[OPE-L:97] [OPE-L:333] Re: Re: conference on Hyman Minsky

riccardo bellofiore (bellofio@cisi.unito.it)
Thu, 12 Nov 1998 17:05:23 -0700

At 11:50 -0500 3-11-1998, Gerald Levy wrote:
>Riccardo (Master Organizer of conferences) wrote:
>Is this Richard B. Day, the author of _The 'Crisis' and the 'Crash':
>Soviet Studies of the West (1917-1939)_ that Alan has been on a quest
>to locate for a few years? [If not, perhaps he knows where his namesake is
>What do you (Riccardo) think that Marxists can learn from the writings of
>Minsky? Is it just non-linear chaotic theory or are there other valuable
>lessons/contributions? Answers by others are, of course, welcome as
>In solidarity, Jerry
>PS: What do you think about Duncan's archives proposal?

Dear Jerry,

I am sorry for this late reply, but as you may imagine I was (and
am) very busy these times.

(i) regarding Richard Day, I sent a message to the Richard Day coming
to our conference. He didn't answered yet. I saw that several other
messages already gave hints that the two are different. When I'll heard
from 'my' Richard Day, or when I'll see him in Bergamo next month, I'll let
you know.

(ii) I like very much the way you pose the question, what Marxist can
learn from the writings of Minsky. I like it, beacuse I fear the usual way
the question would be posed by Marxists is: what Marxists can teach to the
followers of Minsky.
The issue, of course, is not easy, and I must be very brief. I
think that the interesting points from Minsky are: (a) a rereading of the
Keynesian legacy when the economic system has already a big government and
complex, long-lived financial arrangements; (b) the financial instability
hypothesis, where instability is not 'dynamic' but 'structural'; (c) the
policy consequences he drew from (a) and (b), including the suggestions for
the creation of new institutional 'ceilings' and 'floors' constraining the
contemporary form of capitalist instability and the achievement of full
These three are, more or less, the topics of his three books in
sequence (Keynes; Can it happen again?; Stabilizing an unstable economy),
and the same are the blueprint around which I structured the Bergamo
From each one, several points of interest for Marxians springs out.
>From (a), a reconstruction of the capitalist mechanism where the price
behaviour (of the producers of means of production) and the shifts in the
liquidity of agents are affected by monetary creation (ex nihilo)
anticipating valorization in an uncertain environment. From (b), a
macrofoundation of micro behaviour, where the macro ('class') environment
determines individual behaviour, which in turn reacts on the environment,
and where the system has an internal evolution towards financial fragility
which eventually imposes paradigm shifts in the macro 'regulation'. From
(c), a policy analysis going against the current 'financialization' of
capital and mass unemployment.
I think Marxists should be interested to all the three issues. I
also think that Marxism is, first of all, 'critique' of political economy.
Critique means, according to my point of view, a criticism *which
highlights the kernel of truth of political economy*. After more than one
hundred years, some of us also know that the same critique of political
economy has holes to be remedied. The 'critique' must be applied also to
May be Minsky is useful both as a 'political economist' to be
subjected to critique in the above sense, and as a political economist
helping in overcoming some of the problems hindering the development of
Marxism. After the conference I hope I'll know more about all this. Now,
let me simply remind my old suggestion that Marx was quite strong in his
labour theory of value and in his stress that value has an essential
monetary dimension, but was weak in his positive monetary analysis. He was
weak not relative to his contemporaries, but relative to successfull later
advances in monetary theory. It is clear then that Minsky is in the
forefront of the monetary analysis to be referred to by Marxists.
Especially if they don't want simply to criticize Minsky from the vantage
point of Marx, but want to advance Marxism with the help of Minsky.
Moreover, I think that some hints of Minsky on instability and onthe
different "57" types of capitalism are to be studied carefully.
All this said, let me add that Minsky's theory is far from being
coherent or totally convincing. I will only suggest three unresolved
issues: the distinction between money and liquidity is often overlooked;
the upper turning point in the cycle is arbitrary: the macro-micro
relationship is muddled. But this is an incomplet list.

Let me add that two persons on this list (or that I think are on
this list) have very good papers on Minsky. One is Maria Mollo Rollenberg,
and the other is Steve Keen. BTW, Maria, did you get my mail about the
conference? And, BTW2, it is very unlikely that Meghnad Desai will come to
Bergamo, since he will be in Pakistan almost in the same days, and he will
be then substituted by Steve Keen.

(iii) You ask me what I think of Duncan's archival proposal. I hope I am
not too late in saying that I wholeheartedly support Duncan's idea of a
"Bourbaki" kind of policy as reproduced below:

>I'd like to see the archives opened with some simple, enforceable, and
>easily understandable policy that would let people see what's being said
>and protect against the possible misuse of the material for quotation. I
>guess my favorite idea is a "Bourbaki" kind of policy in which people can
>quote the archive as much as they want to, but only cite it as OPE-L
>generically, so that no member of the list has to defend every word that he
>or she posts. This is simple, and I don't see any particular flaw in it,
>though it would also prevent individual members of the list from claiming
>polemical credit for particular exchanges, as well. But it would get the
>ideas out in the public domain.
>The alternative of requiring people to check with particular authors about
>each quote seems to me cumbersome and unworkable. It may be difficult to
>find the person, to establish context, etc., etc., and the whole thing
>could get to be a major headache for you.



Riccardo Bellofiore
Department of Economics
Piazza Rosate, 2
I-24129 Bergamo, Italy
e-mail: bellofio@cisi.unito.it
or: bellofio@unibg.it
tel: (39) 035 277505 (direct)
(39) 035 277501 (dept.)
(39) 011 5819619 (home)
fax: (39) 035 249975