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More on Market Socialism; A Level Philosophy: A Reply to Roche

Soris Frankel

More on Market


In Radical Philosophy 39 Alec Nove rejected my argument
concerning the historical obsolescence of market soclallsm.

Nove particularly emphasised that my lack of an alternative
model was no substitute for his own ‘feasible soclallsm’

model. While I plead guilty to lacking an elaborate blueprint
of the future socialist soclety, it would be stretching the
imagination to believe that Nove’s few sketchy remarks flll
the bill.

A close examination of Nove’s book The Economics of
Feasible Soclallsm reveals that ninety-nine per cent of the
content is a critique of existing Eastern European societies,
orthodox Marxist theories and recent alternative strategies
in Britain and the Third World. While I agree with many of
the criticisms that Nove makes in this highly readable and
important book, I object to Nove’s public relations claims
that his model is detailed and ‘feasible’. In fact, Nove’s
model of ‘feasible soclalism’ is no more detailed than my
own conception of a sociallst soclety (in Beyond the State?).

Both our books are characterised by general, rather than
specific goals. We both agree that a soclalist society should
be a pluralist, multi-party system, that there wl11 need to be
very strong state involvement and co-ordination, that selfmanagement and democratic participation in decision-making
will have to be maximised, that preference should be given
to small-scale institutions and enterprises wherever possible,
and so forth. Our main disputes are over the role and degree
of market mechanisms as wel1 as the desirable forms of consumption and production in a socialist society.

Readers will flnd that Nove does not tell us anything in
detail about the relationship between state-owned, central1y-planned and market oriented enterprises, co-operatives, small-scale private firms and individual producers or
providers of services. We cannot read in Nove’s book anything detailed about local, national and international economic relations, how planning wil1 be declded, implemented,
etc. – given the commitment to a pluralist political system.

We learn virtually nothing about the transition to ‘feasible
socialism’ and how class relations, gender relations, race
relations, environmental conditions or the major mllltaryindustrial war machines can be transformed in order to
achieve ‘feasib le social ism’.

This silence on Nove’s part is crucial for two reasons.

Firstly, we all know that a soclal order can only be the
result of human praxis within a set of social and natural
conditions not necessarily of our own choosing. Secondly,
the whole debate over the extent of planning or market
mechanisms is only meaningful if soclalists agree that most
of the existing set of soclal conditions and values are hardly
those which any socialist society would wish to imitate. But
Nove leaps from existing capitalist and Communist countries
to a seemingly ready-made ‘feasible socialism’. His failure to
supply concrete solutions to existing crises, e.g. unemployment, threat of war, oppression of women, uncontrolled
implementation of new technology, etc., partly explains why
Nove cannot accept the char~e that market soclallsm is hist-

orical1y obsolete. Any advocate of market soclallsm (or for
that matter any other model) must be able to address existing historical problems rather than declare these to be nonproblems – simply because ‘feasible soclalism’ has started to
work! Such a formula has a great affinity with those simpllstic solutions advocated by orthodox Marxist parties, e.g.

everything wll1 be resolved once the international proletariat rules, or once al1 power is transferred to the Soviets.

Apart from his use of anecdotes as a form of defence,
Nove does not appear to confront the criticisms which I
have made of “feasible soclalism’s” ability to achieve a number of soclallst objectives. I suspect that this is partly due
to Nove’s own failure to spel1 out what kind of soclal relations and values he would like to see created. It is one thing
to have a debate over the relative virtues of planning or
market mechanisms, couched in terms of which system best
dellvers certain goods and services, minimises bottlenecks
and maximises production. It is quite another thing to evaluate the quality and nature of production (as opposed to the
quantity of goods produced), vis-a.-vis the cumulative effect
upon soclal relations. For example, Nove apoears ~o be. much
more interested in the success of market me~hanlsms 111 the
Hungarian economy than in their negative effects upon
social. relations, e.g. increased selfishness, aspirations to
become wealthy, commodity fetishism and so forth. Similarly,
we must ask all advocates of market socialism whether the
retention of market mechanisms in large parts of the economy is at all compatible with egalitarian, feminist and environmentalist objectives. Rather than repeat my criticisms
of Nove, as wel1 as go over the whole productive/unproductive labour debate, I will briefly respond to some of the
issues which he raised in reply to my earlier critique.

Welfare and gender relations
Nove concedes that expenditure on welfare wll1 have to be
at much higher levels than those presently found in Western
Europe. But it is clear that he has not really given enough
attention to this vltal1y important area.

Firstly, it is not simply a matter of raising expenditure.

