[OPE-L:7034] Re: Re: Marxist economics?

From: John Holloway (johnholloway@prodigy.net.mx)
Date: Sat Apr 20 2002 - 23:38:19 EDT

Simon says:

    >It seems to me that what we call it doesn't much matter. But there are
>whole host of unresolved issues about how contemporary capitalism works.

    This for me is just the problem. "Marxist economics" studies how
capitalism works. But the problem is not how capitalism works but how to
destroy capitalism.

    This is not just a question of words. Economics as a discipline tries to
understand how capitalism works, but it does it in a way that systematically
excludes us, in a way that accepts the appearance of social relations as
relations between things. The critique of economics is a critique ad
hominem, a critique that aims to recuperate theoretically the power of human
doing which is negated by the economic categories. As such, critique is
directly part of the struggle to open up the possibility of creating a
different sort of society, part of the struggle to recover theoretically and
practically the power of people to determine socially how society should
develop. Critique points to the antagonistic presence of that which is
denied by the economic categories, social human doing (work, if you like).
It is part of the struggle to strengthen that which exists in the mode of
being denied, part of the struggle for the self-emancipation of the working
class. (In this sense I agree with Paolo that the categories of Capital make
sense only when understood as categories of class struggle.)

    The problem with "Marxist economics" (and this is very clearly
illustrated by Simon's list) is that it tries to answer the questions of
bourgeois economics. It tries to understand "how capitalism works" in a way
that does nothing to bring to light the exclusive constitutive power of
human doing. Class struggle appears as something exogenous to the working of
capitalism (and to capital) and, by implication, revolution can be conceived
only as the intervention of an exogenous force. It is very understandable
that such a view of "Marxist economics" should have flourished when Marxist
thought revolved around the Leninist concept of the party. What I find
strange is that, when many have come to question the Leninist concept of the
party, they retain the same (ultimately absurd) concept of "Marxist

>From: Simon Mohun <s.mohun@qmul.ac.uk>
>To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
>Subject: [OPE-L:7028] Re: Marxist economics?
>Date: Fri, Apr 19, 2002, 5:55 PM

>It seems to me that what we call it doesn't much matter. But there are a 
>whole host of unresolved issues about how contemporary capitalism works. 
>For example:
>1. What determines the value of labour power and wages?
>2. What determines the value of money?
>3. What is the predominant pattern today of technical progress? Has it 
>changed? If so, why?
>4. Why has the rate of profit been rising in major capitalist economies 
>since 1982 or so?
>5. (If you believe in the distinction) what are the consequences of the 
>continuous steady rise in unproductive labour over the last third of the 20C?
>6. Why is inflation so low? (Or, why was it so high in the 70s and 80s?)
>7. What are the economic mechanisms of imperialism?
>8. If finance is an unproductive sector, why is it so predominant?
>9. How do financial derivatives and associated products connect with value 
>10. What determines exchange rate movements?
>(And more generally:
>11. Why is Marxism so male? (Look for example at OPE-L.)
>12. What do we mean by socialism, and how do we think it might work?
>And I could go on.)
>These are serious analytical issues and require serious work. Marxism 
>surely has to be more than just a political rhetoric. Or, there's not a lot 
>of point in trying to change the world if we don't understand it. I guess 
>this is to say that you can call it what you will - economics, Marxist 
>economics, political economy, critique of political economy or whatever 
>-  the questions remain and still require our answers. Don't they?
>At 14:06 19/04/02 -0400, you wrote:
>>In his last message, John Holloway mentions, towards the end:
>> >the impossibility of a Marxist economics
>>I am not quite sure how this should be understood. I agree with the view that
>>what we do is political economy rather than (neoclassical) economics, that
>>they are mutually incompatible, and that a large part of our job is to
>>criticise (neoclassical) economics. In this sense one could argue that
>>"Marxist economics" is a misnomer, and that we do is a "critique of
>>I have also heard the argument that Marxists do *not* do political economy
>>but, rather, a "critique of political economy" - cf. the title of "Capital".
>>I disagree with this view, because I think it conflates what Marxism *does*
>>with Marx's critique of Ricardo, Smith, etc. Therefore, describing our work
>>as a "critique of PE" seems to me both misguided and misleading (but I may be
>>John, can you help?
>Department of Economics,
>Queen Mary, University of London,
>Mile End Road,
>London E1 4NS,
>Tel: +44-(0)20-7882-5089 (direct)
>+44-(0)20-7882-5095/6 (Dept. Office)
>Fax: +44-(0)20-8983-3580

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