Lenin & Accounting-Autonomy versus heteronomy

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Fri Jul 14 12:37:08 MDT 1995

While making fun of Lenin's view of accounting - and we could hit
Hilferding's on finance while we're at it - we shouldn't forget that
capitalist industry and finance is essentially run on accounting
principles. Operations have a low prestige in American corporate hierarchy;
what matters is marketing and finance. In a system about the accumulation
of money, it's not surprising that management should come down to counting
units of account, but swelling those units is what it's all about. Large
firms are typically run on an internal capital-market model; divisions have
to present plans with tempting rates of return to get capital from the
center. Losing divisions are shrunk, sold, or dissolved. Whole corporations
are traded on the stock market as numbers and little more - not just the
day to day fluctuations in prices, but the vast reorganizations carried out
through takeovers, spinoffs, and buy-and-bust stratetgies.

One of the ultimate measures of capitalist health, GDP, is also a product
of accounting. Accounting is how you keep score under capitalism.

Also: in rejecting Gosplan-style planning, many market socialists seem to
have abandoned planning altogether. This seems very wrong. There are many
lessons to be learned on a regional level from the networked plants of
Emilia-Romagna to the vast and successful national development plans
undertaken by a number of Asian countries.



Doug Henwood
[dhenwood at panix.com]
Left Business Observer
250 W 85 St
New York NY 10024-3217
+1-212-874-4020 voice
+1-212-874-3137 fax

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