[OPE-L:5780] Re: Marx and Ricardo [and Malthus]

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Mon Jun 04 2001 - 11:45:36 EDT

Re Rakesh's [5770]:

 > Isn't Marx most contemptuous of Malthus'
population theory (the  greatest calumy ever heaped on the human race or
some such what
unforgettable line though alas I have forgotten) while at the same  time
underlining that Ricardo
could only respond with forced  abstractions and his followers with pathetic
word games in the face
of Malthus's valid objections?  <

Oh, yes, Marx was contemptuous of the
Malthusian population theory. Yet, he was
*generally* contemptuous of Malthus. This,
of course, was not personal animosity on
Marx's part (although some might read it as such)
but rather *class hatred*.

Malthus's "purpose", Marx claimed, was to write
"an apologia for the existing state of affairs in
England, for landlordism, 'State and Church',
pensioners, tax-gatherers, tenths, national debt,
stock-jobbers, beadles, parsons and menial
servants ('national expenditure') assailed by the
Ricardians as so many useless and superannuated
drawbacks to bourgeois production and as
nuisances" (_TSV_, Part III, Ch. XIX, pp. 51-2.)

He goes on to consider Malthus's individual works:

 "Malthus's book _On Population_ was a lampoon
directed against the French Revolution and the
contemporary ideas of reform in England
(Godwin, etc.). It was an apologia for the poverty
of the working classes. The *theory* was
plagiarised from Townsend and others.

His *Essay on Rent* was a piece of polemic
writing in support of the landlords against industrial
capital. Its *theory* was taken from Anderson.

His _Principles of Political Economy_ was a
polemic work written in the interests of capitalists
against the workers and in the interests of the
aristocracy, Church, tax-eaters, toadies, etc.,
against the capitalists. Its *theory* was taken from
Adam Smith. When he inserts his own inventions,
it is pitiable. It is on Sismondi that he bases
himself in further elaborating the theory" (Ibid,
pp. 61-2).

Despite making some valid points re Ricardo
(e.g. having an emphasis on *unequal exchange*
between capital and wage-labour {Ibid, p. 14}),
Marx viewed Malthus as a *reactionary
representative of the Church, feudalism, and
the absolute monarchy* (thus Marx wrote that
Malthus "wants bourgeois production as long
as it is not revolutionary"). In contrast, Ricardo
was as viewed as a representative of classical
liberalism which during Ricardo's time Marx
thought was revolutionary and progressive in
contrast to the the likes of "Parson Malthus".

 >Ricardo made a scientific leap forward, but
 could not complete it. <

Whereas, Marx thought that Malthus took a
leap backwards: Malthus sought to "drag
political economy back to where it was before
Ricardo, even to where it was before Adam Smith
and the Physiocrats" (Ibid, p. 16)

>  So Marx's critique of political economy begins with the problems that the
Ricardian school could
not solve...as Malthus and other critics
demonstrated.  I don't see how Marx's theoretical
efforts make sense without  recognition
of the scientific or  objective validity of the criticisms  made by  Malthus
and others of

By no means did Marx just take Malthus's side in
these debates. Indeed, he often supported
Ricardo against Malthus on specific issues.

In solidarity, Jerry

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