A socialist society–a democratic socialist society–would in fact require a different kind of behavior from its members. The point I’ve made so far is that if we reject, as we should, the totalitarian models of creating a “new socialist human being”, we have to come up with an alternative. And we have to reject the assumptions underlying the capitalist system, namely that something called “human nature” includes an unchangeable instinctual drive to seek the accumulation of more wealth.
In my previous post, I offered the argument that we are social beings, not unique and autonomous individuals. Further, that everything we do affects all of those around us in one way or another. A useful metaphor is what some scientists call the “butterfly effect”, which states that a small change at one place in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere (for more details…Google!). Of course, this is meant to refer to physical phenomena, but I would apply it to human relations. Think about your own experiences in life and consider whether that makes sense to you.
If that is correct, then we are therefore responsible and accountable for everything we do to all those who are affected by our actions. And–here’s where the socialism comes in–we need to behave accordingly if we are serious about creating a different kind of world. Because otherwise we are simply reinforcing the ethic of capitalist society, which is the right of every individual to exploit others for his or her own profit, without regard to how our actions may affect them beyond what we choose or are required by authority to acknowledge.
This requires an active consciousness about how we behave and how it affects others. It also requires constant self-questioning, and a willingness to accept constructive criticism from those around us to stimulate change. And finally, it requires us to constantly challenge the individualistic conventional wisdom that underlies the system we want to transform, and constantly question authority. No, this is not anarchism, because this must occur within a formal structure of leadership, democratically chosen. And that goes for everyone from top to bottom. This will of course create conflict, which has to be regarded as an essential occurrence in social living. Conflict cannot be ignored, suppressed, or glossed over, as is fashionable in middle class circles. It has to be dealt with openly, explicitly, and hopefully in a constructive and mutually respectful context with the goal of educating ourselves and others.
So…maybe it’s easier just to live with capitalism? Well, if you’re a capitalist, certainly. If not, one has to consider a socialist alternative and be realistic about what that might entail for our personal lives and ways of thinking. Your comments about all this are most welcome.