[OPE-L:7060] Re: Re: Re: Marxist economics?

From: Simon Mohun (s.mohun@qmul.ac.uk)
Date: Wed Apr 24 2002 - 19:03:05 EDT

John Holloway (hi John) writes:
>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 {snip}
>     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.

This seems to me to be a very one-sided view. I think John is identifying 
Marxist economics with bourgeois economics. One of the strengths of the 
former is precisely that it does identify how and why social relations are 
fetishized. But I don't think that that is the end of the matter. It is 
then necessary to use that understanding of fetishism as part of the study 
of quite concrete issues.

For example, suppose one thinks that money is an abstract universal which 
presents itself as a concrete particular, a hypostatization in which the 
subject-predicate inversion of the Hegelian dialectic is concretely 
manifested in money. It doesn't follow from that general understanding that 
it is wrong to inquire into the value of money, and its rate of change, and 
(perhaps) to understand exchange rates as the ratio of different national 
values of money. But equally to abandon concrete study and remain with a 
generalised critique of fetishism seems to get one precisely nowhere.

John remarks that you cannot understand 'how capitalism works' unless you 
'bring to light the exclusive constitutive power of human doing'. I agree, 
but that is surely just the labour theory of value. That theory has to be 
concretized by addressing practical issues, and that in turn might require 
some technical analysis (whether mathematical or statistical). Otherwise we 
only have flowery general phrases coupled with a generalised obscuranticism 
concerning the scientific study of capitalism. On a practical and mundane 
level, if you don't know how something works and you want to replace it, 
you just cannot know whether you are replacing it with anything different.

Hope this isn't too provocative.


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