“. . .the difference between the worst of architects and the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in his imagination before he raises it in reality.”
Marx, Capital, I, ch. vii
Science & Society has produced, so far, three Special Issues on envisioning, or building, or designing socialism ?? at exact ten-year intervals: Spring, 1992; Spring, 2002; and April, 2012. For the most part, the contributors to all three issues, while differing among themselves on many points, share one thing in common: The radical ?? socialist/communist ?? alternative to capitalism must be envisioned. Moreover, this can be done with due regard for the scientific moment in Marxism and the need to avoid utopian speculation and idealist constructivism. The long rise to power of the working class ?? the experience of collective struggle, and the vast practice of labor, which is the embodiment of purposeful creation ?? combines with the vast experiences of the 20th century (both positive and negative) to suggest that the core elements of the socialist system can be outlined; socialist values must therefore be embodied in real projections, and not merely imagined, or desired.
Now we announce Special Issue No. 4, to appear in April, 2022.
Socialism has been presented in numerous places as a set of democratic, egalitarian and humanist values. The increasing presence of these values in political discourse, as in the current surge of interest in democratic socialism in the United States, is noted, and welcome. Nevertheless, in the Marxist tradition we must go farther: we must actually describe how socialism as a system can work. The Thatcherite buzzphrase “There Is No Alternative” must be countered directly. We must answer the question, when it is put to us by skeptics: concretely, what would you socialists do differently? If you actually replace the capitalist class (after taming that class, to whatever degree possible), what would you put in its place? (Just saying “the working class in power” doesn’t cut it!) How might production, management, incentives and income be organized? How would decisions be made, in both the short term and for the future? How could actual systems and structures be developed that address the conflicts and constraints, the ecological challenge, the population challenge, the need to transcend racist, misogynist and nationalist divisions? And how might any of this turn out to be decidedly different from what capitalism achieves currently, given the greatest popular pressure we can bring to bear to counteract its worst impacts? Despite what defenders of capitalism (and some “market socialists”) may believe, our premise is that we are not bound to a rigid either/or choice: between naive, speculative ?castles in the air,? utopian blueprints, “recipes for the cookshops of the future” (Marx), on one hand; and simply ?muddling through? with eclectic and partial fixes to the existing order, on the other.
The three preceding Special Issues brought together some of the most important models of a post-capitalist, and for the most part post-market, system. All of these involve participatory planning, and outline ways to combine a vibrant democracy of an educated and critical citizenry with the considerable complexities of modern production and social life. The need is nothing less than to put teeth into the evocative but vague slogans of classical Marxism: the “commonwealth of toil,” the “community of the associated producers,” the “free development of each as the condition for the free development of all.” The apostles of the capitalist present fear nothing more than the threat of this vision becoming operational, an effective guide to action!
Much has changed in the ten years since the last Special Issue. A whole new political generation is making itself felt. To preserve the continuity of our project, we expect that some of the older contributors will update and renew their visions, and set a framework. At the same time, we urge new contributors to come forward and offer different perspectives, on planning, micro-level control and interaction, modern IT-based systems for both coordination and autonomy, new ways to think about labor and creativity, the use of high-tech to promote both sustainability and human fulfillment, and much else that we no doubt have not yet been able to imagine. A hundred flowers can, and will, bloom. Our one unifying request is that prospective participants in this project embrace our call to go beyond the general affirmation of socialist values to address the matter of actual/structural/institutiona
Work can be submitted in the usual S&S formats: articles, up to 10,000 words; communications and review articles, 3-4,000 words.
The rough time frame (deadlines) are as follows:
Proposals: July 15, 2020
Papers, first drafts: January 15, 2021
Papers, final drafts: July 15, 2021