File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 395


Date: 	Sun, 19 Oct 1997 12:16:34 -0800
Subject: M-I: Marx, Lenin & economic theory


Vanity forces me to forward the following posts from thaxis. See you all in
a week; Doug, please respond on marxism thaxis.
Bye,
Rakesh

>From Hugh Rodwell and then from Jerry Levy:


Rakesh has just written a brilliant post on the difference between
"economics" and "critique of economic theory". It's on M-International,
unfortunately, so I am unable to respond there for another day or two, for
reasons of Stalinist bigotry and repression. I append the full post below
for Thaxalites and General subscribers.

The core of Rakesh's argument is contained in these paragraphs (there was a
reference to Louis P as well but I snipped It off):

>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 I think that we should add that in this discussion, "economics" is
being referred to as a would-be science for understanding and controlling
the economic processes of society, the way micro-economics is taught and
macro-economics would love to be considered. Those trapped in capitalist
perspectives and ways of thinking (historical, philosophical, political
etc) feel of course that it's quite natural to demand of *any* theory of
economics that it perform these duties of description, explanation and
control, the same way chemistry does for manufacturing industry. But Marx's
whole project was devoted to what Rakesh puts so clearly -- showing the
absurdity of capitalist categories of "economics" (price, profit, rent,
wages, interest) as instruments of understanding or control, of achieving
some kind of balance or equilibrium. In other words, it was and is a
"critique of economic theory".

The categories Marx developed to explain the way capitalism works can be
used to describe and manage (not control) capitalism, but the effort is
pointless, as anyone understanding the scientific principles behind Marx's
critique will immediately realize the necessity of changing the
preconditions for economic activity in society rather than "improving" the
unimprovable, ie the techniques of bourgeois (ie petrified, ahistorical)
"economics".

The scientific critique of economic theory elaborated by Marx shows that
under capitalism "control" is *impossible*. And "management" without
control is pointless -- which by the way shows the absurdity of the
Austro-Marxist approach of dispensing good advice to capitalists on how to
run their economies within the framework of bourgeois society so everybody
feels better and nobody loses (well, except some capitalists lose a little
bit maybe, and that's compensated for by the increased general prosperity
and feel-good effects). The Mandelist United Secretariat of the Fourth
International is a canonical present-day purveyor of this snake-oil. It's
like telling the owners of the mines of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome that
the slaves would produce more if the slave-drivers whipped them less and
fed them more.

Lenin on the other hand is an excellent example of Marx's approach. The
theoretical foundations of political economy are not the main thing. The
political and economic foundations of social practice are.

Not for nothing did he characterize our epoch as one not just of wars and
revolutions, but also of the transition to socialism.

But this demanded a freedom not just from the fetishized categories of
bourgeois economics, but also from the equally fetishized idea of bourgeois
society as the only conceivable form of social organization, in other
words, an historical appreciation of the origin of capitalism from
feudalism and of its replacement by the non-exploitative cooperative
socialist mode of production.

So, war on all " totalitarian common sense ... dressed up in bad mathematics"!!

The purpose of Marxist political economy is as Rakesh says "to critique
this society, to free ourselves from its fetishism, to rise above and
beyond it from the perspective of a new society". That is to say, not to
interpret the world, but to change it.

Rakesh, you just made my day a whole lot brighter! Thanks!

Cheers,

Hugh

Hugh H wrote:

> But Marx's
> whole project was devoted to what Rakesh puts so clearly -- showing the
> absurdity of capitalist categories of "economics" (price, profit, rent,
> wages, interest) as instruments of understanding or control, of achieving
> some kind of balance or equilibrium. In other words, it was and is a
> "critique of economic theory".

Yes, it was and is critique. But, it was also something more.

The interpretation of Marx's "whole project" as critique does not fit very
well with his 6-book-plan -- of which there is no evidence that he
abandoned.

The above interpretation of Marx's project as only critique also
contradicts his stated aim (in the 1867 "Preface to the First Edition"):

"...it is the ultimate aim of this work to reveal the economic law of
motion of modern society....".

Note that he did *not* say above that it is the ultimate aim to reveal and
critique bourgeois economic categories. I would say, rather, that he
thought that this could be revealed in large part through the vehicle of
critique. But, in writing _Capital_, it should be remembered that Marx had
more than one fish to fry.

Jerry




     --- from list marxism-international-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu ---

   

Driftline Main Page

 

Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005