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I think economists in general do not pay sufficient attention to the forces that control our "needs," and that (invisible hand-waving*) has a profound impact on the possibilities afforded to an economic theorist.

For example, almost nobody who already has a car needs a limited edition Lamborghini for its use value, but almost everybody needs it for its signaling value. Economists since at least Smith have known this, but as far as I know, nobody took this dual nature of products seriously enough to provide an alternative model of economic reality.

Imagine, for example, an economy where all workers are paid the same hourly rate for any verifiably performed activity they enjoy doing. Somebody likes to write poetry, others like bird watching, yet another study the genetic code of nematodes. Imagine also that in such an economy "workers" are free to sell their product to the highest bidder, but instead of money, the seller gets a non-transferable, non-material, purely signaling, and publicly visible reward, equivalent to the price of the product they sold. Let's call such a reward the Merit reward.

Over time, people accumulate Merit scores, and lists appear not unlike the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires List. It is not out of the realm of possibility that such a score would be as powerful as wealth today in motivating people to supply labor.

At the same time, everybody earns the same, and consequently, the possibility of signaling one's wealth through positional goods is virtually nonexistent.

Admittedly, such a scenario would likely not lead to a less entropic world, but might elegantly solve economic inequality.

*...to channel R. Thaler here :-)

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“Invisible hand-waving” FTW! 👍👍

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Allow me to offer a modest reality check to the proponents of degrowth. Italy’s economy has barely registered real GDP growth over the last quarter of a century. It is not a model in the fight against climate change: in fact the transition away from fossils fuel is slowed down by economic stagnation hampering the adoption of technological progress incorporated in new investment. Nor does its population appear satiated: in fact the most dynamic elements tend to emigrate to countries with higher levels and growth of GDP. Note that simple differences in levels of income and wealth would be enough to feed unsatisfied needs in a hypothetical stationary global economy,

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I totally agree w/ you. I have written about it. It is just that logically Saito's argument makes sense. It requires things which are impossible to imagine though: total cultural revolution, nationalization of capital, centralization of decisijn-making, and all of that at the global level.

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Does healthcare, and healthcare needs, can fully considered in this model of full abundance. Or is acceptance of an early death an existential implication

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Hi Branko hope well. Having very recently been the beneficiary of health services in an excellent US hospital i was struck by the sheer abundance of equipment/everyday supplies/high level specialists and general support services. Things which in all 3W societies have to be imported and rationed are simply taken for granted. This costs lives.

Abundance is already a feature of the top of the system so how to extend? Btw my liver specialist was a young Argentinian so we joked about 'the hand of god'

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"Abundance defined as full satisfaction of all material needs cannot be achieved in technologically advancing societies."

But this assumes that the new needs/desires that arise w/ tech advancements and new/different goods/services are just as strong as the previous needs/desires (eg food clothing shelter). Which they're of course not, at least generally. (Cue: declining marginal utility.)

So sure: a system can never achieve 100% post-scarcity. But it can get asymptotically close to that, no? Think Iain Banks' "Culture." FWIW.

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I am not quite sure that the intensity of needs necessarily decreases. It is not obvious to me when I see how people clutch their cell phones and cannot move anywhere without them. It could be even argued the opposite: that some new needs may be felt very strongly because there is an element of fashion and Veblenesque showing off.

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One does certainly get that impression. But if a family was denied their cell phones, versus shelter and domicile for instance, the differences of need and desire might be more apparent.

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>>> Only in a society which does not experience technological progress and where no new needs can arise. In such a society it is possible to imagine an almost unlimited production of things which already exist <<<

Although it is correct that production capacity has a quantitative upper limit, there is also a planning function, which is either fulfilled by ‘Wall Street’ banking under capitalism or ‘Central Planning’ in a socialist society. It thus is always some sort of a directed economy, controlled by demand and distribution. Thus technological innovation is not an unsurmountable obstacle requiring a stationary society but a matter of the weight society attaches to it

>>> Stationary society, end of capitalism, and abundance are logically consistent <<<

Logic has no bearing in development of societies - it is about dialectics i.e. the dynamics of change. Innovation is an inherit part of that, regardless if a society is capitalist or communist. Societies thus never could be ‘stationary’, because change always requires adaptation. That also goes for economics - the perrmanently changing relation to nature is just one example.

A communist society does not need to be a ‘stationary’ society, quite the opposite.

