[OPE-L:4508] Marxist economists

From: Alejandro Ramos (aramos@btl.net)
Date: Sun Nov 12 2000 - 20:33:54 EST

Re Paul Z. 4492:

>I think Alejandro is perhaps bending the stick too far (conceding "the
>profession" to the class enemy).

Well, I haven't "conceded" it to them but the fact is that their control of
the "profession" is almost absolute. Now, even to voice Keynesian opinions
is seen as heterodoxy. (And I don't refer to a fair contest of ideas, I
refer to access to jobs and ways to do the things!)

>Earlier today I had occasion to pick up
>"Marxian Economics", The New Palgrave, 1990.  A days ago, "A History of
>Marxian Economics" by Howard and King (a survey I don't much care for, but
>it surely leads one to lots of sources).

This is one of the most biased books I have seen in my life. Frankly, I
envy their resources availability but unfortunately the authors wasted
them. I think you have mentioned their treatment of Rosa Luxemburg's work...

>Yes, there are controversies and
>disagreements contained therein.  But is this not also true in other
>sub-disciplines of economics?

It's true. But these disagreements are *not* within general broad
agreement. Most of the marxist economists keenly look to show that Marx's
work is essentially wrong. The usual strategy has been to replace the
fundamentals of his theory for *another theory*, presenting this as an
"improved version" in which... it can be "demonstrated" that Marx was
wrong! For instance, his "theory of labor-value" is replaced by a "theory
of use-value value". On the basis of the latter, it's "demontrated" that,
for example, Marx's law of the tendential fall in the rate of profit is
flawed! Why is it necessary to get rid of the "theory of labor-value"?
Because Marx was a Ptolemanian and we're living in the Copernican era of
Economics. Therefore, that theory is only a burden ("Poor man! He believed
in the existence of epicycles!") that modern marxist economists should hide
from the acute sight of the decent academic world, very concerned with
discovering the truth of capitalism.

>And don't forgot the Marx was voted THE
>intellectual of the last MILLENIUM (was it Time magazine?)!

Well, "science" is not a matter of democracy, they'd say. I think it was
The New Yorker, wasn't it?

>Anyway, imagine how Paul Sweezy must have felt through the 1950s and early
>60s -- more isolated than we are.

I don't see Sweezy as Don Quixote and the windmills as you describe him!
His major book is from 1942: Popular Fronts, IIGW, USA and the USSR were
allies... Was not his attempt to write a book in which the at that time
roaring Keynesianism could build a bridge to the growing left?

> I don't think the problem is "the
>profession" but character of the class struggle.  The working class
>movement has been weakened substantially (where is 1968 France? -- check
>the value of the French franc at borders at that time, 1970 Chile? the
>struggles in the Portuguese colonies? Vietnamese anti-imperialism?) so
>that the bourgeois and petty bourgeois economists can look at Marxist
>economics with comtemptuous disdain.

I do agree.

>Of course, for the purposes of
>getting and holding an academic position, that is a misfortune and can
>lead to certain constraints.

Well, this is not my concern! My concern is whether or not is possible to
get the scientific content of Marx's work in order to understand
capitalism. From the beginning it has been contended that it has no
scientific content at all because Marx's work is logically flawed.
Initially only bourgeois economists said that. Today, a great deal of
marxist economists (say, Howard & King!) agree with this, *uncritically*
accepting all the arguments put forward by the right.

  But in that we are looking to the
>emancipation of peoples very often very much worse off than we are, it
>should not affect our work in the slightest (of course it does, but we
>must struggle against it).

I do agree.

>Concerning intra-Marxist relations, Rakesh has a point that ought to be
>examined, maybe within our individual thoughts (I'm almost tempted to use
>the expression "self-criticism" but I don't think this is a useful
>formulation in an internet interchange).

Why? I don't understand your point here. I do think that we should exert a
permanent "self criticism" and I try to do that, perhaps unsuccesfully!
These exchanges are very useful in this direction because allow one to work
hard on the issues.

>I don't expect much change,
>however, as we as individuals are mostly whom we are.

Please, explain!

Alejandro R.

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