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 Incentive in a Communist society ?

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Is communism against human nature ?
Yes
31%
 31% [ 9 ]
No
52%
 52% [ 15 ]
Undecided
17%
 17% [ 5 ]
Total Votes : 29
 

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inkus2000
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PostSubject: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Sat Apr 05, 2008 12:57 am

Its often said that communism cannot function because it lacks incentives for individuals to produce. Human beings work based on reward, so in a system that offers no reward, why work ? Is communism against human nature ?


This is one of the main arguments against communism and I think it is often overlooked by communists themselves.



PS. I mean communism 'the final stage in Marx's theory of history' not socialism, since socialism offers rewards based on the amount and intensity of the workers labor.
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Sat Apr 05, 2008 1:09 am

inkus2000 wrote:
Its often said that communism cannot function because it lacks incentives for individuals to produce. Human beings work based on reward, so in a system that offers no reward, why work ?

But it does offer a reward, the reward we've been striving for since the dawn of civilisation: abundance.


Quote :
Is communism against human nature ?

What is this human nature of which you speak? Seriously, I challenge you to find me a proper scientific study which concludes that human nature is easily definable. Mostly the human nature argument boils down to either:
1. A misanthropic view of humanity (humans are basically evil, and will go out of their way to harm others)
Or
2. Humans exist in a state of nature, human society is the natural state of humans, human society is presently capitalist, and therefore capitalism is in human nature. (Note how this could work for feudalism, slave based societies etc.)

Alternatively it may be based on 'observing nature' (which as Kropotkin showed, it can be argued either way) or a perversion of Darwinism (or more precisely Herbert Spencer's maxim "survival of the fittest", which on closer examination is an utterly meaningless phrase). The problem with this is that humans are essentially unique and observing other animals isn't really appropriate. (The same goes for Kropotkin)
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Sat Apr 05, 2008 1:33 am

Is it not true that Human beings invariably act in what they perceive to be their own self interest ?

Of course people can act in the interest of others but it is generally true that they 'put themselves first'.

By the way Im playing the devils advocate here just to get things moving.
I have my my own opinion on the matter but I want to stay neutral.
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Sat Apr 05, 2008 1:41 am

I think the question of human nature is a complicated one. But in relation to communism, I think such a system is quite possible if the people of the world are committed to it, and it is not imposed upon them. I take the opinion of John Locke in believing that humans are not perfect but have plenty of ability to reasonable.
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Sat Apr 05, 2008 1:58 am

quote:What is this human nature of which you speak? Seriously, I challenge you to find me a proper scientific study which concludes that human nature is easily definable.




It is generally accepted that human beings act first and foremost in their own interest.

This 'truth' can bee seen throughout history and is present in 'all' stages of human society, from primitive communism to capitalism.
Self interest is not a product of capitalism.

This brings us to the question of conflicting interests, for example what if in a communist society no one chooses to pursue a career in medicine and everyone wants to be a train driver ? It is in the interest of society for people to serve as doctars ect

Will additional incentives be introduced to ensure social balance ? No, because this would lead to material inequality. The result would be breakdown of society no ?

Are we to believe that people will abandon self interest ?
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Sat Apr 05, 2008 2:42 am

Quote :
Is it not true that Human beings invariably act in what they perceive to be their own self interest ?

Indeed, In fact I would argue that communism is in the interest of the vast majority of individuals. Communism will ultimately be a system of free access, which means that you will be able to wander into a ‘shop’ and take whatever pleases you (well obviously not anything, but specifically the goods there for consumption). That’s in your interests whether you are starving, or just can’t afford a play station. As for working, Paul Lafargue argued as far back as the 1880’s that we should be working less (a 3 hour day max.) and if it’s not in our interests to work little, and receive lots then I don’t know what is!

Quote :
Of course people can act in the interest of others but it is generally true that they 'put themselves first'.

As I said true, but its also important to point out that people rarely (according to most game theory stuff I’ve heard of) go out of their way to ensure that other people have less.

Quote :
By the way Im playing the devils advocate here just to get things moving.

Well if you say that because I came off as a bit harsh, I apologise =D.

Quote :
It is generally accepted that human beings act first and foremost in their own interest.

This 'truth' can bee seen throughout history and is present in 'all' stages of human society, from primitive communism to capitalism.
Self interest is not a product of capitalism.

