[OPE-L:6514] Re: * poll: who has advanced political economy since Marx? *

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@lubs.leeds.ac.uk)
Date: Wed Feb 06 2002 - 10:11:02 EST

For what it's worth, I think that the essence of Marx's theory, at the 
most abstract levels (viz. those concerning value) has not been 
developed. Rather, and as one would expect given Marx's theory, 
the separation of intellectual from manual labour, and the more 
generally the perverse appearances of capitalism, have mitigated 
against a general comprehension of what Marx is on about, let 
alone a development of the abstract aspects of the theory. So, for 
example, I respect greatly Reuten and Williams' book (indeed I 
have found it to be an inspiration), but I don't think they are right 
about value-form; rather their lack of materialism leads them away 
from a correct concpetion of value (congealed abstract labour), imo.

Turning to more concrete levels, I would say that the work of Ben 
Fine (and related works) over the past couple of decades shows 
just what Marxist analysis of concrete conjunctures looks like.

Ultimately I'm not sure the question is very fruitful. More fruitful is to 
ask *why* is there nothing but a host of contradictory 
interpretations of the essence of Marx's abstract theory? (my 
abstract answer is mentioned above)

Best wishes,


On 6 Feb 2002, at 9:45, gerald_a_levy wrote:

> Re the relative silence since [6508]:
> Other than Gary's [6509] (thanks Gary), no one has responded to the
> 'poll' yet. Let us be clear that readers *will* draw inferences from this
> thread *if*  listmembers do *not* respond to this question: readers might
> very well infer that according to the Marxists here gathered there have
> been no scientific advances in our understanding of  capitalism since Marx;
> those same readers might very well attribute this to dogmatism.  (I think
> that's the way it might be read by many PKT subscribers, do you agree
> Steve K? ... Gary?)
> I was waiting to read some other responses before responding myself
> (since I'm the one who asked the questions),  but in the interests of
> jump-starting the discussion I'll take a stab at answering:
> I think there have been *many* advances in political economy since
> Marx.  Some (for example, related to the literature on socialism)
> don't concern our understanding of capitalism. Others are *techniques*
> which do not _by themselves_ advance our understanding of
> capitalism, like the development of input-output analysis (Leontief)
> and game theory (vonNeumann/Morgenstern).  Others are specific
> to understanding particular social formations (e.g. segmented labor
> market theory developed by D.M. Gordon and others) or
> conjunctures (much of the literature on imperialism and unequal
> exchange).
> There are entire fields of study in mainstream economic theory that
> Marxists would benefit from comprehending and critiquing that
> raise issues and understandings that were not developed by Marx:
> e.g.  much of the literature on industrial organization (e.g. the
> literature on the diffusion of new technologies); urban economics
> (there have been some important Marxist contributions to this
> field, including contributions on the subject of rent); environmental
> economics (including Marxist contributions like those of  former
> listmember Jim O'Connor and current member Paul Burkett).
> The literature on joint production initiated by Sraffa and developed
> further by Pasinetti and others represents an advance in thought on
> this subject beyond what Marx wrote.  Post-Keynesian thought has
> also furthered our understanding of subjects like oligopolistic markets
> and industrial pricing (Eichner and others), financial instability,
> non-linear dynamics, and chaos theory (Minsky and others). Indeed, 
> these writings have stirred contributions by Marxians to those 
> understandings (e.g. by Semmler,  OPE-Ler  Anwar Shaikh,  former 
> listmembers Dumenil/Levy; listmembers Itoh/Lapavitsas).  In turn,  
> much of this literature could be said to begin with Robinson, Kalecki,
> Steindhl, and the mathematicians in other fields who developed
> non-linear dynamics and chaos theory.
> The literature on 'long waves' represents an advance beyond
> Marx.  Some of those who furthered our understanding of that
> subject include pionerrs like Kondratief, Parvus, Trotsky, and 
> more recently Mandel.
> Perhaps the major reason why Marxian economic theory has not
> developed to a great extent since Marx's death in 1883 is that so
> few Marxists have even *attempted* to  move our understanding
> of  capitalism *beyond Marx*.  Instead, most intellectual energy
> by Marxists writing on political economy has been limited to
> interpreting and 'defending' Marx (beyond those listed below,
> former listmember Mino Carchedi is an exception).
> So, now we get to the section of this post where I will stick my
> neck out on a limb by suggesting that the following authors -- who
> all published books in recent years -- have imo helped to develop
> our understanding  *beyond Marx*:
> Geert Reuten and Michael J Williams for _Value-Form and the State_.
> One might justifiably say that Reuten/Williams were indebted to the
> 'state debate' in the 70's and 80's for stimulus. Nonetheless, what is
> the most important contribution from my perspective is the attempt
> to integrate our understanding of the value-form, the capital-form,
> *and* the state-form.  I have serious questions about much of this
> work (especially Part Three on the tendencies of accumulation of
> capital) but overall I think it *does* represent an advance.  Even in
> Part 3 there is some very original thinking, e.g. the model on capital
> stratification.
> Another book that deserves recognition for advancing our
> understanding of capitalism beyond Marx is Mike Leobowitz's
> _Beyond Capital: Marx's Political Economy of the Working
> Class_. Although the sub-title suggests a work that is centered
> on interpreting Marx, I think that Mike L breaks new ground by
> attempting to 'extend Marx'  in new directions and this work imo
> is more of an attempt to move beyond Marx rather than just
> beyond _Capital_.  What joins the Reuten/Williams and Leobowitz
> efforts among other things (including the commonality that they all
> belong to OPE-L) is an attempt not to be restricted to merely
> interpreting Marx and instead focusing on attempting to further
> and systematically comprehend capitalism.  Although Mike L
> is not a value-form theorist I think in broad terms that the
> methodological understanding of each of these authors is 
> similar -- this earns them praise no doubt from those who
> identify with Hegelian-Marxian methodology and opposition
> from those who protest the use of 'Hegelianism' in political
> economy (e.g. as did Althusser).
> OK, who goes next?
> In solidarity, Jerry
> > * and what were their contributions to that understanding that
> >    weren't already IN Marx's writings?
> > *  Also: what contributions to our understanding of that
> >     subject matter  concerned something  *other than* attempting
> >     to develop our understanding of how capitalism has
> >     changed and developed since Marx's time?
> > * Also: is there *any* major part of Marx's theory that the
> >    development of subsequent thought shows needs to be
> >    modified or rejected?
> > If Marxism is a science then all of these questions should
> > be able to be answered -- even if our answers are different.

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