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Marx, the Predisposition to Reject Markets and Private Property, and Attractive Alternatives to Capitalism

Jon Wisman ()

No 2018-04, Working Papers from American University, Department of Economics

Abstract: Ever since capitalism came to be recognized as a new economic system, its principal institutions of private property and markets have had vociferous critics, of whom none was more wide-ranging and influential than Karl Marx. Marx claimed that not only were private property and markets critical to creating an ideological patina of freedom behind which, as in slavery and feudalism, a small class extracted from the mass of producers practically all output above that necessary for bare subsistence, they were also corrupting. Yet Marx recognized that capitalism, unlike earlier exploitative systems, was radically dynamic, producing unprecedented wealth, while transforming not only all it inherited from the past, but also its own nature so as to eventually empower even the producers, who he believed would abandon these capitalist institutions. This article claims Marx was correct in identifying the core problem of capitalism to be its extreme inequality in the ownership and control of the means of production, but that finding fault with private property and markets has been a mistake that has impeded the generation of an attractive and viable alternative to capitalism. It concludes with an outline of an alternative which would eliminate the core problem of exploitation due to unequal ownership and control of the means of production, while retaining roles for private property and markets. It would entail two components: Guaranteed employment at living wages and democratic worker control of firms.

Keywords: Inequality; Exploitation; Markets; Private property; Marx (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: B51 P11 P16 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-his, nep-hme, nep-hpe and nep-pke
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Journal Article: Marx, the Predisposition to Reject Markets and Private Property, and Attractive Alternatives to Capitalism (2020) Downloads
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