The whole relationship between paid work and domestic
labour wll1 have to change if there are to be more than cosmetic changes to existing discriminatory and paternalistic
welfare structures. A radical change in gender relations
within the home also implies radical changes in the nature
of paid work outside the home, and in the nature and extent
. of a whole range of soclal wage goods and services – from
child care through to education, old age care and so forth.

Secondly, Nove tells us that national output must rise in
order to pay for these higher welfare bl11s. But it is his
market system which requires this, in which taxation income
from enterprises profitable in the market (col1ected mainly
from wage workers rather than owners) is redistributed to
welfare recipients. I have argued that Nove’s ‘feasible
soclalism’ is seriously deficient, in relying far too heavily on
‘socialist enterprises’ making profits (required for competitivity in a market open to other countries). For how can
these ‘soclalist enterprises’ provide enough tax revenue for
welfare, when they wl11 be shedding labour due to domestic
and foreign market pressures to introduce new labour-saving


technology, and thus increasing the welfare population while
having all the whlle to remain operating as profitable enterprises after paying their tax?

But where does the logical necessity arise, that makes
an increased allocation to welfare goods and servides depend
upon raising national output? This follows only 1£ existing
allocations to current levels of consumer production and
non-consumer production are maintained. The postulated increases in national production may well be environmentally
disastrous, unless clear social priorities are fully articulated.

Given the fallure of existing market mechanisms to provide
adequate social welfare services, it would require a greatdeal of faith to believe that market socialism could surmount
crises in profitablllty and other inbullt consequences of
international competition – which are rife despite the
weighty roles of state planning, incomes policies and other
interventionist measures.

The strong relationship between women’s labour, the
feminisation of poverty, and the general responsiblllty for
paid and unpaid social welfare roles, is a matter which Nove
dismisses far too quickly. My concern for women working in
market sociallst enterprises stems from the overwhelming
evidence of mass discrimination in existing market enterprises. It is not enough for Nove to contrast an existing
state of affairs with an ongoing ‘feasible socialism’ where
women are paid the same as men. What has to be analysed is
the transition from market capitalism to market socialism,
and the inbullt mechanisms which give rise to tensions between enterprise profitablllty and worker equality. My argument is that market socialism has far greater inbuilt obstacles to gender equality than a non-market sociallst
future. To put it bluntly, there are numerous existing enterprises which make profits only because they employ cheap’

female, black and youth labour. Would these same enterprises continue to make profits if they paid equal wages in a
market sociallst society? And if they did dramatically
improve the working and wage conditions of women blacks
and youth, would these same enterprises provide enough tax
revenue for the greatly extended socialist welfare structures?

Mllitary-industrial complexes
Nove writes: ‘I shall say nothing about “military-indust,rial
complexes”, important as they are in the world today,
because they have no place in a “feasible socialist” model.’

He also claims that I am ‘mesmerised by the existence today
of multinational corporations’. Moreover, Nove advocates
international specialisation, the growth of markets beyond
national boundaries in what appears to be an international
market socialist future. Several points have to be made in
response to this Pollyanna view of the world.

First, Nove is either incredibly naive, or being deliberately provocative when he sees the enormous power of
multinational corporations as an issue to be disposed of by a
dismissive reference to my mesmerised state of perception.

Second, Nove says nothing about the inseparable connection
between existing mllitary expenditure and new technology,
market specialisation, loss of local polltical and productive
sovereignty, etc. One cannot imitate the ostrich and refuse
to say anything about mllitary-industrial complexes! Any
foreseeable socialist society will require some kind of defence system. The critical questions are, for instance,
whether the new socialist economy will be totally dependent
on foreign technology; whether this technology will be made
avallable only via a joint defence pact; whether such technology and such a defence pact is desirable in the first
place; whether the dismantling of existing military-industrial
complexes will leave market socialist economies viable or
not. In refusing to contemplate these enormous problems,
Nove opts out of the debate on peace, alternative employment scenarios, new technology, the environment and other
critical problems.

Nove tries to depict my advocacy of semi-autarky as a
recipe for impoverishment and mass smuggling. But I am not

opposed to international trade or to the importation of vit:”
ally needed goods or raw materials. What I am opposed to is
the domination of national economies by multinationals, the
high dependence on foreign technology (military and civllian), the need of domestic governments to be constantly sensitive to foreign economic and military interference. Democratic socialism becomes a farce if citizens are not able to
plan their society because foreign market mechanisms remain
crucial, or military and technological blackmail is constantly
being applied. Nove accepts the prevailing tendencies in new
technology in an uncritical manner. In contrast, I am concerned with maximising citizen sovereignty in a socialist
society. I am not at all convinced that a socialist EEC
working along market socialist llnes would be able to ellminate mass unemployment and poverty, or change the form and
level of consumption – given the incompatlbllity of market
mechanisms with any non-profitable allocation of goods and
services. Untll Nove spells out the mechanisms whereby car
production, or any other civllian and mllltary production
along international specialised lines, can’ enhance equality
and environmental protection, reduce the risk of war and
promote cultural solldarity and co-operation, then grave
doubts must persist about the desirability of ‘feasible socialism’.

