Lenin & Accounting-Autonomy versus heteronomy

HANS DESPAIN HANS.DESPAIN at m.cc.utah.edu
Wed Jul 12 11:52:20 MDT 1995


I am not an accountant, but I am economist, and like Howie, I am also
"suspicious of arguements which try to reslove complex social functions
'adiminstratively' or 'technologically'."  It seems implicit in Howie's
argument for science, politics, philosophy and practice to be in phase with
one another.  This in itself does not endorse a case against technology
nor expertise.  But what it demands is that technology and its required
"expertise" to be in phase with philosophical commitments.  And it seems
that here lies the difficulty for a future socialist society to overcome the
contradictions of past and present "socialism" and of course the the
contradictions in capitalism.

For example, capitalism and socialism both have constitutional
(philosophical) commitments to the notion of freedom (individual
autonomy).  But the politics and technology (science) do not support these
commitments, they are out of phase.  Technology that is developed in
capitalism (and for existing socialism) (most) often requires that people
give up personal autonomy for their envolvment (employment) in this
technology.  Even the social relations which support these technologies
functions as a coercive mechanisms.  I see many people employed in
corporate America who take such jobs to gain "autonomy" (employment
security and a high salary) but in effect give up all personal autonomy.
And if they were not to do so they would not be in their position.  So to
maintain their job they work 12 to 16 hours a week, carry portible
phones, and are first and foremost committed to the call of their job at
the expense of family and friends, and consequently themselves.

Thus, if it is possible to absent the coercive forces of markets,
socialism should be just as commitment to absenting the coercive forces
of (civil society) social relations.  It seems to me that the first step
is then to minimize the required civil society contribution.  That is to
minimize the working day or better working week to just a few hours.  In
this sense the Particpatory Political Economy of Albert and Hahnel is a
failure in its conception.  They argue that indeed that market forces can
be negated, but only if individuals are committed to (seemingly) long and
hard hours to planning and working councils.

It seems to me that that if we are philosophical committed to freedom and
individual autonomy, this should be by defination against heteronomy.  I
am using both autonomy and heteronomy in a Kantian sense, but further
extend heteronomy to a Marxian sense.  For Kant heteronomous people where
committed to the voice of authority, for Marx ideology, but a further
Marxian extension can argue that heteronomous humans are those that do
not understand the coercive forces within there lifes (e.g. employment,
or Albert and Hahnel politics).  In this sense, we are all propably
heteronomous to some degree.  And it should be the goal of socialism in
my opinion to minimize heteronomous commitments and maximize autonomy.
This means becoming more conscious of our philosophical commitments, and
also being philosophical committed to bringing politics, science, and
especially our practice in phase with one another.

This means that if we have a wish to fulfill a personal desire, that we
(should) be committed to the fulfillment of all other dialectically
similar desires of others.  Both our politics and our technologies in
this civil society fail to even approach this.  And we can only begin
toward such a goal when we are not the heteronomous people which
capitalism requires of us.  And because capitalism requires this, its
technology will also.

Hans Despain
University of Utah
despain at econ.sbs.utah.edu
hans.despain at c.mm.utah.edu


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