[OPE-L] on the political economy of the working class

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Mon Apr 11 2005 - 00:24:07 EDT

At 21:37 10/04/2005, Michael Heinrich wrote:
>The "Inaugural Address", on which Michael L. refers, is not a scientific
>text, it is a propaganda text. Accentuating this, I don't want to say
>that this is a bad thing (of course we need such texts) but we must have
>in mind the difference. A propaganda text presents only results, it
>cannot give the reason for these results, this must be done in a
>scientific text.

Rather than dismissing the Inaugural Address as 'a propaganda text', I
think that if you are going to talk about these matters, you should
demonstrate your point that Capital is a critique of all political economy
and not of simply the political economy of capital. Since I've written what
I consider not to be a propaganda text (though, of course, we need such
texts)--- one that finds imminent in Capital  an argument which supports
the distinction Marx (the propagandist) made in the Inaugural Address
between the political economy of capital and the political economy of the
working class, perhaps you should look at that work before presenting your

>And in the scientific text, which gives this reasons,
>"Capital", Marx insists not on a "political economy of the working
>class", but on "Critique of Political Economy", attacking "the"
>economists, and I think in this point he was right.
>Paul Zarembka schrieb:
> >> Speaking about Marx, the difference between "Political Economy" and
> >> "Critique of Poltical Economy" is crucial.
> >
> > Too much is made of these debates.
> >
> > Recall Marx said that he himself is an "economist" in his Foreword to
> > Poverty of Philosophy:
>In "Poverty of Philosphy", published in 1847, I think, Marx was indeed
>an "economist". He used the Ricardian theory to criticize Proudhon but
>he had no other critique on Ricardo than he (Ricardo) thinks that
>capitalism is eternal. Marx accepted as well Ricardo's theory of value
>as his theory of money. It was only after 1850, when Marx studied at the
>  Library of the British Museum, that he slowly started with his
>critique (Marx himself accentuated the importance of the year 1850 in
>his preface of 1859 and we can follow this process in his letters and
>above all in his "London notebooks", which fill several volumes of MEGA).
>These debates, Paul Z. thinks "too much is made of" deal with the
>decisive difference between the Marxian project and what Marx is
>criticizing: "political economy".
>Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM schrieb:
> > Ranga and Michael H,
> >
> > Three very brief responses to your questions and comments:
> >
> > 1.  I  agree with the thrust of Simon's comments in the following
> > post: http://ricardo.ecn.wfu.edu/~cottrell/OPE/archive/0204/0180.html
> >
> > 2.  Whatever you call the group of people working and/or writing in
> > this area of specialization (and, yes, it has indeed become an area of
> > specialization), there will be problems with the name.  If either of
> > you think you have a better name to describe this group, let us know
> > and we can discuss it.
> >
> > 3.  I am not completely unsympathetic to your remarks about the
> > importance of 'critique of political economy.' I think it's true that
> > for most of the XXth Century, most Marxists did not recognize or
> > understated the importance of critique of political economy to Marx's
> > project in _Capital_. Yet, I think that many now bend the stick too
> > far in the opposite direction. The purpose or aim of _Capital_ was not
> > _just_ a critique of political economy. Marx, after all, didn't say
> > that "the ultimate aim of his work is to critique political economy
> > and thereby expose its mystifications and fetishizations." Instead, he
> > claimed that "it is the ultimate aim of this work to reveal the
> > economic law of motion of modern society."
> >
> > In solidarity, Jerry
>I agree, that the aim of "Capital" is not "just" a critique of political
>economy but to "reveal the economic law of motion of modern society"
>(and may be that some "bend the stick too far in the opposite direction").
>But the problem is, how is this revelation possible. The questions in
>Simon's comment are interesting and important, but which conceptual
>means are necessary for answering these questions? I think we must be
>carefully not to make the same mistake as the "economists". Marx accused
>them (at the beginning of chapter 20 of Capital, vol 1), that in their
>treatises "their crude obsession with the material side, ignore all
>differences of form". A similiar statement can be made on a lot of
>traditional marxism. It is an irony of history: the part of "Capital",
>Marx reworked the most times, the part on value form analysis, for which
>we can find at least seven drafts and presentations between 1857 and
>1872 was neglected in marxist discussions for a long time.
>Michael H.

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

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