Colloquium: Stuart White (Jesus College, Oxford University)
TITLE: Socialism and Non-Domination
ABSTRACT: Contemporary theorists of ‘republicanism’ argue that freedom is the status of ‘non-domination’ and that freedom in this sense offers the criterion for evaluating and designing political and social institutions. Recently, republicans, in this sense, have considered what form of economy is consistent with or required by the commitment to freedom as non-domination. One important current in this literature argues that a republican economics must be a socialist economics, one that rests on public ownership of productive assets. Are the socialist republicans correct? This paper identifies three respects in which a capitalist economy might be thought to generate domination and thereby threaten freedom. It considers whether socialism, defined in terms of public ownership, is necessary to overcome the three respective forms of domination. It argues that non-socialist responses to these risks of domination are also possible. It also discusses the point, acknowledged by socialist republicans, that socialist institutions can carry their own risks of domination. It concludes that while socialism is plausibly seen as part of the ‘toolkit’ of republican economics, we should not identify republican economics too narrowly with socialism.