Blogs > Liberty and Power > Capitalism, Mutuality and Sharing

Feb 8, 2005 1:45 am

Capitalism, Mutuality and Sharing

Cooperation, as Mises pointed out, includes both forms of catallactic exchange, i.e., monetary purchases and sales, and nonmonetary exchanges. As he mentions in Human Action:

"The teachings of catallactics do not refer to a definite epoch of history, but to all actions characterized by the two conditions private ownership of the means of production and division of labor. Whenever and wherever, in a society in which there is private ownership of the means of production, people not only produce for the direct satisfaction of their own wants but also consume goods produced by other people, the theorems of catallactics are strictly valid."

Chris Sciabarra in his post on capitalism questions the value of the use of this term and correctly has pointed to some of the recent work by Kevin Carson on mutualism. In a post on the Mises Blog N. Joseph Potts mentions Yochai Benkler's interesting paper on mutualist economics, "Sharing Nicely: On Shareable Goods and the Emergence of Sharing as a Modality of Economic Production" in the Yale Law Journal deals with production of goods/services through nonmarket mechanisms of social sharing. This is a paper that you might be interested in looking at.

I do think that" capitalism" is a term commonly in use at the time of Rand, Paterson, et. al. The use of this terminology leaves us with quite an important issue, and an important opportunity as well. The pre-Austrian (and by that I mean prior to the introduction of Mises to American circles of scholars and free-marketeers in the late 1940's) economic thinkers were Thomas Nixon Carver (who was known as"Mr. Capitalism" at Harvard, where he taught) was the author of many books and articles on economic theory, and Carl Snyder, primarily with the publication of his magnificant book, "Capitalism, the Creator." It may be well worth reviewing Charles T. Sprading's influence in popularizing the"libertarianism" from the time of the publication of his "Liberty and the Great Libertarians" and the usage that he made of the term. His emphasis on"mutualism" and" cooperation" may well be keys in helping to resolve, or possibly expand, this topic.

A paper mentioned in Benkler's essay, Dan M. Kahan's, "The Logic of Reciprocity: Trust, Collective Action, and Law" has an important discussion of trust within nonmonetary social relations which might be of interest as well.

Just a thought.

Just Ken

CLASSical Liberalism

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More Comments:

Kenneth R Gregg - 2/8/2005

You're certainly right Kevin,

Mutualism isn't the word of the day, and not a burning issue in today's study of economics.

OTOH, it is an issue which should be evaluated as part and parcel of catallactics. Nonmonetary processes such as sharing, mutualist production, social institutions and other various forms of volitional relations need to be analyzed and considered in society from an Austrian point of view.

It seems to me that this is certainly something that is important to add to the libertarian "toolbox."

Just Ken

Kenneth R Gregg - 2/8/2005

I see I didn't make myself clear on this point. Capitalism was certainly a term commonly in use in the time period. My point was to note that the usage by Rand, Paterson and other free-marketeers of the time (including Leonard Read, who was a student and admirer of Carver) was taken from intepretations by Carver and Snyder. From their vantage point, "capitalism" was interpreted from a market creation, rather than as a statist institution. By considering the differences between free-market capitalism and state capitalism or corporativism, as you correctly point out, and the origins of the use of the terminology, allows us to frame a better response than the prototypical Randian "capitalism is good" response.

This is a valuable insight, and by looking into libertarian history, we can see how prior libertarians made correct analysis of this point, which rejected the term "capitalism" entirely, and for what reasons. This, to me anyway, is a worthwhile venture.

Just a thought.
Just Ken

Kevin Carson - 2/8/2005

Well, that's certainly right: if mutualism is the great issue of our day, I must have slept through it.

William Marina - 2/8/2005

Given Marx & other 19th century theorists, I don't undertand your comment about Capitalism as a term not commonly in great use at the time of Rand, Patterson, etc.
Without some modifier(s), the term is not very clarifying at any rate.
Mises definition is also rather partial.
The evolution into Corporatism is, in my view, the great issue of our day, not Mutualism.
Bill Marina