Re: (OPE-L) 'The Bizarre World of Bourgeois Economics'

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@STANFORD.EDU)
Date: Sat Nov 01 2003 - 13:24:25 EST

>A short article from  the April 22, 2001 issue of
>_People's Democracy_ by Kartik Rai.
>Is a critique of bourgeois economics that rests on
>challenging the assumption of full employment a
>sufficient basis for critique?
>In solidarity, Jerry

Jerry, thanks much for this piece.

Rai writes:

>The "uncompetitive" nature of much of our traditional agriculture
>and textiles, and the "competitive" nature of IT and other such
>sectors, would, after trade has been "liberalised," result in two
>phenomena: a shift of capital from the former to the latter, and
>hence a widening of the wage/salary disparities between the workers
>employed in the two spheres. This widening would push disparities
>above the costs of training and acquisition of skills, because of
>which more and more workers belonging to the "uncompetitive" sectors
>would acquire skills and migrate to the "competitive" sectors. Of
>course, these workers on their own may not be able to afford the
>cost of acquiring skills, but if the disparities exceed the cost of
>skill acquisition then profit-maximising capitalists in the
>"competitive" sectors would themselves find it worthwhile to
>undertake training programmes for the workers in "uncompetitive"
>sectors. (Even other capitalists having nothing to do with either
>sector may undertake such training for profit by charging an
>appropriate price for it.) Since, by assumption, full employment of
>all workers is maintained at all times (the declining sectors
>resorting to wage-cuts rather than employment-cuts), when
>wage-disparities have finally come down, through such labour
>migration, to equal only the cost of training and no more or no
>less, society would have the same disparities as before but would
>have shifted a part of its work-force from the declining to the
>expanding sectors, through whose exports it would be able to get
>more of the declining sector's products (if it so chose) than what
>the level of domestic production of the latter would have been if
>the work-force had not shifted.

I'm not clear as to what Rai is arguing. Is he arguing that if the
state could afford retraining or wouldn't be punished for financing
it by liberalized capital markets, the adjustment process as
envisioned by neoclassical economics would result?
I think it's a mistake to equate bourgeois ideology with neo
classical economics. As it's perfectly clear that this adjustment
process will sink people into undisguised or disguised unemployment
(e.g servants of the rich whose income sinks well the reproduction
costs of labor), bourgeois ideology has  tended to move from the
harmonies of neo classical economics to the brutal "truths" of Social
Darwinism, i.e. the idea that with "skill intensive technological
change" and "rising organizational complexity" many people (including
entire racial minority groups) are simply unfit for (and thus a drag
on) the modern world. Sandy Darity has revealed how committed the
American economics profession was to the so called black
disappearance hypothesis at the turn of the last century. One should
not simply assume that it is radical or benign to call for economics
to be modelled on biology rather than physics. The former has yielded
Social Darwinism after all. I'll have to remind myself what Geoff
Hodgson, early neo Ricardian of Marx, says about this. There is also
a book co authored by Francis  Green on retraining and skilling of


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