Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Marx, Piketty and Krugman

What little I know of Marx is from this essay by Robert Heilbroner (a lapsed Marxist, I think) in his book "The Worldly philosophers" and a more recent book "Business as Usual: The Economic Crisis and the Failure of Capitalism" by Paul Mattick Jr.
Piketty in his Capital21 is somewhat dismissive of Marx, but as Doug Henwood says in his review:
"Starting with the title, the eternally recurrent specter of Marx hangs over this book. Early into the first page of the introduction, Piketty asks, “Do the dynamics of private capital accumulation inevitably lead to the concentration of wealth in ever fewer hands, as Karl Marx believed in the nineteenth century?” Phrasing the question as something grounded in the past is a nice distancing technique, as the psychoanalysts say, but the answer is clearly yes. Several times, Piketty disavows Marx—just a few lines later he credits “economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge” for allowing us to avoid “the Marxist apocalypse”—but he also concedes that those prophylactics have not changed capitalism’s deep structures and the tendency for wealth to concentrate. It seems, in other words, that Piketty’s own research shows that the old nineteenth-century gloomster had a point."

Paul Krugman has been enthusiastic about Piketty's book in his posts and is writing a detailed review of the book. Now Rober Waldman (about whom I know very little but his name name appears frequently in Economist's View linked posts) says in Krugman and Kapital "He has been flirting with Marx for a while (Thomas Piketty seems to be a mutual friend who helped them break the ice)." May be the detailed data presented by Piketty convinced him of some of Marx's points. It seems that Marx won't go away.

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