The part-conflicting, part-symbiotic relationship between capitalism and socialism does not simply take place between classes and institutions but within them as well. Sklar argues against equating capitalism with markets or business and equating socialism with the state or unions, which is what Lipset and Marks and many others have done. He suggests that each sphere may embody the capitalist-socialist mix that characterizes the modern American political economy.

In fact, Sklar argues, the large modern corporation, which many consider a defining institution of capitalism, is itself an embodiment of both capitalism, and socialism: Its very origins lie in self-conscious attempts on the part of individual capitalists to escape the vagaries of the ‘‘free market.’’ Even the drive to globalization reflects this mix. It is at one and the same time an affirmation of the mobility of capital and an attempt to escape the omnipresent marketplace. Multinational companies internalize activities, such as trade, that previously took place between companies with separate legal identities.

The basic characteristics of modern business, like corporate ownership, management, employment, investment policy and revenue distribution, cannot be understood simply in terms of market forces. Public policy and pressure from various associational groups have helped shape the modern corporation and influence its operations and goals. This does not mean that power no longer emanates from the control of private property. Rather, the presence of socialist relations means that such power is tempered, checked and sometimes even redirected. Corporate power is not absolute.

A corporation may still decide that a redeployment of resources is required, for example. The socialist part of the mix insists on a voice for those who are impacted, income protection, retraining and out placement services for those who lose their jobs. It is also evident when businesses embrace noneconomic goals that reflect social values, like nondiscriminatory hiring practices, access and facilities for the physically challenged, transparency and accountability in transactions, funding of the arts and educational institutions. If the purpose of understanding the world is to change it, Marx suggested, then we should evaluate Lipset and Marks’s thesis in terms of the political action it sanctions. Essentially, their conclusion is that there is practically no chance that socialism will take root in the United States—it is antithetical to American values. On the other hand, the thesis that socialism is as much a part of the enduring fabric of American society as capitalism creates space for the left and legitimizes its efforts.

A socialist future need not be rejected or built on ether. It can be grounded in current conditions and relationship. It does not require the repudiation of all that was and is America. Socialists can claim as allies all those forces and relationships that check and shape the exercise of power emanating from control of private property.

( Source : The Nation )