The Left and Markets

The Left and Markets

In his article “Markets and Social Pain” (Dissent, Winter 1998), James B. Rule argues that market ideology “poses a historic challenge to the kind of thinking we do in Dissent.” He observes that no question is currently more important for the left than the “press of market thinking in all areas of public life.” And he asks what principles should govern the left’s efforts to “resolve the tensions between prospective market efficiencies and the divisive inegalitarian consequences that markets may bring.” But he cannot, perhaps does not wish to, formulate any of those principles, offering instead a “seat-of-the-pants” approach, weighing the “virtues and vices of specific market arrangements.” This approach follows from what I take to be his rejection of any attempt to formulate an overall concept of the market as being too abstract. So he fragments the market into specific arrangements; this, however, prevents him from defining adequately the “market ideology” confronted by the left. The problem is that this ideology is a coherent system of thought, embodying a politically legitimating purpose.

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Wurgraft | University of California Press Lima