Essays after the Collapse of Communism
- New Thinking in Political Economy series
Chapter 8: Hayekian Socialism: Rethinking Burczak, Ellerman and Kirzner
8. Hayekian socialism: rethinking Burczak, Ellerman, and Kirzner* In ‘Socialism After Hayek’, Ted Burczak (1996/1997) oﬀers a theoretical alternative to both capitalism and comprehensively planned socialism. He concedes the Hayekian ‘knowledge problem’ and agrees that a technologically advanced economy requires competitive market pricing of the means of production to coordinate the plans of producers and consumers. He is also quite comfortable abandoning the labor theory of value in favor of an Austrian-style methodological subjectivism. He rejects, however, the traditional Austrian School’s normative defense of the capitalist market system. Instead, Burczak hopes to show that one of the more important normative goals of socialism – the ideal of allowing labor to appropriate the whole product – can be theoretically preserved in a competitive market economy that constitutionally abolishes the wage–labor contract in favor of democratic, self-managed enterprise. With Cullenberg (1992), Burczak calls this a form of ‘thin socialism’, as opposed to comprehensively planned socialism. I would instead suggest ‘Hayekian socialism’, a more provocative label for obvious reasons.1 An Austrian might respond that Burczak’s thin, Hayekian socialism is merely a semantic guise for interventionism (that is, a market economy with a great deal of state interference) rather than socialism. Many Marxists might respond similarly, and there is something to be said for such an argument. But that would miss a neat opportunity oﬀered by Burczak: if comprehensive planning is both empirically and theoretically bankrupt, must socialists admit total defeat and abandon their solidarist ethics in favor of the hard capitalist ethics...
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