[Marxism] Doug Henwood, Anwar Shaikh, and financial crisis

Matthew Russo russo.matthew9 at gmail.com
Sun Dec 7 14:44:20 MST 2008

Sigh, good ol' Doug the eternal skeptic, a favorite hiding place:
Doug asked to forward his comments on Ralph's post:

If it's fictitious capital, why would its destruction matter to the
"real" economy? That's a serious question. I'd really like to hear how
you think the fictitious and real are related? And, if you've got some
time, could you also explain how a "real" economy, which is based on
the pursuit of profit in money form, is really all that fundamentally
different from a "fictitious" one?

I've spent half a lifetime thinking about this stuff, and I can't say
I really have good answers to these questions. But you seem to, so I'm
all ears.


The philosophical pretense is that reality is ultimately unknowable. But he
seemed to know the answer in his radio program when he called for support
for the AIG, etc. bailouts.  By this logic, we can't really know if failure
to bail "would cause immense suffering" as Doug claimed.  So, no, we are all
ears Doug.

But regardless, a couple of things ARE knowable:

1) Financial enterprise is in itself not productive enterprise.  At best it
performs the capitalist utility of transferring capital in the form of
investment from less to more profitable productive sectors.  "Unproductive"
is to be distinguished from "fictitious".

2) There is a way to find an answer to what Doug imagines is an
unanswerable, and therefore on his part posed purely for the purposes
propagating dissonance by rhetorical means, another fave Henwood tactic,
question.  The mistake is to imagine that this can have a purely theoretical
answer, which is not to say that more can't be added to the concept
theoretically.  But we can best find out, in practice, the real relation
between "fictitious capital" and the "real" - i.e. productive - economy, and
that begins by calling for the reversal of the "bailout", the seizure of the
financial concerns by the state, the imprisonment of their officers (after
they have been squeezed of all relevant information of course) the shutting
down of the bankrupt parts and the breakup  of the "too big to fail"
remainder, reduced to pure public utility functions.

Happily for Doug, this won't happen and "realism" will continue to consist
in a reality that is unknowable.  In which case we might as well be for the
bailout as much as against it.  No wonder he has spent half a lifetime
without arriving at "really good answers".

At least in the passage above Doug once again exposes his deep hostility to
Marxism, and his own wonderful utility as a convenient, if wily, punching


P.S. Tell Doug to take upo his argument with Japanese Communist Party Chair
Shii Kazuo, the origin of this discussion on fictitious capital and "real"

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