work in progress in social theory and cultural sociology

socialism and consumer choice

04.17.2012 · Posted in Uncategorized

A voice from the past, which I came across when reworking my consumerist critique of capitalism for publication: Douglas Jay – often misread as an advocat for paternalistic state planning (Richart Toye’s got more on this here) – in his 1938/1947 book The Socialist Case has this to say:

‘Socialists have been inclined to depreciate the value of free consumers’ choice for no better reason than that it has been used as a hypocritical defence of the unregulated price scramble. Complacent defenders of laissez-faire have emphasized the great importance of allowing the individual to spend his income as he likes, and have omitted to notice that he may have no income to spend. And socialists have rightly retorted that consumers’ choice is of no more use to a man who is penniless than liberty to a man who is starving. Gross inequality, in fact, turns consumers’ choice into a mockery. But may not the solution be to mitigate inequality rather than to abandon consumers’ choice?’ (Jay 1947: 255f.)

Jay, Douglas (1947) [1938]: The Socialist Case, London: Faber & Faber

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