[OPE-L:4739] Re: opposition to Hayek

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Sat, 12 Apr 1997 06:14:41 -0700 (PDT)

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Paul C wrote in [OPE-L:4725]:

(1) socialism

> The politics of the 20th century have been dominated by the epochal
> political struggle between socialism and capitalism. For most of this
> century two quite different economic systems have existed on this
> planet with correspondingly different theoretical reflections. The
> theoretical proponents of each system have tried to construct a
> systematic critique of the other system.

As you know, this has been a subject of intense controversy among Marxists
during this century. I think the only possible basis for agreement -- at
this point -- given the various interpretations on the list regarding
"actually existing socialism" (e.g. socialism, state capitalism,
degenerated and deformed workers states, etc.) is that the historical
experience of the "socialist" (note quote - " ..." - marks) countries
*needs* to be evaluated by contemporary Marxists. I doubt if any
Marxists would challenge that proposition. Yet, *how* one evaluates
those historical experiences depends in large part on whether one
characterizes those social formations as "socialist" or something else.

(2) Austrian school of marginalism

> [...] The corresponding body of theory on the other
> side has been the austrian school of von Mises and Hayek. This
> school has as its prime objective the critique of socialist economy.
> This is probably the most significant new component of bourgeois
> political economy this century.

I don't think this is accurate as a history of thought interpretation. No
doubt, the Austrian economists were reactionary politically. Yet, I think
the "agenda" of the early Austrians like Bohm-Bawerk and Menger was driven
more by a "positive" (as distinct from normative) drive to conceptualize
*capitalism* in a manner more consistent with their methodology and
understanding of socio-economic forces (i.e. to develop an alternative
explanation of capitalism in contrast to classical political economy).
Perhaps surprisingly, their critique of classical theory retained two of
the principle beliefs of classical theory -- the belief that capitalists
(or "entrepreneurs") were the driving force behind capitalism and the
laissez-faire policy doctrine (on that last point, there is a point of
partial agreement re the role of the state in terms of both libertarians
and anarchists). It is, of course, true that Bohm-Bawerk, Hayek and von
Mises engaged in a ideologically (in part) driven critique of Marx,
Marxism, and socialism -- but that seems to me to have been a
*secondary* aspect of their "project." In terms of understanding
capitalism, I would even add that the Austrian school with its emphasis
on production, money, accumulation, time, etc. is _more_ capable of
explaining capitalism than the Walrasian general equilibrium theory

Riccardo: what do you think Marxists can learn from the Austrians?

In solidarity, Jerry