[OPE-L:1457] Re: RE: Re: Re: Mandel, Mattick, etc.

Jurriaan Bendien (djjb99@worldonline.nl)
Mon, 11 Oct 1999 14:24:19 +0100

Response to Trigg:

I have not read all of Callinicos's books, only some of them. I think he is
very good on social theory, but when he discusses people who don't belong
to his sect but to another (competing) party then it mostly becomes a
nonsense, a sectarian villification. So I don't pay much attention to it,
it has nothing to do with science or scholarship but with political
vendetta's. Personally I have criticisms too of Ernest's conceptualisation
of capitalist crises, but I have not written that up yet, so I cannot show
you a statement of my views. In some ways I am closer to Anwar Shaikh's
conception. But I agree with Ernest that the rate of profit is not the only
thing to consider in understanding capitalist crises, and that in the real
world many forces interact to produce recession or depression. So, there is
no mechanical pattern for each and every crisis, or even a
necessary/logical sequence of events. We can build a "model" of a typical
crisis pattern, but it is only a model and not the reality, which may
diverge from the model.

In solidarity


At 10:56 AM 10/11/99 +0100, you wrote:
>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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