and the Economical
The ethical and the economical - these are the two issues I want to raise here. The pursuit of ethical values and the pursuit of efficiency seem to oppose each other and impossible to reconcile. Modern society has become too economical without paying much respect to ethics - this is a common cry of today. Major sociologists, therefore, find their missions in finding out how to be ethical or to sustain morality in the "economical" modern society. Auguste Comte's emphasis on morality is a good example. Organic solidarity - or moral education - is the famous theme of Emile Durkheim. They are mainly concerned with the question how to use a certain modernized version of ethics to limit the "too economical" modernization - to use one pole (ethical) to slow down the other (economical). A risk of reactionary - the return to a moral yet restrictive community - is, however, inherent in such questioning.
In fact, the economical - the pursuit of efficiency - itself is not entirely an immoral thing that has to be limited. Without pursuing efficiency, ethical activities cannot often continue. The economical is essentially to do away with social wastes, i.e., hazards for flexible exchanges - which can be ultimately an ethical thing. The two opposing poles - the ethical and the economical - can actually point to the same goal. Without attempting to accomplish the two seemingly antagonistic attitudes at the same time, neither the ethical nor the economical is achieved in the long run. Rather, we have to switch constantly between the two attitudes. This is our condition. For example, if someone started an ethical movement, but failed to organize it efficiently, participants would get frustrated, end up in accusing each other for failures and thus act "unethically." Without being "economical", it is difficult to remain ethical.On the other hand, when I observe capitalism producing huge amounts of waste and causing economic disturbance constantly, another question comes to my mind: without being ethical, can we sustain the economical? Capitalism is not ethical, sure, but is it even economical?
Without the private ownership, there is little motive for the efficiency. Nevertheless, the adherence to it can undermine the social efficiency. Its renouncement - especially technological information - is "economical" from a global viewpoint and the humanity's well-beings. The recent hustle over the use of anti-AIDS drugs in Africa without legal patent fee is a good example. In science, people almost freely interchange their ideas and discoveries. In spite of obvious social benefits, such a custom cannot be generalized in wider society, because there exist conditions inherent in human exchanges: we do not want to give up our products without receiving equivalent in value. We have to abolish the private ownership, but we cannot do away with it, either. The ethical accusations against capitalism will cloud our eyes - we have to closely and objectively examine how these conditions emerge. We have to clarify the social conditions that are making the collaboration of the ethical and the economical difficult.
Today, economical transactions mean exchanges using money. We express our judgments of value through money. It plays a pivotal role in human relations and connections. And this reliance on money necessitates the emergence of capitalism. In order to examine such structures, we still owe hugely to the later works of Karl Marx. For the theoretical analysis of capitalism and the nation-state, I will draw upon his works, along with several other works of sociology and political economy.
Merely clarifying social conditions, however, could lead to determinism. Such theoretical labors can indicate what kind of movements are not the alternatives to capitalism, but are hard to propose a potential alternative. For such a purpose, it is my firm belief that we have to explore, not only the theory, but the real movements existing now. Fortunately, I have encountered one suitable company, Two-One in Japan, that is managing to be both ethical and economical by employing numerous original methods. Because this company has an internal structure that can be called an association of workers, I will term such a company an associational company.
There are numerous amounts of works about Marx. Because Marxism has always been political, however, the interpretations of his works are often ideologically biased. More or less simplified explanations, rather than rigorous scientific examinations, have generally promulgated, such as describing him as the inventor of the class theory. The question why this simplification happened itself could be the subject of a sociological research. But Marx wrote complex analyses of capitalism. For example, he started his Capital with the analysis of the form of value - money. Rather than the traditional Marxian emphasis on the production relationship, he himself has focused on money and credit - because essentially the latter formulates and models the relationship of the people. Money, like language, determines how people communicate with each other.
Several attempts to establish an economy alternative to capitalism have failed and remained feeble - or they have turned into "another capitalism." The problem of these movements was the misunderstanding of how capitalism works. Marx criticized classical political economy; but as is clear from his descriptions, he was also criticizing the past socialist movements from Left Ricardians (the Chartist movement) and Owenian corporatism, to the French socialists and anarchists (Proudhon, collectivism of Louis Blanc etc.). German social democrats, such as F. Lassalle, were not exempted from his critiques. Marx himself, however, left only a few sketches of the possible alternative society. In German Ideology, he has even stated that communism should not aim at a certain ideal:
Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.
There is no question that Marx's
followers had trouble imagining the socialist society. Marxism was, therefore,
basically formulated in the line of Engels - the former Chartist. The
central theses of Marxism became the base-superstructure theory, historical
materialism and the claim that the source of surplus value is only the
exploitation of labor - none of them original to Marx and emphasized by
him. It was Engels who included these ideas, borrowed from Left Riccardians
or the German historical economists, such as Wilhelm Friedrich Schulz.
Following Marx's remark quoted above (this part was written by Marx),
Engels found his "premises now in existence" - on-going monopolization
and the state capitalism. Engels' final hope was that, by simply switching
the head of this structure, he would get a state socialism - the planned
economy and the mutual ownership of the means of production. Of course,
Marx also states such a program several times, especially before he studied
Political Economy seriously. Lenin's Soviet socialism basically followed
this route. In fact, in his later years, Marx was envisioning the possible
communism as the association of cooperatives formed by free individuals
(e.g., Civil War in France). In this sense, his idea was not entirely
different from early Soviets or Rate - or even from one of his biggest
antagonists, P.J. Proudhon.
It is not only the classical
works of Marx that form the backbones of my theoretical argument here.
In fact, it was rather some of recent studies that inspired me to reread
Marx from a different perspective.
Also Karatani's concept of
the capitalist-nation-state as the modern developed structure of the essential
three forms of exchange - market exchange, reciprocity and appropriation-redistribution
- is original, although he has just sketched this theory briefly in his
book. In this concept, works of Georg Simmel, Benedict Anderson and Theda
Skocpol, for instance, beautifully fit in. Skocpol claims that the state
has its own mission - appropriation - and is not a mere tool of capitalist
classes. I will substantiate this capitalist-nation-state theory by drawing
on these and other numerous sociological works.
A typical example for the reconciliation
of the ethical and the economical have been cooperatives. They are, however,
usually not entirely "economical," serving as the escape grounds
for industries that can no longer expect sufficient rates of profit in
capitalism. Classical forms of a cooperative were modeled by Robert Owen
or the Rochdale group and legalized by congresses of various countries.
We do not necessarily have to follow these legal forms. We can choose
a structure of a company and its associations more freely - probably legally
a joint-stock company with a cooperatives-like structure - to stay economical
and realistic enough, but also to remain ethical.
As I researched the company, I encountered numerous techniques and methods - not at all limited to these five - to achieve a both ethical and economical way of business management. What I was mostly impressed by was that these methods have solved several issues I found crucial and hard to solve from the theoretical analyses mentioned above. Moreover, Two-One has been "economical," growing steadily by average 10-20% a year. I will term such a company as an "associational company."
In my research, I have tried
to illuminate the following points: