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11-06-2010, 11:49 AM #1
Why Socialism? By Albert Einstein
This essay was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949).
Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.
Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.
But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called "the predatory phase" of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.
I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.
The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.
For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists' requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.
Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.
The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.
Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers' goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.
This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.
I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.
Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?
Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service."We sit together, the mountain and I, until only the mountain remains." -Li Po
11-06-2010, 12:31 PM #2Registered User
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- Jul 2010
Alas, as such appeals to the egotism of the socialist, who thinks to himself that since a smart man like Albert Einstein believed in socialism, so too, since I believe in socialism, I am smart like Albert Einstein. Yet he does not see the fallacy that a even smart man like Albert Einstein could be wrong, and that blindly believing in the same erroneous conjectures as Einstein does not mean one is also smart, but in fact it means one is stupid.
11-06-2010, 12:34 PM #3
Einstein died on Mt. Hood?
11-06-2010, 12:37 PM #4"We sit together, the mountain and I, until only the mountain remains." -Li Po
11-06-2010, 12:39 PM #5"We sit together, the mountain and I, until only the mountain remains." -Li Po
11-06-2010, 01:06 PM #6Registered User
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- Oct 2003
- in ewe
That was funny DV, but seriously, you can't argue with any of that essay. But the reality is that humans are by nature lazy and power hungry which is why communism has failed everywhere it has been tried, read the last 2 paragraphs. Which is why China has a communist government that oppresses everyone and everything yet allows their economy to rage on as a capitalist beast. Really, that's the ideal business model. You could always move to China or North Korea, let me know how that goes.
11-06-2010, 01:07 PM #7
socialism ≠ communism. If you read any one of his many biographies, you will find that Einstein was very aware of the difference between the two. Apparently you are not. Using China or N. Korea as examples of communism is akin to using nuclear war as an example of a peace negotiation technique.
Last edited by iscariot; 11-06-2010 at 01:48 PM.
11-06-2010, 01:20 PM #8
11-06-2010, 01:22 PM #9
How is it that these countries have been around much longer than the good ol' USA, yet they (according to you and your ilk) are doomed to fail?
Don't you think that it would have happened by now?
Additionally, the US is in greater economic peril than many of these examples. If socialism is doomed to fail, shouldn't they be far worse off? In fact, it is generally when these countries start adopting more capitalist economic policies that they begin to have economic trouble.
They have better health care and longer lifespans, an average higher standard of living and education, less homelessness and poverty, less violence and war, etc, etc, etc.
This is the fundamental difference between you and I. I will work for the betterment of a more cooperative society and civilization, and you would have every man be an island. If you do some research regarding evolutionary human behavior, you'd find that throughout history humans live in groups for mutual social benefit; they did and do not survive well as solitary or "rugged" individuals. In fact, solitary/greedy individuals were often run out of tribes and groups precisely because they did not hold the welfare of the social group as important, and could cause the demise of the group.
Perhaps you could read up a bit about anthropology, biology, sociology, and evolutionary psychology in order to make a relevant and knowledgeable contributions to this topic and perhaps the forum in general. But I doubt you will, as your default position seems to be "Education/knowledge is bad, mmmkay." But you are a sweet, sweet troll.
I think you'll find, as you get into grade 8 or 9, that the world is not so black and white. There are many complex shades of gray that require thought and analysis to successfully navigate life in a civil society; the actual answer often lies somewhere between the extremes. As the world becomes more and more complex a greater, not lesser, social cooperation and understanding is required.
But I have a feeling that, rather than attempt to understand and deal with the complex shades of gray, you're more likely to just call me a socialcommufacistsmugelitlest, and stay trapped in your little world with its very clearly and narrowly prescribed delineations of right, wrong, and success.
Last edited by iscariot; 11-06-2010 at 02:06 PM.
11-06-2010, 01:40 PM #10
^^^DBT those are well stated and legitimate arguments
What have you got?
-besides a one track monologue of tripe
11-06-2010, 03:12 PM #11
You seem to be at odds with Einstein on this matter.
This is why Einstein is wrong. His grasp of humanity was faulty. Freud dominated our understanding of human psychology at the time and the ego reigned supreme in the minds of those looking to understand human motivation. In addition to that, Einstein's personal life was very troubled. There is nothing in his personal life that indicates he had a good understanding of how other people think. Yet his entire article is based on that understanding.
