Convergence Theory

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Convergence Theory


a modern bourgeois theory according to which the economic, political, and ideological differences between the capitalist and socialist systems are gradually diminishing, leading ultimately to a merger of the two systems. The term “convergence” was taken from biology. The convergence theory arose in the 1950’s and 1960’s under the influence of the progressing socialization of capitalist production caused by the scientific and technological revolution, the increasing economic role of the bourgeois state, and the introduction of elements of planning in the capitalist countries. The proponents of the convergence theory characteristically distort these processes, which actually take place in modern capitalism, and try to synthesize several conceptions that are in fact apologies for capitalism masking the rule of big capital in contemporary bourgeois society. The most prominent representatives of the convergence theory are J. Galbraith and P. Sorokin in the USA, J. Tinbergen in the Netherlands, R. Aron in France, and J. Strachey in Great Britain. The ideas of the convergence theory are used widely by “right” and “left” opportunists and revisionists.

The advocates of the convergence theory consider technological progress and the growth of big industry decisive factors in the rapprochement of the two socioeconomic systems. They claim that the increasing size of enterprises, the rise in the relative weight of industry in the national economy, and the growing importance of new branches of industry are factors contributing to a greater similarity of the two systems. The basic fallacy of their views is their technological approach to socioeconomic systems, that is, the substitution of technology or the technical organization of production for relations of social production between people and classes. Common traits in the development of technology, technical organization, and the branch structure of industrial production do not in any way preclude fundamental differences between capitalism and socialism.

The proponents of the convergence theory also claim that capitalism and socialism are becoming similar in socioeconomic respects. For instance, they note the growing similarity in the economic roles of the capitalist and the socialist states. Under capitalism, they argue, the role of the state in directing the economic development of society is increasing, whereas it is decreasing under socialism because the economic reforms carried out in the socialist countries allegedly lead to a departure from the centralized planned management of the national economy and to a return to market relations. This interpretation of the economic role of the state distorts reality. The bourgeois state, unlike the socialist state, cannot play an all-encompassing directing role in economic development because most of the means of production are privately owned. At best the bourgeois state can forecast economic development and engage in recommendatory, or indicative, planning or programming. The conception of “market socialism” is also fundamentally wrong; it totally distorts the nature of commodity and money relations and the character of the economic reforms in the socialist countries. Under socialism, commodity and money relations are subordinate to the planned management by the socialist state, and the economic reforms refine the methods of the socialist planned management of the national economy.

J. Galbraith has proposed another version of the convergence theory. He does not say that the socialist countries are returning to the system of market relations. On the contrary, he asserts that market relations must give way to planned relations in any society with an advanced technology and a complex organization of production. Moreover, he declares that the systems of planning and organization of production are similar under capitalism and socialism and views this as the basis for the convergence of the two systems. The equation of capitalist and socialist planning is a distortion of economic reality. Galbraith does not distinguish between private economic and national economic planning; he sees only the quantitative differences and ignores the basic qualitative differences between them. The concentration of all the command positions of the national economy in the hands of the socialist state ensures a proportional distribution of labor and production resources. Corporate capitalist planning and state economic programming, on the other hand, cannot ensure such proportionality or overcome unemployment and the cyclical fluctuations of capitalist production.

The convergence theory has gained currency among various intellectual circles in the West. Some of its proponents are socially and politically reactionary, and others are more or less progressive. Therefore, in arguing against the convergence theory, Marxists must use a differentiated approach with respect to different proponents of this theory. Some, like Galbraith and Tinbergen, link it up with the idea of peaceful coexistence between the capitalist and socialist countries. They believe that only the convergence of the two systems can save mankind from a thermonuclear war. However, the deduction of peaceful coexistence from the idea of convergence is completely wrong and fundamentally contrary to the Leninist idea of the peaceful coexistence of antagonistic systems that do not merge at all.

From the point of view of its class essence, the convergence theory is a refined form of apology for capitalism. Although it appears to place itself above capitalism and socialism and seems to advocate some undefined “integrated” (“integral”) economic system, it essentially proposes a synthesis of the two systems on a capitalist basis, on the basis of private ownership of the means of production. Since the convergence theory is above all a variant of contemporary bourgeois and reformist ideological doctrines, it also fulfills quite a specific practical function: its advocates attempt to provide the capitalist countries with ways to establish “social peace” and propose that the socialist countries enact measures toward a rapprochement of the socialist and capitalist economies via a so-called market socialism.


Brege’, E. “Teoriia konvergentsii dvukh ekonomicheskikh sistem.” Mirovaia ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia, 1968, no. 1.
Galbraith, J. Novoe industrial’noe obshchestvo. Moscow, 1969. (Translated from English.)
Sovremennye burzhuaznye teorii o sliianii kapitalizma i sotsializma. Moscow, 1970.
Sorokin, P. A. The Basic Trends of Our Times. New Haven, 1964.
Rose, G. Was steckt hinter der Konvergenztheoriel Berlin, 1969.
Meissner, H. Konvergenztheorie und Realität, 2nd ed. Berlin, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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