Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Metamorphosis of Capitalism and Socialism: Part 4

Kitchen Sink, New Mexico, 2013,
courtesy of the artist, Julie Ford Oliver

PARTS 1, 2 and 3 of this series focused on Rudolf Steiner's proposals to transform capitalism by creating economic organizations that reflect the actual relationships between workers, managers, capital, and society.  Those three posts also made note of similarities between Steiner's views and those of Arizmendi, the priest who designed the highly successful Mondragon cooperatives in Spain.  Steiner and Arizmendi both proposed that
  • wage-labor be renounced;1
  • workers and managers share a portion of profits;2
  • a significant portion of profits be donated to education;3
  • business be non-political;4
  • a significant portion of profits be designated as what is sometimes called "social capital."5 (Steiner did not use that expression, but did employ the underlying concept.)  Social capital was explained in Part 2 of this series of blog posts.  Also called the indivisible collective reserve, social capital is not owned by workers, managers, investors, or the state.  It is permanently part of the company itself, and can be used only to expand it and to create new jobs.  If the company should fail, its managers and/or workers must choose an organization to donate the remaining social capital to, or else delegate the choice to a non-profit. Or the choice may already have been specified in the failed company's by-laws when the company was first formed.  The social capital in any case can be donated only to educational institutions, or to a functioning cooperative structured around social capital, or to a non-profit that provides loans or advice to help start cooperatives structured around social capital. Without ever being owned, social capital thus circulates throughout society. The state is not involved, except to enforce contracts.

Raphael, detail from Head of a Muse, 1510-1511

To provide a fuller comparison with Mondragon, some other details about how Steiner proposed to handle capital will need to be specified in future posts.  For example, how does Steiner's thinking compare with the Mondragon policy that capital invested in a coop gets a limited return not tied to the coop's losses or surpluses?6

The next post, which should appear soon, will translate into English some German material about the threefolding movement of 1919.  This will permit a bit of an overview of Steiner's activities with the workers' council movement in Stuttgart during the German Revolution.  It will also enable a closer comparison of Steiner's and Mondragon's ideas about workers' position within economic life.  

1 Gred MacLeod, From Mondragon to America: Experiments in Community Economic Development (Sydney, Nova Scotia: University College of Cape Breton Press, 1997), 41; Gary Lamb and Sarah Hearn, eds., Steinerian Economics: A Compendium, chapter 2, subsections "Labor as a Rights or Equity Issue Rather Than an Economic One" and "Fostering Altruism by Overcoming Labor as a Commodity" (Ghent, NY: Adonis, 2015).
2 MacLeod, From Mondragon to America, 41. Rudolf Steiner, Toward Social Renewal, trans. Matthew Barton (London: Rudolf Steiner Press, 1999), 69.
3; (accessed April 27, 2016); MacLeod, From Mondragon to America, 31, 96; Lamb and Hearn, Steinerian Economics, chapter 5, subsection "Associations in Relation to Gift Money and Cultural Life."
4 MacLeod, From Mondragon to America, 90; Lamb and Hearn, Steinerian Economics, chapter 3, subsection "The Economy and the Political State."
5 MacLeod, From Mondragon, to America, 31; ICA Group, "Internal Capital Accounts: An Illustrated Guide to the Internal Capital Account System for Worker Cooperatives" (accessed April 27, 2016); Steiner, Toward Social Renewal, Chapter 3: "Capitalism and Social Ideas.
6 MacLeod, From Mondragon to America, 41.

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