Firstly not all goods are a need for everyone. A communist society would be following the principle of ‘everyone according to his needs’. That means that you do not need more than one car, because you can only consume so much of any good there is since consumption has a natural limit. Furthermore society would be specifying rules of production and distribution of goods following the above principle.

There is no longer a need to produce 500 different types of cars, but that does not mean that there would be no innovation.

Secondly, when it comes to ‘essential goods’ that everyone wants - particularly if those are technological novelties like a smart phone - there would be a shift of resources towards those goods to produce them in sufficient quantities to create the supply for the growing demand. This would happen more or less instantly, since society as a whole is planning what to produce based on a gigantic pool of resources, which can be formed from all available sources. This is enabled for tha fact that a communist society can bundle the necessary knowledge and resources for a designated purpose due to the absence of competition. Communist society could develop exactly those technologies and the resulting products which are considered sustainable and useful. Quite contrary to being stationary it would result in an abundance of technological progress. The key and the real limit is the availability of resources. i.e. labor as the hungarian economist Kornai recognized - Capitalism is demand constrained while socialism is resource constrained.

Lastly, degrowth models under capitalism are an anomaly and would certainly lead to higher inequalities since the lower income strata would have to bear the brunt of cutbacks. Communism would allow some sort of degrowth, but, on the other hand, degrowth and technological progress are not mutually exclusive. The ‘degrowth’ argument certainly is valid when it comes to curbing the capitalist variety and overproduction of products, yet this will not necessarily require a stationary society. It requires socialist central planning, which is the only way of preventing an environmental collapse. Free markets and capitalism are not able to successfully deal with both distribution issues and the environment problems the world is facing - for the simple reason of the profit motive driving competition, which is the mechanism Marx recognized as the single biggest factor of capitalism’s destructive power. Hunger is a result of capitalist production - there is enough food in this world but there are too many people who can not pay for it.

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You'll be surprised that I largely agree with your POV - except that I see Marxism as having failed due to it's fixation on Hegelian dialectics - and no longer fitting modern times where the class-structure (more generally, stake-holders driving cultural development) has changed substantially. In contrast to you, I develop my understanding without feeling the need to convince others or attack them to prove my point, rather first try to understand them - since all deep thought produces interesting output that one can benefit from - in parts.

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Marxism is not fixed on Hegelian dialectics, since such a fixation would be a perverted distortion of the core of dialectics, which - in layman's terms - is change. Marx dialectics are solely built on Hegel to turn his idealism into materialism, which is the opposite pole to gain insight on understanding reality. Contending that historical materialism has failed is merely a bourgeois statement of ideological beliefs without any analytical insight.

Marx asserts that there are seven distinctive aspects of society which coexist and coevolve in relation to one another.

These elements - technology, relationship to nature, labor process of production [*forms of production*], reproduction of labor power, mental conceptions of the world, structure of state [*administration, law, markets, operations of money etc.*], and social relations [*class, gender etc.* ]- make up the totality of a society.

Historical materialism asks that we not assume one element is a silver bullet answer to a problem, but rather that we look at the ways in which each element would have to shift in order to address the issue.

How do these seven elements/aspects merge - It is the totality of the capitalist order made up of those seven distinctive elements to form society.

Furthermore 'the cultural shaping of society by stakeholders' parrots the pseudo left political narrative of de-radicalizing Marx to a fitting reformist agenda based on an allegedly changed societal framework of class. There is no difference in elites and stakeholders on the one hand and exploited people on the other hand then and now. And there is no difference whatsoever in the class structure of society, other then the endless liberal claptrap about a privileged upper middle class no longer being part of the exploited strata but forming an integral part of an economically, socially and culturally definite non-worker layer of society. It is a political illusion and nothing but the petty-bourgoisie of Marx's or Lenin's time with a different tag on it, mostly that of the PMC - the professional managerial class. The “professional managerial class” is a staple of recent cultural commentary and of lifestyle leftists. Its talk into existence serves the purpose of 'social status upgrading' to further politically cutting off the middle class from labor. It is a subtle method of enhancement of the capital-labor divide

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I actually consider Marx's understanding and criticism of capitalism to be final - but the envisaged process how the transition from capitalism to communism would take place (as a major cultural change) just didn't work out. Today it just does not have appeal even for the lowest social strata (as remnant of the labour-class) who have by now completely bought the legend of unlimited social mobility if they just try hard enough. Not only they but also all developing nations prefer to work their ass off for this fake legend and have no interest or capability to drive cultural change that might endanger their little dream of prosperity - kept alive by perennial and pervasive brainwashing by the succesful and exploitative elites and the media controlled by them. So where does that leave us? Objecting to dilution or reinterpretation of Marxism will not help - IMO the whole vision of communism needs a revision to make it universally attractive - in simple understandable terms - and feasible ways to initiate and organize a cultural change toward that within the current conditions needs to be found. I am pessimistic that this is at all possible - without some major power realizing it as a living example - and forcing it on others - and no, I don't see Russia or China doing that, as they are really capitalist, too.

