Chris and Class

Chris Matthew Sciabarra cms10 at
Sun Aug 29 09:57:31 MDT 1999

Michael writes:
>Chris is absoletely correct to say that there are a number of strong
>between Marx's method and the Austrians, except in the matter of class.  The
>start from the perspective of individualism.

Traditionally, I would say this is most correct.  But a number of writers
have also correctly noted that this "methodological individualism" does not
amount to "methodological atomism."  The founder of the Austrian school,
Carl Menger, proposed a methodological alternative in the "Methodenstreit"
that was fundamentally at odds with both the German Historicists AND the
atomistic advocates of bourgeois individualism.  In fact, Menger emerged
from the simultaneously Aristotelian and Hegelian atmosphere of Austria,
and has been characterized as a virtual "cousin" of Marx, methodologically
speaking, by such writers as Max Alter.

I would also say that Menger, and his Austrian offspring, were very much
wedded to what they called an "organic" understanding of social phenomena,
such that even if institutions were the ultimate result of individual human
actors interacting over time and space, they were still rarely part of
anyone's direct intentions, emerging "organically," as it were, as the
spontaneous ordering of sociality.

>Class, as you will see from
>his note, is
>introduced by way of the state, not the market.  Once the state is held in
>class disappears.
>So the class struggle is a struggle against the state.
>One minor factual note: Kolko does show that free entry had to be stopped by
>the state
>to protect monopolistic industries, but with free entry, the railroads --
>the industry
>he most carefully  studies -- would have gone bankrupt.
>Michael Perelman
>Economics Department
>California State University
>Chico, CA 95929
>Tel. 530-898-5321
>E-Mail michael at

This is also quite true, with regard to Kolko.  However, it is also the
case that the railroads were very much overextended to begin with because
of federal land grants and subsidies, and that the ones that were most
threatened by bankruptcy were the ones that were most incestuously
connected to state intervention from the beginning -- state intervention on
their behalf.
Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Visiting Scholar
NYU Department of Politics
715 Broadway
New York, New York  10003-6806
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