

    Indeed, you retain the power to quit or to slack, but you retain that power in Stalinism as well don't you? One can always opt to leave the country or slack (and indeed many did). But the problem with quiting or expatriating yourself is that you need to find someone to hire or accept you. And then, you're simply exchanging one dictator for another.

    I agree that when you have a government that checks the power of corporations and provides some power to the worker (minimum wage, healthcare and the like), you end up benefiting both, but not in the short term. And the Capitalists are myopic. Thus they will attempt to rip out all such power, and they do.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think however that you are talking about a capitalist corporation within a state with at least some socialist rules.

    But of course. The point is that the balance of power is important, not the fine details of the structure.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nevertheless, my original post was on what a corporation resembles. An unchecked corporation, resembles a unchecked socialist dictatorship.

    Unarguably it is the difference of power that creates the problem, not the hierarchy per se but that wasn't my point.

    I was merely pointing out the inherent contradiction of basing a democracy on a system which has dictatorship as it's structure, as well as the hypocricy of people who denounce socialist dictatorships but promote unchecked capitalism.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was merely pointing out the inherent contradiction of basing a democracy on a system which has dictatorship as it's structure...

    But the dictatorship doesn't come about because of the structure. If there's a balance of power, there's nothing wrong with the structure. And it's not the hierarchical nature of capitalist corporate structure that creates or perpetuates the power imbalance: The imbalance is created and perpetuated at a more abstract level.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete

Please pick a handle or moniker for your comment. It's much easier to address someone by a name or pseudonym than simply "hey you". I have the option of requiring a "hard" identity, but I don't want to turn that on... yet.

With few exceptions, I will not respond or reply to anonymous comments, and I may delete them. I keep a copy of all comments; if you want the text of your comment to repost with something vaguely resembling an identity, email me.

No spam, pr0n, commercial advertising, insanity, lies, repetition or off-topic comments. Creationists, Global Warming deniers, anti-vaxers, Randians, and Libertarians are automatically presumed to be idiots; Christians and Muslims might get the benefit of the doubt, if I'm in a good mood.

See the Debate Flowchart for some basic rules.

Sourced factual corrections are always published and acknowledged.

I will respond or not respond to comments as the mood takes me. See my latest comment policy for details. I am not a pseudonomous-American: my real name is Larry.

Comments may be moderated from time to time. When I do moderate comments, anonymous comments are far more likely to be rejected.

I've already answered some typical comments.

I have jqMath enabled for the blog. If you have a dollar sign (\$) in your comment, put a \\ in front of it: \\\$, unless you want to include a formula in your comment.