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Consider yourself another victim of the self-soothing liberal attitude of 'the end of history' to find justification for late stage capitalism. Western reformists desperately keep spinning the narrative of the superiority of an unfettered globalized market economy, but, as Rosa Luxemburg said - It is either socialism or barbarism - and Marx provided some sort of an open blueprint for both social practise and revolutionary activism, which once again is gaining traction around the globe. "Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriations…… All history is nothing but a continuous transformation of human nature"

The liberal bourgeoisie permanently keeps pushing the ‘trickle-down’ concept of a thriving middle class like that strata was representative of society. Middle classes in developed economies started crumbling by the end of the 70’s and the process has been accelerating. After 50 plus years of neoliberalism this is an outdated model and people on a global scale begin to realize that the recipe of consumption based growth is a dead end both socially and environmentally.

Static accounts of China either being socialist or capitalist are moot because those categories are ideological weapons of the cold war. China is steadily moving towards socialism - just like the Sovietunion was - and that is why the West has been fighting it tooth and nail from the first day of the October revolution. America back then panicked realizing that the Sovietunion had been able to industrialize in just one generation from one of the most backward nations to become the second biggest global industrial power, just like the US is panicking now. State socialism as a transitory stage has not failed but has been systematically destroyed. Now the US led west is trying to find the chinese Gorbachev and keeps demonizing Marx and anything that would shake up class structures. Your statements are a striking example of how sucessfully people get indoctrinated with politicized capitalist propaganda - it is Thatcher’s resigning TINA attitude that there is no alternative. And speaking of China and Russia in the same breath needs no comment. In solidarity

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Consider yourself a victim of dogmatic ideology that serves to compensate your personal frustrations.

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Why so angry lol😉

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Capitalism destroyed the nutrition value of the food. The capitalist products last less and can't be repaired. Capitalism became a stationary system for many Europeans, who are forced to live in abundance. Acces to water and clean air must be right but capitalists made it product. That's why capitalism is failing in many countries. Growth in EU is not real. It is Wall Street driven on paper. Society can't really feel it. May be top 1-10% can feel the good fruits of the capitalist growth in each country. In capitalism it is very easy to fall at the bottom. Look at the many homeless and poor people in USA and in the West. This was not the case during communism.

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Whenever I think of abundance, I think of Bataille. Degrowth implies less for now, but with time would it be still perceived as less if it’s the social status-quo? Frankly I think we have quite an abundance, more than we need but I still think technology (as a science) should not stop. Medical science for one seems obvious.

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Arguably, indigenous tribes in the amazon jungle are stationary societies. Consuming exactly the same for last centuries (millennia?); perfectly satisfied with what they have. So a stationary economic arrangement is possible. But it seems improbable that capitalist societies will voluntarily transition to a stationary life. I am not arguing a transition to primitive life, but rather to accept that a stationary society means that I will live a life exactly like my parents, and my offspring will also live a life exactly like mine.

Degrowth is essentially an anti-capitalist solution to the sustainability problem. However, what if we define the problem as how to achieve sustainable growth? The speed at which the demography is transitioning from growth to degrowth (see China) is amazing. So, evidently we can transition to a stationary, or even decreasing population. Society can also transition to consume less physical goods, and more services (non physical goods). So the combination of stable/less people, and less physical goods, and more recycling should allow us to converge towards sustainable growth.

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Maintaining abundance requires growth. No growth reduces abundance to non abundance. If one want to preach the virtues of needing and desiring less then perhaps minimal growth or sustenance level growth is okay.

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How can a capitalist and worker are equivalent in this statement? No capitalist or entrepreneur would invest if they cannot expect a net return, no more than a worker would work for a zero wage.

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Communism as a society of material abundance is an impossibility (Contradiction in terms).

It reminds me of an old joke from former Yugoslavia (adapted for this time and place):

"How about a nice steak and a bottle of wine for five bucks?

"Please tell me where!"

