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Thread: How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

    Anyone know the process in detail? How did the state decide who got what job, and at what points were people forced into a particular profession? I imagine this must have started early in some fields (medicine, engineering, etc.) given the training required, but how did the countless other professions get properly allocated?

    I'm assuming it must have contained some market mechanisms, like higher wages as incentives, but what other role did the state play in the allocation process?

    And, finally, how do you imagine it would be different/more efficient in a "socialist" society?
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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

    So no one has an answer to this? Vorwarts? CJ? Demo? Rosa?

    I am particularly interested in the question about how it would be different/more efficient in a socialist society?
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
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    Default Re: How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

    I should think it would make more sense to allocate people to jobs.
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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

    By what mechanism, absent a market-like system where the primary incentive is acquiring capital of whatever form (e.g., economic, cultural, social), and maximizing it through training/education?
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
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    Default Re: How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

    The pecuniary and social advantages of the best jobs speak for themselves. Scientists live better than hodcarriers.

    For the less prestigious jobs, filling them could not have been much unlike other countries. I suspect that the Party supplied vocational counseling to youth analogous to that supplied by the Corporation, but I never cared about postromanov Russia enough to find out, and I never got around to reading Marcuse's book on Russian bureaucracy.
    Einstein on marxology:
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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

    There is a lottery system for some courses like dentistry and medicine in the Netherlands, and I believe they had something similar in the Soviet Union on a wider scale for the higher end jobs to prevent over-supply.

    Those aren't really a problem though because it's easy to fill those positions. I'm more interested in the middle and lower end ones, where there's a great variety of options that in a market-based system is organized through incentives (e.g., the lower supply of labor, the higher the wage to attract it).

    When you don't have that mechanism, which is typically organized on the level of individual firms rather than through a centralized system, what can you possibly do aside from pushing people to go into certain professions through counseling efforts?

    Of course in the Soviet Union they did try to copy that logic, like with the Stakhanovites, but at a certain point there are so many available jobs that need to be filled, each requiring a lengthy training process, that it becomes impossible to plan centrally, and certainly without restricting the autonomy of the would-be employees ("I know you want to be a pilot, but we already have enough of those; instead you have to become a software developer").

    I'm not saying the same limitations don't exist in a market system; there you're just shit out of luck if there is no available employment in your chosen field of study, and you have to retrain somehow to broaden your chances. But I'm pretty sure that on a macro-level there is less "shit out of luckness" in such a system than in a Soviet-style centrally planned one.

    Which then begs the question: what alternative mechanism do you have for this when you're talking about "post-capitalist society"?

    Barring rather dramatic technological developments which greatly reduce the variety of jobs through automation - thereby reducing the level of division of labor - you're stuck with a market model as the most efficient in allocating jobs, and, moreover, as the most efficient in eliminating them through technological innovations.

    I don't know what "socialism" or "communism" without a market mechanism of this kind means except for a Soviet-style nationalization of the "means of production", and there is no doubt that that is much less efficient at allocating and propelling technological development than a social-democratic market/state hybrid.

    So maybe ironically if you truly want to be a socialist or communist, you have to be a proponent of that kind of economic model first. Otherwise you're just wasting everybody's time.
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    Administrator RevForum Administrator CornetJoyce's Avatar
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    Default Re: How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

    Well yes, "central planning" has enormous drawbacks, but what does that say about hypercentral (global) planning?

    I don't talk about "postcapitalist planning, and I don't share the puritanical Marxist antipathy toward markets.
    Last edited by CornetJoyce; 11-05-2017 at 1:53 AM.
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    Default Re: How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

    There actually was a market like system to some extent, that is under-subscribed jobs had their pay raised and those with too many people had pay lowered in order to meet perceived requirements. I am not an expert in the details by any means but that was the basic mechanism.

    Bare in mind for a lot of people though jobs were often a foregone conclusion even in school anyway. Under Khrushchev for instance there were programmes where secondary students were to be taught part time in factories and the like with the explicit assumption that is where they would be working. Also the more gifted children were generally taken out of mainstream education to be prepared explicitly for University (these classes were often taught in English so they could apply to study abroad). This education too obviously funneled people into certain kinds of work too.
    Last edited by Demogorgon; 11-05-2017 at 10:25 PM.

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    Default Re: How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

    As the Russian economy was crumbling, the Wall Street Journal opined that central planning, with its simulated markets, failed due to the lack of western computer capacity. I suppose those five year plans addressed the staffing questions.
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    Default Re: How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    So no one has an answer to this? Vorwarts? CJ? Demo? Rosa?

