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Katherine Verdery, Theorising Socialism: A Prologue to the Transition in Joan Vincent
The collapse of Communist Party brought a new phenomenon, the transition from socialism to the diverse societal forms that will succeed it. Aim of the paper: to set forth the theoretical model of socialism (which is a composite of ideas developed by several eastern European social theorists. The author describes the work of Hungarian and Romanian scholars who criticize or seek to modify the societies in which they lived at the time of their writing. The framework she sets out can be used to analyse many aspects of life in socialist societies: economic production, bureaucracy, daily experiences and social relations. The Dynamics of Real Socialism Analyse the fundamental mechanisms of socialist systems. Which are the socialism s laws of motion? Rational redistribution = ideology through which the bureaucratic apparatus justifies appropriating the social product and allocating it by priorities the party has set. Capitalism motor is to maximize surplus value. Socialism motor is to maximize redistributive/ allocative power, to have the most important resources, meaning the ones that generate more resources under the apparatus of control. The result is that the resources generated within the society will remain within the bureaucratic apparatus rather than falling out of it into consumption. Eg: the emphasis of socialist economies on building up heavy industry which produces numerous resources that can be centrally controlled. (Consumer industry products fall out of central control into the hands of consumers.) Socialism s fundamental dynamic is to accumulate means of production and not profit from sales. (Campeanu) -the power in this system is tied to social ownership of the means of production - socialism s central imperative is to increase the bureaucracy s capacity to allocate - the small scale production constitutes a threat to the central monopoly on allocation
What is scarce and problematic in socialist system is supplies rather than demand. There are 2 sets of reasons for this: processes involving bureaucrats prestige. the Party leadership. lower-level units cannot produce the means of production upon both bureaucracy and apex rely. Maximizing allocative capacity is not the same as maximizing the actual surplus. Allocative bureaucracy vs party centre Allocation = apparatus and/or bureaucracy Bureaucratic apparatus is an all-embracing mono-organizational entity. What happens in this situation? 2 . Bureaucrats are constantly under pressure not to be outdone by other bureaucrats. Shortages of consumer goods provoke a variety of strategies by which people seek to acquire needed goods or income from outside the official system of production and distribution. the bureaucratic managers of the allocative process must be concerned with such things. so that one can move up closer to the privileged circle that always gets what it asks for. which meant a constant threat to the allocative monopoly of the centre. To suppress all these completely was not advisable. without productive activity those who allocate will enter a crisis of overadministration . The central drive of the system was to accumulate means of production and allocative capacity. (second/informal economy illegal black market exchanges and sales. In each socialist context. -redistributive systems chiefs redistribute goods to their followers. The form of competition specific to socialism consists of always trying to get more allocable inputs than others at one s level. the clerk who hides goods under the counter for friends and relatives or for a bribe). Bureaucracy / apex . The limits on a chief s power and a socialist bureaucrat s come from the power of other chiefs to siphon followers away by giving bigger and better feasts or more generous loans. therefore. a small circle of the political elite.There are 2 basic elements of behavior within this system: bargaining and shortage and the logic of allocative bureaucracies. since the consumers who could not acquire what they needed for livelihood were difficult to motivate and to control. Whereas the apical owners of socialized means of production can persist in policies whose effect is to accumulate means of production without concern for things like productivity and output. and the realities of their role as allocators. the role of bureaucracy is to manage. Without actual investments and hard material resources. there remained a constant tension between suppressing and permitting a certain amount of secondary economic activity. corruption in distributive networks. These are contradictions of socialist systems rooted in the production and distribution of goods and services. just as socialist bureaucrats allocate social rewards. ownership / management Most ownership functions are monopolized by the apex.
