- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Accepting the invitation, one hand on my weapon...

Posted by: MDG on December 14, 1999 at 10:25:28:

In Reply to: Socialist Incentive posted by Barry Stoller on December 10, 1999 at 20:44:11:

: Of all the myths spread about socialism by procapitalist ideologues, few are as enduring as the myth that socialism, if prevalent, would reduce individual incentive.

: While some procapitalist ideologues readily admit that 'menial' (unskilled) work is primarily accomplished through the fear of punitive sanctions (such as unemployment, i.e. hunger and homelessness), most procapitalist ideologues insist that only the 'profit motive' will sustain the innovation, risk-taking, dedication, and so on, associated with 'mental' (skilled) work.

My gut reaction is that personal satisfaction is a prime mover for taking on mental, i.e., skilled work. If profit was the only motive, that would eliminate all the mental/skilled hobbies people indulge in for personal gratification.

I do the work I do for personal gratification; if profit was my main motive, I'd take my skills elsewhere and earn 10 times what I'm earning now.

: It certainly is useful to separate skilled work and unskilled work when considering incentive.

: However, the procapitalist reliance upon carrots and sticks exclusively is both primitive and UNNECESSARY.

: Before discussing non-hierarchal means of fostering excellence in skilled work and basic compliance in unskilled work, I wish to state that my thoughts on socialist incentive include the predicates that jobs will be rotated and incomes will be uniform. (Particulars regarding job rotation and specialization can be found here; the argument for uniform pay is made here.)

Gotta read those before I comment on job rotation, but given my last foray into this area, I'm reluctant to even bother. We'll see...

: Like capitalist society, incentive in socialist society will have two main categories: skilled ('desirable') work and unskilled ('not so desirable') work.

: The incentive to perform skilled work, contrary to procapitalist ideology, is largely self-perpetuating. For example: faced with a choice of digging ditches for $5 an hour and supervising others digging ditches for $5 an hour, most people would eagerly choose the latter. Indeed, most people readily assent that skilled work is far more satisfying to do than unskilled.

When you say "satisfying," do you mean personally rewarding, or not as hard? If incomes were the same, I'd rather dig ditches than balance ledgers.

: It is agreed by procapitalist ideologues that status motivates excellent work---while they qualify this by insisting that status is demonstrated by money and material privilege. Nonetheless, in a society without money or material privilege, status would not disappear---it would simply assume non-material manifestations.

"Status" is a trap, and one that seems to me designed to lure people into spending money on material things. If you're raised to believe that fancy cars, etc. = an admirable person, then it's logical to strive for such things. However, if the culture emphasizes good deeds and personal integrity (and related character traits) as what makes a person admirable, then "status" becomes available to rich and poor alike. Who here admires Donald Trump for all his wealth, rather than Daniel Berrigan -- poor in wealth, yet richer than most people can hope to be? Materialism is a curse.

:Instead of money and material privilege demonstrating special ability, the special ability ITSELF would demonstrate its existence. One example: those demonstrating special ability would attract a wider, and more satisfying, selection of potential mates, friends, and renown.*

Depends on what you're drawn to. If you like money, you'll go for someone rich but vacuous. If you value talent or personal integriy, you'll be drawn to those. On the other hand, there's much to be said for mating with someone who can provide material support; life with a poor starving artist might get old quickly, as soon as the bills pile up and the clothes get raggedy.

: Work, as many individuals in high skill professions will gladly say, is its OWN reward.

: Let us now consider what means of incentive there may be for the unskilled work.

: One deterrent against shirking one's quota of unskilled work in socialist society will simply be peer pressure. Example: the less I do today (on laundry duty, perhaps), the more awaits you tomorrow---I expect you'll have an opinion on this matter.

Peer pressure, i.e., shame, is effective in inverse proportion to the size of the community one is in. In a small town, where everyone knows your name, the nasty stares you'll get are incentive to do the laundry, but in New York City, you can avoid detection and be a loafer.