    I am particularly interested in the question about how it would be different/more efficient in a socialist society?
    From what I was told by a couple of Russians, it wasn't different from capitalist society. There was no directive planning in terms of educated people choosing careers. People took vocational and professional courses based on their interests, despite the rhetoric of "needs of society."

    That isn't to say that the bureaucracy didn't have a hand in things. If a city were short of accountants, I'm guessing they would have had the local schools make accounting courses mandatory if they were usually electives (yay). As mentioned above, something similar to high school career counseling might have been in place.

    In short: There was indicative planning, not directive planning.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    I don't know what "socialism" or "communism" without a market mechanism of this kind means except for a Soviet-style nationalization of the "means of production", and there is no doubt that that is much less efficient at allocating and propelling technological development than a social-democratic market/state hybrid.

    So maybe ironically if you truly want to be a socialist or communist, you have to be a proponent of that kind of economic model first. Otherwise you're just wasting everybody's time.
    Quote Originally Posted by CornetJoyce View Post
    Well yes, "central planning" has enormous drawbacks, but what does that say about hypercentral (global) planning?

    I don't talk about "postcapitalist planning, and I don't share the puritanical Marxist antipathy toward markets.
    Define "hypercentral (global)."

    Paul Cockshott is an advocate of computerized directive planning, neither traditional directive planning (1928-1965) nor indicative planning (1965 onwards). I support computerized directive planning.

    As for how profession supply and demand goes, a computerized directive planning system would be able to inform prospective students - bluntly - which fields need entry and which ones don't. The "professions" themselves would actually be obliged *not* to certify candidates who wish to bump their heads by going into a saturated field, anyway.

    There shouldn't be bogus claims about "hot" professions dealing with saturated fields.
    "You have to be a KAUTSKYAN on the question of organizing in "Educate, Agitate, Organize!" as opposed to "Agitate, Agitate, Agitate!" to get to the point of having a mass workers' party which can possibly pose the question of power." (Mike Macnair)

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    Default Re: How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vorwarts View Post
    Define "hypercentral (global)."
    https://www.google.com/search?q=eart...5oAU5EwpPbPDM:
    Einstein on marxology:
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    Default Re: How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

    So "computerized directive planning" means that some bureaucrat determines what study and job you have to do based on some metric of your capacities?

    If so, good look trying to convince people that's better than the status quo.

    Also the more gifted children were generally taken out of mainstream education to be prepared explicitly for University (these classes were often taught in English so they could apply to study abroad). This education too obviously funneled people into certain kinds of work too.
    This is of course a big problem for a society claiming to be based on radical egalitarianism; the more 'gifted' kids are produced by 'gifted' parents, in that the transmission of social, cultural and economic capital takes place primarily in the family/home environment (e.g., kids born to a household of professors acquire higher level linguistic capacities, cultural capital, etc. simply by virtue of being raised in that household).

    So you end up with elites reproducing elites, which is exactly what a socialist system is supposed to work toward eliminating.

    But the story is a bit more nuanced. I've read about Soviet and Eastern European policies to encourage education at higher levels for kids from lower social backgrounds, so as to encourage greater diversity at the higher end of the job market and create a "Soviet dream"-like scenario for them. In terms of content they were very similar to affirmative action, but more radical. For example, kids from peasant backgrounds whose parents had little to no formal education were graded in such a way to take into account the lack of access to certain resources from their home environment, so if you look at the statistics of entrants to university by class background you see a sharp rise in them in the 1950s and after. They adjusted their conception of "gifted" to account for socio-economic conditions, which is a lot more radical than any Western, social-democratic government. Though of course there too you saw the promotion of all kinds of measures to boost the educational performance of working class kids, but it always considered going into the family sphere or taking aspects of it into account in evaluations as somehow taboo. Bourdieu argues, convincingly I think, that this was intentional: the ruling classes in these societies have come to reproduce themselves primarily through the educational system, so if you start tinkering with the myth of meritocracy that underlies it by taking into account socio-economic backgrounds of pupils you undermine the whole structure. So instead keep the myth intact, and allow a few "lucky", "gifted" or "chosen" ones to slip through the cracks as proof that the system is indeed based on merit and merit alone.

    Anyway, I have yet to see a convincing answer to this problem - which is basically a problem of the division of labor - that does not involve dramatically reducing the great variety of jobs to fill. Incidentally, it might be worthwhile to consider that one of Marx's reasons for predicting the end of capitalism was what he observed regarding its homogenization of commodity production and the division of labor underlying it; people were being herded into massive factories doing generally similar and repetitive tasks which increasingly became mechanized and automated, leading to an ever greater expansion of constant capital at the expense of variable capital (labour of whatever kind).

