Re: [OPE-L] Marxist Political Economy in Australia Since the Mid 1970s

From: Michael Heinrich (m.heinrich@PROKLA.DE)
Date: Sun Apr 10 2005 - 21:37:46 EDT

michael a. lebowitz schrieb:

> I think both Ranganayakamma and Michael Heinrich are forgetting about
> The Inaugural Address of the First International, where Marx spoke
> explicitly about two political economies--- the political economy of
> capital and the political economy of the working class and about two
> victories for the political economy of the working class. I explore this
> in my 'Beyond CAPITAL: Marx's Political Economy of the Working Class'
> (Palgrave, 2003) and more recently in 'Beyond the Muck of Ages' in the
> forthcoming Bonefeld and Psychopedis volume I mentioned recently.
> Really, if political economy as such is the appropriate object of
> critique, then what sense do people make of the two victories that Marx
> describes and his statement that 'social production controlled by social
> foresight... forms the political economy of the working class'? I think
> it should be understood that the critique of political economy that Marx
> pursues in CAPITAL is class-specific--- ie., is the critique of the
> political economy of capital.
>         in solidarity,
>          michael

The problem is not the name ("critique of political economy" or
"poltical economy of the working class" or something else) but the
content: the fundamental difference between what was called "political
economy" (in Marx's days and what is called "economics" nowadays) and
the project of Marx.

This difference is not only one in the aims, to serve capital or to
serve the working class, it is a difference in the way of conceiving
capitalism. The left Ricardians also wanted to serve the working class,
but their conceptional means of conceiving didn't leave the conceptional
framework of political economy. Marx criticized fundamental terms of
political economy, he offered not only different answers, above all, he
put at a very fundamental level different questions (I quoted one of
these different questions in my last mail).

The "Inaugural Address", on which Michael L. refers, is not a scientific
text, it is a propaganda text. Accentuating this, I don't want to say
that this is a bad thing (of course we need such texts) but we must have
in mind the difference. A propaganda text presents only results, it
cannot give the reason for these results, this must be done in a
scientific text. And in the scientific text, which gives this reasons,
"Capital", Marx insists not on a "political economy of the working
class", but on "Critique of Political Economy", attacking "the"
economists, and I think in this point he was right.

Paul Zarembka schrieb:

 >> Speaking about Marx, the difference between "Political Economy" and
 >> "Critique of Poltical Economy" is crucial.
 > Too much is made of these debates.
 > Recall Marx said that he himself is an "economist" in his Foreword to
 > Poverty of Philosophy:

In "Poverty of Philosphy", published in 1847, I think, Marx was indeed
an "economist". He used the Ricardian theory to criticize Proudhon but
he had no other critique on Ricardo than he (Ricardo) thinks that
capitalism is eternal. Marx accepted as well Ricardo's theory of value
as his theory of money. It was only after 1850, when Marx studied at the
  Library of the British Museum, that he slowly started with his
critique (Marx himself accentuated the importance of the year 1850 in
his preface of 1859 and we can follow this process in his letters and
above all in his "London notebooks", which fill several volumes of MEGA).

These debates, Paul Z. thinks "too much is made of" deal with the
decisive difference between the Marxian project and what Marx is
criticizing: "political economy".

Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM schrieb:

 > Ranga and Michael H,
 > Three very brief responses to your questions and comments:
 > 1.  I  agree with the thrust of Simon's comments in the following
 > post:
 > 2.  Whatever you call the group of people working and/or writing in
 > this area of specialization (and, yes, it has indeed become an area of
 > specialization), there will be problems with the name.  If either of
 > you think you have a better name to describe this group, let us know
 > and we can discuss it.
 > 3.  I am not completely unsympathetic to your remarks about the
 > importance of 'critique of political economy.' I think it's true that
 > for most of the XXth Century, most Marxists did not recognize or
 > understated the importance of critique of political economy to Marx's
 > project in _Capital_. Yet, I think that many now bend the stick too
 > far in the opposite direction. The purpose or aim of _Capital_ was not
 > _just_ a critique of political economy. Marx, after all, didn't say
 > that "the ultimate aim of his work is to critique political economy
 > and thereby expose its mystifications and fetishizations." Instead, he
 > claimed that "it is the ultimate aim of this work to reveal the
 > economic law of motion of modern society."
 > In solidarity, Jerry

I agree, that the aim of "Capital" is not "just" a critique of political
economy but to "reveal the economic law of motion of modern society"
(and may be that some "bend the stick too far in the opposite direction").
But the problem is, how is this revelation possible. The questions in
Simon's comment are interesting and important, but which conceptual
means are necessary for answering these questions? I think we must be
carefully not to make the same mistake as the "economists". Marx accused
them (at the beginning of chapter 20 of Capital, vol 1), that in their
treatises "their crude obsession with the material side, ignore all
differences of form". A similiar statement can be made on a lot of
traditional marxism. It is an irony of history: the part of "Capital",
Marx reworked the most times, the part on value form analysis, for which
we can find at least seven drafts and presentations between 1857 and
1872 was neglected in marxist discussions for a long time.

Michael H.

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