Measuring Social Power Around Three Axes

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From Kevin Carson's review of Erik Olin Wright's Envisioning Real Utopias:

"In Chapter Five, ruling out any comprehensive, universal schematic for the one ideal socialist society, Wright sketches out a few axes along which progress towards basic socialist values can be measured. The metrics all cluster around the basic values implied by the “social” in “socialism.”

He is less interested in dogmatic definitions of socialism based on formal ownership of the means of production than in squishy details like transfer rights and rights over distribution of the product. He also contrasts the concept of socialism, in the sense of “common” or “social ownership,” with both capitalist and state ownership. Social ownership can mean ownership by everyone in a given social unit — including a cooperative enterprise or a kibbutz. That doesn’t mean that state ownership can’t be a form of social ownership — but it requires a state that’s deeply democratic in character. In addition, Wright deliberately refrains from specifying the role of markets in a socialist system, explicitly leaving open the possibility that markets might be part of a system based on social power.

Socialism, as an overall system, is one in which not only are the means of production socially owned but economic decisions are determined primarily by “social power” (i.e., “power rooted in the capacity to mobilize people for cooperative, voluntary collective actions of various sorts in civil society”). A “democracy” is a political system in which the state is firmly subordinated to social power

So the degree of “socialism” is measured by three basic axes specifying the extent to which various social functions are subject to control by social power: Social empowerment over the way state power affects economic activity, over the way economic power shapes economic activity, and directly over economic activity itself.

“Social empowerment” on these three axes can be exercised through a wide variety of means and under a wide variety of models, which Wright elaborates on in detail in the following two chapters." (