If that weren't enough, history itself has shown Einstein's assertions to be wrong. Despite 60 years of raging capitalism following the publishing of that article, American society has continued to grow more interconnected and interdependent, in stark contrast to what one would expect if Einstein's description of man's response to capitalism were accurate.
Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.it's all young and fun and skiing and then one day you login and it's relationship advice, gomer glacier tours and geezers.
11-06-2010, 03:23 PM #12
Sometimes people are too smart for their own good."You damn colonials and your herds of tax write off dressage ponies". PNWBrit
11-06-2010, 03:47 PM #13
on what evidence are you basing this statement:
"Despite 60 years of raging capitalism following the publishing of that article, American society has continued to grow more interconnected and interdependent, in stark contrast to what one would expect if Einstein's description of man's response to capitalism were accurate.""We sit together, the mountain and I, until only the mountain remains." -Li Po
11-06-2010, 03:52 PM #14
Originally Posted by Einstein
In fact, your positions and (again) more generally, those of the Tea-Party types are explained by the above red text. You feel threatened, rather than elevated by the increasing role of "society". I am not saying this is wrong, just that it is. Perhaps some are hard-wired to commiserate, and some to go solo?... jfost is really ignorant, he often just needs simple facts laid out for him...
11-06-2010, 07:26 PM #15
11-06-2010, 07:29 PM #16
I read his entire anthology, Essays on Humanism. Einstein had some scary forethought in some essays, and was completely wrong in others.
This essay, 61 years old, was wrong. If everyone was Einstein, it would have been right.Originally Posted by blurred
11-06-2010, 07:48 PM #17"We sit together, the mountain and I, until only the mountain remains." -Li Po
11-06-2010, 10:18 PM #18
11-06-2010, 10:43 PM #19Originally Posted by einstein
Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, there are probably some concepts that are good, and just, and sustainable contained within the horrible horrible umbrella of "socialism". What is the primary purpose for organization at all, of any kind, if not to reap the benefits of a society of social beings? Like it or not, we need eachother to survive.... jfost is really ignorant, he often just needs simple facts laid out for him...
11-07-2010, 01:02 PM #20
Sweden was a pure monarchy until WWI. So Swedish socialism has not been around "much longer than the good ol' USA".
Norway only became a constitutional monarchy (as opposed to a pure monarchy) in 1814. It crushed its own utopian socialist movement (Marcus Thrane, etc.) during the mid-1800s. Norwegian socialism doesn't predate the USA, either.
Socialized health care in Canada only appeared after WWII in one province (Saskatchewan), and only became fully national in 1984.
There are arguments for socialism, but "it lasts longer than the USA" is not one of them, because it hasn't.
Besides, the USA isn't capitalist. It's socialist -- but only for big banks and big corporations. They get plenty of government assistance. It's individuals that are left to twist in the wind.
11-07-2010, 01:39 PM #21"You damn colonials and your herds of tax write off dressage ponies". PNWBrit
11-07-2010, 01:47 PM #22
Agreed on the historical argument part, thanks for clarifying. Although I would argue that living under a monarchy is more socialist in nature and practice than the capitalistocracy currently occurring in the US.
As far as the italics part...doesn't capitalism always work that way? Those with money have more power, control, and influence than those that don't. Even though in a democracy everyone has one vote, in a capitalist democracy some votes have more influence than others. Therefore they are able to privatize the gains and socialize the losses. One of the majors flaws in a Capitalist Democracy. Its funny that a quote from Animal Farm, a rebuke of communism, is so apt when applied to capitalist democracy (to paraphrase): all people are equal but some are more equal than others.
My general point for that part of the argument was that Countries with Socialist leaning political systems and Capitalist economic systems seem to have better weathered the economic shitstorm, and have populations that have been less adversely affected by bad business practices. This is a sustainable model for civilized society; the US system is not sustainable.
Making the US system even more capitalist in nature (as the Tea Party and Repubs would like) makes the system less sustainable in terms of civilization, not more. The closer the US gets to a capitalistocracy, the greater power, influence, and control is given to business, and taken from the people.
But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.
