Ok, I finally made the trip over from the FLL
. What a mess! Thanks, Cork, for mentioning that this debate was going on over on your blog. Where to begin...well, here is my $0.01 (it was $0.02 but then they passed the TARP bill). FYI, in the spirit of full disclosure, I describe myself as a mutualist. However, I'll say it right now:
There is nothing in mutualism that explicitly
forbids wage-labor and in fact there were mutualists historically that did
explicitly support it (or opposed the full adoption of the logical alternative, universal self-employment). But mutualism's concepts are highly compatible with (and with the right set of background rights, logically entail) self-employment. Basically, take all of our ideas about how people will associate in anarchy and apply it to productive enterprises.1. Does mutualism support wage-labor?
- Yes and no. It depends on who is your representative for mutualism and what they mean my wages. The fact is that mutualism is at once a very high-level concept and in other cases people have run with it. But it really all starts with Proudhon and a great deal of what he thought is still unheralded but hopefully, through the work of people like Shawn Wilbur, this will change.
Kevin Carson, the de facto
modern expert on mutualism
(or if you prefer the most detailed take on
mutualism) says this:
Carson wrote:One of the best descriptions of mutualism, believe it or not, is this summary of Proudhon's philosophy by G. Ostergaard, a contributor to A Dictionary of Marxist Thought:
... he argued that working men should emancipate themselves, not by political but by economic means, through the voluntary organization of their own labour--a concept to which he attached redemptive value. His proposed system of equitable exchange between self-governing producers, organized individually or in association and financed by free credit, was called 'mutualism'. The units of the radically decentralized and pluralistic social order that he envisaged were to be linked at all levels by applying 'the federal principle'. [p. 400] - emphasis mine, NF
Proudhon wrote:Who does not see that the mutualist organization of exchange, of circulation, of credit, of buying and selling, the abolition of taxes and tolls of every nature which place burdens on production and bans on goods, irresistibly push the producers, each following his specialty, towards a centralization analogous with that of the State, but in which no one obeys, no one is dependent, and everyone is free and sovereign?
Proudhon wrote:What really is the Social Contract? An agreement of the citizen with the government? No, that would mean but the continuation of [Rousseau’s] idea. The social contract is an agreement of man with man; an agreement from which must result what we call society. In this, the notion of commutative justice, first brought forward by the primitive fact of exchange, …is substituted for that of distributive justice … Translating these words, contract, commutative justice, which are the language of the law, into the language of business, and you have commerce, that is to say, in its highest significance, the act by which man and man declare themselves essentially producers, and abdicate all pretension to govern each other
Does this mean no wage-labor? I think it means a new conception of what wage labor means (perhaps even to the point of dropping the term).2. But what about Tucker? He said so.
- Yes. Yes he did. But first, Tucker was not strictly a mutualist for what it's worth ("mutualism" is mentioned three times in Instead of a Book
and always as a mention of banking or insurance). I don't say that to imply that proves anything about "pure" mutualism's stance on wage-labor (what is pure anyway?) but it's important to remember. He's probably better described as an Individualist Anarchist. Yes, I know that he's on the cover Carson's book, the four monopolies and all that but here is Carson himself:
Carson wrote:The most famous American individualist, Benjamin Tucker, was more affected by free market liberalism than other mutualists. (Although this has caused him to be claimed as a predecessor by right-libertarians and anarcho-capitalists, he regarded himself as a libertarian socialist.) When this puts him at odds with the rest of the broader mutualist movement, we acknowledge it.
That said I think we should recall that Proudhon thought that property was both
theft and necessary. But he "seeks to universalize that theft in order to abolish it" (Wilbur). I think Tucker takes a similar view on wages. "To make everyone dependent on them" sounds very much like Proudhon's desire to universalize a necessary evil in order to abolish it.
Cork wrote:How, exactly, are you going to have wage labor without profit? Why in the world would you bother paying someone wages if you aren't hoping to see a return? It would defeat the entire point. A number of mutualists themselves (at least some on message boards and blogs) seem to think this is a contradiction.
The answer is even more confusing. Tucker wanted wages to absorb profits. In other words, he wanted wages to rise to the laborer's "full product." Don't worry, I don't understand it either.
Who are these masked mutualists you speak of?Full Product = Output Assets + Input Liabilities (a negative)
Capital can pay Labor for the Full Product or Labor can keep it and sell it. The IL is where capital makes its money but this is not in economic terms "profit". And now with Labor receiving the Full Product or payment for it, they have "absorbed" profits or more properly they are the claimant on the profits. Though I don't mean to imply that Tucker or Bellamy thought about it this way but it does avoid contradictions Tucker might have created.
This is the basic fact: there is no market reason for a difference in the money Labor and Capital receive respectively (in a freed market of course) simply by reversing the "polarity" of the hiring.
This is the kicker. It's all about the legal overlay of appropriation. A labor theory of property instead of a labor theory of value (or marginal theory for that matter, neither of which can do anything, as a pricing theory, to help with a question that is essentially one about property and responsibility). This all fit together and most of the 19th century guys simply missed the "aha" moment. It reminds me of the physicists like Einstein who beat their heads against the wall until they died over the wave/particle duality. Tucker complaining about profits is Tucker complaining about some portion of earnings that accrues due to state privilege and lack of mutual aid structures (i.e. a freed market). "Wages rising" is basically, IMO, a call for a fair market not some statement about no return for being capital. I could be wrong about this but the only other interpretation is that he is deeply confused. And why not? Why must we always defend the old guys like they were perfect? Basically, I think his end goal was right on though he may have been less that exacting in his terminology.
When he says
Tucker wrote:It does not want to deprive labor of its reward; it wants to deprive capital of its reward. It does not hold that labor should not be sold; it holds that capital should not be hired at usury.
he could just as easily be describing what I have described.
And when he says:
Tucker wrote:When interest, rent, and profit disappear under the influence of free money, free land, and free trade, it will make no difference whether men work for themselves, or are employed, or employ others. In any case they can get nothing but that wage for their labor which free competition determines. Therefore they need not become their own employers.
He really makes no determination about self-direction or appropriation of the product. He merely seems to be saying that management is not to be abolished. But this doesn't say that "concessio" (delegation) isn't preferable to "translatio" (alienate). It's my educated guess given all the various texts that he is worried about division of labor and management more than he is about denying labor as the residual claimant. That's understandable. Greene seems similarly concerned (while all the time seeming strained to admit that this is the case on pragmatic grounds and making the same mistake Marx did about owning the means of production...that has nothing to do with anything). All this is conjecture as it necessarily must be when trying to interpret a text and it doesn't need to be right. I'm just saying that it doesn't contradict mutualism if you have a broader view of what labor receiving its product can (and maybe should) mean.
With a nip here and a tuck there, I think that mutualism and ancapsim have bridges (not burning ones) or a "plane of consistency".
I'll end with a cool quote from a reply I received today from Shawn Wilbur (unrelated topic):
Wilber wrote:If we drag Proudhon into a natural law context, then what I'm saying is that anything like a natural right or an effective and appropriate conventional right, will have to answer to (at least) two laws: 1) the organizing principle of our self, really of the powers that make up or express our self, in the realm of the particular; and 2) the organizing principle (or principles) of the larger entities of which we make up a part, in the collective realm. (This is not far from what you are proposing, perhaps.) That's going to take some getting used to, and thinking through. But it looks to me like it might ultimately lead us to some good stuff, including a "plane of consistency" broad enough to incorporate a range of anarchist schools and free enough to allow the encounters between them to be productive of more freedom.