Re: [OPE] Jane D'Arista on international Keynesian reformism

From: Patrick Bond (
Date: Tue May 06 2008 - 14:34:36 EDT

Jurriaan Bendien wrote:
 > Patrick,
 > ...The Left therefore puts forward Keynesian ideology in three main 
 > 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.).

I haven't seen Susan George allied with Al Gore!

But beyond Post-Keynesian economics, surely there's also a fourth: the 
call for euthanasia of rentiers, i.e., the populist attack on bankers.

And a fifth might be the critique of globalisation in Keynes' 1933 Yale 
Review article, shared by the Seattle generation (and me too): "I 
sympathize with those who would minimize, rather than with those who 
would maximize, economic entanglement among nations. Ideas, knowledge, 
science, hospitality, travel - these are the things which should of 
their nature be international. But let goods be homespun whenever it is 
reasonably and conveniently possible and, above all, let finance be 
primarily national." Keynes, J.M. (1933), ‘National Self Sufficiency,’ 
Yale Review, 22, 4, p.769.

 > 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.

There, I agree entirely. Not because the "left" have got these power 
relations wrong but because Keynesian reformers - someone like Tobin, or 
pseudo-Keynesians like Sachs - think their policy advice has a chance in 
hell of being adopted.

 > Simply put, the Left

Ahem, if you mean the Marxist left, I don't think the next sentence is 
true (maybe with the exception of David Harvey's uncharacteristic call 
for a New Deal in his book The New Imperialism).

 > 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.

Agreed. That indeed was the point of the paper I presented: the reforms 
from above - which have no chance of being adopted - need a reality 
check by assessing real activities of movements from below.

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