the knowledge necessary to setting and implementing goals for society. symbolic-ideological strategy . bankruptcies . i. Coercive strategies generate sabotage and other forms of resistance that reduce production and state revenues Socialism and culture In this economic and social context. Not all of these people want to become apparatchiks (members of a Communist apparat) 3 . > descentralization. There are 2 main modes of exercising social control over labor in socialism: the market and political means (regimes that produce varying degrees of consent or coercion). culture ceased to be a commodity. A second argument for the weakness of socialist states defines power as a relationship of dependency: if a social actor depends heavily upon another for a crucial resource or performance. A third argument: a state may be seen as strong to the extent that it effectively creates itself as a cultural relation with its citizen-subjects. it is not powerful. rate of growth and productivity. no matter how many means of coercion lie at its disposal. larger than it requires.- - 1. Intellectual refers more to a social space than to a category of people. Central accumulation of means of production begins to threaten the capacity of lowerlevel units to produce 2. At the same time. unemployment. firings. Because leaders cannot use labor markets. We can further subdivide symbolic-ideological strategies by the values to which they appeal: norms of kinship and friendship. How can a relatively weak state control its subordinates? Control over the means of production and power to limit consumption give socialist leadership extensive command over labour. important in organizing informal networks and local solidarities. To these 2 modes the author adds the 3rd. so as to permit selection. Result? Pressure from people to whom not enough is allocated and from bureaucrats whose prestige and prospects of retaining power depend on having more goods. the means for disciplining labor under socialism are much less subtle and varied than those available to capitalists. the party creates a large pool of educated people.e. Symbolic ideological strategies entail attempts to saturate consciousness with certain symbols and ideological premises. they obstruct the process of production. Coercive strategies entail not just systematic use of police and security forces but attempts to minimize nonofficial or market-derived source of income. Weak states and the mode of control Socialist states are weak because they insisted on monopolizing power by devastating the capacity of all other organizations undermining in this way their own capacity. Imbalances between allocations for investment and for consumption Result? A decline in the accumulation of actual allocable goods When apex try to keep enterprises from appropriating surplus on their own. -bureaucratic calls for market reform sometimes trigger an alliance with the independent activity in the second economy. Socialism suppresses freer markets because they move gods laterally rather than vertically toward the centre. The rational redistribution gives the party a monopoly on teleological knowledge . Imbalances between investment in heavy and light industry 3.
The texts were censored. two of them being the retooling of language (which becomes a means of ideological production) and the cultural production. reflecting changes in the issues that are delicate or troublesome from the party s point of view. paper. the rise of competing 4 . The words prohibited vary from one period to another. The nature of intellectual work is such that all new regimes must seek to capture its producers and its products. The party s inability to disable the intellectuals or to secure control over them shows the fundamental and problematic link between socialism and culture. very important for a party wanting to transform consciousness and control people. dictator and tyrant. published documentary sources. Eastern European communists came to power with the intention of rapidly revolutionizing consciousness and with precious few means of doing so. Intellectuals have talents which are essential to power and to any leadership or any period in which a symbolic-ideological mode of control predominates. The concentration of resources within the political apparatus produces a multitude of practices for influencing their allocation. encyclopedias. Interdicted words: Coffee and meat. Language and meanings are contested not merely between agents of party rule and intellectuals as a group but also among intellectuals themselves competing for access to the bureaucratic favor. socialist leaderships have generally attempted to fortify their monopoly on the production of meaning by disabling these independent foci of cultural activity. paints and on the other hand dictionaries. The means of cultural production are: on one hand printing presses. only specific words were allowed. Socialism s intellectuals are both necessary and dangerous: necessary because their skills are implied in setting social values and dangerous because they have potentially divergent notions of what intellectual practice should consist of. Nazism. These were all produced in public institutions. in order to maintain control over them. (the latter being forms of accumulated knowledge that serve as basis of further cultural production).Intellectuals are a class-in-formation because the form of intellectuals work makes them basic to reproducing the inequality on which the allocative bureaucracy rests. Reaching the transition In reaching the transition the most important changes were the Communist Party s loss of monopoly over both the bureaucratic apparatus and the political sphere. benefiting from huge allocations of funds and being guided by the party. essential to securing the resources for cultural production. metaphor becomes more important than prosaic discourse. persecuting those who engage in it. fascism and anti-Semitism. A consequence of the politicization of culture is the emergence of a cultural equivalent of the second economy: samizdat literature (a key form of dissident activity across the Soviet bloc in which individuals reproduced censored publications by hand and passed the documents from reader to reader) As with many forms of second economy. Another means of cultural production is language. cold and dark. Communist rule changes language so that it no longer reflects or represents reality.
and the intention to descentralize economic and political decision-making process. Solutions for transition Building up many civil societies Solving Ethinc and national conflicts Decentralization of decision-making - 5 .political parties and nonstate organizations.
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