[OPE] Marxist Economics -- A handbook of basic definitions

From: <glevy@pratt.edu>
Date: Thu Oct 16 2008 - 07:41:19 EDT

Originally published in 1998, it can now be downloaded at no cost.

I have some misgivings about a project like this since it makes
seem as if the definitions in "Marxist Economics" are
whereas, we know nothing could be further from the

Original url http://links.org.au/node/686

In solidarity, Jerry

Free download: Marxist
Economics -- A handbook of basic definitions | Links
Marxist Economics -- A handbook of basic definitions (Resistance Books,


This handbook is not, of
course, a substitute for the study of Marxist political economy, but an
aid to that study. It will perhaps prove most useful as an aid to review.
It was first developed for the Fourth International‚&euro;&trade;s
cadre school in Europe. It was subsequently also used by the Democratic
Socialist Party in its cadre school. Along the way, many of the
definitions and explanations were modified to take account of
students‚&euro;&trade; difficulties or further questions.

It may be asked, however, whether there is any longer any purpose in the
study of Marxist economics. Is not Marx‚&euro;&trade;s analysis
discredited by the collapse of the
‚&euro;&oelig;communist‚&euro;Ě states of Europe and
China‚&euro;&trade;s somewhat slower but no less determined path in
the direction of capitalism? Have not Marxist economics been superseded by
Keynesianism, or monetarism, or neo-liberalism?

In fact, Marx
would have changed little if anything in the pages of Capital even if he
had somehow been able to know of the fate of
‚&euro;&oelig;communism‚&euro;Ě in the late 20th century. The
founders of scientific socialism saw their primary function as providing
the proletariat with the intellectual tools it needed in order to
overthrow capitalism; predicting the course of that struggle in anything
but the most general sense was no part of their project, because the
outcome of the struggle was not predetermined.

Marx and Engels
were well aware that the revolutionary surge may be followed by ebb: they
studied carefully the lessons of the 1848 revolution and of the Paris
Commune, as well as of countless lesser battles. The Commune
‚&euro;&rdquo; the first workers‚&euro;&trade; government in
the world ‚&euro;&rdquo; lasted a mere 70 days before it was crushed
by capitalist reaction. The second workers‚&euro;&trade; government,
established by the October Revolution, lasted more than 70 years. There
will be further revolutions, which will be the stronger for learning from
those who have gone before.

We can be certain of more
revolutionary outbreaks for the same reason that Marx‚&euro;&trade;s
political economy is still so relevant. The fundamental
‚&euro;&oelig;laws of motion‚&euro;Ě of capital that Marx
began investigating a century and a half ago continue to operate in modern
capitalism, despite the myriad changes in capitalism‚&euro;&trade;s
surface features and the rare more substantive developments (the most
important of which was the development of imperialism). Indeed, the
student who approaches Capital for the first time is invariably struck by
the insights it provides into modern phenomena; this is itself a testimony
to how deeply and accurately Marx‚&euro;&trade;s analysis

As for alternative schools of economics, most do
not rise above what Marx dismissively characterised as
‚&euro;&oelig;vulgar economics‚&euro;Ě. This is the
non-science that concerns itself, not with the explanation of underlying
causes, but with systematising the impressions created in the mind of the
capitalist by the surface features of the production process. It typically
begins with eternal and a-social ‚&euro;&oelig;factors of
production‚&euro;Ě ‚&euro;&rdquo; or, even worse, with
isolated individuals possessing only
‚&euro;&oelig;needs‚&euro;Ě ‚&euro;&rdquo; and never
gets beyond debating empirical rules for observed rates of wages, profits,
interest and rents.

The enduring superficiality of modern
non-Marxist economics is most clearly demonstrated by its inability to
overcome the ‚&euro;&oelig;micro-macro‚&euro;Ě divide: for
individual and aggregate behaviour, this would-be science possesses two
quite different sets of analysis and explanation, with no way of
connecting the two. In Marx‚&euro;&trade;s analysis, of course,
there is no such divide.

It is worth recalling that Marx has
been declared ‚&euro;&oelig;outdated‚&euro;Ě for at least a
century by economists most of whose names and ideas are now known only to
specialists. It is a safe bet that Marx‚&euro;&trade;s epochal work
will also outlast the more recent fads.

-- Allen Myers, June

Download the full text of Marxist Economics -- A
handbook of basic definitions (Resistance Books, 1998).

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Received on Thu Oct 16 07:47:29 2008

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