[OPE-L:2595] Re: the evolution of the meaning of "critique"

From: Gerald Levy (glevy@PRATT.EDU)
Date: Wed Mar 22 2000 - 18:53:58 EST

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Duncan wrote in [OPE-L:2585]:

> I don't think Marx, in writing to transcend the
> classical political economists, had any lack of respect for them or their
> intellectual achievements, either. How else would he have got to where he
> arrived?

I don't think that the issue at hand concerns respect, but ...

Marx, in general, had a respect for those writers who had been part
of "scientific" political economy (like Smith and Ricardo). For some
others, even before "vulgar" theory, he did not have much (if any)
respect, e.g. the "stupid" J.B. Say and "Parson Malthus". Beginning with
"vulgar" theory, though, bourgeois economists were viewed as
"hired prize-fighters" in the service of capital and thereby worthy of the
utmost contempt and scorn from a communist perspective.


"In France and Germany the bourgeoisie had conquered political power. From
that time on, the class struggle took on more and more explicit forms,
both in practice and in theory. It sounded the knell of scientific
bourgeois economics. It was no longer a question whether this or that
theorem was true, but whether it was useful to capital or harmful,
expedient or inexpedient, in accordance with police regulations or
contrary to them. In place of disinterested inquirers there stepped hired
prize-fighters; in place of genuine scientific research, the bad conscience
and evil intent of apologetics" ("Preface to the Second Edition" of Volume
1, Penguin ed., p. 97).

(Whether *we* should take the same stance towards contemporary,
non-heterodox, economists as Marx did towards the proponents of "vulgar
economics" is an issue that we discussed a few years ago, didn't we?)

Of course, Marx's writings on political economy presupposed a grasp of
that subject matter and that presupposes a prior critical accessment of
the literature. So, in *that* sense Marx owes an intellectual debt to
those whose perspectives he critiqued.

In solidarity, Jerry

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