Political Economy Seminar
Together We’ll Break These Chains of Love? The Community Ideal and the Multi-Criterial Economy
Presenter: Aaron Benanav, Syracuse University
Respondent: Dr Mike Beggs
Date: Tuesday, 24 October 2023
Time: 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm (AEDT)
Community regulation has long been heralded as an alternative to market-driven rapaciousness. Communities pool resources, use them responsibly, and foster relationships rooted in trust and mutual support. From community gardens and communes to “the commons” and even communism, we find a widely shared sense that communities—especially when organized democratically—can manage or plan economic relations in ways that are more humane than markets. However, this community ideal has a darker side. Too often, communities maintain the peace through intense surveillance, threats of exclusion, and violence. Furthermore, individuals frequently invoke “the community” to further personal or sectional-group interests, to the detriment of those they claim to represent. Such concerns were central to neoliberal critiques of the left launched by Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman, all of whom claimed that socialist economies were intrinsically flawed precisely because they were organized around this ideal: the community regulation of production. This talk delves into the left’s enduring community ideal, especially as it relates to public ownership and public management of the economy, as well as the neoliberal critique of this ideal. The key claim is that the allure of community regulation was its promise to integrate larger numbers of people and multiple production criteria—beyond the efficient use of scarce resources—into the organization of the social provisioning process. While the inclusion of both politically marginalized populations and diverse social values promised to make economic coordination simpler and more harmonious, it actually heightened complexity and conflict in ways that communities were unable to manage on their own. This talk begins the work of reconstructing and rebuilding a vision of the multi-criterial economy, by explaining how we might rethink community, not as the organizing agent of a future society, but rather as one of its results.