Cover: A Future for Socialism, from Harvard University PressCover: A Future for Socialism in PAPERBACK

A Future for Socialism

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Product Details


$31.50 • £25.95 • €28.50

ISBN 9780674339460

Publication Date: 01/01/1994


184 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

2 line illustrations, 4 tables


Roemer says it’s always been assumed that markets only worked with private ownership. His book, A Future for Socialism, challenged that. Writing after the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe, he wanted to see whether he could formulate an alternative to unbridled capitalism—so he combined a free market and centralized control. ‘Firms would be neither private nor public,’ he says. Instead the nature of ownership would alter so that every citizen was, in some way, a shareholder… This may seem unusual, he says, but it’s not unknown: ‘Alaska has it for the oil fields that are owned by the state. Every citizen of Alaska gets a royalty cheque each year… It’s your right while you are a citizen of Alaska.’ In his socialist state, companies would compete with each other, and workers would be able to move from job to job. There could even be incentives for managers (larger salaries, bonuses, other perks), Prof. Roemer believes, ‘assuming that’s what the labour market would pay them.’—Ian Coutts, The Globe and Mail

Roemer is perhaps the most interesting reexpositor of Karl Marx around.The Boston Globe

[Roemer] has important, innovative, powerfully argued ideas for sweeping political and economic reform.—Stephen Howe, New Statesman & Society

Roemer offers an innovative and controversial definition of socialism… As an intervention in the public debate about what economic system we should collectively aspire toward, A Future for Socialism succeeds brilliantly. A focus on the main issues, theoretical imagination, distillation of complex ideas to an accessible core, plus clarity and parsimony of expression are its key strengths. Reading this book will surely bolster the confidence of socialists and might even spur foes of socialism to seek the most humane possibilities available under the capitalist economic system.—Tom Mayer, American Political Science Review

The Left is in vital need of bold and creative new thinking on the question of the institutional conditions for radical egalitarian alternatives to capitalism… John Roemer, an eminent, left-wing mathematical economist, has produced an extremely interesting and innovative example of this kind of thinking in his book A Future for Socialism. In it Roemer elaborates a model for how institutions could be designed so as to make market socialism a sustainable—and desirable—way of organizing an economy… At the core of the analysis is a deeply sociological idea: Property relations shape the distribution of resources and power in ways that bear systematically on the normative consequences of actors’ strategies. Roemer is one of the most original thinkers working on these kinds of questions. Sociologists interested in broad questions of social justice, equality, and large-scale social change will be well served to study this work carefully.—Erik Olin Wright, Contemporary Sociology

[A] timely and important effort to rekindle the fundamental debate over the possibility and desirability of socialist economic organization that has been so fruitful a source of economic theories and insights in the 20th century. Roemer writes with a sophisticated understanding of subtle economic points and an enviably lucid and concise style. This book would be an excellent supplement to undergraduate economic theory courses, reviewing a wide range of basic political economic concepts such as efficiency in allocation, principal–agent conflicts, theories of income distribution and technological innovation, and models of the political process, in the context of a concrete and compelling discussion of an important political–economic issue. Roemer puts forward a market-oriented model of socialism in which a private-enterprise sector of small privately held firms co-exists with a market-socialist sector of large publicly held and financed firms… One does not need to agree with Roemer’s estimate of the relative merits of capitalism and socialism to find food for thought and discussion in his critical analysis of the fundamental economic issues involved.—Duncan K. Foley, Journal of Economic Literature

Measured, highly accessible, and most of all compelling.—Samuel Bowles

Essential reading for those interested in rethinking the foundations of the socialist project and for those with a more academic interest in the relationship between forms of property relations and economic institutions.—Eric Olin Wright, University of Wisconsin

John Roemer argues that socialism is about equality, that a democratic market socialism represents the best hope for achieving equality, and that the failure of the Soviet-style planned economies does not defeat that hope.—Joshua Cohen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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