Utopian socialists believed that socialism is inevitable because it is a more rational system to organise production and life, a system more in line with the ‘good’ nature of human beings. Marxism rejected this reasoning, replacing it with what is known as historical materialism: social systems, it argued, emerge, develop, and die not because they correspond more or less to the ‘natural’ aspirations of the people, but because they become more or less competitive in the process of historical evolution – a version of social Darwinism applied not to individuals, but to communities and countries. In particular, Marxism stated that capitalism develops productive forces up to the point when they can no longer be managed efficiently in societies with markets and private property; at this point social property of the means of production and a centrally planned economy become a more efficient way of managing productive forces, whose social nature has outgrown the narrow private property limits. This prediction did not come true – in the twentieth century socialism came to being not in most advanced capitalist countries, but in the periphery and semi-periphery (USSR, Eastern Europe, China, North Korea, Cuba), and only in North Korea and Cuba it survived into the twenty-first century.
The aim of this conference is to examine why capitalism was competitive in recent 500 years, why it failed in the twentieth century and was replaced by socialism in a large part of the world, and why the socialist societies did not succeed and eventually made a transition back to capitalism. One argument is that the increase in income inequality in 1500-1800 allowed for an increase in savings and investment rates, spurring economic growth, but later the costs of numerous negative consequences of high income inequality – like greater social tensions, high crime rates, and poor institutional capacity of the state – became larger than the benefits of high savings-investment that were making capitalism competitive for 500 years. This could now lead to the emergence of ‘new socialism’ that will not necessarily mean a total elimination of markets and private property, but is likely to limit them substantially for the sake of achieving lower income inequality.
Georgy Derluguian, Professor of Social Research and Public Policy, New York University Abu Dhabi
Michael Ellman, Professor Emeritus, Amsterdam University
Domenico Nuti, Professor of Comparative Economic Systems, University of Rome “La Sapienza”
Vladimir Popov, Professor, DOC RI Research Director and a Principal Researcher in Central Economics and Mathematics Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Beverly J. Silver, Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology, Director of the Arrighi Center for Global Studies, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, USA
Andres Solimano, International Center for Globalization and Development
Vladislav Zubok, Professor, Department of International History, London School of Economics, UK
Kevan Harris, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of California-Los Angeles, USA
The conference will take place at the DOC Offices in Berlin on 23 -24 October, from 10:00-17:00.
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Agnieszka Rzepka: Arzepka@doc-research.org