[Marxism] [lbo-talk] Larry Summers channeling Sweezy?
farmelantj at juno.com
Sun Apr 3 06:53:26 MDT 2016
t should be noted that Larry Summers's uncle, Paul Samuelson was quite aware
of Sweezy's greatness and sometimes admitted to it in public, as he once did
in in his Newsweek column.
When Diaghilev revived his ballet company he had the original Bakst sets
redone in even more vivid colors, explaining, "so they would be as brilliant
as people remember them." Recent. events on college campuses have recalled
to my inward eye one of the great happenings of my own lifetime.
It took place at Harvard back in the days when giants walked the earth and
Joseph Schumpeter, Harvard's brilliant economist and social prophet,was to
debate with Paul Sweezy on "The Future of Capitalism."
Wassily Leontief was in the chair as moderator, and the Littauer Auditrium
could not accommodate the packed house.
Let me set the stage. Schumpeter was a scion of the aristocracy of Franz
Josef's Austria. It was Schumpeter who had confessed to three wishes in
life: to be the greatest lover in Vienna, the best horseman in Europe, and
the greatest economist in the world. "But unfortunately," as he used to say
modestly, "the seat I inherited was never of the topmost caliber."
Half mountebank, half sage, Schumpeter had been the enfant terrible of the
Austrian school of economists. Steward to an Egyptian princess, owner of a
stable of race horses, onetime Finance Minister of Austria, Schumpeter could
look at the prospects for bourgeois society with the objectivity of one
whose feudal world had come to an end in 1914. His message and vision can be
read in his classical work of a quarter-century ago, Capitalism, Socialism,
Whom the Gods Envy
Opposed to the foxy Merlin was young Sir Galahad. Son of an executive of
J.P. Morgan's bank, Paul Sweezy was the best that Exeter and Harvard can
produce ... [and] had early established himself as among the most promising
economists of his generation. But tiring of the conventional wisdom of his
age, and spurred on by the events of the Great Depression, Sweezy became one
of America's few Marxists. (As he used to say, you could count the noses of
U.S. academic economists who were Marxists on the thumbs of your two hands:
the late Paul Baran of Stanford; and, in an occasional summer school of
unwonted tolerance, Paul Sweezy.)
Unfairly, the gods had given Paul Sweezy, along with a brilliant mind, a
beautiful face and wit. With what William Buckley would desperately wish to
see in the mirror, Sweezy laced the world. If lightning had struck him that
night, people would truly have said that he had incurred the envy of the
So much for the cast. I would have to be William Hazlitt to recall for you
the interchange of wit, the neat parrying and thrust, and all made more
pleasurable by the obvious affection that the two men had for each other
despite the polar opposition of their views.
>From Paul Samuelson, "Memories," Newsweek, June 2, 1969, as quoted in
"Remarks On Paul Sweezy On The Occasion Of His Receipt Of The Veblen-Commons
Monthly Review , Sept, 1999 by John Bellamy Foster
In comparison with Paul Samuelson's account the Schumpeter/Sweezy debate,
the Harvard Crimson's reporting on that debate seems kind of meh.
Learn or Review Basic Math
From: "Michael Yates" <mikedjyates at msn.com>
Sent: Saturday, April 02, 2016 5:45 PM
To: <lbo-talk at lbo-talk.org>
Subject: [lbo-talk] Larry Summers channeling Sweezy?
> Jim Farmelant wonders if Summers is aware of the Monthly Review school of
> thought on secular stagnation. I think he is. He is from a family of
> economists, and is nephew to Paul Samuelson and Kenneth Arrow. Samuelson
> devoted much effort to a refutation of Marx, and surely Summers is aware
> of this work and much more. Economists actually did study the history of
> economic thought in times gone by. I did. Sweezy was, according to
> Georgescu-Roegen, the best of the young Harvard economists in the 1930s.
> So it is unimaginable that Summers doesn't know about MR's economics. That
> he wouldn't cite them is not surprising. The MR school has radical
> implications, which Summers, Krugman, et. al. don't want to dwell on.
> Similarly, MR's summer 2014 issue was titled "Surveillance Capitalism,"
> and contains many interesting articles on the surveillance society in
> which we find ourselves today. Now Shoshana Zuboff, emeritus professor at
> Harvard, has taken to writing (in the Harvard Business Review, for
> example) about surveillance capitalism as if she coined the phrase. Really
> disgusting but par for the course. Zuboff's work is naturally also devoid
> of radical conclusions. What is most disturbing, however, is when radicals
> think that because mainstream thinkers begin to dabble in radical theory
> that this means anything good. It does not. See my essay, "Occupy Wall
> Street and the Celebrity Economists." Harry Magdoff called Paul Krugman a
> "prizefighter for capitalism." So is Summers, and so is Zuboff. As the old
> labor song says, Which Side Are You On? These people know what side they
> are on, and it isn't ours.
> Kevin Lindeman on marxmail reminded me that MR's editors said this:
> "Notes from the Editors," Monthly Review, October 2014:
> "Especially noteworthy in this respect was Sweezy’s path-breaking lecture
> “Why Stagnation?” delivered to the Harvard Economics Club in March 1982
> (appearing in MR in June 1982). This raises the intriguing question: Was
> Summers present at Sweezy’s “Why Stagnation?” talk? We contacted Summers’s
> office on August 24, and were told that he said he didn’t recall, “but
> could be!”; his office then contacted us later the same day and said that
> he had reconsidered this and while he still did not remember, he thought
> it “unlikely.” Whether or not Summers was actually present on this
> occasion—and he believes it likely he was not—the question remains as to
> whether he was aware at the time of Sweezy’s talk, and of his general
> argument on stagnation. It is hard to imagine how all of this could have
> passed Summers by completely.
> Isn’t it about time, then, that orthodox economists, Summers included,
> began to acknowledge the enormous work done on this topic on the left over
> decades, and indeed the greater complexity and historicity of the analysis
> to be found there—not only in MR but within heterodox economics more
> generally? Such an admission might even do orthodox economists some good."
> What is most disturbing, however, is when radicals think that because
> mainstream thinkers begin to dabble in radical theory that this means
> anything good. It does not. See my essay, "Occupy Wall Street and the
> Celebrity Economists." Harry Magdoff called Paul Krugman a "prizefighter
> for capitalism." So is Summers, and so is Zuboff. As the old labor song
> says, Which Side Are You On? These people know what side they are on, and
> it isn't ours.
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