I may have been thinking of human nature along different lines to you then, the way you define it is just as acting in our own self interest (which is quite true), normally I am confronted by a mockery of human nature where we are anti-social creatures. It is when you try to define it beyond a simple “generally act in their own self interest” that it becomes impossible to define. Or in other words its when you try to use it to ‘prove’ that communism is not possible that it becomes more than a reasonable generalisation, and it is then that defining it is the task of anthropologists and the like. If anything ‘generally acting in our own self interest’ will be the reason communism (I tend to think of socialism and communism as the same =o) is established.

Quote :
This brings us to the question of conflicting interests, for example what if in a communist society no one chooses to pursue a career in medicine and everyone wants to be a train driver ?

Personally I feel that one of the principal aims of a society which has achieved communism will be to eliminate manual labour altogether (If I were to see socialism come about I know I’d be making myself a right pain in the arse trying to make this happen). But of course until then we may have problems, this will I think be solved by the fact that we will sit down and actually plan what work is carried out, thus we can achieve a suitable compromise perhaps where a doctor drives a train for a bit in return for a day off, for example.

Quote :
Will additional incentives be introduced to ensure social balance ? No, because this would lead to material inequality. The result would be breakdown of society no ?

Well rather than not introducing incentives because of material inequality, they won’t be introduced because in a society without want or need there will be none to give. So in this respect the problem is unsolved for entirely different reasons (but imho much more justified ones).

I also like Renegade_Kautsky’s comments.
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PostSubject: reply   Sat Apr 05, 2008 3:37 am

working less (a 3 hour day max ?

Working less hours would result in less productivity and cause products to become scarce and more aggressively sought after, people would have to work for set periods of time to ensure the proper rate of production ect. ?


eliminate manual labor altogether ?

Someone would have to maintain the machines build them ect - you mean the means of production should be IT based, this still entails a great deal of work esp in education ect.

“generally act in their own self interest” -

By this I mean that people will still compete for things despite absence of private property ie people will jostle for what are percieved to the 'best; jobs either because they are easy interesting or comfortable, certain people will recieve more time off than others- if it is as you stated.
A huge amount of people would be in competition for certain occupations, other occupations would be neglected, this would result in 'serious' problems.

doctor drives a train for a bit in return for a day off, for example.

Here you place value on time, in communist society do some recieve more time off than others ? Will time off work replace money ? If so equality cannot be sustained . - time is valuable.

People don't go out of their way to ensure that other people have less ?

Perhaps this is true. However you cannot argue that people dont go out of their way to ensure that they have more than others. This applies to everything not just money. People want to be percieved as more attractive than others ect. And moreover certain people want 'power' and 'influence' over others. This is greed I know but it is part of human nature none the less. It is part of the ego.
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Sat Apr 05, 2008 6:55 pm

It is human nature to work. Human society was in the primitive communist stage for tens of thousands of years and people worked without incentive. If it was not human nature to work then we would all be very poor. Capitalism alienates people from their human nature because people no longer own their own labor. The labor-power of the workers is owned by the capitalists. In this kind of labor people do not enjoy the fruits of their own labor and are not allowed to satisfy their needs. This kind of labor is against human nature because it alienates the workers, but in communism, this will not be a problem.
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Sun Apr 06, 2008 1:25 pm

Quote :
Working less hours would result in less productivity and cause products to become scarce and more aggressively sought after, people would have to work for set periods of time to ensure the proper rate of production ect. ?

On the face of it yes. However, when you take into account the enormous number of jobs involved in managing and maintaining capitalism, as well as unemployment, people who do not use advanced production techniques etc., a quite different picture emerges
http://www.worldsocialism.org/articles/world_without_accountants.php

It's also worth mentioning that the conditions necessary for communism is being able to end scarcity, else free access wouldn't work at all.


Quote :
Someone would have to maintain the machines build them ect - you mean the means of production should be IT based, this still entails a great deal of work esp in education ect.

Indeed, it will be a long term objective, and certainly won't be possible with a poorly educated population, even if its never entirely possible its a reasonably good aim since we'll end up constructing more and more automated factories etc. Furthermore manual workers have a shorter live expectancy than non-manual workers, so we should be aiming to eliminate it for health reasons.

Quote :
By this I mean that people will still compete for things despite absence of private property ie people will jostle for what are percieved to the 'best; jobs either because they are easy interesting or comfortable, certain people will recieve more time off than others- if it is as you stated.

You are quite right, it would be untrue to say that there would be no more competition, however, this is the reason I think we should introduce automation, the best jobs will be the ones where you perform most varied tasks etc. as opposed to the boring repetitive ones on factory floors. It won't necessarily solve the problem, but it will certainly alleviate some of it's effects. In addition to this working conditions will be greatly improved, to give people more say in how things are run etc. as well as safer conditions, largely I would like to think most jobs would be 'comfortable' and those that aren't most interesting (take astrophysics for example, interesting stuff, but you can't consider sitting on top of a mountain staring through a telescope all night comfortable).

