proclamations, economic and otherwise

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Susan Newman asks, was Marx an economist?

Marx developed his theory of value out of his critique of English (and Scottish) political economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo, the founding fathers of modern economics. Indeed, Marx took on many of Smith's ideas, notably the separation of use and exchange value. But I argue that Marx should not be considered an economist and that his most important contribution to the analysis of capitalism is as antithesis to modern economics.

"It is precisely his 'critique of political economy'," Newman continues, "his development of the dialectic, and taking history seriously, rather than his adherence to traditions in political economy, that allowed him to develop the most insightful and transformative understanding of capitalism with unrivalled relevance today:"

The modus operandi of mainstream economics has been to cut revolutionary ideas from their root in class analysis. But as Marx put it, "to be radical is to grasp the root of the matter".

From the other side, diplomat Carl Bildt purports to explain why Marx was wrong. Bildt claims that one of the "remnants of Marxism" is "the repression of dissent."

Two hundred years after Marx's birth, it is certainly wise to reflect on his intellectual legacy. We should do so not in celebration, however, but to inoculate our open societies against the totalitarian temptation that lurks in his false theories.

Bildt notes, correctly, that "self-proclaimed Marxists" have "inflicted untold misery on tens of millions of people who have been forced to live under regimes waving its banner," but never considers that those proclamations were false. Here is the crux of his argument:

Marx regarded private property as the source of all evil in the emerging capitalist societies of his day. [*see note below] Accordingly, he believed that only by abolishing it could society's class divisions be healed, and a harmonious future ensured. Under communism, his collaborator Friedrich Engels later claimed, the state itself would become unnecessary and "wither away." These assertions were not made as speculation, but rather as scientific claims about what the future held in store.

But, of course, it was all rubbish, and Marx's theory of history - dialectical materialism - has since been proved wrong and dangerous in practically every respect. The great twentieth-century philosopher Karl Popper, one of Marx's strongest critics, rightly called him a "false prophet." And, if more evidence were needed, the countries that embraced capitalism in the twentieth century went on to become democratic, open, and prosperous societies.

By contrast, every regime that has rejected capitalism in the name of Marxism has failed - and not by coincidence or as a result of some unfortunate doctrinal misunderstanding on the part of Marx's followers. By abolishing private ownership and establishing state control of the economy, one not only deprives society of the entrepreneurship needed to propel it forward; one also abolishes freedom itself.

Bildt's understanding of 'private property' in this sense is seriously deficient. As stated in the Oxford Handbook of Karl Marx, "Private property refers to class property--to a class other than the working class owning the means of production." CPUSA offers more detail:

The phrase from Marx that you cite has been twisted and misinterpreted to serve the ends of the ruling class. The private property that Marx is talking about is private ownership of things like factories, banks, and railroads, which allow their owners to make money from the work of other people. He has (and we have) no problem with working people accumulating the sort of stuff needed for a comfortable life. [...]

Abolition of private property means stripping billionaire investors of the ability to get rich from our labor (and taking away their political power, as well)--just like the abolition of slavery was the abolition of private property in human beings.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on May 9, 2018 12:39 PM.

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