Self Managed Market Socialism

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'Self Managed Market Socialism'

Political and economic alternative proposed in the book:

Michael Howard, Self-Management and the Crisis of Capitalism: The Rose in the Fist of the Present. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000)


Review from

"The second part of the book discusses the institutions of self-managed market socialism. In brief, this entails an examination of the cooperative movement such as the Mondragon Cooperative in the Basque region of Spain, and Italian cooperatives such as those within the Lega, or League of Cooperatives. It also includes worker ownership plans such as Employee Stock Ownership Plans in the United States. This section of the book also deals with economic democracy and basic income. The third and final section deals with the prospect of socialist practice in contemporary capitalism, particularly in relationship to the workplace and to the media.

In Self-Management and the Crisis of Socialism, there is neither a separation of the cooperative movement and socialism nor a full identification. The introduction to the second section entitled “Institutions of Self-Managed Market Socialism," makes the remarkable claim that “Some might think of a cooperative as socialism in microcosm, and in many respects it is. The title of chapter seven is posed as a question: “Worker Ownership: Socialism in Microcosm?" And at the end of this same chapter, he claims that the worker cooperative is a kind of embryonic socialist institution. Yet it would be premature to seize upon the cooperative movement as really existing socialism in our time. As Howard argues, “a society of cooperatives in and of itself falls short of a just society. One might think that Mondragon in the Basque region of Spain might rise above this argument. In spite of all the advantages that Howard points to in his book, he urges restraint in the face of recent violations of cooperative principles at Mondragon. On a troubling note, the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation (MCC) has built plants in other countries that are not themselves cooperatives. The MCC has also been hiring temporary workers who are not members, nor able to become such. As Howard bluntly states the issue: “The hiring of wage workers is a departure from cooperative principles.

Howard’s point in raising these objections to the current operation of Mondragon is not to argue that it has completely departed from cooperative practices and the cooperative ethos. Nor is it to argue that there are intrinsic difficulties with the cooperative form. At the beginning of the book, he argued that “a revival of the idea of self-management is critical to the revival of socialism today." But in this section of the book, he claims that self-management itself requires socialism, and in particular, public control over investment: self-management on its own is not going to usher in socialism. Thus, for Howard, socialism and the cooperative movement operate in a reciprocal relationship to each other.

Howard never claims to have found the complete or finished vision, but he does believe that certain roadways are more clear than others. With David Schweickart, and against many proponents of the cooperative movement, he is more interested in worker management and less interested in worker ownership. The best highway is economic democracy. Worker owned cooperatives are satisfactory roadways but potholes and u-turns right back to capitalism are always possible. In sum, Howard’s vision comes with no guarantees. It is precisely because it is grounded in real world examples that is rises above idealistic solutions and false hopes. If we make the road by walking, then this book is a good companion for the trip." (; Permission not for commercial or for-profit use. ©2001 GEO, P.O. Box 115, Riverdale, MD 20738-0115