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The Skin of the SystemOn Germany's Socialist Modernity$
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Benjamin Robinson

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780804762472

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804762472.001.0001

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Other Systems: Mud, Mana, Money

Other Systems: Mud, Mana, Money

(p.38) Chapter Two Other Systems: Mud, Mana, Money
The Skin of the System
Stanford University Press

This chapter examines how socialism relates to other traditions—especially that of philosophical ontology. Drawing on the disparate fields of philosophy, economics, semiotics, and systems theory, it discusses the connection between ontology and socialism and considers a set of classical ontological problems dating back to Plato's Parmenides to the critique of positivism by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno. It uses a combination of “internal realism” (Willard van Orman Quine, Hilary Putnam) and “systems theory” (Talcott Parsons, Niklas Luhmann) to reformulate the ontological problems in a way relevant for understanding socialism and shows that this reformulation is especially helpful in distinguishing between “political ontology” (Carl Schmitt, Ernesto Laclau, Jacques Rancière) and something like “economic ontology” (general equilibrium theory, Marxism). The chapter concludes by suggesting that a “socialist ontology” is obliged by its inmost aspirations to generic superiority to chop up its world differently than liberal political and economic ontologies do.

Keywords:   socialism, Plato, Parmenides, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, systems theory, political ontology, economic ontology, socialist ontology, internal realism

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