The Efficiency Imperative: Five Questions

Science and Society 68 (4):447 - 474 (2004)
To oppose capitalism often means to oppose the economic principles that it promotes, nominally at least. Radical environmentalists and a number of Marxists share a special disdain for one of those key principles: economic efficiency. A closer examination of their misgivings, however, suggests that their estimation of the concept is constrained by the role they believe it plays in capitalist production — a nexus between efficiency's descriptive understanding and its prescriptive value that needs to be severed if the latter is to be fairly appraised. Once we jettison the notion (held by market advocates) that efficiency is a universal imperative of production that capitalism perfects, as well as the notion (held by many radical environmentalists and Marxists) that it is part and parcel of capitalism's drive toward crisis and self-destruction, we are left with a disarmingly mundane proposition: post-capitalist economies ought to produce efficiently, other normative considerations permitting.
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