Quote :
Here you place value on time, in communist society do some recieve more time off than others ? Will time off work replace money ? If so equality cannot be sustained . - time is valuable.

Well to be fair it was just an example off the top of my head, and I'm sure there are many more sensible suggestions. However, you state that time is valuable, how so? It's not like your going to use that time earning to buy a factory, probably it's going to be spent in an armchair or down the pub.

However, this 'equality'. It must be said that communism is not absolute material equality. Instead it is equal opportunity for people to satisfy their needs, equal opportunity for people to develop as individuals (education etc.) If you want a 40 inch HDTV and I do not then there is absolutely no reason that you should not have one, at the end of it we will still be equal since there will be no opportunity for you to make money (or whatever) from the simple act of owning that TV.

Quote :
Perhaps this is true. However you cannot argue that people dont go out of their way to ensure that they have more than others. This applies to everything not just money. People want to be percieved as more attractive than others ect. And moreover certain people want 'power' and 'influence' over others. This is greed I know but it is part of human nature none the less. It is part of the ego.

But what is the reason for ensuring that you have more than others. Is it because you want more than others full stop or, much more likely, having more than others is the only way to ensure you have all you want, regardless of everyone else. I would like a piece of land to grow vegetables on, in obtaining it I have ensured I have more than most others, but my desire for this piece of land has nothing to do with other people. Again I think that, as far as actively wanting more than others is concerned, this is more or less from living in a society where we a conditioned to want to obtain such things, and establishing whether or not this is true is a matter for scientists.


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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Sun Apr 06, 2008 3:12 pm

Human nature is the set of logical characteristics, including ways of thinking and acting, that all normal human beings have in common.[1] The branches of science associated with the study of human nature include sociology, sociobiology and psychology, particularly evolutionary psychology and developmental psychology. Philosophers and theologians have also carried out research on human nature.

Karl Marx's conception of human nature has been the subject of much misunderstanding. It is often believed that Marx denied that there was any human nature, and said that human beings are simply a blank slate, whose character will depend wholly upon their socialization and experience. It is true that Marx placed enormous importance on the view that people are influenced and, in part, determined by their environments. But he nevertheless had a very strong concept of human nature. Marx discussed the concept of 'species-essence' (from the German Gattungswesen, sometimes also translated as 'species being'). He believed that under capitalism, we are alienated - that is, divorced from aspects of our human nature. He envisaged the possibility of a society following capitalism which would allow human beings to fully exercise their human nature and individuality. His name for this society was 'communism'. However, it is worth bearing in mind that, since Marx's day, this term has been used with several different meanings, not all of which have been compatible with Marx's original usage.
Marx's understanding of human nature did not only play a role in his critique of capitalism, and in his belief that a better society would be possible (as already indicated). It also informed his theory of history. The underlying dynamic of history, for Marx, is the expansion of the productive forces. In The German Ideology, Marx says that two of the three aspects of social activity which ground history is the tendency of humans to act to fulfill their needs, and thereafter, the tendency to generate new needs [3]. This human tendency, for Marx, is what drives the continuing expansion of productive power in human civilization.
After The German Ideology, however, mention of 'species-essence' as such is virtually absent from Marx's writings. Some major interpreters of Marx, such as Louis Althusser, dismiss 'species-essence' as irrelevant to Marx's "later" writings, while others, such as Terry Eagleton, believe it continues to be an important concept in understanding Marx.

I don't know this text but read your masters words before you speak them.
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Sun Apr 06, 2008 3:56 pm

You talkin to me, matta? Cause what I said was the same as what that said.
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Sun Apr 06, 2008 4:17 pm

Pannekoek wrote:
You talkin to me, matta? Cause what I said was the same as what that said.

sorry, what?
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Sun Apr 06, 2008 4:58 pm

Never mind.
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Sun Apr 06, 2008 9:00 pm

I said yes, people are greedy bastards.
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Mon Apr 07, 2008 11:20 am

mattabesta wrote:
I don't know this text but read your masters words before you speak them.

Marxism is not a personality cult.
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:49 pm

inkus2000 wrote:
working less (a 3 hour day max ?

eliminate manual labor altogether ?

Someone would have to maintain the machines build them ect - you mean the means of production should be IT based, this still entails a great deal of work esp in education ect.

Automation would take care of the bulk of manual labour.

