Challenge of Market Socialism

20 – 21st February 2020

Goethe University, Frankfurt

Paper: ‘Market Socialism: Macro, Meso- and Micro- Justifications

Abstract

This paper assesses the claim that to avoid labour alienation we must be market socialists committed to an extensive sector of worker-owned firms. The labour republican tradition offers three different versions of this argument: David Ellerman argues that non-alienation demands that all workplaces be worker owned. Robert Hockett has argued that it demands implementation as a macro-economic policy that the state function as the employer of last resort. Bob Taylor argues that republicanism merely requires a strengthened exit right for workers. This paper develops an earlier argument that mandatory market socialism would be illiberal by thinning the market for labour and removing the fair value of exit rights. The most reasonable view, overall, accepts that the state must be the employer of last resort so as to eliminate labour alienation, but this is a macro-level commitment that does not place any meso-level restrictions on the nature of the firm. Yet this commitment is the way in which exit rights are given a fair value. In the context of associational pluralism, the special value of worker owned firms can be identified as a stabilising aspect of a liberal-republican economy.



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