Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1: The Socialization of the Means of Production - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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1: The Socialization of the Means of Production - Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis 
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane, Foreword by F.A. Hayek (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
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The Socialization of the Means of Production
Under Socialism all the means of production are the property of the community. The community alone disposes of them and decides how to use them in production. The community produces, the products accrue to the community, and the community decides how those products are to be used.
Modern socialists, espcially those of the Marxian persuasion, lay great emphasis on designating the socialist community as Society, and therefore on describing the transfer of the means of production to the control of the community as the “Socialization of the means of production.” In itself the expression is unobjectionable but in the connection in which it is used it is particularly designed to obscure one of the most important problems of Socialism.
The word “society,” with its corresponding adjective “social,” has three separate meanings. It implies, first, the abstract idea of social interrelationships, and secondly, the concrete conception of a union of the individuals themselves. Between these two sharply different meanings, a third has been interposed in ordinary speech: the abstract society is conceived as personified in such expressions as “human society,” “civil society.”
Now Marx uses the term with all these meanings. This would not matter as long as he made the distinction quite clear. But he does just the opposite. He interchanges them with a conjurer’s skill whenever it appears to suit him. When he talks of the social character of capitalistic production he is using social in its abstract sense. When he speaks of the society which suffers during crises he means the personified society of mankind. But when he speaks of the society which is to expropriate the expropriators and socialize the means of production he means an actual social union. And all the meanings are interchanged in the links of his argument whenever he has to prove the unprovable. The reason for all this is in order to avoid using the term State or its equivalent, since this word has an unpleasant sound to all those lovers of freedom and democracy, whose support the Marxian does not wish to alienate at the outset. A programme which would give the State the general responsibility and direction of all production has no prospect of acceptance in these circles. It follows that the Marxist must continually find a phraseology which disguises the essence of the programme, which succeeds in concealing the unbridgeable abyss dividing democracy and Socialism. It does not say much for the perception of men who lived in the decades immediately preceding the World War that they did not see through this sophistry.
The modern doctrine of the state understands by the word “State” an authoritative unit, an apparatus of compulsion characterized not by its aims but by its form. But Marxism has arbitrarily limited the meaning of the word State, so that it does not include the Socialistic State. Only those states and forms of state organization are called the State which arouse the dislike of the socialist writers. For the future organization to which they aspire the term is rejected indignantly as dishonourable and degrading. It is called “Society.” In this way the Marxian social democracy could at one and the same time contemplate the destruction of the existing State machine, fiercely combat all anarchistic movements, and pursue a policy which led directly to an all powerful state.14
Now it does not matter in the least what particular name is given to the coercive apparatus of the socialistic community. If we use the word “State” we have a term in common use, except in the quite uncritical Marxian literature, an expression which is generally understood and which evokes the idea it is intended to evoke. But there is no disadvantage in avoiding this term if we wish, since it arouses mixed feelings in many people, and in substituting the expression “community.” The choice of terminology is purely a matter of style, and has no practical importance.
What is important is the problem of the organization of this socialistic State or community. When dealing with the concrete expression of the will of the State, the English language provides a more subtle distinction by permitting us to use the term government instead of the term state. Nothing is better designed to avoid the mysticism which in this connection has been fostered by Marxian usages to the highest degree. For the Marxists talk glibly about expressing the will of society, without giving the slightest hint how ’society’ can proceed to will and act. Yet of course the community can only act through organs which it has created.
Now it follows from the very conception of the socialistic community that the organ of control must be unitary. A socialist community can have only one ultimate organ of control which combines all economic and other governmental functions. Of course this organ can be subdivided and there can be subordinate offices to which definite instructions are transmitted. But the unitary expression of the common will, which is the essential object of the socialization of the means of production and of production, necessarily implies that all offices entrusted with the supervision of different affairs shall be subordinate to one office. This office must have supreme authority to resolve all variations from the common purpose and unify the executive aim. How it is constituted, and how the general will succeeds in expressing itself in and by it, is of minor importance in the investigation of our particular problem. It does not matter whether this organ is an absolute prince or an assembly of all citizens organized as a direct or indirect democracy. It does not matter how this organ conceives its will and expresses it. For our purpose we must consider this as accomplished and we need not spend any time over the question how it can be accomplished, whether it can be accomplished or whether Socialism is already doomed because it cannot be accomplished.
At the outset of our inquiry we must postulate that the socialistic community is without foreign relations. It embraces the whole world and its inhabitants. If we conceive it as limited, so that it comprises only a part of the world and the inhabitants therein, we must assume that it has no economic relations with the territories and peoples outside its boundaries. We are to discuss the problem of the isolated socialistic community. The implications of the contemporaneous existence of several socialistic communities will be dealt with when we have surveyed the problem in complete generality.
[14. ]See the critique of Kelsen, “Staat und Gesellschaft,” in Sozialismus und Staat (Leipzig, 1923), pp. 11 ff. and pp. 20 ff.