no rhetoric

rakesh bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Wed Apr 17 06:08:38 MDT 1996


"If there is someone on this list that can provide me with some
introductory texts that may be of use to me (and please, I am not
interested in how smart anyone is so don't send me running for Althusser's
"Pour Marx" or some other text that will leave me more confused than I
should be). Ideally I'm looking for a group reading that I can engage in
and learn from."

You may have humbled yourself; you surely have not humiliated yourself. I
look forward to your future participation on this list.  I think you have
eloquently expressed what many of us are feeling.

 By the way, you may want to check out Margaret Majumdar's Althusser and
the End of Leninism (Pluto, 1995) or Gavin Kitching's Marxism and Science:
Anatomy of an obsession (Pennsylvania) for very strong, clearly written
criticisms of Althusser.

I have found the following contemporary works to be of great integrity,
lucidity (no rhetoric!) and theoretical depth; these works focus on Marx's
*Capital*:

Felton Shortall, 1995. The Incomplete Marx. Averbury
Shortall argues that Marx ultimately theorized capital from the perspective
of capital, not fully developing  the perspective of the worker.  There is
a profound discussion of Marx's philosophical development, a very careful
elaboration of the basic concepts of Marx's Capital, and a very sharp reply
to some contemporary academic criticisms.  Shortall advances some of the
ideas of Michael Lebowitz and Antonio Negri.

Murray E.G. Smith, 1994. The Invisible Leviathan: The Marxist Critique of
Market Despotism beyond Postmodernism. University of Toronto

With great competence and careful argumentation, Smith guides the reader
through the contemporary academic criticism of Marx.  There are many
profound arguments along the way, e.g., a discussion of the social
psychology of the exchange abstraction and of Patrick Murray's *Marx Theory
of Scientific Knowledge*.    Also, Smith introduces us to the new debates
in value accounts and quantitative marxism.

Alan Freeman and Guglielmo Carchedi, 1996. Marx and non-Equilibrium
Economics. Edward Elgar.

In one of the entries, Carchedi very helpfully compares Marxian 'economics'
with neo-classical economics (there are non-marxist criticisms for the
layperson as well: Paul Ormerod's The Death of Economics and William
Milberg and Robert Heilbroner's The Crisis of Vision in Modern Economics;
these may be helpful to read before this volume to get a sense of what it
is that mainstream economists see themselves as doing).

See also Carchedi's Frontiers of Political Economy which introduces the
reader to the major controversies over Marx's theory  while attempting to
advance Marx in the face of new developments: the rise of R&D expenditures,
the globalization of production and the rise of the multinational
corporation.  Freeman's introduction is scintillating.

Moishe Postone, 1993. Time, Labor and Social Domination: a reinterpretation
of Marx's critical theory.  Cambridge University Press.

This is a very difficult work but I think it is of greatest importance.
Marx emphasized that his real contribution was his discovery of dual
function of labor under capitalism.  You can search several books on Marx
before you find anyone who really probes the significance of Marx's
fundamental discovery.  I think Postone's work is the most careful
investigation we have of this discovery.  Postone also analyzes temporality
as both abstract and concrete under capital; I am still struggling with
this part of the book.

Fred Moseley, ed. 1993. Marx's Method. Humanities Press.

This is an attempt to rethink the roots of Marx's value theory.  All the
contributions are carefully argued and provocative (I found myself not
agreeing completely with a single one, except Carchedi's approach to the
so-called transformation problem).   Martha Campbell's contribution is good
but even better is her "Commodity as Characteristic Form" in the Economics
as Worldly Philosophy, ed. Ron Blackwell.  This is simply a brilliant essay
which explains why Marx begins *Capital* with the analysis of the
commodity.  It deserves a much wider circulation than it has so far
received.

Werner Bonefeld, ed. Open Marxism.  Pluto. Three volumes.

Holloway's contributions are the place to begin in these volumes.  See also
their Global Money, the Nation State and the Politics of Money.  Many of
these works are reviewed in *Capital and Class* and *Science and Society*.

None of these works really capture the human drama of the workers' movement
and its reflection in theory.  For this, I would recommend two very
different books.

Walter Daum, 1991. The Life and Death of Stalinism. NY: Socialist Voice
Publishing Co. You will probably have to write to Daum to order a copy; he
is on-line.

Not only does Daum introduce the reader to Marx's basic concepts, he does
it in the course of analyzing the development of the Russian revolution,
its degeneration and after world war II, the degeneration of the
non-stalinist left as well.

Joseph O'Malley, ed. 1981 Rubel on Karl Marx. Cambridge.

Rubel perhaps was perhaps unique in capturing Marx's humanity and
fallibility.  This is a dramatic presentation of Marx as a fierce critic of
civilization, industrialism, Leninism.

Paul Mattick. Marxism: last refuge of the bourgeoisie?; Economic Crisis and
Crisis Theory; Anti-Bolshevik Communism; Economics, Politics and the Age of
Inflation; Marx and Keynes: the limits of the mixed economy.

I have offered some comments on why I think Mattick developed Marxism as a
critical theory in the most fruitful direction during the now dissipating
post-war boom.  I have not read much Adorno; I have read a lot of Mattick.

There are some very important pre WWII works  which I have learned much from:

William J Blake, 1939. An American Looks at Karl Marx. Cordon.
Karl Korsch, 1938. Karl Marx. Reprint. Russel and Russel.
T.A. Jackson, 1937. Dialectics: Its Logic and Practice (see discussion in
Jonathan Ree's
  Proletarian Philosophers).
Anon. Political Economy in Twelve Lessons. Published by British Communist
Party in the
  early 30s.
Henryk Grossmann, 1929. The Law of Accumulation and the Breakdown of the
Capitalist System.
  Reprint. Pluto, 1992.
Henryk Grossmann, 1941. Marx, the Classical Economists and the Problem of
Dynamics.
  Reprint. Capital and Class, 1977.
Alexander Gourvitch, 1940. Survey of Economic Theory on Technological
Change and
  Employment. Reprint. Augustus Kelley, 1966. (I was happy to see Chris
Freeman and
  Luc Soete use this book in their own recent survey Mass Unemployment or
Work for All?
  from Pinter publishers)

Now there is no doubt that these works have developed Marx's theory in a
Eurocentric context and they are marked by this location of production.
Moreover, only occasionally do these works advance a theory of women's
oppression.  Postone's work does however discuss the run-away of growth and
its environmental consequences.

Rakesh Bhandari

ps some very important criticisms of Marx are Joan Robinson, An Essay on
Marxian Economics; and Joseph Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and
Democracy (advanced by his epigone David McCord Wright, What's Wrong with
Karl Marx).






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