Re: [OPE] Political Economy for the 21st Century

From: Paul Zarembka <>
Date: Sun Sep 20 2009 - 16:32:12 EDT

I will presenting an invited paper (a joint paper with David MacGregor)
at this conference. The title is "*Marxism, **Conspiracy**, and 9-11*".

The beginning cites Adam Smith and may, or may not, stimulate interest.
It is below and we find it very interesting. We are indebted to Dogan
for the Smith citation. If you wish the full paper, just email me
privately by Wednesday.

One important point we are making is that Marx discussed conspiracy and
knew that it was important but did not articulate a distinction between
acts of the capitalist state which are public and those which are hidden
(and thus conspiritorial). The consequence has been less attention
within marxism to conspiracy than we think Marx intended.

Paul Z.


Back at the time of the initiation of the American Revolution against
British colonialism, Adam Smith presciently commented that

The workmen desire to get as much, the masters to give as little as
possible. The former are disposed to combine in order to raise, the
latter in order to lower the wages of labour.

It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must,
upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and
force the other into a compliance with their terms. The masters, being
fewer in number, can combine much more easily; and the law, besides,
authorises, or at least does not prohibit their combinations, while it
prohibits those of the workmen....

We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though
frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account,
that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the
subject. Masters are always and every where in a sort of tacit, but
constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour above
their actual rate. To violate this combination is every where a most
unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his
neighbours and equals. We seldom, indeed, hear of this combination,
because it is the usual, and one may say, the natural state of things
which nobody ever hears of. Masters too sometimes enter into particular
combinations to sink the wages of labour even below this rate. These are
always conducted with the utmost silence and secrecy, till the moment of
execution, and when the workmen yield, as they sometimes do, without
resistance, though severely felt by them, they are never heard of by
other people. Such combinations, however, are frequently resisted by a
contrary defensive combination of the workmen; who sometimes too,
without any provocation of this kind, combine of their own accord to
raise the price of their labour. Their usual pretences[1] <#_ftn1> are,
sometimes the high price of provisions; sometimes the great profit which
their masters make by their work. But whether their combinations be
offensive or defensive, they are always abundantly heard of. In order to
bring the point to a speedy decision, they have always recourse to the
loudest clamour, and sometimes to the most shocking violence and
outrage. They are desperate, and act with the folly and extravagance of
desperate men, who must either starve, or frighten their masters into an
immediate compliance with their demands....

-- paragraph 11, 12, and 13)

What can be noticed in Smith is the observation that owners and workers
both combine, but owners do so in secret, while workers do not. Thus,
workers are not in fact “conspiring” (acting together in secret), while
capitalists do “conspire”. If Smith's understanding of the class
practices is correct, we can say that general opposition to theories of
a conspiracy, without considering the merits of a particular
argumentation, is a bourgeois construct. That is, the bourgeoisie
recognizes that workers do not conspire (as the word is understood) yet
take care to ascribe - to ideologize - the same non-conspiracy to
themselves. This ideologizing works most effectively with those who
don't experience working-class life and its direct experience of
hostility from the capitalist class, i.e., the petit bourgeosie
(including the academic world).


[1] <#_ftnref1>The editor of the modern edition notes: “The word is used
as elsewhere in Adam Smith without the implication of falsity now
attached to it: a pretence is simply something put forward.”

(V23) THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF 9-11, Seven Stories Press softcover, 2008 2nd ed
====> Research in Political Economy, Emerald Group, Bingley, UK
====> Paul Zarembka, Editor

DGöçmen wrote:
> The conference held in Turkey/Kocaeli (nearby İstanbul) is the first
> annual conference of the series of conferences to be organised under
> the general heading of *International Congress of Political Economy*.
> Next year's conference might be on Keynes, Marx and crisis. This is
> not definit yet. (please see:
> Unfortunately Michael Lebowitz will not be able to attend the
> conference due to his other commitments (publications, conferences
> etc). He may come to our next year's conference. Neither Samir Amin
> will probabily be able to attend the Conference. We have not heart
> from him for quit a while. So we do not know exactly whether he is
> going to attend or not. Most probabily not. Michael Perelman is asked
> to make the opening speech of the Conference on the challenges for
> political economy of the 21st century. He will be followed by Tülin
> Öngen (University of Ankara) who will be talking about 'Wich Political
> Economy?', and Vivienne Brown (International Adam Smith Society/Open
> University) on Adam Smith. Besides invited speakers, there are around
> 80 papers to be presented to the Conference. If anyone interested:
> together with Ismail Siriner I will be presenting a paper on *Adam
> Smith's Understanding of Human Conditions in the age of "Commercial
> Society" and UTOPİA*.
> With regard to publications: selections of the papers presented to the
> Conference will probabliy be published in Research in Political
> Economy (English), in Turkish Journal of Political Economy (English
> and Turkish) and in Adam Smith Review. The whole Conference papers
> will be published in a volume in Turkey/Ankara by Dipnot Kitapevi.
> There are also some international publishers interested in publishing
> a selection of papers. This stil need to be figured out.
> Anybody on the list is very welcome to attend the Conference and some
> of you may be invited to the next year's Conference on the crisis.
> We owe to our list a lot that this Conference was made possible though
> it may not be abvious at first sight.
> Best wishes,
> D.Göçmen
> -----Original Message-----
> From: michael perelman <>
> To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list <>
> Sent: Sun, Sep 20, 2009 5:44 am
> Subject: [OPE] Political Economy for the 21st Century
> I was asked to give an opening talk to a conference in Turkey.
> Michael20 Lebowitz, of 21st Century Socialism, will be attending, so I
> hope that he will appreciate the title assigned to me. I have dashed
> off the beginnings, before I get to Marx. I would appreciate any
> comments that you might have.
> Read more at:
> -- Michael Perelman
> Economics Department
> California State University
> Chico, CA
> 95929
> 530 898 5321
> fax 530 898 5901
> _______________________________________________
> ope mailing list
> <>
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> _______________________________________________
> ope mailing list

ope mailing list
Received on Sun Sep 20 16:35:41 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Wed Sep 30 2009 - 00:00:02 EDT