In conclusion, it would appear that Nove has very little
to offer when it comes to alternative forms of social welfare, employment, consumption and cultural relations. He is
more concerned to see that Volvo car production is not disrupted, than to question whether we need cars in the future.

Nove’s ‘feasible socialism’ is merely an extension of existing
forms of consumption, employment and welfare – except that
there will somehow be no milltary-industrial complexes,
there will be enough tax revenue for expanded welfare and
employment, there will be no ecological crises, and market
mechanisms will be rectified by a strong interventionist
sociallst state.

The conservative and impoverished jmage of socialism
which Nove promotes is bad enough in its concept alone. But
when we go on to examine the practicability of his sketchy
plan for ‘feasible socialism’, it is far from clear how state
planning and market mechanisms will relate. We know, for
example, that Nove favours central planning for key industries such as rallways, steel and so forth. But what of other
vital industries that produce machine tools, electronics, etc?

Will th~ citizens of ‘feasible socialism’ be dependent on foreign companies and governments for these vitally needed
manufactured goods? What percentage of consumer goods
will be planned or produced according to market mechanisms? There is nothing detalled in Nove’s scenario. It seems
to be designed for a country which no longer has to worry
about multi-nationals, -about NA. TO or the Warsaw Pact,
about increasing deindustrialisation and unemployment, about
commodity fetishism and mass epidemics of alcoholism,
;:!ddiction, suicide and rapd.

The absence of any detalled analysis of polltical institutions is merely further evidence of Nove’s narrowly economistic concerns. Until market sociallsts pay as much attention
to cultural values as they do to attacking central planning,
we will be left with models which aim to fill the shop win.:.

dows with goods whlle the shoppers’ lives are empty of
meaning. A.lec Nove has done us a great service in pointing
out all those pollcies and mechanisms which resul t in scarcity, corruption, waste and irrational allocation of resources.

But until NQve devotes as much (!.ttention to the vital issues
raIsed by feminists, Greens and other critics of Western
capitalist ‘abundance’ as he has to the problem of Eastern
scarcity, then ‘feasible socialism’ will remain no more feasible than world revolution, but a lot less radical or socialist.

One thing is for sure, Nove’s ‘feasible socialism’ or my
socialist semi-autarky, cannot be validated at the level of
general proposals. Their feasibility depends on socialists
devoting energy to mapping out the specific political economic mech~nisms a~ local and national levels, and addressing
the strategIc questiOns of transitional programmes and other
detailerl questions. If Nove and I have falled to provide

detailed outlines, the deficiency is not ours alone. Untll
socialists develop the debate over market and plan with reference to concrete national experiences, all the polemics
and sloganising of the past and present will remain no more
than hot air.

A Level PhilosophyA Reply to Roche
Following my commentary on ‘A ‘-level Philosophy (RP ? 5)
and the misunderstandings and incorrect inferenceslt inspired in ‘v1aurice Roche’s defence of the ‘A’ level (RP 38),
I would like to extend those original comment,S with reference to a curriculu’Tl research project which I completed in
1984. In so doing, I hope to clear up some of the evident
confusion, repudiate Roche’s general charge of ‘pessimism’

against me, and signpost an alternative framework within
which philosophy may be developed within the sixth form

It may seem unnecessary to remind RP readers that the
English education system has inherited an elitist and hierarchical conception of the sixth form from its grammar
schools. A steady erosion of the social values contained
within that conception has taken place over the last thirty
years – accelerated by increasing numbers in the Sixth, the
advent of comprehensive educa !ion, sixth form and tertiary
colleges, and a general change in the social and economic
climat~. But this process has hardly been matched by any
curricular reform of the narrow, specialised studies traditionally offered to sixth-form entrants, as a guarantee of
their elitist status. The incursion of philosophy into the
school curriculum has been organised with an unquestioning
adherence to this undemocratic tradition, thus bearing ample
testimony to its continued supremacy over traditions emphasising general educational goals.

