Interpreting Marx’s Capital in China
This article provides some of the initial groundwork for reassessing what the Chinese call a “socialist market economy” (which is different from “market socialism”). This argument entails three steps. The first is to locate in Marx’s work the distinction between capitalism and markets, with the point that a market is not necessarily capitalist. Indeed, the history of markets indicates that most markets have not been capitalist. The second step approaches the question of contradiction, which takes on somewhat different meanings in European and Chinese situations. Whereas the former tends to see them as either-or, the latter tradition develops a stronger sense of both-and. In this light, the possibility arises that markets may have more than one feature, which in our time means both capitalist and non-capitalist – especially socialist – markets. The third step develops this point further, through the work of Ernst Bloch. Here I argue that modes of production do not supersede one and thereby negate one another, but that each subsequent mode of production absorbs the contradictions of the former and transforms them in light of a new situation. I close by exploring briefly what this means for capitalism and then for socialism in the Soviet Union and China.
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