Development of Socialist Economic Thought: Selected Essays by Maurice Dobb

Development of Socialist Economic Thought: Selected Essays by Maurice Dobb

Language: English

Pages: 162


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Maurice Dobb (1900-1976) was a highly influential Marxist political economist and economic historian. He was famous for his writings on economic development - including the development of capitalism in the west, and the dilemmas of the Soviet Union in their efforts to industrialise what had been primarily an agricultural country. This collection brings together a selection of essays written in the 1960s and 1970s, on socialist economic thought and planning.

The essays discuss many issues of relevance today - how to bring about growth in non-industrialised countries; non-market approaches to the economy; and the relevance of Marx to analysing commodity capitalism. The essays are introduced by Dobb's Literary Executor Brian Pollitt, who also gives a useful introduction to Dobb's life and work.

Maurice Dobb was author of many works, including Studies in the Development of Capitalism (1946), Soviet Economic Development since 1917 (revised 1966) and Theories of Value and Distribution since Adam Smith (1973). He also collaborated with Piero Sraffa for many years in his work on Ricardo. Brian Pollitt has worked in Cuba, Chile and Nicaragua. His later research has focused on the problems of transition in socialist economies. He has held teaching and research positions at the Universities of Yale, Massachusetts, Concepcion and Adelaide, and has recently retired from his post at the University of Glasgow.

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system was a cardinal virtue during the ‘heroic’ period of planning and growth but, by the end of the post-1945 reconstruction period, its defects had become increasingly apparent. Soviet growth up to the 1950s was essentially ‘extensive’ in nature, being fuelled primarily by the simple addition of labour and means of production to existing productive capacity. With the exhaustion of abundant reserves of labour in particular, however, it became obvious that future growth would have to be more

economic significance. Marx and Engels and their followers always regarded it as inconsistent with their conception and method to prepare anything resembling a blueprint of the future socialist society. The attempt to do so was the hallmark of the Utopian socialist, and in their ascetic refusal to emulate their predecessors in this respect, they stood at the opposite pole from Fourier and his obsessive love of detailed prescription. Socialism, it was stated, would be established by ‘the

administration. This preoccupation with the time-factor 90 The discussions of the 1920s about building socialism 91 becomes plain to view in Preobrazhensky’s warning to an audience at the Communist Academy that ‘we shall not be given much time in which to build socialism. […] It will be a matter of life and death that we should rush through this transition as quickly as possible.’ ‘We must anticipate,’ he went on, ‘a united campaign of the kulaks and world capital, launching an economic and

goods sector; and he advocated a choice of techniques that would maximize economic surplus and growth rather than employment. Dobb’s view on this conflicted with the doctrines of comparative cost and marginal productivity, according to which an industrially underdeveloped country with surplus labour must always choose techniques of production which economise on capital. There were strong affinities between Dobb’s approach on the choice of techniques and that of A.K. Sen – his research student in

products and new and improved designs. It likewise tends to put a premium on quantitative fulfilment even at the expense of inefficiencies: vide the common habit of ‘storming’, or excessive speed-up and overtime, towards the end of a plan-period. It was to counteract such effects, indeed, that the so-called ‘qualitative indices’ were added to the plan-directives, stipulating such things as the degree of cost-reduction to be achieved or the amount of increase of labour productivity. But this had

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