Monday, May 20, 2013

Two discussions of Marx

One by Robert Skidelsky in 'Keynes, Hobson, Marx'
"I want to sum up what we can gain from all three of the thinkers I have been discussing.
From Keynes, it goes without saying, an analytic precision, lacking in Hobson and Marx, and the exposure of an irreducible problem for all forms of social interaction, not limited to economics: our lack of knowledge of any but the most immediate consequences of our actions. So, as he put, it wealth was a highly unsuitable object for the methods of the classical economist.
From Hobson, an understanding that structures of wealth and distribution can aggravate or mitigate the Keynes problem of unstable investment. Collapses due to uncertainty are more likely and more likely to be severe the more unequal is the distribution of wealth and incomes, and recoveries feebler.
From Marx we get an analysis of how unequal structures of wealth and incomes arise. This was lacking from Hobson: he never explained how savings got to be piled up in one place. And he could not do so, as long as he accepted that workers were paid their marginal product. Hobson did of course talk about monopoly, administered prices, and other distortions, but these contingent factors might be dealt with by reforms, and did not impugn the integrity of the classical theory of markets.
Marx did better by dropping the assumption that workers are paid their marginal products. If productivity growth outstrips wage growth, the gap between production and consumption will grow, resulting in an automatic rise in the savings ratio.
The ability of capitalists to pay workers less than they were worth and themselves more than they were worth rested, in Marx'v view, on their ownership of the means of production. This gave them power in the economy; and governments were subservient to that power.
Recent events have persuaded me that there is something intuitively right about the Marxist analysis."

The second is a discussion of Dan Little's post 'What about Marx?' in Economist;s View where Dan Little oulines  " a small handful of key theoretical frameworks that Marx advocated." The second is:

"Emphasis on the primacy of property and class. Sociologists and historians want to explain processes of social change. Marx puts it forward that the economic interests created by the property system in a given society create powerful foundations for collective social action.  Those who occupy positions of advantage within a given set of property relations want to do what they can to preserve those relations; and those who are disadvantaged by the property relations have a latent interest in mobilizing to change those relations. Persons who share a location in the property system constitute a class, and their interests are systematically different from those in other such positions."
I wonder just as 'contradictions of capitalism', the above points to a contradiction in any state organization since it always involves some in positions of advantage. In any case, Marx does not seem to go away and after any sort of crisis, there seems to some resurgence of his ideas.
P.S. Why read Marx today? by Jonathan Wolff free online

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