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Social ownership is any of various forms of ownership for the
The two major forms of social ownership are society-wide public ownership and cooperative ownership. The distinction between these two forms lies in the distribution of the
The goal of social ownership is to eliminate the distinction between the class of private owners who are the recipients of
The term "
Social ownership is variously advocated to end the
For Marx, social ownership would lay the foundations for the transcendence of the capitalist law of value and the accumulation of capital, thereby creating the foundation for socialist planning. The ultimate goal of social ownership of productive property for Marx was to expand the "realm of freedom" by shortening average work hours so that individuals would have progressively larger portion of their time to pursue their genuine and creative interests. Thus the end goal of social ownership is the transcendence of the Marxist concept of alienation.
The economist David McMullen identifies five major benefits of social ownership, where he defines it as society-wide ownership of productive property: first, workers would be more productive and have greater motivation since they would directly benefit from increased productivity, secondly this ownership stake would enable greater accountability on the part of individuals and organizations, thirdly social ownership would eliminate unemployment, fourth it would enable the better flow of information within the economy, and finally it would eliminate wasteful activities associated with "wheeling and dealing" and wasteful government activities intended to curb such behavior and deal with unemployment.
From a non-Marxist, market socialist perspective, the clearest benefit of social ownership is an equalization of the distribution of property income, eliminating the vast disparities in wealth that arise from private ownership under capitalism. Property income (profit, interest and rent) is distinguished from labor income (wages and salaries) which in a socialist system would continue to be unequal based on one's
Notable non-Marxist and Marxist socialist theorists alike have argued that the most significant argument for social ownership of the means of production is to enable productivity gains to ease the work burden for all individuals in society, resulting in progressively shorter hours of work with increasing automation and thus a greater amount of free time for individuals to engage in creative pursuits and leisure.
Social ownership is contrasted with the concept of
The socialist critique of private ownership is heavily influenced by the Marxian analysis of capitalist property forms as part of its broader critique of
Private ownership has also been criticized on ethical grounds by the economist James Yunker. Yunker argues that because passive property income requires no mental or physical exertion on the part of the recipient and because its appropriation by a small group of private owners is the source of the vast inequalities in contemporary capitalism, this establishes the ethical case for social ownership and socialist transformation.