[OPE-L:7031] Re: a boring question (for John H and others)

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Sat Apr 20 2002 - 08:55:40 EDT

Re [7023]  from Harry Cleaver:

> For many years I have confronted this tendency on the part of
> student critics of capitalism, especially Marxist students, to complain
> about mainstream economics being boring and trivial and not worth the
> trouble. During this time I have argued the following: while there are a
> lot of boring technical details, especially as the profession sought more
>and more sophisticated mathematics to accomplish more or less the same
> things as in the past, in general the study of mainstream economics should
> be taken on as an essential exercise in class espionage. Mainstream
> economics is not just ideology and not just wrong; it is a key component
> of capitalist strategy and is used to devise tactics against the rest of
> us. To think that the enemy's thinking is boring and trivial is to risk
> not taking it seriously and not learning to read it strategically and thus
> not understanding the strategies and tactics being used against you. This
> has, in fact, happened again and again. For example, go back and read
> various Marxists on Keynes and see how they attacked Keynes as a mere
> bourgeois apologist, as being wrong, how they belittled his theory because
> it was based on psychology not "laws of motion", etc., all the while
> failing to either recognize or confront the class politics of his
>strategies and being blind to the significance of working class resistance
> and subversion of them. Then compare all that with the Italian New Left
> reading (Negri's for example) and the subsequent rereading in Zerowork
> that moved the discussion of the crisis in the late 1960s and 1970s from
>sterile debates about underconsumptions and falling rates of profit to a
>class analysis of how working class struggle had ruptured the Keynesian
> productivty deals (in factory and community) and how money was being used
> in new ways to counter that subversion etc. etc.
> Read in the spirit of espionage and as an urgent task in the development
>of counterstrategies in the class struggle, bourgeois economics is not
> boring but as exciting as the investigation of enemy plans discovered on a
> military battlefield.

I think that economists, especially economists working in academia,  have a
very  poor and incomplete grasp of the the 'plans' of  capital and the
state.  Nor do  most  mainstream (bourgeois) economists -- either
consciously or unconsciously --  help to develop capitalist strategy and the
tactics to be used against the rest of us.  This is the case for a number of

l)  as products of academia, they often  work in isolation from capitalists
and state representatives who are the ones who  develop those strategies
and tactics.  From that perspective, if you want to find  out capitalist
plans,  then you would be better advised to read IMF documents,  state
publications  on the economy, and  corporate "think tank" analysis,
although these sources as well have severe limitations since:

a) one would have to separate the real plans from the propaganda [which is
frequently not something that can be done just through an examination of the
propaganda itself], and;

b) the  economists who are actually the policy advisors might have a very
incomplete grasp -- indeed, they might purposely be kept in the dark --
about the real plans.

2)  ideology can overpower all else such that particular economic theories
should _just_ be interpreted as ideological rather than as an expression of
capitalist plans and strategies (Walrasian theory comes to mind);

3) economists  are often paid for their output regardless of whether it has
"use-value" for  capital and the state.  Thus, the "publish or perish"
imperative tends to lead  very frequently to the creation of  documents
which  have no usefulness to the ruling class -- nor were they designed to
be useful.  They were  designed _only_  to be published and to serve a role
in  enhancing  the status of  academics such  that their employment can be
perpetuated and  perhaps so that they can be promoted to a higher rank
within the university academic  hierarchy.

I never suggested, btw, that the output of mainstream economists shouldn't
be examined and subjected to critique. Rather, I was putting forward an
assessment  of those theories -- in other words, a conclusion of critique.
It is,  of course, the  case that hard data and information on the plans of
the  class enemy are useful in  the class war, but they are pretty hard to
come by.   Capitalists, state representatives,  *and* economists don't
always tell us what  their real plans are  even when they know  what they
are (surprise.)   Nor can  we assume that economists  speak in a  kind of
"code" which can be  de-ciphered by revolutionaries to reveal the  hidden
meaning  embedded  between the lines.  Economists tend to be neither that
smart  nor that stupid.

If what you want are enemy plans, then you can try to get a job *for*
capital or the state.  Even here there are problems of:

a) access to the plans (e.g.  if you get a job crunching numbers for the
BLS, I doubt  that you would thereby have access to information that
revealed the "enemy plans"), and;

b) it could  very well be that it is the revolutionary who is subverted by
the job rather than the revolutionary subverting the institution.   In most
cases of 'radicals' that I  know who work for corporations or the state,
the latter has been  the case -- and indeed, we would expect this result
more often than not from a materialist perspective (especially in a period
where there isn't a mass redicalization.)

c) real espionage by revolutionaries is, of course, possible (Alfred
Sohn-Rethel's job as a research assistant for Mitteleuropaischer
Wirtschaftstag, comes to mind) but it is:

i) a risky business that could endanger the well-being and life of the
revolutionary spy, and;

ii) if discovered, even if i) doesn't result, the revolutionary could be fed
dis-information or  ounter-spied upon such that the well-being of other
revolutionaries are endangered, and;

iii) also often precludes open and  overt  revolutionary political activism
since one's  "cover" would thereby be blown.  Thus, even when successful
there is a trade-off.

In solidarity, Jerry

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