Green Designs for 21st Century Socialism

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1874 ... August 13, 2019
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Green Designs for 21st Century Socialism

Richard Westra

Before turning to the subject matter at hand two abiding issues in Marxist thinking need to be addressed. First, when Marx inveighed against Utopian Socialist futuristic model building, he never intended it to become a mantra dissuading socialists from thinking practically about socialist institutional design. Rather, Marx simply insisted that such endeavors only be undertaken after knowledge of the then forming capitalist economy had been produced. This is the task of Marx’s magisterial economic writing Capital that he devoted much of his life to completing. Second, while Marx’s pithy theory of historical materialism in the (in)famous Preface spells out in broad brush terms the general process of historical change: "At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production," in Capital Marx offers a far more precise means of conceptualizing the specific historical transformation from capitalism to socialism.

For Marx, the most fundamental contradiction of capitalism from which its delimitation as an historical society derives... is that between value and use value. Use value is the substantive foundation of all human existence. To survive, all human societies are established upon the metabolic interchange between human beings and nature from which a labor and production process furnishes the concrete, heterogeneous, qualitative useful goods human beings require for their sustenance and flourishing. Value, on the other hand, is the historically delimited, abstract, quantitative homogenizing principle of capital. When Marx adverts to the contradiction between value and use value he captures the "alien," "upside down" character of capitalist society. That is, capital must reproduce material life of human beings to exist as an historical society. Yet it does this only as a byproduct of its basic social goal of value augmentation or profit making. Further, while capital strives to reproduce the use value life of a human society as a byproduct of value augmentation an existential threat to capital remains the resistance of diverse use value life to it.

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