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Has 'Communism' as a political philosophy become irrelevant today?
I need some thoughts over the issue in the light of contemporary economic and political situations in the world order.
As a political philosophy? Not entirely. As an economic philosophy? Probably, but only because I think all of our old economic philosophies are irrelevant. The commonly held belief, at least in Capitalist nations, is that Capitalism has 'won' based upon the fall of the Russian communist regime. But this is kind of like saying that we have won when a kid on the playground has beat up all the other kids. WE didn't win, just the last kid standing did. The bloody kids on the ground all lost.
Capitalism as formulated is fatally flawed in that it is based upon an infinite world, but we do not have an infinite world. For a long time that was all right because we still had space to expand. Much of that space came by squeezing out other places in the world, and part came from untapped resources and lands, but now that we have run out of room and easy to exploit resources and lands, Capitalism has no idea what to do. It manages to limp along through exotic and creative inventions such as fiat money and derivatives but sooner or later it will not be able to. I think we are starting to see that now. Socialism was never really formulated with a finite world in mind either and so it is essentially irrelevant for the same reason. Any future economic philosophy will have to grounded in a finite world and in principles of sustainability.
As a political philosophy I think it still has a lot of relevance. Essentially its main tenet is that the people own their own wealth and productive capacity. I don't really know many people who do not want that, so I am always surprised how much hostility is expressed toward socialism. With that being said, I think one of our great mistakes throughout history is the idea that there has to be One Ring to rule them all. What we need is a world where people are free to choose their own governance free from outside interference. That conceptual framework to make that happen has not yet been developed. My thoughts on it is that it will be an organic model and operate similar to cells in a body in which a set of rules determine interactions between cells, but internally cells are free to do as they please (but within the limits of the cell's space and resources).
I really appreciate your thoughtful response junkseller. I mostly agree with you, and thanks again for such a detailed response. Just some points for the sake of argument.
No. Communist governments--Laos, Cuba, Korea, China, in varying degrees--and insurgencies--Nepal, India--still exist and exert their effects on the lives of people.
Moreover, it appears to me that the decline of organized labor, especially but not exclusively in the US, combined with the effects of technology, are making Karl Marx's central prediction--that wealth tends to concentrate in fewer and fewer hands--look much more like it's coming true than it did a couple of decades back. Moreover, in an urbanized consumer society, the political and social control that wealth can exert is probably much greater than in the past.
So the potential for class warfare a la Karl Marx may be increasing once again.
The prescriptive aspect of Marxism is that a planned economy will lead to--well, basically Heaven on Earth--looks to be more thoroughly debunked than ever, however. The most heavily 'planned' economies have performed miserably throughout the latter twentieth century. (China only began to proper as aspects of capitalism were introduced.) It's still theoretically possible, I suppose, that scientific economics could actually crack the problem of managing an economy thoroughly enough that a planned economy could succeed. Not holding my breath on that, though...
While I completely agree with you on all the points raised by you, I think, the story of China is not so simplistic as still, a large section of its workforce is in the govt sector and organised, most powerful companies are those with the government.
Has it become irrelevant? Not at all! I would recommend you read the agenda and goals even of the Progressives in the U.S., the really strong liberals on the Left, and compare it to the same for Communism. In essece, there is the controlling elite in power and the rest of the nation who are supposed to evenly share the wealth. So, communist doctrines are even in the U.S. and just renamed as Progressive.
I am not in defence of capitalism. Raising some issues just for the sake of arguments.
You must have heard about the concept of "Tragedy of Commons". It is often told that people are the best protectors of their own interests. But does it really happen? In the open access fisheries, in the absence of property rights, people do tend to exploit more resources than they actually require. Is a patient herself, the best person to suggest suitable medication, or it is a doctor who needs to be followed? In the sense of national wealth, is it the common people who should be on the drivers seat or it is the business people who know the traits of selling?
Secondly, it is often said (probably the statement was first made by J. Shumpeter) that capitalism is all about creative destruction. No double it exhausts the resources, but it also creates new ways, new methods and new processes. Thus, suppose we argue that if we do not create alternatives, all the fossil fuel will get exhausted. But suppose we find an alternative before all the fossil fuels are completely exhausted, and the new alternative is so efficient that all switch their locomotives to the new method. In that case, what will be the use of whatever fossil fuel that remained unused?So, is it not better to exhaust the existing resources fast and then used the new technology?
Communism in its purest form only works at the local government level with a pure democracy, full citizensenship participation in the local government's bureaucracy, and a decentralized national government. There is no decentralized government on earth, so Communism cannot work here.
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