I think you are overestimating the amount of time it would take to keep the machines running compared to the time it would take to manually produce.

Also, there may always need to be some manual labour. Automation may not be able to take over every position of manual labour. I don't understand how that would be such a bad thing though.

Quote :
Working less hours would result in less productivity and cause products to become scarce and more aggressively sought after, people would have to work for set periods of time to ensure the proper rate of production ect.

Not if machines are producing. Why are we getting bogged down with hours worked? There is no way to tell how many hours less will be worked in a communist/anarchist society. It can easily be said that there will be less, but there is no way of knowing how much less. This is something that the workers' counsels will work out.

Quote :
However you cannot argue that people dont go out of their way to ensure that they have more than others. This applies to everything not just money. People want to be percieved as more attractive than others ect. And moreover certain people want 'power' and 'influence' over others. This is greed I know but it is part of human nature none the less. It is part of the ego.

Or it's just another part of your construct because you were raised that way. If you have a self-esteem problem, keep it to yourself. Don't put your weak "ego" on the rest of us.

If you're telling me people can't turn away from greed so that their fellow man can have food to eat, these people are truly disturbed. Capitalists like to live in their shell, believing what they do doesn't have an effect on anyone but themselves. But the truth of it is, every dollar in the pocket of bill gates, is a dollar out of the pocket of someone who could truly use it.

How can you prove people are naturally greedy without saying it's just 'human nature'? And how is this thought of 'human nature' not just another social construct? I don't go out of my way to gain more material wealth than my friends. I work as a janitor, and i'm fine just as long as i can have my weed. I have little in the way of material possessions (just some books, a tv, and some games). I don't need to out-do anybody.

Prove to me that this is not my nature.

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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:53 pm

Quote :
I don't know this text but read your masters words before you speak them.

Don't be a fool. Marxism is no dogmatic cult, nor do marxists believe that everything marx said is true (though there are some). It is obvious that he made mistakes. He even disagreed with himself later in life. Just because someone calls themself a marxist (which i'm not so sure anyone has done yet), doesn't mean they adhere to Das Kapital and the manifesto as if it were the bible.

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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Mon Apr 07, 2008 8:04 pm

Sorry for the trip-post, there's no edit button.

Quote :
It is in the interest of society for people to serve as doctars

Yes, or everyone would be riddled with disease. Cuba's doctors make hardly anything more than farm workers, and yet their health care programs are much more efficient, well maintained, and functional than under that pimp, Batista.

hmm, how could this be? I mean, Batista had large amounts of funding coming in from the US as well as a bureaucratic capitalist nation. And since money, to all you capitalists out there, makes the world go round, it would naturally follow that Batista's regime would have better medical facilities, no?

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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:00 am

Quote :
Just because someone calls themself a marxist (which i'm not so sure anyone has done yet),
What's that supposed to mean? I've said I'm a Marxist.
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Tue Apr 08, 2008 2:42 am

Pannekoek wrote:
What's that supposed to mean? I've said I'm a Marxist.

I think he was talking to matta. lol Razz

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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Tue Apr 08, 2008 4:08 am

Quote :

I think you are overestimating the amount of time it would take to keep the machines running compared to the time it would take to manually produce.

To build machines and maintain them would require a huge highly educated workforce, in addition manual labor would not become a thing of the past mechanics and engineers would have a lot of work to do. The cost of running such machines would be huge unless wind, hydro or solar power was harnessed. Its all very possible.

Quote :
Also, there may always need to be some manual labour. Automation may not be able to take over every position of manual labour. I don't understand how that would be such a bad thing though.

Its not a bad thing, Im just explaining that it would take an entire restructuring of basic means of production as we know them.

Quote :
I don't need to out-do anybody.
Prove to me that this is not my nature.

Yes that is 'your' nature then. However you can not deny that there are also people who are greedy and selfish. Marx believes human behaviour is largely determined by the relationship we have with our material surroundings. While I agree, it is also true that certain human characteristics are constant regardless of environment ie love.


The question seems to be, is greed part of human nature ?
I think it is based on observation of history. This does not mean I think all humans are greedy but I do think that a fair portion of people are predisposed to greed.
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Tue Apr 08, 2008 7:53 pm

inkus2000 wrote:
To build machines and maintain them would require a huge highly educated workforce, in addition manual labor would not become a thing of the past mechanics and engineers would have a lot of work to do. The cost of running such machines would be huge unless wind, hydro or solar power was harnessed. Its all very possible.

