[OPE-L:7039] [Harry Cleaver] Re: a boring question (for John H and others)

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Mon Apr 22 2002 - 08:40:51 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Harry M. Cleaver" <hmcleave@eco.utexas.edu>
Sent: Monday, April 22, 2002 8:12 AM
Subject: Re: Fw: [OPE-L:7031] Re: a boring question (for John H and others)

> PS: I used to have this same argument with my old thesis advisor, John
> Gurley at Stanford thirty years ago. Because I started economics focusing
> on development economics where they "strategic" element is usually quite
> explicit I was only briefly bamboozled by the "ideological" element. It
> took John a while longer to see how even his abstract financial theory
> stuff was part of the larger strategic picture.
> On Sat, 20 Apr 2002, gerald_a_levy wrote:
> <snip>
> > > I think that economists, especially economists working in academia,
> > a
> > > very  poor and incomplete grasp of the the 'plans' of  capital and the
> > > state.
> I think this is a poor general statement because it ignores the structure
> of policy making and the varied role of economists, both those in the
> academy and others, in relationship to that making. Some of what is said
> below is true, some of the time, and quite false some of the time.
> > Nor do  most  mainstream (bourgeois) economists -- either
> > > consciously or unconsciously --  help to develop capitalist strategy
> > the
> > > tactics to be used against the rest of us.
> If "most" economists are low level teaching hacks, then this statement is
> undoubtedly true. I don't know what the statistics are, but obviously the
> ill-paid teacher plugging away trying to earn a wage in a jr college is
> not the kind of economist who "helps develop capitalist strategy". There
> is a whole structure, however, involving thousands of those who do that
> includes people in the academy, think tanks, the state and private
> sector.
> > This is the case for a number
> > of
> > > reasons:
> > >
> > > l)  as products of academia, they often  work in isolation from
> > capitalists
> > > and state representatives who are the ones who  develop those
> > > and tactics.
> Given the division of labor it is not necessary for many who contribute to
> policy making to have direct contact with "policy makers" at the top,
> whether they be economists, corporate reps or gov bureaucrats. Much of the
> work of policy making is gathering data, working on the technical details
> of processing data and models for handling it etc that doesn't require
> intimate knowledge of the uses to which all this will be put (as we
> discovered vis a vis counterinsurgency research in the 1960s and 1970s).
> All it requires is that the work be done within a spectrum defined by
> those above.
> > 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:
> Who do you think writes these reports? Both content and text are crafted
> by economists (and editors etc). Summers? Stigletz? and these sorts of
> economists oversee the work of their subordinate economists and pull the
> results together into the reports that are vetted by policy-makers at
> higher levels, both economists and non-economists.Reading IMF reports is
> reading economists for the most part, economists working within a
> framework defined by both them and non-economists above them.
> > >
> > > 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
> > > the propaganda itself], and;
> Of course, but this is true anytime you are trying to understand enemy
> plans.
> > >
> > > b) the  economists who are actually the policy advisors might have a
> > > incomplete grasp -- indeed, they might purposely be kept in the
dark --
> > > about the real plans.
> This sounds very conspiratorial in the worst sense. For the most part
> the immediate goals are quite obvious and not misleading: such as
> strategies to increase the supply of savings to facilitate
> expanded investment --for us this means greater capitalist capability to
> exploit, to them it just means more growth. Moreover, economists "at the
> top" who articulate policy are often quite explicit about the political
> framework. E.g., Walt Rostow whose "anti-communist" manifesto laid it all
> out with enough clarity there (and elsewhere) to land him a job as
> national security advisor and architect of the Vietnam war. All this is
> quite clear in the history of development economics and only somewhat less
> clear in the history of economics more generally. Malthus was just as
> explicit about he uses of his population theories in holding down wages
> and attacking welfare.
> > > 2)  ideology can overpower all else such that particular economic
> > > should _just_ be interpreted as ideological rather than as an
> > > of capitalist plans and strategies (Walrasian theory comes to mind);
> I agree with this only for individuals and their motivations. Even general
> equilibrium theory has been put to use designing strategic models. I can
> think of no area of economics that is purely ideological.
> > > 3) economists  are often paid for their output regardless of whether
> > has
> > > "use-value" for  capital and the state.  Thus, the "publish or perish"
> > > imperative tends to lead  very frequently to the creation of
