[OPE-L:6237] Re: of mice and cats

jurriaan bendien (Jbendien@globalxs.nl)
Tue, 3 Mar 1998 00:19:02 +0100

Thanks to Jerry for his suggestion. Not sure if I am a mouse, but I
suppose I have been rather mousey the last few years of my life, and not
engaging in any substantive scientific research. I have some reflections
and queries, but I'm not sure if they are sufficient to kickstart a big
The thing that interests me nowadays is the question of research
objectives. For instance, while having a high regard for questions of
theory, I wonder whether it really should be a key relevant task of
Marxist economic theory to try and "pinpoint the rate of profit to the last
foot per second" as it were. I am not so worried about the internal
coherence of Marx's theory, I think it is logically coherent, the more
interesting issues concern the mediations which link the abstract laws to
the specific facts, and the specific proportions, or the scale, of
different sorts of economic events in the real world (take e.g. the fact
that the World Bank cannot even account anymore for billions of dollars of
investment funds floating around the world chasing high interest rates, the
tendency towards the privatisation of money capital).
Whatever my reservations, one of the things I liked about Ernest Mandel
was that he tried to use Marxist theory to explain developments in the real
world, he tried to shed light on the nature of the epoch we live in.
Profitability was central to his theory, but he also allowed for an
interplay between quite a number of important variables which can operate
partly independently from each other (multicausal approach), which seems to
me a fruitful approach (even although I am doubtful about some of Ernest's
applications of it). But there seem to be few analysts like him these
days. Frankly many of the Marxist disputes that go on nowadays in the West
seem often a bit "pedantic" to me.
Even though the Marxist perspective has stood up rather better than other
approaches in terms of explaining and predicting economic events in the
last decades, and even though we are better equipped these days to make
comprehensive analyses, there are actually fewer people working on the
Marxist research programme (to borrow a term from Lakatos) than before.
Now why is that, for example ? What are the causes of (relative) leftwing
political and economic incoherence (beyond the demise of social democracy,
Stalinist communism, porno capitalism, postmodernist relativism,
"programmer's consciousness", the relative exhaustion of the May 68
generation etc.) ? Is it simply a question of an overall decline in
working class militancy ? Or is the question too general to be answered ?
For Marx, the economic situation was in the final analysis determining the
total social set-up. So what is really substantially different about the
functioning of capitalist economy today from, say, 15 years ago ? You
would think that a Marxian economist (and I am not a trained economist)
would be able to say something important about that, but I do not come
across much material that addresses this type of question.
Since the mid-1980s the profit rate and the exploitation rate have been
mostly on the rise in the OECD. But these are "indicators" of social
changes among the masses of the people. The main impression I get is not
just that big sectors of the working class in the West have judged it is
better to have a job than to be unemployed, but that they are prepared to
concede a lot of the gains made since World War 2 to stay in a job.
Well I'll leave it at that.



PS - I got myself a modest job here...
> From: Gerald Levy <glevy@pratt.edu>
> To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
> Cc: multiple recipients of list <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
> Subject: [OPE-L] of mice and cats
> Date: Saturday, February 28, 1998 3:32 AM
> "While the cat is away, the mice will play".
> The first day of the 1998 IWGVT has concluded. Many interesting papers
> were presented. Many listmembers ("cats") were present. The "cats" are
> tired, but looking forward (?) to the next two days of the conference.
> Wouldn't this be the perfect time for those who are left behind, the
> "mice", to begin a thread (or threads) on issues that we haven't
> yet (or haven't discussed for a long time)?
> Wouldn't now be a good opportunity to begin to discuss those issues that
> *you* (yes, *you*!) think are important? Or perhaps you would like
> feedback on some paper or project that you are working on?
> In solidarity, Jerry