: Another factor that will promote performing one's quota of unskilled work in socialist society shall be the abolition of alienated labor.

Gotta read that to comment on later.

: When everyone decides WHAT sort of commodities and services are desired (instead of having the 'profit motive' of a minority decide such matters), many negative qualities regarding (unskilled) work will be effaced. Example: does the majority of people desire owning individual automobiles enough to spend a constituent amount of their own time working in a car factory to make cars available for everyone? If so, the work performed will be tangible goods that society clearly wants.

What about the desires of the minority? I'm a scuba diver. The gear I really want costs far more than I can afford. But how many other people dive? Will there be enough people working in the diving gear factory to make it for ourselves? Won't job rotation take us away from all the time we'd need to put in to make specialty items? Or would I just have to give up diving? I think the tremendous flaw in your argument are the words, "When everyone decides..." When EVERYONE decides anything, then maybe hell will freeze over.

: The negative qualities of (unskilled) work---so characteristic of most jobs in capitalist society---will, not surprisingly, be mitigated immeasurably by the fact that no one person will ever have to perform unskilled work ALL the time.

: Force is also an option in the case of any individual's arrant refusal to perform an unskilled work quota.

There's got to be a better way than force. With enough use of force, you'll breed an entirely new army of revolutionaries crying for an overthrow of the oppressive system.

: Perhaps the suspension of skilled work for those who refuse to satisfactorily complete their quota of unskilled work would be implemented. Perhaps, in extreme cases, socialist society, taking a page out of the capitalist song book, may refuse to feed and house those perverse few who refuse to do such work. (To suggest that such a measure would abrogate human liberty is to admit that capitalist society does so on a DAILY basis.)

Yes to the last point there, so why replace one form of oppression with another?

: Another option may be the implementation of behaviorology (which, in essence, is the science of incentive)---providing that such a science works as well in real life as it has in research settings.

: Briefly stated, behaviorology has demonstrated that some reinforcement schedules engender stronger and more frequent responses than others. Examples of these schedules---as applied to work---include: fixed-interval (predetermined weekly, biweekly, or monthly salary) and variable-ratio (commissions and profits) schedules of reinforcement. Extensive behaviorological research has documented that variable schedules are much more effective in maintaining high and steady rates of performance. This scientifically explains the 'intense ambition' of investors and proprietors as contrasted with the 'lesser ambitions' of wage laborers. What is important to keep in mind is not the payments of either wage-workers or capitalists, but the schedules themselves---which, according to behaviorological research, are as potent 'motivators' as the material reinforcement itself.**

: Behaviorology, it should be made clear to the uninitiated, posits that ONLY positive reinforcement is effective. Behaviorology explicitly REJECTS all forms of punitive sanctions, 'mind control,' and other psychological weapons used to coerce behavior.

: A rational and egalitarian socialist society would implement the same (effective) schedules of reinforcement in order to bring out the best in everyone.

A truly rational and egalitarian society would seem to be incentive enough on its own for citizens to agree to adhere to the societal contract. I'm a little leery of some egghead scientists brewing up a beviorologist master plan to get me to perform a task like a rat in a maze.

: So, in summation, there ARE some alternatives to the traditional 'profit motive' incentive of capitalist society.

: And: one useful thing about abolishing the 'profit motive' is that the (surplus-) value that once went into mansions, luxury jets, trophy wives, etc., etc., can be put right back into productive 'investment'---which would only accelerate further productivity (and abundance / leisure for everyone). Which, itself, would engender even MORE incentive---naturally.

Sounds good, but aren't you relying too much on peoples' goodwill? Selfishness may be (I'd highlight 'may' if I knew the damn html code) an intrinsic part of being human, along with the willingness to engage in extreme acts of cruelty in order to pass along one's genes to the next generation. I'm a fan of evolutionary psychology.


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