[OPE-L:1455] RE: Re: Re: Mandel, Mattick, etc.

Mon, 11 Oct 1999 10:56:41 +0100

I wonder if you had seen the book by Callinicos, On Trotskyism, where he
tears into Mandel for having a pluaralistic theory of crisis - i.e. there
are a number of explanations for crisis, not one the falling rate of profit.
There is no methodological guidance as to which is better, it seems to me.

Andrew (Trigg)

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Jurriaan Bendien [SMTP:djjb99@worldonline.nl]
> Sent: 07 October 1999 22:42
> To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu
> Subject: [OPE-L:1443] Re: Re: Mandel, Mattick, etc.
> Jerry wrote:
> It might be
> >interesting to ask how Grossmann's methodological perspectives and
> >interpretations affected the works of Mattick, Mandel, and Rosdolsky.
> I can comment only provisionally on Mandel, of whom I am preparing a
> complete bibliography (currently estimated at around 1700 original
> writings, but in the finish probably more like 2500 original writings).
> Mandel was appreciative in a non-sectarian way but at the same time highly
> critical throughout his life of Grossman and Mattick, particularly in
> regard to crisis theory (see the first chapter of Late Capitalism). He
> learnt more from Rosdolsky to whom Late Capitalism is dedicated.
> Mattick disliked Mandel inter alia because Mandel often tried to integrate
> insights from non-Marxist economists such as Schumpeter into Marxism, and
> for Mattick this meant a "bourgeoisification" of Marxism. The question
> however is raised whether Marx himself was not also a bourgeois, who
> critically assimilated bourgeois economists such as Smith and Ricardo, and
> why Marx should be the only one allowed to do that for the working class.
> When commenting on Mandel, Mattick Jr and Mattick Sr usually distort what
> Mandel really has to say, and sometimes the distortion is extreme (e.g. in
> the dictionary on neo-Marxism). Underlying this is the basic political
> debate between council communism and Trotskyism.
> A big difference between Mandel and most other Marxists qua method is that
> for Mandel, although the evolution of the rate of profit is central to the
> explanation of capitalist development, the evolution of this rate is more
> what needs explaining itself, rather than the factor which does all the
> explaining. Consequently Mandel's book Late Capitalism is structured more
> around basic variables which can affect the rate and mass of profit. By
> taking this approach, Mandel believed that it was possible to integrate
> economic theory with economic history better. His specific long-wave
> theory
> is a further development of this theme.
> In the area of dialectics, Mandel did not really follow Marx so much, but
> Trotsky. This meant essentially applying the theory of combined and uneven
> development and rejecting "single factor" theories of capitalist
> development, history, and crisis. His opponents therefore claim he is
> "eclectic". To this criticism Mandel wrote several lenghty replies, and
> towards the end of his life he developed a theory of parametric
> determinism. For a long time Mandel really rejected dialectics in the
> sense of basic ontological principles, but later on he became more
> appreciative again of dialectical ontology.
> As regards methodology, roughly speaking Mandel claims that Marx's
> dialectical method consists of six "moments", namely 1. assimilating the
> facts, 2. analysing the facts in their constituent abstract elements, 3.
> exploring the connections between these elements, 4. pinpointing the
> intermediate links between essence and appearance (movement from abstract
> to concrete), 5. practical verification of the analysis in real historical
> development, 6. discovering new data and connections through applying the
> results of knowledge gained. Mandel puts this more eloquently than I have
> done (see Late Capitalism, p16f). But otherwise he did not make a big
> point
> of talking about methodology, because he felt that people who discuss a
> lot
> about "how to" methodology rarely end up doing real and substantive
> research.
> Mandel's economic writings are a mixed bag. Some are brilliant, profound
> and creative, others have to be judged shallow, wrongheaded and largely
> speculative. As an economist Mandel engaged in a lot of speculative
> thinking I would say, which is highly suggestive but often must be
> corrected or rejected. He simply did not have very much time for
> comprehensive and systematic economic research that meets the best
> scholarly standard (compare for instance the work of Fransisco Louca).
> Mandel lacked a profound understanding of mathematical relationships.
> Often
> he only suggested a way of thinking about economic problems, an approach,
> rather than doing substantive analysis himself.
> Personally I think his best economics book is his first, Marxist Economic
> Theory. (finished 1960 when he was 37), although Mandel himself later said
> it was "far too descriptive" and not theoretical enough. I personally
> believe that book was superior to Sweezy's comparable work The Theory of
> Capitalist Development. Isaac Deutscher said the approach of Marxist
> Economic Theory was "Cartesian", and there is an element of truth in that.
> Mandel's philosophical interest later in life lay more with Spinoza, whom
> he studied in considerable detail, as well as Leibniz.
> Tariq Ali considered Mandel lacked a sufficient understanding of sexuality
> and of sexual needs, which distorted his theorising. Probably Mandel had
> little understanding of American sexuality. But I personally estimate that
> Mandel did have a quite sufficient understanding of sexuality, although he
> did not theorise it, and that if his theorising was distorted, this was
> due
> more to other factors such as political commitments, and trying to do more
> than he really could do well.
> For some further comment on Mandel, see the book by Gilbert Achcar (ed),
> The Legacy of Ernest Mandel (Verso, 1999). The contributors have mostly
> only studied part of Mandel's writings, not all of them, however. I did
> not
> write an article for this book apart from translating an article by Mandel
> himself for it, called "Why I am a Marxist".
> In solidarity
> Jurriaan

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