The Forms of Social Organization

The Forms of Social Organization, Socialist Economies

It is widely believed that title to socialized producers' goods would be vested in the central government and probably in some agency of that government created for the purpose of owning and operating all socialized industries. The actual plans of socialism do not warrant this inter­pretation; ownership by society as a whole does not necessarily imply a single agency of society. The specific institutional form of socialized own­ership would probably attempt to incorporate the two ideals of efficient operation and responsiveness to public welfare.

The industrial groups could be incorporated directly into the politi­cal process, for example, as in the case of the ministry of transportation in a parliamentary government. The minister would be a political official and hence, supposedly, attuned to the political wishes of the electorate. The expression of economic preferences in such a system is a very com­plex matter of open channels of communication, which often exist more in theory than in practice. In addition, the danger of "meddling" in eco­nomic matters for political ends by elected politicians exists when socialized industries are enmeshed with political institutions.

An alternative form of organization for large-scale units closely re­sembles that of the modern corporation in our present economy. A cen­tral management staff of technical experts would be charged with making day-to-day decisions for the industry, free from outside political interfer­ence. In the place of a board of directors as a broad policy-making body, there would be a committee representing consumer, worker, and technical opinion. This group would formulate policy on major issues, leaving the translation of policy into action to the professional managers.

A third form of organization disperses the control of producing units to cooperative associations of workers or consumers. The basic features of such cooperatives would be the autonomy of decision making by the members themselves and control over proceeds from current operations for future expansion or bonus payments to supplement current income. This form of organization is thought to provide maximum incentives for high productivity at the expense of fragmenting control of the overall direc­tion in which the economy will proceed.
It is apparent from the preceding discussion that no single form of organization can simultaneously achieve all the goals of a socialized econ­omy. The potential conflict between narrow criteria of efficiency and pres­ervation of the consumer's freedom of choice is but one of the problems that must be settled in a less-than-optimal manner.