[OPE-L:302] what's to be done

ECUSER (ECBURKE@scifac.indstate.edu)
Fri, 20 Oct 1995 16:42:07 -0700

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I don't have a long brainstorm, but want to join up with those
preferring a critique of political economy approach to the (re)study
of Marx in connection with our real world. I think we can learn alot
about the process and changing forms of capitalist alienation from
mainstream economics, and I think alienation is an important aspect
of capitalism's historical crisis. By historical crisis I don't
necessarily mean a profitability crisis, but rather the developing
contradiction between private appropriation (the value form of
reproduction) and a socially and ecologically rational development
and utilization of productive forces (including the individual and
collective productive force of knowledgeable human beings interacting
with nature). I, along with Michael P. who has written a lot about
this (though I don't want to put words into your mouth Michael, so
feel free to criticize this view) think that we are living in an era
of profound contradiction between social, science-based productive
forces and the requirements of private profitability and market
forms, and that this contradiction poses a profound challenge for
society if it is to survive as anything other than a techno-barbarism
that marginalizes the needs of a majority of human beings.
Personally I've found Marx's critique of political economy from the
standpoint of value to be quite helpful as an avenue toward at least
posing these contradictions.

At the same time, I greatly respect and admire efforts to carve
out a scientific research agenda in terms of, e.g., the formulation
of empirically testable hypotheses or the theoretical explanation of
important empirical trends and regularities. I also admire and try
to follow the work of those working at the level of high value theory-
--on transformation and rate of profit issues and the like---within
my limited technical competence. But, for me, these areas are
secondary to (or, more positively, tools for or conduits toward) the
understanding of capitalism as an organic system developing in
historical time towards its demise and the movement toward a more
humanly advanced set of socio-economic relations which it may be
possible to hasten in a humane and rational way through collective
political action.

So, I guess in terms of Jerry's suggested 'two groups' (one
discussing basic theory issues like value, abstract labour etc.; one
discussing 'more concrete questions associated with extending Marx'),
I am suggesting that we may really have three groups here, since the
critique of political economy group (assuming I am not really the
only member) would make some use of the concerns of both of Jerry's
two groups, but as a means toward understanding capitalism as an
organic system to deal with questions or topics like: "computers and
the historical (non)progressivity of capitalism", "GATT and the
social and ecological irrationality of capitalism", "central bank
independence and the contradictions of contemporary capitalism", and
other such issues as they exist (and come up seemingly more and more
rapidly these days) in the real world; of course one aspect of this
would be sorting out false issues from real ones . . .

I should also indicate that as a lurker (a polite term for free
rider, I suppose), I have really been enjoying some of the
discussions and don't see why there has to be any air of desperation
about the pace at which the network is itself developing as an
organic (holistic but internally differentiated) entity.

Paul Burkett