Definition of market

unperson asks:

What is your definition of the market?

There’s more than one definition, because the word can be used as different parts of speech.

    1. Used as a verb (most important usage IMHO): Shameless self-promotion. “In the market economy you have to market yourself.”
    2. Used as a noun: A setting in which marketing takes place, i.e. supermarket, meat market, flea market, stock market, etc.
    3. Used as a modifier: A market basket, a market economy, etc. Market economy advocates tend to offer two antonyms for the adjective “market”, namely “command” and “planned.” Naturally, they use these terms interchangeably, so as to give the idea of a planned economy a bad name. Anagorism rejects the idea that “market” is the opposite of “command,” (and by extension, the idea that “planned” is synonymous with “command”) as “demand” (including market demand) is a concept that belongs somewhere between “request” and “command,” and probably a little closer to the latter. Another rhetorical trick of the right is to use the terms “planned economy” and “centrally planned economy” interchangeably; as a way of summarily dismissing the possibility of a decentrally planned economy.

Now to answer the question in more of what I think is the spirit in which it was asked. I apologize if it seems more like a description than a definition: The market is a complex system based loosely on equilibrium, somewhat like the weather. Like the weather, it is a source of precarity and danger in the lives of people, although the forces it controls can sometimes be used in the satisfaction of wants. It is an amoral agent, most likely an unconscious agent. Since humanity still lacks a systematic understanding of its processes, it is assumed by some to be omnipotent (its outcomes are treated as non-negotiable, like physics), omniscient (“prices incorporate all information”) and/or omnibenevolent (the best of all possible worlds), and a quasi-mystical claim (certainly a claim of transcendence) that allocation can be perfectly calculated by the market, while the market is ineffable and cannot be computed or modeled. Anagorism questions these claims.

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9 Responses to Definition of market

  1. Todd S says:

    The market is a complex system based loosely on equilibrium, somewhat like the weather. Like the weather, it is a source of precarity and danger in the lives of people,

    Except, “the weather” simply is. “The market” is a human creation, full of intent.

  2. unperson says:

    I consider the market to be a process instead of a system, but a process that creates many systems, with or without State manipulation (with- capitalism, all the usual ugliness of privilege, IP, most private property arrangements/ without- artists, mutual aid, unions, cooperatives, communes)
    I share your concerns that simply ‘freeing the markets and see what emerges’ could lead to institutions and systems that may or may not involve statist behaviors but still oppressive behaviors.
    Is your approach to what you call ‘antilibertarian antistatism’ basically: ‘anagorism isn’t enough? defying the state isn’t enough? freedom isn’t enough?’
    I share Charles Johnson’s sentiment here:
    It’s not just about participation, but the possibility of it, and the possibility of withdrawal, as a check on the emergence of institutions that merely exist for their own sake.

    • unperson says:

      correction : I meant “agorism isn’t enough?”

    • n8chz says:

      The market process is a process that produces equilibrium, not equality. If equilibrium is a survivable state, then agorism should be enough. I won’t commit to the idea that agorism is enough without testing the market equilibrium it creates for survivability.

      Equilibrium through competition sounds like tug-of-war, or arm-wrestling, depending, I suppose, on whether you want an aristocracy of pull or an aristocracy of push.

      Antilibertarian antistatism is simply an exercise in mindfuck. Don’t read too much into it.

      • unperson says:

        Do you believe that post-scarcity is already achievable in today’s economy (and has been for quite some time), as Bookchin has argued?
        While it’s important to understand anarchy as apolitical, there is the aneconomic (not a word?) potential too. Economics are the precursor for politics, but society is the precursor of economics; there have always been black markets, but there have also been black gift economies. Neuroscientists say that the mind is what the brain does; roughly analogous, the economy is what society does.

        What is your opinion on the existence of cooperatives like Mondragon in Spain?

