[OPE] "an immense accumulation of factors": Rick Wolff's partial list of causes of the economic crisis

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@tiscali.nl>
Date: Mon Nov 17 2008 - 02:11:35 EST


Yes, Paul Mattick like Makoto Itoh accused Ernest Mandel of eclecticism, partly because (1) often Mandel did not sufficiently integrate the relationship between "partially autonomous variables" showing how exactly they are related (2) a multi-causal approach runs into the problem that it takes a lot of work to provide the evidence and argument that could prove how the different causes are related and what the weight of each is -Mandel as activist wrote his big books rather fast at the expense of going in depth, (3) the problem of how exactly Marx's theory relates to the empiria has never been satisfactorily resolved, (4) Mandel is quite willing to adopt ideas from non-Marxist authors in the same way that Marx adopted ideas from classical political economists. It's a very elaborate interpretation, but it is often not quite clear what necessarily follows from it, or what you could predict from it, since among other things the same events could be explicable in terms of many different alignments of a range of factors. This is essentially a dispute about what we require from a good theory.

I personally don't subscribe to either Mandel's or Mattick's theoretical framework, though I think they both offer useful insights. In my view, we are in a post-Keynesian era now, in which many of Keynes's ideas no longer apply, and are no longer influential. In response to depressed average industrial rates of profit and stagnant real wages limiting market expansion, a global system of trade, credit and finance developed (exascerbating unequal exchange) which makes many Keynesian prescriptions impossible to operationalize. I do not regard tax & interest rate cuts, state capital injections, and a deflationary monetary regime as specifically "Keynesian" policies.

I do not assert that the factors Wolff mentions are unrelated to the crisis, it is just not clear to me how they are related, and I am not convinced that he solves that problem. The world economy is an enormously complex totality which could be analysed in many different ways. The issue is then what questions we are asking, and why those questions need to be asked. In that case, I am likely to query, "If Marxism is the answer, what is the question?". Marxists aim to prove that Marx already has all the answers to all of the questions, but I am not convinced that this is the case. That aside, I have my own questions I seek an answer to.


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Received on Mon Nov 17 02:13:52 2008

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