Specialised A level studies have been largely undisturbed
by a line of argument for a broader sixth-form curriculum
which is at least as old as the Crowther Report (1959). References in the latter to ‘minority time’ or general educational activities for all sixth formers, and ‘complementary
studies’ to correct a lopsided subject-choice, were followed
by the foundation of the General Studies Association, and
moves to initiate sixth-form General Studies in many
schools. Under such initiatives some of the most innovative
courses have been framed, not merely as a compensatory
feature in an unbalanced curriculum but, ‘llore positively, as
distinctive and integrated structures which draw particular
forms of thought into some overarching, conceptual scheme.

My own research tacitly invoked a view of the sixthform curriculum which stands squarely in this reformist tradition, and draws upon the type of integrated approach in
General Studies mentioned above. It was centred around the
evaluation of two philosophy courses within a sixth form
college, more specifically, within the Liberal Studies programme of short-course options rather than the traditional
A-level option grid. Both courses present phllosophy under a
generalist ~erspective, i.e., as a subject with a multifaceted reality, which interpenetrates with other disciplines
and has an important bearing upon the evolution of one’s
‘world view and substantive beliefs. The aims of teaching
philosophy in this light are wider, therefore, than the simple
cognitive rationale – ‘because it’s there’ – which at best will
probably only equip a student with the tools of critical analysis. Such aims cannot be divorced from the wider social,
moral and personal relevance to one’s life which the study
of philosophy may ;:>owerfully convey. It was the relevance

of this wider context which conditioned to a large extent
my final choice of subject-matter for the two, five-week,
courses (each course being repeated with four separate class
groups). The first course focused upon a series of moral
problems – abortion, euthanasia, nuclear disarmament, the
status of animals, etc. – and the principles of moral argument which underpin such discussions. The second examined
various questions of social justice – feminism, racial inequality, animal rights, chlldren’s rights, etc. – and the different
conceptions of society which are often implied in the
answers to such questions.

The development of philosophy under a generalist persp~ctive inevitably requires an evaluation focusing on a
wider set of conditions than those which promote cognitive
capacities of analysis, reasoning and judgement. Perhaps
here I can highlight sl’-ne of these conditions for the initiation of philosophy it,’) school curricula which Roche and
others i””1ore.

The quality of the phllosophical dialectic engendered by
both courses seemed to depend initially upon the sociocultural assumptions which students brought to the discussions. Where, for example, they exhibited a strong commitment to a particular view at the outset, it was much easier
to establish the centrality of human values in the debate
and avoid the form of intellectual chess which can otherwise
ensue. Alternatively, it was possible to create a climate of
moral conflict by emphasising the controversial nature of
the subject-content, posing moral dilemmas, and so on. At
the outset, a certain amount of simplification of the issues
and their implicit conflicts of principle was found to be
helpful. Open-ended questions seemed less effective here.

Above all, the existence of moral conflict at the opening of
a debate was seen to be more important than its quality.

Not only did it sensitise students to the dimension of human
values within these discussions but it also created an atrnosphere of scepticism on which further dialectical progress
could be based.

Further pedagogic strategies could be employed to advance the dialectic towards more systematic and rational
thought on a particular issue. The establishment of a polarity of views often constituted the next step in the progression from a simple moral conflict within a group, and was
integrally connected with the exertion of logical pressure to
drive each line of argument to the limits of its justification.

Sometimes this required the tutor to act the sceptic or even
to indulge in devil’s advocacy in the illumination of these
Emits. However, in other groups the students themselves released the tutor from the burden of devil’s advocacy, and
created the possibility of a freer role in the debate – one
which might be labelled that of the ‘honest broker’. As a
broker in a protracted argument, one is able to convey an
interest in the extension and flowering of both sides of the
opposition, rather than in the sharp refutation of one or the
other. Logical differences can be squeezed out of views
which are ostensibly similar, each line of reasoning
stretched to its ultimate limits, and the striving for some
deeper rational justification made more acute.

The injection of actual and hypothetical cases into the
debates at any opportune moment proved consistently influential, either in maintaining a link to topical and relevant
material or in relating the issues plausibly to the common
experiences of students. The value of these cases was located in their particularising, and sometimes personalising, of
the issues within a concrete, experiential context. The best
examples, both hypothetical and actual, were capable of
roundly summing up the tensions between the ethical principles embedded within a moral debate. Yet, by referring to
living contexts, the subsequent discussion of such examples
could secure a palpable relation to substantive truths about
morality and politics, thus avoiding that disembodied isolation from real concerns which sometimes afflicts discussions
of principle.

