Friday, May 16, 2014

Bowles and Gintis

Mike Beggs says "In contrast, Marxian economics is united mainly through shared adherence to a political tradition – a very fractious political tradition. It is academically marginal, with few institutional supports – its theorists tend to lead isolated scholarly existences, in a pocket of like-minded thinkers at best. Instead, its history shows a succession of writers, occasionally coalescing for a time into schools, who have developed in one direction or another, only to be ignored or rejected by those who came after. There is a tendency for productive debates, which drive analysis forward, to peter out and be forgotten as the tradition repeatedly circles back to its founding text, its only common ground. Interpretation of a text has trumped interpretation of the world."  in Zombie Marx
It seems to me that there were some Marxian economists in USA but like even the ever respectable Sam Bowles, they were ignored by the more dominant groups. In an earlier post Sam Bowles said that he was not allowed to teach a graduate course on inequality in 1968. Mike Beggs is more optimistic in Dollar Diplomacy:
"In this post I have riffed off only a part of just one strand of Panitch and Gindin’s fantastic book. I have tried to connect their narrative about Bretton Woods to the macroeconomic policy theory of the time. It seems to me that this is a useful way forward for Marxian state theory – to critically analyze how contemporary economic theory has framed the situations facing the state. This is historical and non-deterministic, because it does not read state institutional forms or actions off the preconceived needs of the economic system. But it still recognizes how economic dysfunctions and needs shape the capitalist state, as they are interpreted through the fallible, contestable models of applied economics. It integrates questions of class, because class conflict appears all over the place in these models, once you start looking for it. It is there in the strategic context within which policymakers operate. This approach seems to fit the vision opened up by The Making of Global Capitalism, a rich and detailed story of the strategic formation of the modern US state and the world that evolved around it."
 Tim Shenk discusses this in Millenneal Marxists. Strangely neither of them seems talk of Bowles and Gintis whose encounter with Martin Luther King and their later work on education, inequality, privilege, lack of mobility are reasonably well known. Many of their papers are available at Herbert Gintis website and Sam Bowles site at Santa Fe Institute. Aaron Swartz on Bowles book on micro economics. Bowles and Gintis book Schooling in capitalist America and their paper on inheritance of inequality. There are some clues in this discussion 
 from Barkley Rosser
"Of course, Bowles and Gintis were once upon a time fuly heterodox and leftists, self-identified as Marxists, if of a heterodox variety. Bowles was famously turned down for tenure at Harvard for political reasons, and the move by them to University of Massachusetts-Amherst set the tone of that institution that still holds. 
However, they have both retired from there and become more mainstream since, having abjured Marxism in the mid-1980s. They are arguably somewhat non-mainstream, into evolutionary game theory and behavioral economics, but much more "respectable" than in the past, and it is since they made their moves that they began appearing in those "leading journals," not back in their more seriously heterodox days. "
 Then there are others like Michael Hudson and some who write in Econospeak. So the non-influence of Marxist economists may not be completely due to the reasons mentioned by Mike Beggs, but due to some policies of exclusion of those with Marxist tag.

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