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The Role of Self-Interest


Marx sees capitalist accumulation as an “unceasing movement of profit-making” driven by the capitalist’s “boundless drive for enrichment” and the “passionate chase after value.” Self-interest is not the preserve of the capitalist alone. The worker, too, is only human and not naturally imbued with altruism. Capitalism makes them both enter into certain relations with one another, in which each of them pursues his private interests. Marx makes a significant admission that something positive is achieved as a result of their self-centered interaction to benefit the whole of society: 

"Gorbachev Factor"


"The only force bringing them [the capitalist and the worker] together, and putting them into relation with each other, is the selfishness, the gain and the private interest of each. Each pays heed to himself only, and no one worries about the others. And precisely for that reason, either in accordance with the pre-established harmony of things, or under the auspices of an omniscient providence, they all work together to their mutual advantage, for the common weal, and in the common interest."

There is hardly any point in arguing what came first: market or human passions. What is certain, however, is a definite correlation between the two. The very existence of the market and life in a competitive market environment, associated with profit hunting and rivalry, arouse many passions inside a human being. The market induces not just instincts directly connected with business activities. It also kindles feelings and desires normally associated with the spheres of leisure, entertainment, and sport. At the same time, the market moderates passions by giving vent to them.

The system, set up in Soviet Russia from the blueprints of Marx and his Russian followers, closed all the “pores” and “safety valves” that exist in a market economy. The imposition of strictly centralized planning and rigid regulation stifled personal initiative and entrepreneurial talent as the driving force of economic development. For decades, draconian restrictions and administrative constraints prevented those engaged in industry and agriculture from using their own creativeness and talent to achieve a desired level of prosperity.

The Soviet economic model built up frustration and internal tensions and drove individuals to search for roundabout ways of fulfilling their potential. Individuals with entrepreneurial and mercantile habits of mind could apply their skills only in the illegal sector of the economy known as the “shadow economy” and risked being arrested and punished for their activities as common criminals. At the other extreme, social engineering of the Soviet type resulted in public apathy and indifference, breeding stagnation and the decay of the entire system.

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Soviet Ideology


Soviet Russia

Understanding the Soviet Period
Russian Political Culture
Soviet Ideology
The Soviet System
Soviet Nationalities
The Economic Structure
The Socialist Experiment
"Great Leap" to Socialism
The USSR in World War II
Stalin's Legacy
Brezhnev's Stagnation
The Economy in Crisis
Political Reform
The USSR's Collapse

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