[OPE-L:3052] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Need 1 and Luxemburg's *Accumulation of Capital*

From: JERRY LEVY (jlevy@sescva.esc.edu)
Date: Sun May 07 2000 - 06:51:38 EDT

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Some thoughts on Riccardo's [OPE-L:2962]:

I had asked Riccardo for a list of authors who he thinks have been
underrated in the last decades. He listed:

Luxemburg, Grossmann, Mattick, Sweezy, Dobb, Meek, Napoleoni

Some comments:

* Luxemburg: As noted previously, the interest in _The Accumulation
    of Capital_ in the 1970's was largely connected to interest in
    the subject of imperialism and related subjects like trade
    and development. The interest in Luxemburg's life was broader,
    though (and connected in part to the rebirth of the feminist
    movement). Indeed, a poster of Rosa (and/or posters of Che'
    and Huey Newton) were almost signature items identifying the
    homes of radicals. btw, wasn't the full-length Polish film
    on her life ("Rosa"?) made in the 1980's? (an excellent and
    inspiring film, imo).

* Grossmann: To the contrary of Riccardo's position, the interest
    in his work has been relatively strong in recent decades, imo.
    In large part, this is because his works were only translated
    into English relatively recently. Thus, _The Law of
    Accumulation and Breakdown of the Capitalist System_ was
    printed in English by Pluto Press in 1992 -- as an *abridged*
    version (the full translation has still not been published
    in English). Prior to that time, those who couldn't read
    German (or obtain copies of translations into other languages
    that they could read) had to rely on secondary sources (e.g.
    Sweezy, Mattick, Shoul's 1947 dissertation on "The Marxian
    THeory of Capitalist Breakdown", etc.) for information on
    Grossmann's theoretical perspectives.

* Mattick: he may be underrated by many Marxists, but there has
    remained an interest in his writings throughout the period.
    Indeed, btw, there are Web sites where one can download many
    of his writings. Part of this interest is more related to
    interest in "Council Communism" than to his theoretical
    writings. Relatedly, there has been interest in some circles
    on his perspectives on the subject of state capitalism.
    I don't think his writing style made the spread of his ideas
    any easier and some of his later books (like _Marxism -- last
    refuge of the bourgeoisie?_) may have been ignored by academics
    who are Marxian because of their confrontational and
    accusatorial nature. btw, what do you think about Mattick Sr.'s
    writings on Keynes? :-)

* Sweezy: I think there has been a decline of interest in the
    entire "Monthly Review school" since their peak in the mid-
    1970's. (When Paul taught a class at the New School on
    "Reading and Using Capital" in Fall, 1975, it was taught in
    an *auditorium* btw, who knows the OPE-L member who was
    his "Teaching Assistant" for that class?). Yet, Paul (and the rest
    at _MR_) still keep writing and speaking (which is pretty
    amazing for someone who was born in 1910!) and has a certain
    following. *What* particular aspects of his thought have been
    under-rated/under-valued by contemporary Marxians?

* Dobb and Meek: There was a tremendous interest in the writings
    of Sweezy, Dobb, and Meek in the 1970's. Perhaps the decline
    in interest in D & M might be related to a decline of interest
    in their political perspectives? Much of what Dobb, in
    particular, wrote about socialism, planning, and the USSR seems
    very dated today, imo.

* Napoleoni: Not much has been translated into English. And of the
    two books that have been published in English, _Economic
    Thought on the Twentieth Century_ (NY, John Wiley & Sons, 1972)
    was not that incisive (it's useful, though, as a reference
    to an introductory course on the history of economic thought).
    Most of his work (along with much of the work of Italian Marxist
    writers from the 60's and 70's) remains untranslated.

As for Riccardo's other comments, I agree that a sectarianism whereby
"each stream goes on as if other Marxian streams are the best [should
read, worst, JL] enemy" is a major issue. This mutual antagonism
can perhaps best be observed in the way in which surplus approach
theory has been treated by other streams and vice versa. At times --
especially in the late 70's and early 80's -- exchanges between these
groups appeared especially antagonistic and nasty. This was largely
determined initially by the tone of Steedman's book. Perhaps the
polemical nature of the exchanges has cooled -- but that is largely
because different "streams" have chosen to *ignore* each other in
recent decades. What is worse ... treating other Marxian
perspectives as "enemy" perspectives or ignoring them altogether?
I'm not sure, but I do think we can do a lot better.

I also agree that there needs to be more translations of secondary
works (e.g. of Wagner -- whose writings Nicky asked about not
long ago). But, by whom? Let's face it -- if you add-up all of
those internationally who are Marxians interested in the field
of political economy, that number is getting increasingly
*smaller* (especially as compared to the 1970's). Where will we
find the intellectual resources to accomplish this task *along
with* the other pressing theoretical (and political) tasks that
need to be done?

In solidarity, Jerry

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