marxian economics

Philip Goldstein pgold at
Mon Sep 26 05:33:09 MDT 1994

	Thanks to Steve for his concern about my cheese, which did not
melt. Thanks to Donna Jones, for reminding me that Marxist political
economy is not narrowly economic and for quoting Lukacs' belief that
intellectuals must study political economy.
	I think that the issue raised by this quote concerns the status
of realism, which is the belief that art or, more generally, culture
reflects a pre-determined set of socio-economic structures and does not
constitute them. Those who claim that art constitutes social relations
are usually condemned as idealist, whereas those who believe that art or
culture reveals or reflects "objective" truths or pre-existent realities
count as materialist in traditional terms. What breaks up this neat
opposition, accepted by Lukacs, is the power and force of language, taken
not simply as terms but as a system governed by conventions which are
reproduced by a society. If language in this broad sense enables a
society to reproduce itself -- its traditions, conventions, rituals,
identity, language cannot simply reflect a pre-existent reality, and if
we dismiss this constitutive view of language as idealist, we ignore the
very real place of language, culture, or art in social reproduction. Few
people responded to my diatribe about intellectuals, but, if this view of
culture is right, then intellectuals, who run schools, the media,
political organizations, the government, etc., become important because
they maintain the rituals and structures which make culture a social
      Donna is right to point out the cultural depths of political
economy but the old realism won't let us pose the right questions about
modern capitalist society which depends so much upon cultural practices.
Philip Goldstein


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