"Nowhere, but, admit, it's a good deal!"

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I agree that the profit motive promotes innovation, but it is not the only thing that does so. The only way you'll get a static technological society is through aggressive suppression of change. Simply providing non-invidious abundance at the current level of technology (which, as the post indicates, can only be done for a limited number of goods) won't do it.

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Abundant and static are completely incompatible both conceptualy and empirically. Abundant for whom and under what future conditions? Abundant here can only mean everyone gets a equal amount of the goods that a market economy has already Abundantly produced (Yes Marx was smart enough to realize that only Capitalism can actually produce abundance). But what if I or you want a bigger, faster more prestigious car or house or buy top qualtiy steaks, etc? Only by continually suppressing individual differences and desires can this work--at a terrible price. Eben if the lowest common denominator is set reasonably high many will not be satisfied let along accept this static condition. Rousseau understood this much better than Marx. IF we want justice as equality we must lobe not the abundant life but the modest life of an agricultural tribe like the Amish. Give everyone a nice house, car and a million dollars. What will happen over 5 years> Not hard to guess unless the resulting inequality is forceably reduced so that the extra gains of a few are yes redistributed. Just and fair? Suppose we outsource much of our work to technology as seems the implicit goal of AI and robotics, what will we do with our free time? Hunt in the morning, write poetry or novels in the afternoon and gods know what in the evening? Everyone more or less equally? Will honor and social praise replace inequality in wealth? The reality behind this utopia would turn out to be a misery for many. Growth, change, innovation etc are essential both to human nature and to the possibility of abundance. But strict equality of sharing?

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I define "abundance" very clearly.

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The amount of time we have will always be limited. The implication of abundance is that we spend much less of our time and energy on acquiring goods and services from the market and more on such things as friendship, family relationships, pursuing interests and a healthy lifestyle.

We can imagine that the process of innovation to create and meet new market needs would be highly automated. A capitalist would continue to do this because it was almost effortless. Under communism, society as a whole would play that role. Hence, either way, technical progress would not have to slow down.

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Abundance is defined w/ respect to material goods and purchasable services.

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I am suggesting that it might be more useful to think of abundance as like an asymptote of a mathematical function: a limit that a system gets closer and closer to without ever quite reaching. As the function progresses, the utility of “leisure” increases relative to that of labour (defined as economic activity), and we spend a decreasing proportion of our time and energy creating marketable goods and services.

However, this doesn’t mean that economic growth slows, since increasingly machines do the innovating for us. This innovation includes ways of tackling climate change.

The idea of tackling climate change through degrowth is, as you say, fundamentally misconceived. Without technical innovation the process will be so painful that there will never be a political consensus until it’s too late.

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I commend you on transcending ideological frameworks to understand the underlying framework - how else can we progress in our world-view if we stick to dated definitions of capitalism and Marxism, or more generally, a restricted of sanctified ideologies? Also, we cannot know how Marx might think today, after indeed having emphasized personal development as well as uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources even in his time. Personally, as I grew up with IT (or IT with me) I question the assumption "new needs arise with technological progress", specifically in IT - many of those needs being driven by the aggressive marketing of those getting rich by them - and by harmful social development justifying them, e.g. you need mobile communication because you are forced to be mobile and you need social-networks because you lost the traditional form (extended families, the city-marketplace).

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Marx never emphasized liberal individuality let alone 'uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources'. This is an absurd statement and a blatant lie.

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Oops, my bad - and so we can continue suppressing the former and keep going with the latter😅

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But "needs: are always subjective, not some fixed physiological needs. So the fact that they arise/are created through marketing does not affect the conclusions.

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I actually agree with the conclusion, which I assume to be "Stationary society, end of capitalism, and abundance are logically consistent." That is where economics (as a specialized science) ends, whereas the next step can only be to understand how cultural development gave rise to the ideologies we now see as the only options - and since culture was always created over time by us humans (collectively) - how we can maybe backtrack (culturally) and start again at some point we recognize as "still sane" - and the challenge is how we can do that collectively, so it's not just academic speculation.

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The point was not common bourgeois-capitalist practice but co-opting and smearing Marx with totally unsubstantiated accusations

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The point is that you twisted what I said (I never used the term "liberal individuality" and "emphasize" means only that he gave these issues high relevance) - for reasons all your own.

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Brilliant logic! In reality though the only way to control climate is via having MORE energy, not per capita, but in absolute terms, ie technological progress

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