The Efficiency Imperative: Five Questions

Science and Society 68 (4):447-474 (2004)
Abstract
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 that efficiency is a universal imperative of production that capitalism perfects, as well as the notion 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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