[OPE-L:5174] Re: Re: was Marx an economist?

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Thu Mar 15 2001 - 07:42:14 EST

Re Nicky's [OPE-L:5168]:

> Surely, whether Marx was an 'economist' depends on the
> meaning given to the term, and whether the terms
> 'economist' and 'revolutionary'/'communist' are taken
> to be mutually exclusive??

My point was a simple one: i.e. that Marx's
perspectives on political economy have to
be understood within the context of his
politics. Moreover,  _he_ rejected the
mantle of "economist" (this is part of why he
subtitled _Capital_  "A CRITIQUE OF
POLITICAL ECONOMY").  Furthermore,
this emphasis on comprehending Marx's life,
material conditions, and activism as a way of
understanding his thought is simply an
extension of the materialist method to the
history of political economy, imo. Should we,
for example, just read _The Wealth of Nations_
to understand Smith's perspectives or do we
have to put that book in the context of Smith's
life work (including other works like "The Theory
of Moral Sentiments") and participation in the
Scottish Enlightenment?

A related point: the reason I made those points about Marx's life to Steve
is because he comes
to a discussion about Marx's theories from the
perspective of being a professional economist
who is not a Marxist. Thus, what Marxists might
take for granted might not be so understood by
someone from a very different personal and
political and intellectual background.

>  Doesn't this depend upon
> the relationship of knowledge to praxis, as well as
> the role of intellectuals in revolution? Both could be
> understood in a variety of ways by different people.
> Imo, theoretical input is likely to be *more* crucial
> in a time of revolution than at any other time, to the
> extent that purposive action will always seek a
> guiding principle; the barricades are not just on the
> streets/working places - they are everywhere.  If this
> argument is granted, how/why is it shameful to be
> struggling with 'economic' problems while a revolution
> is in the making? Of course, it would be a shame if
> the 'economic' problem under discussion were
> meaningless in the context of the main event.

It depends on the 'economic' problem that is
being discussed. I will stand by my previous
accessment that it would be shameful for many
of the best Marxist minds on political economy
to be engaged in a debate on the "transformation
problem" during a truly revolutionary period.
If workers are fighting and dying in the streets,
then either we should be fighting alongside our
sisters and brother in the street or *at least*
our discussions on theory must be less abstract
and more related to the immediate crisis. This
doesn't mean that discussions on very abstract
topics aren't appropriate *now*.  That's because,
alas, we are not exactly on the eve of the
Revolution.  What one is doing, whether it is
theoretical work or political activism, must
change with changing conditions (a point Marx
understood well: note how what he was doing,
in terms of his allocation of time for political
activism and theoretical work, changed after the
Paris Commune of 1871).

> Surely we should be less concerned with Marx's
> convictions than with the question of whether his
> analysis is correct/relevant.

Even if that were the case, it still doesn't mean
that we can dismiss the convictions (and life's
work including political activism) of the author
as irrelevant for comprehending the analysis.
What an author wants to do in a given work
and what that author claims about what a given
work shows are important as a way of accessing
the work itself. E.g. it can help establish 'successs
criteria' on which the work can be judged.

> (snip, JL)
> In the *Results* Marx (1976a, [Penguin/
Vintage ed. of Volume 1, JL]
 p.1056; cited Arthur,
> C&C, 73, p.26) writes very clearly his views on > the  productivity of
> "Thus capital is productive:

What is written is, rather, that:

"Thus capital appears *productive*:"

This is not an insignificant difference.

It's no longer as 'clear', in terms of whether Marx
thought that capital is productive, is it?

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon Apr 02 2001 - 09:57:29 EDT