“Ethical Desiderata for a Satisfactory Socialist Economics” by Barry Maguire

Ethical Desiderata for a Satisfactory Socialist Economics

It has become rather old-fashioned to contrast the self-directed nature of market motives with the socialist ideal of a productive community in which each contributes according to their ability and is contributed to according to their need. A barrage of arguments from theorists in economics, psychology, political theory, and philosophy have weakened this contrast, arguing that market participation is compatible with a range of attractive kinds of social relations. In a series of papers, Robert Sugden and Luigino Bruni have argued that we can conceptualise market exchange as a joint activity undertaken together with the intention of realizing a mutual benefit. And so we can. The key question is whether this conceptualization is compatible with the relevant socialist ideal. This is the question that drives this talk. I start by strengthening Sugden and Bruni’s case, granting as many assumptions as possible to market theorists along the way. And still, I argue, there is at least one crucial difference between these two forms of economic society. In markets, our individual motivations to serve others in our productive lives are conditional upon self-directed concerns. In the socialist ideal, our motivations to serve others in our productive activities are instead directly explained by a commitment to serve our community in some useful way. We may yet be willing and able to uphold this commitment only if doing so is compatible with living a good life oneself. I explore the nature and significance of this contrast, partly by application to cases of price gouging, salary negotiations, and the minimum wage.

Date: 21 March 2019
Time: 2pm to 4pm
Venue: Philosophy Meeting Room (AS3-05-23)

About the Speaker:
Barry Maguire is an Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at Stanford University. He previously taught Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at UNC Chapel Hill, and before that held a Bersoff Faculty Fellowship in the Philosophy department at NYU. He received his PhD in philosophy from Princeton University, where he was advised by Gideon Rosen. He works on a range of related issues in Normative Ethics, Metaethics, Epistemology, and Political Philosophy.

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