File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 389

Date: 	Sat, 18 Oct 1997 22:13:51 -0800
Subject: Re: M-I: Marx and Lenin

Carrol wrote:

>But "we" (those who have, in this case years ago, committed themselves
>to the working class and working-class revolution) go to theory or
>study *because they need it in the struggle*, and it can't help but
>set their teeth on edge (and mine too) when they read such phrases
>as "most stunning insights of contemporary Marxist thought." What
>say? In reference to *what*?

Louis P confessed to an ignorance of Marxist economics. This is an
insecurity many of us have, though Louis P obviously has the technical
skills to take a big bite out of Bortkiewiecz and Okishio. So why does
Louis P remain ignorant of something he could master if he wished?

Probably because he senses that Marx was no an economist; he had no
interest in the putative equilibrium, self-regulating properties of the
system or the  nature of price as an equilibrium mechanism.

And, alas, Marx was not an economist either. What Sayer and Mattick Jr.
are dealing with in part is the nature of the economic categories with
which economists and indeed all those trapped in bourgeois relations come
to understand the world (the laws of supply and demand, the trinity
formula, the value of a debt, the value of labor, and other yellow
logarithms). Despite the  inability to build an explanation of the
crisis-ridden nature of capitalism (or what Schumpeter would call the
heart-beat of capitalism), these categories are nonetheless experienced as
natural. And the theoreticism of economics is shown to be false, nothing
but the totalitarian common sense in which many of us here feel entrapped,
only dressed up in bad mathematics.

Now the problem with Sayer's and Mattick's project--and there are problems
with it--is that it can serve only as fillip to theoretical thinking. I
think Carrol is correct to point to this danger. It does not lead us to
really ask why in this society, there is a such a gap between appearance
and reality, between common sense representations and scientific discovery
of essential relations.

We may feel comfortable as theoreticians and forget about the project of
overthrowing those inhuman relations which make this theorising necessary.
In recent contributions Cyril Smith has explored this with eloquence.

I should add that in Moneybags Must be So Lucky Robert Paul Wolff also
explores how economists have attempted to make rational sense, on the basis
of these categories, of social relations which are ultimately organized on
an absurd basis. For example, trying to read Marx as simply a scientist who
intellectually struggled over the anomalies in Ricardian theory would be to
miss how absurd he took the social relations of capitalism to be, which
generated such theoretical problems as the determination of the value of
money. So the question becomes instead how is necessity and puzzle of money
generated out of the inhuman relations in which we find ourselves? Marx
never lost his irony towards those economists who seriously tried to
resolve the contradictions in their theorising about capitalism.

What I do suggest work like this is stunning? Well aside from the reason
that it relieves the guilt-ridden non-economists among us, this kind of
Marxist commentary allows us to critique this society, to free ourselves
from its fetishism, to rise above and beyond it from the perspective of a
new society.

I agree with Louis P on a few things. We must fight a gusano
counter-revolution, whatever the nature of Castro's Cuba; and Marx's
economics is not that important after all. His critique of economics
however is.


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