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3 - Economic Organization, and the Price Mechanism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 June 2011

Samuel Hollander
Affiliation:
University of Toronto
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Summary

Introduction

Engels's appreciation of the allocative function of prices in competitive capitalism is demonstrated in the first three substantive sections below. The first establishes the general principles adopted; the second takes account of applications made of the competitive pricing model to housing and credit policy (and also his orthodox approach toward foreign-trade policy); and the third concerns the hostile response made to the “communist” proposals by Karl Rodbertus (1842 and 1851). The documents upon which I draw date to the 1870s, and they reveal a distinct contrast with the position of the early 1840s when Engels emphasized the instability of the market process rather than the equilibrating function of prices (see Chapter One, pp. 30–1).

I turn in Section E to Engels's position on communist organization, drawing on the early writings of 1843–4, including the Outlines (reinforcing the claims of priority over Marx made on his behalf in Chapter 1); on Anti-Dühring in 1878; and on later formal and informal statements. Here I seek to appreciate Engels's championship of a control system notwithstanding his high respect for the allocative role of markets in a private-property system. Rodbertus's scheme, Engels charged, had improperly neglected to allow for competition notwithstanding its retention of several features of a market system, whereas the reconstructed system he himself had in mind would be one so greatly simplified that a sophisticated allocation mechanism was not required.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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