The Meaning of Socialism

Socialism is, without doubt, totally obsolete if it is reduced to its traditional contents: to the “full development of the production forces”; to the collectivization (or socialization) of the means of production; to the appropriation and direct control of the means of production and exchange by the “associated producers”; to the planned management of the economic system conceived as a single large enterprise; to the abolition of wage-labour and commodity relations; to the suppression of the state and of the relative autonomy of the state administration, the judiciary, the press, art, the economy, the private sphere, and so on – in short, if it is reduced to the restoration of the pre-modern, undifferentiated unity of the individual, community and functional spheres of paid work and self-determined activities; a restoration which, breaking radically with the complexity of modern social systems, is intended to have a stable order as its end product.

If, on the other hand, the contents of the socialist projects of the past are viewed not in themselves but in their relationship with the conditions of the time, they still retain a clear meaning for us today. The objective was then, and still is today, to limit the field in which economic rationality may find expression – or, in other words, to limit the logic of profit and the market. The point is to subject economic and technical development to a pattern and orientations which have been thought through and democratically debated; to tie in the goals of the economy with the free public expression of felt needs, instead of creating needs for the sole purpose of enabling capital to expand and commerce to develop.AndrĂ© Gorz (2013) Capitalism, Socialism, Ecology. Verso, p. 8