The US progress and success has come about because so much was taken from previous inhabitants with so little compensation, and due to the fact that they are the only nation to have come out of WWII relatively unscathed. The is not an advantage of capitalism, this is an advantage of being the only nation that has recently had room to expand and take from others without the necessary compensation and as an advantage of being one of the only countries in the world with manufacturing capacity after WWII.
The US succeeded because of an unlevel opportunity afforded by stealing and war, not by capitalism or democracy. These advantages are ending their service life, and yet the unfettered capitalistocracy that worked in the time of the US when it had unfair advantage, is the exact system that is causing the demise of the US empire.
Other countries with other political and economic systems have now rebuilt and are now out competing the US for various reasons. The US system only works if everybody is using the same system, another major weakness. Variety is what actually produces innovation and progress, and a variety of political and economic systems will ensure that. Having one homogeneous system, whether its capitalism/democracy, socialism, communism, fascism, etc etc etc. will kill the variety necessary for advancement. Again, these other systems work in the presence of other systems; the US system only works well in the long term if there is no competition, or if everyone uses the same system.
ie. the US system is only sustainable in the relatively short term and under a very specific set of circumstances.
Most other successful civilizations/nations in the world have made the transition from other systems toward varying degrees of socialist leaning systems as this seems to provide the greatest and most sustainable stability. It seems that people in socialist leaning states are willing to give up a bit of income for the good and stability of the nation. It seems in the US, people would rather have the perceived opportunity for more income, but pay for this perceived opportunity with less economic and social stability. I say perceived opportunity, because while the US likes to believe that everyone has equal opportunity, some have more equal opportunity than others and so the general population gets relatively poorer and the few wealthy become fewer and wealthier. This is the result of a capitalist democracy.
In many socialist leaning countries with capitalist economic systems, there is more opportunity afforded to the general population because of better education, healthcare, childcare, business regulation, etc etc etc.
Last edited by iscariot; 11-07-2010 at 02:46 PM.
11-07-2010, 03:03 PM #23
"Our" system definitely will (and does) work when gov't doesn't bend to special interests including corporations or seek to create it's own version of what it wants to happen (read as controlling parties playing social engineer at the expense of the engine that has propelled us to our status).
WW II is 60 years in the past and the economic playing field was long ago leveled. We maybe had a 20 year period of real economic advantage.
Where are you getting your stats that socialism is the more sustainable system ?
Your comment that poorer folks get poorer isn't because of the system, it's because the rich are given access to gov't by our elected officials who are supposed to be protecting everyones rights, but only protect those who help elect them. That occurs in both parties across the board, and not in isolated instances."You damn colonials and your herds of tax write off dressage ponies". PNWBrit
11-07-2010, 03:43 PM #24
Now that the US is largely a singular capitalist superpower, many of the problems associated with capitalism predicted by socialist and communist philosophers are being realized. The most basic and fundamental of which is: The US system requires unending growth, which is unsustainable.
Anyway, it's been a thrill gents, but it's time to get back to sitting on my couch, swilling beer, eating McRibs, and watching NASCAR...that is unless the mooslims threaten my freedoms and I spend the evening under my pile of guns, reading the bible and praying to the lord baby jesus.
Last edited by iscariot; 11-07-2010 at 03:58 PM.
11-08-2010, 02:28 PM #25
By suggesting the US is socialist, you are resorting to a misinformed/propagandized/reactionary assessment of the de facto state of affairs in the US. You are apparently suggesting that because the democratic process has been co-opted to distribute corporate welfare, we are somehow have a socialist government now
What we have is not socialism, but a thoroughly corrupted democracy - private wealth and power manipulating and controlling the government so as to extend their own private advantage.
It is a power-based, wild west, might-makes-right, golden rule (he who has the gold makes the rules) banana republic. Corporations get government assistance thanks to bribery (campaign financing, the unimaginable pay-outs of hush money to bankers who grease the wheels and extend the status quo), blackmail ("give banks a bailout or its gonna be the next depression"), information control ("you're not allowed to film this oil soaked beach"), and media saturation (bloomberg, newscorp, Am radio) campaigns of such breadth and volume that all other constituencies are drowned out. Not to mention the level of coordination achievable between firms with interlocking boards of directors and ownership cliques. THATS NOT SOCIALISM - its NOTHING like socialism. Rather, it's textbook Fascism at work.
Last edited by Airsatz; 11-08-2010 at 02:48 PM."My geode must be acknowledged"