> > > 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 think you are confusing the attitudes of those doing the publishing and
> those deciding what research to fund and which articles to publish.
> Certainly publish and perish leads many to publish any thing they can. On
> the other hand only publishing in "refereed journals" works, and the
> referees are supposed to act as Maxwell's daemons sorting the useful from
> the useless. Others, those directing the flow of research funds, certainly
> direct them to economists working on topics and using methods that are
> more likely to contribute to capitalist strategy. I know of no
> counter-examples of money being throw away on useless work (except by
> mistake --funding research is often like other investment: open to
> failure).
> > >
> > > I never suggested, btw, that the output of mainstream economists
> > > be examined and subjected to critique. Rather, I was putting forward
> > > assessment  of those theories -- in other words, a conclusion of
> If the *only* conclusion is they are boring, then there
> is but little point in examining and critiquing them.
> > > It is,  of course, the  case that hard data and information on the
> > of
> > > the  class enemy are useful in  the class war, but they are pretty
hard to
> > > come by.
> I disagree most profoundly. Read the IMF, its like Mein Kampf, they tell
> you exactly what they are doing and why. Information on "the plans of the
> class enemy" abound, comes in piles and piles of documents and now by
> megabytes. All it requires is decoding and being related to other
> dimensions of capitalist strategy.
> > >  Capitalists, state representatives,  *and* economists don't
> > > always tell us what  their real plans are  even when they know  what
> > > are (surprise.)
> Malthus did. Keynes did. Friedman has. A bevy of World Bank economists and
> Rand Corporation economists have. Etc etc. They may not have had the whole
> story but they have told us exactly what they were trying to do.
> > > Nor can  we assume that economists  speak in a  kind of
> > > "code" which can be  de-ciphered by revolutionaries to reveal the
> > > meaning  embedded  between the lines.  Economists tend to be neither
> > > smart  nor that stupid.
> The "code" is not hidden, it is quite open. "Decoding" means giving it a
> class reading and translating it into our language that better critiques
> what capital is all about. "Investment" = putting more people to work,
> exploitation, increased alienation, restructuring and class decomposition
> etc depending on the context, etc.
> > > 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
> > > BLS, I doubt  that you would thereby have access to information that
> > > revealed the "enemy plans"), and;
> It would be great to have more moles inside the institutions leaking
> "hidden" materials, e.g., IMF confidential reports on countries applying
> for loans, but that is but a tiny part of "plans" and while revealing, not
> necessary to understand the strategies, only the particulars.
> > >
> > > 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
> > > the latter has been  the case -- and indeed, we would expect this
> > > more often than not from a materialist perspective (especially in a
> > > where there isn't a mass redicalization.)
> Hey, it pays to sell your soul. Always has.
> > > 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;
> Most espionage, as Allan Dullas once truthfully said, involves the
> examination and interpretation of publically available information.
> That's what most CIA operatives are doing. Covert research, of course, can
> be dangerous. I had a student who did that in the border
> plants in Juarez, Mexico. Fortunately, he only got jailed. You can read
> the results in the book "Terror of the Machine".
> > > ii) if discovered, even if i) doesn't result, the revolutionary could
> > fed
> > > dis-information or  ounter-spied upon such that the well-being of
> > > revolutionaries are endangered, and;
> Those are the risks. But then we are fed constant "dis-information" in the
> form of interpretations of capitalist strategies and tactics designed to
> get people to think they are in their own interest. Separating
> dis-information from information is part of what espionage is all about.
> > > iii) also often precludes open and  overt  revolutionary political
> > activism
> > > since one's  "cover" would thereby be blown.  Thus, even when
> > > there is a trade-off.
> Yep. Which is one reason why I resisted that route, long ago. But some
> have a taste for it, perhaps, for a year or so. Like I said, a few more
> moles in the IMF or WTO would be nice. Any volunteers? :-)
> Harry
> > >
> > > In solidarity, Jerry
> >
> >
> Snail-mail:
> Harry Cleaver
> Department of Economics
> University of Texas at Austin
> Austin, Texas 78712-1173  USA
> Phone Numbers:
> (hm)  (512) 442-5036
> (off) (512) 475-8535
> Fax:(512) 471-3510
> E-mail:
> hmcleave@eco.utexas.edu
> PGP Public Key:
> Cleaver homepage:
> http://www.eco.utexas.edu/faculty/Cleaver/index2.html
> Chiapas95 homepage:
> http://www.eco.utexas.edu/faculty/Cleaver/chiapas95.html
> Accion Zapatista homepage:
> http://www.utexas.edu/students/nave/

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