File spoon-archives/marxism-thaxis.archive/marxism-thaxis_1996/96-10-29.043, message 14

Date: Tue, 22 Oct 1996 19:10:44 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: M-TH: Re: HoPE article

i would like to thank Andrew and Jerry for forwarding Andrew's comments.

Although i was very pleased to see Andrew Kliman's reply and comments, i 
believe he overstates and over-reacts to Brewers comments in his 
conclusion on who should publish attempts to "update and/or 
resuscitate Marx".

Brewer conclusion is five-fold:

(1) Marx failed to influence what would come to be the origin of modern 
economic theory; because his ideas became outdated before they were even 
read (based on the idea that the "close" of Marx's system, volume three 
[1894], did not apper until nearly 30 years after the incomplete first 
volume [1867]) (138-9).

(2) Marx "added little or nothing useful to the classical heritage" (from 
Smith to Mill) (139).

(3) Marx was a "magnificent failure" based on his own terms (this is 
based on [a] the idea that the labor theory of value is faulty, collapsing 
his theory of surplus-value, along with "the greater part of the 
analysis of *Capital*"; and [b] the falling rate of profit is incorrect) 

(4) Marxist literature is often not about history of economics, but a 
dogmatic commitment to the word of Marx, history of economic journals
need not concern themselves with such non-history (full quote is below).

(5) "If Marx's *Capital failed to achieve what he hoped and if economists 
were right to ignore it, it does not necessarily follow that historians 
of economics should do the same.  Historians must deal with the wider 
impact of economic ideas (whatever their merits), as well as with the 
development of economic theory in its own right.  Marx's economic ideas 
deserve study because they are an integral part of a worldview that has 
had an immense influence outside economics.  It was, of course, necessary 
to study Marx's theory in order to establish that it was indeed a dead 
end." (141).

With respect to claim (4) Brewer said:

 "In the eyes of its [Marxist's] practitioners, its 
identity depends on faithful adherence to the words of the master.  
Unlike other economists, Marxist economists habitually deny any 
originality and claim that their newest idea is really to be found in 
Marx.  The result is a form of continuous strip-mining of the most 
trivial of Marx's jottings in search of quotations to support one point 
of view or another.  There can be no objection to continued attempts to 
modernize or resusciatate Marx's ideas, but they have nothing to do with 
the *history* of economics and, therefore, should not be published in 
journals devoted to the subject" (141).

First, i am not at all sure what Brewer has in mind here, i cannot recall 
one article in HOPE that this would apply (i haven't read them all or 
course)?  Second, if this does not apply to HOPE, then there is not much 
threat here.  So that Brewer's comments can be interpreted as suggesting 
that there is not much interest in the bulk of recent and current 
marxian literature.

Moreover, HOPE or any other history of economic journal need not 
necesarily concern themselves with where someone will publish "some 
quotes and arguments brought forth that attempt to situate it as a 
'developemnt' of something Marx wrote" (as Andrew put it).  Whereby, it 
seems to be that Brewer's comments can be interpreted as attempting to 
avoid or not support "rational reconstructions".

Although i am in full agreement that the "systematic" exclusion of 
Marxist literature is a very important issue which needs to be addressed; 
and may have helped explain Brewer's questions about the negelect of Marx 
himself.  Along with the idea that too much of the literature is based on 
second hand literature.

i very much appreciated the comments on intellectual imperialism; which i 
take to be a special (or not so special) case of ideology.  This is 
something i especially would like to investigate.  Again this will pivot 
on philosophy of science and methodological issues.  It is quite 
unfortunate that there was no response along these lines.

i am not sure what is the "temporal single-system interpretation".  But 
it is very surprising that there as not a serious attempt in defense of 
Marx based on methodological issues.  Although i thought 
Duncan Foley's response to be quite  well done, along with Takashi 
Negishi's.  And there are a few other very interesting remarks.

In reading the responses, i got the feeling that they where all rushed, 
and somewhat un-informed -- for example Samuel Hollander writes: 
"Contributors to this minisymposium were informed that Anthnony brewer 
had been commissioned to 'address the issue of how historians of 
economics will approach reassessing Marx as an economist in response to 
the shifting views of Marxism brought into play by the breakup of the 
former Soviet Union, and the resultant realignment of Marxist thought' 
(Letter from E. Roy Weintraub, 23 June 1993).  In fact, Brewer does not 
directly deal with this matter and thus complicates our set task--to 
focus our comments on the paper on 'the need, if any, for historians of 
econmics to readdress Marx, to recliam Marx as it were now that the hold 
of Marxist economics on views of Marx is more confused, more of a 
problem'" (167).

A reponse to defend Marx based on "ideological" or "methodological" 
premises would take much more space -- to develop Marx's own concept of 
ideology or methodological commitments -- and more time to orginize 
thoughts and arguments which would have necessarily gone beyond the 
commits of Brewer, and/or to demonstrate why Brewer himself was faulty.

But this would have been quite important, and very much in phase with the 
nature of the journal itself; and a direct demonstration against 
Brewer's concluding remarks.

hans d.

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