      • n8chz says:

        1. re. post-scarcity: I think the question of whether post-scarcity is realizable hinges on the theoretical question of whether the potential for economic want is limitless. Most of the economics community says yes to the latter, so the prospects for post-scarcity look bleak. I, of course, have a dissident view, in that I’m not ready to treat the pursuit of post-scarcity is an inherent waste of time like, say, the pursuit of perpetual motion. On the other hand, I’m also investing effort in “plan B” scenarios re. post-scarcity.

        2. re. the apolitical and the aneconomic: Assuming post-scarcity is at best an asymptotic goal, perhaps one of our “plans B” of attack should be “polyeconomics.” By polyeconomics (more specifically, “polymacroeconomics”) I mean: That which is to economies (macroeconomies or “national economies”) as “polyarchy” is to governments. Let the individual choose the economy in which s/he wishes to participate. Of course the only real economy is the global economy, but it is still the case that participation in the economy of one nation can differ greatly from participation in another. What is a winning strategy in one nation’s economy might be a losing strategy in another’s, etc. “Globalism” is an attempt to regard national economies as silos to be broken down. Polymacroeconomics asserts that economies can be created at macroeconomic scale (i.e. between global scale and microeconomic “economic actor” scale) but like governance structures under polyarchy, can be chosen voluntarily rather than being part of the package deal of “nationality.” My stab at a strategy for creating a macroeconomy is here.

        3. Black gift economies? Interesting. Not sure what it means. The first thing that came to my mind is people who have been prosecuted for anonymously feeding other people’s parking meters, and of course the activities of Food Not Bombs.

        4. Mondragon? Not sure. Must confess I’ve never traveled abroad. I suspect Mondragon-type institutions are a much better approach to fixing what’s wrong with employment than pushing people into self-employment, or some other manifestation of entreprenoorship. A society in which self-employment is the norm, or more precisely, is considered part of the minimal skill set, sounds like my idea of a nightmare.

  3. cubic says:

    This is ‘unperson’ writing:

    This is quite an intriguing blog and I have added it to my daily readings, especially as a complement to C4SS, a site that I think needs more of this market-critical perspective. After all, libertarians, once synonymous with anarchists, are (supposedly) not beholden in theory to any institution for its own sake. That approach would lead to favor the ‘equilibrium’ you speak of, the equilibrium so beloved by most libertarians, and one that leads to market fundamentalism and backdoor neoliberalism in practice.

    As the market is a process which is not shy of creating many institutions, either through the cash nexus or otherwise, I am intrigued by your approach to polymacroeconomy as a theory. If I understand it right this would make the free market only one economy of many. I like to think of social anarchists as favoring sovereignty among economies, an interesting alternative to market anarchists favoring of sovereignty among communities. What I mean by that is that I understand most market anarchists to endorse one macroeconomy, the so-called ‘freed market’, and favoring free interaction among polities and collectivities inside that macroeconomy. In other words, the market anarchists want society to be able to set up their own grid apart from the Dominant Grid enforced by the State and capitalism. In contrast, the social anarchists want to do away with all Grids entirely, or at least a society where Grids can be shut on and off or swapped in as fluid a way as possible. I believe such a setup strongly requires a widespread nexus of communal property and a stable occupy/use infrastructure as a regulatory check on the possible rise of private economic power dynamics.

    But still, this is only theory. This I’m afraid may lead to a fundamental disagreement among both market and social anarchists at first, but I believe it can be overcome, but only through the exploration and establishment of social anarchist economic activity as described above, sovereignty among economies. How that comes about would on the surface resemble the agorism you write about, but I believe the answer lies within the continued spread of antiestablishment communal property and a decentralized planned economy where the ends is not simply ‘voluntarism’ for economic actors, but something akin to a ‘vanguard with peer-review’. Sorry to sound a little Marxoid there. Anyway, hope you enjoyed this long, winding ramble of mine.

    • cubic says:

      By ‘sovereignty’ I am referring to ‘sovereignty AMONG communities or economies’… that is, final authority that goes no further than to what these individuals and communities agree upon, no rulers to override them.

    • n8chz says:

      Vanguard with peer review, now that’s an idea I simply must play with…

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