What is “market socialism”? Can markets and socialism coexist?

Question:
I am intrigued by the idea of market socialism, that is, some form of socialism where productive enterprises are owned and operated by the workers themselves, but goods and services are still distributed via the market. Would your proposal for socialism involve a market system where worker-owned enterprises compete against one another, or would there be some kind of planning system involved that would eliminate the market?

 

Answer:
In my view, socialism in the Marxian framework of analysis, refers to how production is organized. It means that the workers whose labor generates a surplus (an excess above what the workers themselves get back out of their output for their own consumption) are also identically the collective of persons who receive and distribute that surplus. Socialism is the negation of exploitation where exploitation is defined as an organization of production in which the people who receive and distribute the surplus are different from those who produce it. Examples of exploitative organizations of production include slavery (masters exploit slaves), feudalism (lords exploit serfs) and capitalism (employers exploit employees). If production were transformed from a capitalist to a socialist form - and exploitation were thereby eliminated from society the way slavery and serfdom were earlier - that would leave open the question of how society would distribute resources among productive enterprises and likewise how society would distribute the outputs of those enterprises. This could be done by markets, state planning, planning by other social institutions, and so on in an endless array of combinations. Markets have co-existed with every other kind of organization of production (e,g, slavery, feudalism etc.) and the same is true of planning. I would thus expect varying experiments with varying combinations of markets and planning would characterize the history of socialism once it was established broadly. Markets have always partly reinforced and partly undermined the organizations of production with which they coexisted. And I would expect the same if markets coexisted with socialist organizations of production.