[OPE-L:4488] Marxist economists

From: glevy@pratt.edu
Date: Fri Nov 10 2000 - 10:59:46 EST

Rakesh wrote in [OPE-L:4471]:

> It is a matter of the sociology of knowledge why Marx was ever put > in simultaneous equations and thought to have suffered from a
> transformation problem. In that sociology the tremendously
> destructive role of Marxist economists should be highlighted, just > as
> in history of Communism the destruction wrought by Bolshevism should
> get pride of place. See Mattick Sr Marxism: Last Refuge of the
> Bourgeoisie? (ME Sharpe, 1983)

To begin with, the last statement re Bolshevism is a bold assertion which needs to be explained. A simple reference to a single work (which is, btw, not a historical book or even a work which is mainly devoted to this issue) is insufficient.  Also, such an assertion lets imperialism, social democracy and Stalinism off the hook in terms of the "pride of place" re the demise of the communist movement.

Even more objectionable, imo, is your assertion about "the tremendously destructive role of Marxist economists".  

Firstly, there are many different traditions and interpretations in the history of Marxist economics. Yet, you infer that the use of simultaneous equations in interpreting Marx can be attributed to a category of people called Marxist economists. 

The inference, further, seems to be that there is something wrong with a group of people who would call themselves Marxist economists. Indeed, the use of this term has been used on this list by others in a derogatory manner previously.

Let's consider this question some more:

Most of the people on this list are economists. This is their profession. Most have degrees in economics, belong to professional associations of economists, and teach economics. 

In short, they are economists -- whether they like that designation or not.

Most of those same people are Marxists.

That makes them, ipso faco, Marxist economists. 

What's wrong with that? Would you rather that all economists were non-Marxists? Or are you suggesting that there is something unprincipled from a Marxist perspective for a Marxist to be an economist?

Would you also point to the "tremendously destructive" role of "Marxist philosophers", "Marxist sociologists", "Marxist historians", "Marxist poets",etc? 

The subject of the history of Marxist economics from a sociology of knowledge perspective might indeed prove interesting. Yet, such a study would almost certainly highlight the lack of homogeneity in terms of theoretical and political perspective of this group. 

Another interesting sociology topic might be to ask how working in the academy affects the nature of intellectual output. Such an investigation could, though, be extended to all disciplines -- including e.g. cultural studies. 

It should also, futher, be remembered that in the history of Marxist economics many of the most influential authors were not economists by profession.

In any event, I see nothing dishonorable about the title of Marxist economist. Those Marxists who work as economists should wear that title proudly.  It's bad enough when we are ridiculed by other (e.g. mainstream) economists for being Marxist. Why should we, additionally, suffer abuse at the hands on other Marxists?

In solidarity, Jerry

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