Producer Cooperatives as a New Mode of Production
By Bruno Jossa
Routledge – 2014 – 306 pages
The notion that there is no alternative to capitalism emerged after the fall of the Berlin Wall and made rapid headway due to increasing economic globalisation. More recently, this belief that there is no viable alternative has held firm despite the financial crisis, high unemployment levels and an ever-increasing gap between rich and poor.
However, since the appearance of Benjamin Ward’s seminal 1958 article, economic theorists have been developing a workable alternative: a system of self-managed firms. The core argument outlined in this book is that a well-organised system of producer cooperatives would give rise to a new mode of production and, ultimately, a genuinely socialist society.
This argument is developed through three key steps. First, following on from Jaroslav Vanek’s definition, it is argued that a ‘Labour-Managed Firm’, a firm which strictly segregates capital incomes from labour incomes, would implement a new production mode because it would reverse the pre-existing relation between capital and labour. Second, given that a system of these ‘Labour-Managed Firm’ cooperatives would reverse the capital-labour relationship, it is suggested that this would constitute a form of market socialism. Third, it is argued that compared to capitalism a system of producer cooperatives offers a wealth of advantages, including the potential for efficiency gains, the eradication of unemployment and the end of exploitation. Ultimately, this book concludes that self-management could take the place of central planning in Marxist visions for the future.
1. Marx, Lenin and the Cooperative Movement 2. Is Marxism Compatible with Modern Economic Theory? 3. The Problem of Investment Funding in Labour-Managed Firms 4. Under-Investment in Labour-Managed Firms 5. Alchian and Demsetz’s Critique of Labour-Managed Firms 6. On the Rational Organisation of Labour-Managed Firms 7. An In-Depth Analysis of the Advantages of Democratic Firms 8. Labour-Managed Firms and Unemployment 9. Alienation in a Self-Managed Firm System 10. The Democratic Firm as a Merit Good 11. The Democratic Road to Socialism and Marxist Thought 12. Gramsci and the Transition to Socialism 13. The Key Contradiction in Capitalist Systems 14. A Democratic Firms System as the True Socialism 15. A System of Self-Managed Firms as a New Perspective on Marxism 16. Conclusion
Bruno Jossa is retired Full Professor of Political Economy at the ‘Federico II’ University, Naples, Italy.