[OPE] Jane D'Arista on international Keynesian reformism

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@telfort.nl)
Date: Tue May 06 2008 - 08:07:01 EDT


I suppose I could make heaps more money if I provided marketing tools that gave ordinary bourgeois reformism a new exotic, radical flavor every month. But if doing my own thing intellectually, means contingently that I make less money, so be it - if these reformist ideas are so good, why then are they not taken up, beyond providing a talking point at academic conferences or in publications? 

In reality, some elements of Keynes's General Theory have become ordinary, commonly accepted macroeconomic principles (a "language"), but in substance, Keynesian doctrine is no longer a popular policy orientation among the bourgeois classes. The reason is that the total economic situation now calls for different kinds of policies, and political alignments have changed.

The Left therefore puts forward Keynesian ideology in three main forms:

1) The critique of "military Keynesianism" - military expenditure is supposed to boost the economy (Ticktin, Perelman) or drain the economy (Pollin etc.) or both at the same time.
2) Green corporatist Keynesianism - a populist alliance of governments with big business which puts workers to work in Green jobs, paid for by worker's taxes (Susan George, Al Gore etc.).
3) Post-Keynesian economics, in response to the incoherence of neoclassical economics, rejecting general equilibrium models, revamping monetary theory, and analysing market uncertainty (SOAS, Edward Nell, Randall Wray etc.).

The problem with the reformism of the official Left is not so much that they are reformist per se (nothing wrong with a good social reform), nor that they are flightily in love with Henryk Grossmann one moment, and with JM Keynes the next (anyone in a university setting can be excused for acting as if they are God's teacher, distributing appropriate literature to different learners). 

Rather it is that they are totally confused about the real linkages of particular economic ideas with particular political power blocs in society, about what the real relationship is there. Simply put, the Left doesn't understand what the real connection is between politics and economics, they are just ideologising. The Left is shut out of the corridors of real political power, and it is also shut out at the factory gate and office entrance. What remains are lecture halls, NGO's, conferences, lobbying and jetsetting.

The result of this is trend-following at various forums, where ideas are proposed which do not in fact resonate politically with anybody in particular, and do not have any tangible result for anything other than career advancement. A lot of brainstorming occurs at gatherings where people bear witness to the faith, out of which the political class then picks out a few ideas that are useful for their regime. 

The activity of leftwing reformism is needed, because it provides financial policy with a human face, and it suggests good intentions. But in fact no real progressive reform results out of it, other than policies which were already going to be implemented anyway. There seems to be a flurry of activity, but in truth nothing is really happening.


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