Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article

Equality and Exploitation in the Market Socialist Community*

N. Scott Arnold

Historically, critics of capitalism have had a great deal to say about the defects and social ills that afflict capitalist society and correspondingly little to say about how alternative institutional arrangements might solve these problems. One can only speculate about why this has been so. One reason might be a simple matter of priorities. Bertolt Brecht once said that when a man's house is on fire, one does not inquire too closely into alternative arrangements for shelter. The analogy between capitalism and a burning house may seem overwrought today, but in the dark days of the Depression of the 1930s it probably seemed more apt. Another explanation for the scant attention paid to alternatives to capitalism has to do with both the factual and ideological beliefs of capitalism's critics. If one believes (as, for example, Marx and Engels did) that the existing order would be destroyed by a mass movement, that new institutions would be constructed by the people in a democratic spirit, and that furthermore all of this would be a good thing, it would be unwise and counterproductive to try to spell out exactly where history is headed. After all, a genuine mass movement has little use for self-proclaimed prophets of history. Finally, men and women of modest intellectual pretensions might be humbled by the prospects of trying to spell out in any detail social institutions that should exist or might exist but are not as yet found anywhere in the world.


* I should like to thank Harold Kincaid, Ellen Frankel Paul, and the contributors to this volume for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.