A scientific conception of price
The inevitable cost of historical progress is paid in a manner and amount determined by human activities. Here, we must guard against two tendencies: Romanticism and pessimism. Romanticists notice development but ignore the price or treat the price as a natural thing. Pessimists are frustrated with the costs of progress, especially dramatic costs during social transformation. The so-called price awareness refers to the attitudes and intention of the historical subject toward gains and losses, advantages and disadvantages in historical development. It is an important part of the subject’s ideology. The subjective attitudes toward costs of historical progress differ dramatically among different individuals. This attitude significantly affects human activities and the (scope of) human role in historical development. Proper human activities come from proper conception of historical costs.
Price awareness encompasses costs, pros and cons, risks, and sacrifices. It assesses the manpower, material resources, and financial resources needed for human activities. The historical subject must note that all production entails investment or cost. Proper investment is prerequisite for achieving desired results. Price awareness evaluates the necessity and propriety of costs.
Awareness of the pros and cons positively acknowledges the dialectical duality of pros and cons. This awareness facilitates the choice between a correct attitude toward, and predictions about pros and cons. It holistically assesses all factors and links within human activities and acts accordingly. It also proactively evaluates short- and long-term consequences and the dynamic interplay between cause and consequence to guide predictions about future.
Risk awareness is the entrepreneurial initiative in the presence of risks and is neither conseivativism nor defeatism. It actively heeds and defuses risks and thus differs from a gambler’s adventurism.
The spirit of sacrifice transcends one’s finite self to embrace the infinite cause of human justice and progress. It is neither an idler nor a suicidal daredevil. It cherishes life but fears no death; it is ready for sacrifice but wary of unnecessary sacrifice. It strives for the best at the lowest price.
Correctly choosing the price
Marxism dialectically views the relationship between the objective inevitability and subjective selectivity of historical progress. On the one hand, it affirms that the price of historical progress is objectively inevitable; on the other hand, it acknowledges that humans’ choice of price plays an important role. When choosing the price, the subject assesses current historical conditions and all possible configurations of costs and success. The selectivity of historical progress is largely the selectivity of price.
In the socialist modernization, we should dialectically view the price. On the one hand, we must give top priority to development. Development is an absolute necessity. We should recognize the necessity and rationality of the price of development. On the other hand, we must uphold the principle of rationality and moderation and be vigilant against and prevent excessive price. We should reduce and control social pressure and contradictions caused by unnecessary price, defuse all social issues during social development, and maintain social stability. Humans’ choice of price can reduce the price and optimize development. The basic principle of price choice is “the greater of two benefits and the lesser of two costs.” That is, the subject’s conscious choice can lessen and shorten the pain of history, reduce unnecessary endeavors and losses, and save the cost of social development, thus optimizing historical progress. This is prominently seen in transformative developments in history based on conscious price selectivity. Price selectivity enhances the subject’s sense of historical initiative and social responsibility over inevitable costs.
Progress is the main theme and general trend in the long river of history. Although there have been endeavors, sacrifices, twists and turns, and even retrogressions in historical movements, progress remains as the dominant and basic trend. The price is always subsidiary to and supportive of historical progress. With the development of productive forces and various social relations, people will pay an increasingly smaller price for increasingly greater progress. In the communist society, humanity will fully eliminate irrational and unnecessary prices. Marx thus spoke of the material production in the communist society:
[The] socialised man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favourable to, and worthy of, their human nature.4