    As Baudrillard rightly notes, this kind of productivist ethos was widespread in mid to late-nineteenth century thought, a reflection of large-scale industrialization taking place across the Western world (if you want to be materialist about it). But it didn't take into account capitalism's capacity to not only homogenize, but also to diversify and produce heterogeneity in commodities and needs, and hence in production to fulfill them (also interesting: Marx begins Capital by saying he has no interest in the subject of desire for commodities; he just takes it as an accepted truism that people desire certain things because they just do for whatever psychological reason, a major lacuna in his economic thinking by erasing any social sensibility from it, allowing it to become easily seduced into pronouncing mechanistic macro-laws that drive individual actors to do this or that in accordance with them -- when in reality they often did not).

    So you get the rise of the advertising industry whose sole purpose it is to create needs, and they're quite successful at it, too. Put simply, whereas Marx thought capitalism would end when everyone had clothes (i.e., constant capital has reached full capacity so either must be destroyed or taken-over and become 'unfettered' by the laws of capitalism), the reality was that the clothing and the desire for it became so diversified that there are now brands which possess whole markets and compete with one another over it (e.g., sneakers, dresses, suits, jeans).

    Marx just theorized this basic human nature thing that's highly susceptible to manipulation by the (material) environment, called it 'species-being', and then went on to build this massive theoretical system which collapses like a deck of cards when you point out the abovementioned lacuna: actual human beings and their behavior, which escapes the rational actor model that's the norm among classical economists and Marx takes over as well (after all, he has no substantive theory of human nature, so the one produced by classical economists is taken as the norm).
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    Default Re: How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    So "computerized directive planning" means that some bureaucrat determines what study and job you have to do based on some metric of your capacities?
    Be careful what you're saying. Don't come across as misrepresenting my views. "The professions themselves" are separate from computerized directive planning, and the latter doesn't necessarily mean "some bureaucrat." Paul Cockshott himself advocates referenda on various issues of public policy.

    For the record, I am also aware of different socialist models based on negotiated coordination, such as that of Pat Devine and the parecon model. Since I mentioned indicative planning here, I would like to position myself somewhere in between what I think (perhaps wrongly, or perhaps correctly) is Cockshott's model of minimal negotiated coordination and the parecon model of maximum negotiated coordination. The economy at the micro level should be subject to computerized directive planning, but that doesn't mean employing a more participatory model of indicative planning for "industrial policy" and the rest of the economy at the macro level.

    As for the specific concern in question, there should be choices in one's program of studies, but the honest truth about society's intellectual supply and demand needs at a given moment should be made clear to students. "The bureaucrat" shouldn't be able to reject stubborn students from pursuing study in a saturated field.

    Also, just because I stated that the "professions" themselves would actually be obliged *not* to certify candidates who wish to bump their heads by going into a saturated field, doesn't mean that I'm unaware of their attempts in capitalist economies to create and maintain artificial shortages in supply.

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    when you point out the abovementioned lacuna: actual human beings and their behavior, which escapes the rational actor model that's the norm among classical economists and Marx takes over as well (after all, he has no substantive theory of human nature, so the one produced by classical economists is taken as the norm).
    I agree with you about Marx here: the rational, self-interested spontaneist worker in the modern age should have achieved much more than now.

    That is why the "class for itself" movement is needed, the original orthodox Marxist vanguard of the "class in itself" (i.e., "the SPD was a vanguard party").
    "You have to be a KAUTSKYAN on the question of organizing in "Educate, Agitate, Organize!" as opposed to "Agitate, Agitate, Agitate!" to get to the point of having a mass workers' party which can possibly pose the question of power." (Mike Macnair)

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    Default Re: How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vorwarts View Post
    Be careful what you're saying. Don't come across as misrepresenting my views.
    Did you miss the question mark? It was a question.

    "The professions themselves" are separate from computerized directive planning, and the latter doesn't necessarily mean "some bureaucrat." Paul Cockshott himself advocates referenda on various issues of public policy.
    In some places they call these "elections".

    As for the specific concern in question, there should be choices in one's program of studies, but the honest truth about society's intellectual supply and demand needs at a given moment should be made clear to students. "The bureaucrat" shouldn't be able to reject stubborn students from pursuing study in a saturated field.
    I don't know what telling the honest truth about society's intellectual supply and demand at a given moment means. Who determines it? Who tells it? Why bother listening to it if you can choose to do whatever you like anyway? And if the last point is the case, what is the meaning of this "computerized directive planning on the micro level"?

    By the way, all of this is already par for the course. All the educational institutions have people who "tell the honest truth" about one's chances on the job market if you go in this or that direction with your studies, but the point is that barring some regulative measures like fixed number of positions on courses and lotteries to enter them there is no coercion or hard barriers involved, and there certainly is no centrally determined allocation process that relies on coercion and hard barriers.

