[OPE-L:5786] Re: Marx and Ricardo [and Malthus]

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Mon Jun 04 2001 - 08:55:21 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 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
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 Ricardo.<

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

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sun Jul 15 2001 - 10:56:28 EDT