marxian economics

donna jones djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Sun Sep 25 05:28:19 MDT 1994


I don't think marx was an economist. he wrote a critique of political
economy.  Juan's posts on value read to me much more like an anthropology
of a capitalist society. Juan has raised questions about the relationship
between fetishism and alienation, and he has done so in contestation with
Steve whose posts have inspired much debate.

 I didn't get much reply on my post about Schumpeter, which is fine as it
may not have made much sense.  But I was trying to raise questions about
the importance of "family values" in Schumpeter's discourse of capitalist
decline--the erosion of which he saw as the efficient cause of an
anti-savings mentality and the cause of capitalist decline. In reading
articles in the Atlantic and rants by Gilder, I noticed that patriarchal
family values were seen as essential not only to pass on a conservative
tradition but also to consolidate an economic unit posited as crucial for
capital accumulation.   I was also trying to raise questions about social
darwinism and eugenics and hoping to suggest that there may well be a deep
connection between such barbarism and influential bourgeois theories of
crisis (Schumpeter's rise of the subnormals, Fisher's eugenics)

Also, I think debate about Marx's theory of value is crucial.  For example,
confusion about industrial profit has allowed demagogues to single out and
invent barbaric myths about parasitic Jewish financiers as a force
autonomous from and dominating over industrial capital.  If we see fixed
capital as making a contribution to value production, then proletarian
dissent can easily be directed elsewhere.   And as Juan has attempted to
show, the fetishization of fixed capital is essentially an alienation of
human productive powers.  This is hardly an economic question.  It is a
question about a bizarre world in which  Mr. Capital and Mrs Land  walk all
over humanity.

Moreover, the question of falling profit rates or breakdown tendencies
leads directly to very political questions as is obvious with Steve's
skepticism towards revolution. This is not an economic question, but it
involves much empirical  and theoretical work (I'm still working on that
post to Fred).

Here is an interesting passage from Lukacs:

"Since it is never objectively possible for the intellientsia to be equally
competent in all spheres of knowledge, every epoch puts certain sciences,
certain branches of knoweldge, certain authors who are considered
classical, in the forefront of knowledge....It is crucially necessary that
political economy occupy this position among intellectuals, economy in the
Marxian sense, as a science of the primary forms of existence and of
existential determinations of man, as the science of the real relations of
men to one another, of the laws and tendencies of the development of these
relations.  In reality, however, precisely, the opposite tendencies can be
seen. Philsophy, psychology, history, etc., in the imperialist period, are
all equally concerned with playing down, economic insights, with
discrediting them as "superficial", "unessential" and unworthy of a
"deeper" Weltanshauung.
What is the result? The intelligentsia, since they do not see through to
the objective foundations of their own social existence, in growing measure
become victims of the fetishization of social problems, and consequently
helpless victims of a free-wheeling social demogoguery."

For example, nationalism has become a fetish in much contemporary cultural
studies, and many critics have been unable to differentiate at all the
aggressive tendencies of imperialist chauvinism from attempts at
self-determination which *sometimes* have in fact taken on national forms.
Only through a study of real relations will we able to determine whether a
likely Haitian movement against US occupation will express the just
life-interests of a people.  At the same time, the concept of a
non-historic nation can be useful in attempting to understand such
movements as Buthelezi's search for a Zulu nation.
In fact this is a prime example of the demagogic use of the current fetish
of differance, of ethnic particularity to attempt to destroy the building
of a new South Africa.

But with the flood of cultural critiques of nationalism and celebrations of
"differance", we can easily see how the intelligentsia is unprepared to
fight off social demagoguery.

Moreoer, only through a study of real relations can we see through whether
the supra-nationalist forms imperialist domination often take, whether it
is UN troops in the Congo in the early 60s or World Bank structural
adjustment programmes today.

Citations

G Lukacs "on the reposibility of intellectuals", Marxism and Human
Liberation, ed. E San Juan.

there was also a Science and Society piece by John Hoffmann  about the
politics of non-historic nations in the contemporary context of South
Africa.

Aijaz Ahmed (in theory) and Frank Furedi (new ideology of imperialism and
mythical past, elusive future) both have very interesting things to say
about the current fetishes of differance, particularity, and
anti-nationalism

Derek Sayer, The violence of Abstraction: the analytical foundations of
historical materialism (brings out the centrality of social life as a
whole, fetishism, alienation and historicity in marxian "economics"-- a
term he rejects)
d jones



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