And by 'highly' educated, you mean...? I never said manual labour would fade away, in fact i said something to the contrary. Technocracy could easily fix problems of cost and efficiency, while having a minimal effect on the environment.

Quote :
Its not a bad thing, Im just explaining that it would take an entire restructuring of basic means of production as we know them.

Expand please.

Quote :
However you can not deny that there are also people who are greedy and selfish.

Agreed, but i have no remorse for them not being able to fulfill their greed. And if they try in a communist society, they would be dealt with appropriately.

Quote :
Marx believes human behaviour is largely determined by the relationship we have with our material surroundings.

And i agree. But this isn't human nature, this is human 'behaviour' as you said. Human nature is something we all share in common because we are 'human'. If our material conditions have changed our behaviour, then all it takes is another (ya, another) change in material conditions to change behaviour.

Quote :
While I agree, it is also true that certain human characteristics are constant regardless of environment ie love.

Agreed, but greed isn't a constant.

Quote :
The question seems to be, is greed part of human nature ?
This does not mean I think all humans are greedy but I do think that a fair portion of people are predisposed to greed.

Predisposed? That means it's not in their nature, but that it was a learned characteristic. And anything like this can be unlearned (and they better unlearn it soon before their greed destroys this planet).

Quote :
I think it is based on observation of history.

That is because their have always been those in power when observing history.

If you look back to pre-feudalism, people lived in anarchy. There was no one in power, and anyone who tried to profit from their abilities (shoemaking, hunting, whatever) were deemed unethical. Would you say only the one trying to profit was staying true to his 'nature'?.

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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:03 am

Quote :
Agreed, but i have no remorse for them not being able to fulfill their greed. And if they try in a communist society, they would be dealt with appropriately.

Dealt with appropriately ? If greed is in fact part of human nature that wont do any good, it would be like trying to supress sexuality.

Quote :

And i agree. But this isn't human nature, this is human 'behaviour' as you said. Human nature is something we all share in common because we are 'human'. If our material conditions have changed our behaviour, then all it takes is another (ya, another) change in material conditions to change behaviour.

It remains to be proven if greed is or is not part of human nature, as it stands we only have opinions on the matter. It needs to be concluded before you make such statements.




Quote :
Agreed, but greed isn't a constant.

History shows otherwise.

Quote :
If you look back to pre-feudalism, people lived in anarchy. There was no one in power, and anyone who tried to profit from their abilities (shoemaking, hunting, whatever) were deemed unethical. Would you say only the one trying to profit was staying true to his 'nature'?.

Well first, slave society came before feudalism. You mean tribal society what Marx called primitive communism. People were in power in this stage, tribes had leaders which where either elected or chosen based on bloodline. It is true that their was much more equality in these societies and the overall survival of the tribe came first. However its a bad idea to 'assume' that greed did not exist. If we look at tribes today we can see that greed 'does' exist, eg women who are percieved as more attractive are worth more commodities ie pigs, chickens ect. A womans father will then effectively 'sell' her to the highest bidder, this practice is commonplace in tribal society the world over.

This it contrary to the idea that greed is a result of post tribal society, and could be used to assert that it is part of human nature on the grounds that todays primitive hunter gatherer tribes never underwent a transition into a class or market based system.
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Watermelon
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Wed Apr 09, 2008 12:15 am

Saying greed is a part of human nature seems very idealist to me. The consciousness of men is determined by the material conditions of society. Desire to be rich is caused by commodity fetishism, which is existent only in capitalism. Not liking work is caused by alienation, also present only in capitalism. Most crime is caused by poor material conditions, again present only in capitalism. Plainly it can be seen that communism solves these problems.
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Wed Apr 09, 2008 1:10 am

Pannekoek wrote:
Saying greed is a part of human nature seems very idealist to me. The consciousness of men is determined by the material conditions of society. Desire to be rich is caused by commodity fetishism, which is existent only in capitalism. Not liking work is caused by alienation, also present only in capitalism. Most crime is caused by poor material conditions, again present only in capitalism. Plainly it can be seen that communism solves these problems.

Not liking work is known in social psychology as social loafing and exists when a person within a group realizes that to exert oneself carries no individual reward. White collar crime - corruption ect is as widespread as petty crime caused poor material conditions. The desire to be rich extends to tribal society where one tribe may go war with another over land rich in resources ect - although the line between need and greed is often blured.
These are only a few examples.

I never said greed was part of human nature, Im showing reasons why it 'might' be. Many of Marx's theory's hold a lot of truth but that does not mean they are correct.
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PostSubject: Re: Incentive in a Communist society ?   Today at 7:36 am

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