In analysing the signlficance of anecdotal and similar
remarks by students, my evaluation necessarily switched its

focus from the cognltive aspects of their learning to those
which involved their expression of value-preferences and
emotional responses. In general, the prominence of affective
responses was more noticeable in the moral debates than the
social-justice discussions. Moral issues, such as nuclear disarmament and the moral status of animals, provoked debates
which were admittedly parasltic upon existing controversies
aAd emotive concerns among some students. However, it was
also apparent that the heightening of subjective responses in
the moral arguments was in some measure the result of inserting examples of personal dilemmas, controversial cases,
and the like into the discussions.

The general conclusion of my research project was that
It is possible constantly to relate rational and systematic
thought about moral problems to living human contexts. In
keeping these latter at the forefront of a discussion, it is
more likely that one wlll do justice not only to the development of appropriate intellectual habits – the cognitive side but also to the expression of moral intultions and other subjective responses – the affective side. The stimulation of
moral confllcts may provide a basis, and then further pedagogic strategies may add greater impetus to the advancement of a dialectic which wlll satisfy both sides of the

In citing some of these broader educational experiences
over and above the purely intellectual, I hope it can be seen
that my posltion is far removed from the ‘pessimism’ attributed to It by Roche. On the contrary, the findings of my
research give quallfied encouragement to those who ~ish to
develop the teaching of philosophy in the sixth form, if such
teachIng Is undertaken from a generalist perspectIve. Philosophy teachers are able to achieve broader educational goals
than are often Imagined – moral, socIal and personal ones,
for example. And phIlosophy is a subject which both lnfor~s
and is informed by other fields of knowledge. The reformIst
tradition, whIch advocates a broader sixth-form curricul,um,
may S90n achieve a fuller expression than has been p~sslble
hltherto. But only if the latest AS level proposals are Implemented In the true splrlt of a llberal educatIon rather than
as more knowledge for the few. Let us hope that, those, ll~e
Maurlce Roche, who are concerned about phIlosophy in
schools wlll take the lead In devIsing alternatIve curricular
structures for the subject, such that It may truly be seen as
a democratIsIng element In sIxth-form education.

Steve Brigley


As a result of problems in the production of RP4-0, the footnotes and references to the exchange on orthodox llnguistics
between Bob Borsley and Trevor Pate;nan were unfortunately omitted. We offer our apologIes to both authors. We reproduce them below.

Footnotes to Bob Borsley’s ‘A note on “Orthodox
Unguistics'” (RP4-0, pp. 4-2-3)




As Cameron notes, much of what she has to say derived from Roy
Harris’s book The Language Myth (Duckworth, 1981). This is one of the
more recent of a long line of would-be definitive critiques of mainstream linguistics. For some sensible discussion of this work, see M.

Dummett, ‘Linguistics demythologized’, London Review of Books, 19
August to 2 September 1982.

See Reflections on Lan ua e (Fontana, 1976), pp. 55-59 and Rules and
Representations BasH Blackwell, 1980), pp. 229-30.

Language and Mind (Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968), p. 23.

Particularly important here is the wprk of Dan Sperber and Deirdre WlIson. See especially their forthcoming book Language and Relevance
(University of Chicago Press). It is worth noting that WlIson is also the
co-author of an important introduction to mainstream linguistics: N.

Smith and D. WHson, Modern Linguistics: the Results of Chomsky’s
Revolution (Penguin, 1979).

In view of her professed concern for empirical support, it is rather surprising that Cameron does not cite a single piece of data in the course
of her attack on mainstream linguistics.

See, for example, P.M. Postal and G.K. Pullum, ‘The contraction
debate’, Linguistic Inquiry 13, pp. 122-38.

See, for example, Rules and Representations, pp. 117-19.

References to Trevor Pateman, ‘Language and linguistics:

repJy to Bob Borsley and Deborah Camero!]’ (RP4-0, pp. 43-4)
Bickerton, D. (1981) Roots of Language, Ann Arbor, Mich.: Karoma.

Itkonen, E. (1978) ‘Concerning the Ontological Question in Linguistics’, in
Language and Communication 4, pp. 1-6.

Johnson-Laird, P. and Wason, P. (eds.) (1978) Thinking, Cambridge:

Cambridge UP.

Pateman, T. (1981) ‘Linguistics as a Branch of Critical Theory’, in UEA
Papers in Linguistics 14/15, pp. 1-29.

Pateman, T. (1982) ‘Discourse in Life: V.N. Volosinov’s Marxism and the
Philosophy of Language’, in UEA Papers in linguisticS 16/17, pp. 26-48.

Pateman, T. (1983) ‘What is a Language?’ in Language and Communication
3, pp. 101-27.

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