marxism

Jonathan P. Beasley-Murray jpb8 at acpub.duke.edu
Sat Sep 10 12:26:02 MDT 1994


I'm forwarding something that was originally posted to the pen-l list
(which I recommend by the way; apologies for those who are seeing this
for the second time), as it seems of interest here.  The context of this
post is a discussion as to the uses of the word "radical" by the way and
whether the Union of Radical Political Economists should maintain the "R"
in their name.

This post reminded me of part of the discussion between Steve Keen and
Gene Holland some time ago.  As I remember, Steve suggested that Marxist
economics had become a fringe group within Economics (as a discipline)
more generally, but that in the Humanities Marxism remained the preserver
of oppositional tradition--and thus that non-economists misunderstood
Marxist economics in more ways than one.

Perhaps this is not so any more--and perhaps
we see a more and more fragmented "opposition" (whatever exactly that
means), but it is surely true (as the post below suggests) that the
Marxist tradition (and "associated" social movements, from the unions to
Nicaragua; from Cuba to the student movement) has constantly provided what
Raymond Williams would call "resources of hope."

And now?

I also wonder about the ways in which Marxism is viewed and mobilized in
different disciplinary or institutional or non-institutional contexts
(in different countries, too.  As a Brit, for example, it seems *so*
bizarre to see the stigmatization even of the term "liberal" here in the
US).  I wonder if list-members would care to report!

Another question, of course, the post addresses is the question of an
alternative to capitalism.  I too get the feeling that not only do most
on the "left" not believe in such an alternative, but also that this move
(against the idea of "revolution" essentially) has taken place
elsewhere--among feminists, for example.  I get the impression that it is
only in queer theory (and only parts thereof), that anyone still has much
faith in an "outside" to oppression.

Take care

Jon

Jon Beasley-Murray
Literature Program
Duke University
jpb8 at acpub.duke.edu

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 9 Sep 1994 08:34:36 -0700
From: Peter.Dorman <23215MGR at MSU.EDU>
Subject: is urpe frumpy?

I have a hypothesis concerning the declining interest in URPE from
non-economists.  It goes like this: Once upon a time (up to a few years ago,
maybe more), most people on the left subscribed to some version of socialism,
in the economic sense of public/worker/community control over the economy.
Most people who were not specialists in economics (or Marxist theory)
understood this in a vague, background sort of way, as an adjunct to their
primary interest (housing, gay & lesbian rights, environment, etc.).  They
felt that, even if they didn't understand the details, others did, and
socialism was part of the general package.  Occasionally they would read
left-economic material.  Some who felt the need to stay in touch with the
various wings of the movement via periodicals would even subscribe to RRPE.

Then came the great wipeout.  Socialism as a discrete, viable alternative to
capitalism was discredited in the eyes of most people.  Even many people with
a long attachment to the left and continuing involvement in specific
left-oriented movements came to doubt whether there was really a fundamental
economic alternative, as against lefty economic technicians who might be able
to figure out ways the existing system could accommodate the other
social/cultural/political goals of the movement.  Thus the realm of radical
economics, especially work that analyzes the capitalist system in general and
considers alternatives, came to be seen as less relevant to the wider
movement. If this hypothesis is correct, non-economist activists probably
still read our writings that concern their particular fields, but not our more
theoretical work, as is found in the RRPE.

BTW, I personally believe (very strongly, in fact) that socialism IS a viable
alternative to capitalism, and that the conventional wisdom of the moment is
wrong.  But I am pretty sure I am in a minority, even, alas, on the left.

Peter Dorman



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