[OPE-L:4489] Re: Marxist economists

From: Rakesh Narpat Bhandari (rakeshb@Stanford.EDU)
Date: Fri Nov 10 2000 - 14:51:57 EST

Do I get myself off the hook by defining a Marxist economist as 
someone who accepts Bortkiewicz's formulation of what the 
transformation problem is (transform the inputs from "values" to 
"prices of production" with the putative invariance conditions of 
total value=total price, mass of surplus value=sum of profits, value 
rate of profit=price rate of profit) and then attempts to solve it 
through simultaneous equations or the more cumbersome iterative 
method? I'll put Marxist critics of political economy on the other 

As for my derogatory reference to Marxist economists, let's see: I 
have been called obstinate, incompetent and unscholarly by Marxist 
economists. Over two or more years of such abuse--to which I now 
respond in kind--I received perhaps two, maybe one letter of private 
support. Don't you think this is a case of the pot calling the kettle 
black? Not that I mind being black. And not that I mind ad hominem 
argument mixed in with honest and deliberate criticism: we are all 
readers of Marx after all.

Moreover, it is also true that several people, Marxist critics of 
political economy included, will not stoop to responding to my honest 
and sometimes clearly enough articulated criticisms (Allin, Paul Z 
and others are of course much appreciated exceptions; they voiced 
criticism and then got on to their heavy work loads). At any rate, 
Marxist economics seems to suffer from academic dogmatism and 
hierarchy as any other discipline. I don't see any point in denying 
this even if Marxist economists are marginalized by their apologist 
colleagues. For which they have my sympathy.

Yours, Rakesh

>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 
>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 
>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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