marxian economics

Philip Goldstein pgold at strauss.udel.edu
Tue Sep 27 05:01:03 MDT 1994


	Doug Henwood wanted to know the point of all those cultural
theories that I listed a few days ago. My point was to explain how
cultural theory understood the relationship of culture and economics. The
theories construct this relationship very differently. The point also was
to suggest that the realist view, in which insight into socio-economic
truths is central, is not the only legitimate one.

	Doug Henwood also objects to my account of language and
intellectuals. HIs objection makes the source of funds central. He says:
"
Intellectuals are so vain. Who pays their salaries? Who funds their
thinktanks? Who owns the media? Who controls the foundations that tell
us how our schools, welfare programs, etc. need to be reformed? People
who don't play along with the reproduction game are quickly outplaced."

	At a literal level, the question of who pays the salaries of
academics,not all intellectuals, is not so obvious. The answers include
the students, the state, the board of trustees, the provost, the dean, or
the department. At a more general level, Doug seems to allude to the idea
of a ruling elite, whose interests govern and control the research and
the teaching of academics. In the sixties we would discuss the
interlocking directorates and boards to explain who ran what
universities. Yet the notion of a ruling elite won't work either.
Universities include Marxists, radical social theorists, radical
feminists, and radical scientists. Henwood complains that those who don't
play along are quickly outplaced, whole the right-wingers complain that
the left dominates academia, especially the humanities. What both Henwood
and the right don't recognize is that, since the 1860's or 1870's, when
the sciences finally found a place in the university, the ruling elites
have been forced to allow professional groupings and associations to
establish their own criteria of merit. These criteria of merit are often
shockingly biased but, at least on the surface, they seek to allow
differences of opinion, perspective, and outlook provided that the
criteria are met. In other words, academics at a university or a college
have some independence -- thinktanks, foundations, etc., are another
matter.

	Paul Cockshot grants my claims about language and culture because
Stalin made a comparable point, but then Cockshot takes away the whole
point by insisting that one ought not to conclude that reality does not
exist independent of language. This is just the realist point that I am
disputing. The reason is that you have to use language to describe such
realities, which are, as a result, no longer independent because you can
describe them in different ways.

	Cockshot asks why culture matters so much more now than it did
100 years ago. A brief answer is that, besides the growth of literacy
among the workingclasses (only 60% could sign their names 100 years ago),
there is the vast growth of the media and of educational institutions.

Philip Goldstein


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