I realize I am in the priveledged position of being able to carry on these debates about political-economy and philosophy while my refrigerator sits there with plenty of food on it's shelves ,while I have a roof over my head and all the other possesions which provide comfort, access and entertainment to my life. This priveledge carries with it the burden of knowing it is the result of structural injustice, and that I am an unwilling but nevertheless culpable participant in a system which distibutes wealth and resources based on violent and exploitive power. I hope to change that.
In a recent exchange the political economies known as capitalism and socialism have been described as "mythical" due to the supposed utopian and unrealizable nature of each but I would like to argue that this view is at least partly based on a poorly defined lexicon, on the fact that our terminology is not just inexact but deliberately and fatally (to our argument ) misleading. It seems to me that there are two parrallel arguments taking place here, one being the relative merits and flaws of theoretical capitalism and socialism and the other being the comparison between the two systems as practiced in the real world in their various forms.
The most common argument against socialism is it's historic failure as a system ( unrealizable) in relation to the "success" of capitalism. This is the "real world" argument that assumes socialism as practiced in the Soviet bloc or China or Nazi Germany is related to socialism as developed by it's theoreticians (utopian). Socialists, on the other hand, argue that the global capitalism practiced today has failed the majority of humanity throughout it's history and that it is related to the theoretical capitalism developed by Adam Smith and others. Once we accept the fact that neither of these arguments is valid due to the fact that the theory and practice have such a large degree of separation we realize the degree to which language and terminology fail us.
As a socialist I argue that theoretical socialism has never existed, that Stalinism, Nazism, Baathism and other totalitarian regimes used socialism as a perverse misnomer. Many capitalists argue that the dominant world market system is also a perverse distortion of Adam Smiths conception. Therefore we must start with a common understanding of how this terminology fails us. I am guilty of this labeling error, arguing my theoretical socialism against this perverted "real world" capitalism and realize it makes for an irrational discourse. Likewise those who argue idealized,theoretical capitalism against "real world" socialism are equally guilty.
I am still prepared to argue that theoretical socialism, though it has never existed, is a preferable system on moral grounds and a likely next historical phase based on scientific reasons and am undeterred that this might be described as "utopian" thinking. Capitalists should engage me with the merits of their theoretical system and be undeterred as well that it has not yet existed. Describing either system as "mythical" is a ridiculous straw man, it is saying that because something has never been, it can never be.It is the deliberate twisting of definitions to subvert the discourse.Perhaps socialism does tend towards totalitarianism, perhaps capitalism does as well. Perhaps a truly "free market" can exist and perhaps all citizens can own the means of production.This all needs to be discussed.What is certain is that the status qou is untenable. Can it be reformed? Must it be replaced? Will it be the "Bolivarian Revolution" or Paracon, Anarchism, Mutualism,Leninism or something we have not yet dreamed up?