    So it looks like your solution is basically a social-democratic regulated labour market and educational system. Which is fine, as it's something I support as well, although I'd like to see more of the aforementioned 'radical' measures introduced to ensure a level playing field.

    I agree with you about Marx here: the rational, self-interested spontaneist worker in the modern age should have achieved much more than now.

    That is why the "class for itself" movement is needed, the original orthodox Marxist vanguard of the "class in itself" (i.e., "the SPD was a vanguard party").
    The whole "class in and for itself" logic is conceptually flawed:

    "More often than not, Marxism either summarily identifies constructed class with real class (in other words, as Marx complained about Hegel, it confuses the things of logic with the logic of things); or, when it does make the distinction, with the opposition between "class-in-itself," defined in terms of a set of objective conditions, and "class-for-itself," based on subjective factors, it described the movement from one to the other (which is always celebrated as nothing less than an ontological promotion) in terms of a logic that is either totally determinist or totally voluntarist. In the former case, the transition is seen as a logical, mechanical, or organic necessity (the transformation of the proletariat from class-in-itself to class-for-itself is presented as an inevitable effect of time, of the "maturing of the objective conditions"); in the latter case, it is seen as the effect of an "awakening of consciousness" conceived as a "taking cognizance" of theory, performed under the enlightened guidance of the Party. In all cases, there is no mention of the mysterious alchemy whereby a "group in struggle," a personalized collective, a historical agent assigning itself its own ends, arises from the objective economic conditions. A sleight of hand removes the most essential questions: First, the very question of the political, of the specific action of the agents who, in the name of a theoretical definition of the "class," assign to its members the goals officially best matching their "objective" - i.e., theoretical - interests; and of the work whereby they manage to produce, if not the mobilized class, then belief in the existence of the class, which is the basis of the authority of its spokesmen. Secondly, the question of the relationship between the would-be scientific classifications produced by the social scientist (in the same way as a zoologist) and the classifications that the agents themselves constantly produce in their ordinary existence, and through which they seek to modify their position within the objective classifications or to modify the very principles that underlie these classifications."
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
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    Default Re: How were jobs allocated in the Soviet Union/planned economies?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba View Post
    Did you miss the question mark? It was a question.
    My apologies.

    By the way, all of this is already par for the course. All the educational institutions have people who "tell the honest truth" about one's chances on the job market
    They don't tell enough of the truth. Law is by far the most saturated profession in the US, for example.

    The career counsellors don't tell enough of the truth because they don't have readily available, unbiased data about the job markets at their fingertips.

    The whole "class in and for itself" logic is conceptually flawed:

    "More often than not, Marxism either summarily identifies constructed class with real class (in other words, as Marx complained about Hegel, it confuses the things of logic with the logic of things); or, when it does make the distinction, with the opposition between "class-in-itself," defined in terms of a set of objective conditions, and "class-for-itself," based on subjective factors, it described the movement from one to the other (which is always celebrated as nothing less than an ontological promotion) in terms of a logic that is either totally determinist or totally voluntarist. In the former case, the transition is seen as a logical, mechanical, or organic necessity (the transformation of the proletariat from class-in-itself to class-for-itself is presented as an inevitable effect of time, of the "maturing of the objective conditions"); in the latter case, it is seen as the effect of an "awakening of consciousness" conceived as a "taking cognizance" of theory, performed under the enlightened guidance of the Party. In all cases, there is no mention of the mysterious alchemy whereby a "group in struggle," a personalized collective, a historical agent assigning itself its own ends, arises from the objective economic conditions. A sleight of hand removes the most essential questions: First, the very question of the political, of the specific action of the agents who, in the name of a theoretical definition of the "class," assign to its members the goals officially best matching their "objective" - i.e., theoretical - interests; and of the work whereby they manage to produce, if not the mobilized class, then belief in the existence of the class, which is the basis of the authority of its spokesmen. Secondly, the question of the relationship between the would-be scientific classifications produced by the social scientist (in the same way as a zoologist) and the classifications that the agents themselves constantly produce in their ordinary existence, and through which they seek to modify their position within the objective classifications or to modify the very principles that underlie these classifications."
    I guess I'm merely using Lukacs' terminology, despite his outright hostility towards orthodox Marxism.
    "You have to be a KAUTSKYAN on the question of organizing in "Educate, Agitate, Organize!" as opposed to "Agitate, Agitate, Agitate!" to get to the point of having a mass workers' party which can possibly pose the question of power." (Mike Macnair)

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