Sunday, March 25, 2018

Gilded Socialism (2005)

Book Review from the November 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard

Beyond Hegemony by Darrow Schechter (Manchester University Press. £55.)

This turns out to be an attempt to work out a philosophical and sometimes nearly incomprehensible (at least outside the little world of academia) basis for an alternative to liberal democracy (free-market capitalism), social-democracy (regulated capitalism) and what Schechter calls “state socialism” (state capitalism).

Schechter identifies that what is wrong with these is that all three of them involve commodity production and consumption (“production for exchange and the generation of money and capital rather than direct use”), and that the alternative has to be a system where there is production directly for use. Unfortunately, he sees the answer in the Utopian scheme devised in the 1920s by the Labour historian (and Labour Party activist) G.D.H. Cole, which he called “Guild Socialism”. Although Cole’s blueprint did provide for close links between consumers and producers which could be interpreted as “production directly for use”, it still envisaged the continuation of finance, prices and incomes. And it was to come into being through the guilds eventually outcompeting capitalist industries in the marketplace (though, to be fair to Schechter, he doesn’t explicitly endorse this and may well not support it).

But if Schechter stands for “Guild Socialism” why doesn’t he just campaign for it? Does it really need the elaborate philosophical basis he has constructed for it? Perhaps it’s just that university lecturers have to publish to justify their jobs.
Adam Buick

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