Das Kapital?

Relevant   1 vote - 25 %
Irrelevant   3 votes - 75 %
-   0 votes - 0 %
I haven't read it   3 votes - 75 %
I've read one volume   1 vote - 25 %
I've read all of it   0 votes - 0 %
4 Total Votes
Marx in context by lm (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Oct 05, 2013 at 09:30:27 AM EST
Without looking up my notes or doing some Googling, I seem to remember from my econ studies that at the time that Marx was writing most economics, to the extent that any theory of value was addressed, was done using a labor based theory of value. One of the largest reasons that supply/demand economics is called Neoclassical, rather than classical, is that the elements of labor based value present in thinkers like Adam Smith and David Ricardo are stripped out.

But, to be fair, my last econ course was years ago and the professor was a Sraffian of sorts and it could be that his brief recapitulation of the history of economics unduly emphasized the importance of the labor theory of value.

Also, even in Marx's own time he was famous for saying ``ce qu'il y a de certain c'est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste'.

I've never gotten around to reading Das Kapital but I think his philosophical writings are well worth reading. His dialectical view of history is pretty fascinating. That's where you'll find the allegation that capitalism carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction. The theory being that eventually there will be only two classes, capitalists and workers and when the class war comes and the workers destroy capitalists, there will only be a single class and with a solitary class, there can be no further dialectic. It will be the end of history.

Of course there are a lot of problem with this. But it's certainly worth thinking through to figure out where he goes wrong.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
Interesting by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #2 Sun Oct 06, 2013 at 01:50:36 AM EST
That seems to be more of a political than an economic prediction (insofar as they can be split) in that it depends on a revolution happening.

There seems to be a kind of different view among some leftists and anarchists, that they think of as Marxist, that the capitalist system will inevitably fall apart on its own, in such a way that there's no need to bother organizing an old-fashioned seize-the-buildings political revolution. That doesn't seem to me to be warranted by anything in Marx that I've seen.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
"Workers of the world, unite!" by lm (4.00 / 1) #3 Sun Oct 06, 2013 at 07:57:45 AM EST
Yeah, Marx's view does have a good deal of political theory in it but, at least in his mind, it all depends on the economic base of society, the totality of all economic relationships in a given milieu. Politics, for the Marxian, is a superstructure determined by the economic base of a society. That is to say, the hold that the economic relationships of the feudal system led to the ruling structures of such and that the economic relationships of industrial capitalism led to democracy.

(The same is true of other ideologies, e.g. religion. The rise of Protestantism in Europe is function of the rise of industrial capitalism for Marx.)

And, as I mentioned, it's a dialectical theory. Each system carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction and leads to the birth of the new system when revolution happens. This revolution can be slow or it can be quick, it can be gradual or sudden. And, in industrial capitalism, the capitalist class is necessarily in opposition to the working class. These tensions will necessarily increase as capitalism expands globally. Eventually, capitalism itself will collapse under its own weight but part of this collapse is the action of organized labor formed precisely because of inherent tension within the capitalistic system.

So, yeah, there needs to be political involvement but that political involvement arises only because of economic factors.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
Timing of the Marginal Revolution by Alan Crowe (4.00 / 1) #4 Mon Oct 07, 2013 at 06:01:55 PM EST
In A World Ruled by Number: William Stanley Jevons and the Rise of Mathematical Economics Margaret Schabas writes

Jevons is usually discussed within the context of the so-called Marginal Revolution, which is said to have begun in 1871 with the publication of Jevon's Theory of Political Economy and Carl Menger's Grundsätze der Volkswirtschaftslehre. Subsequent reinforcement purportedly came in 1874 with Léon Walras's Éléments d'économie politique pure. Each of these professors of political economy --- Jevons at Manchester, Menger at Vienna, and Walras at Lausanne --- had independently arrived at the principle of diminishing marginal utility and proclaimed this insight to be the cornerstone of a significantly new science of economics.

Meanwhile Marx publishes Das Capital in Germany in 1867, with the first English edition coming out in 1887. Whoops! While he is waiting for a translation there has been a revolution that has overthrown the intellectual foundation of his work.

[ Parent ]
Your point is overstated, but important by lm (4.00 / 1) #5 Tue Oct 08, 2013 at 07:34:35 PM EST
You speak as if marginal utility can explain all questions of value. It can't.

Which is why Sraffian economists, as one example, flush out marginal utility with aspects of the labor theory of value. While the Neoclassicists are in the ascendency in the anglophonic sphere, Neoricardians, Sraffians, and others continue to make quite nice criticisms of Neoclassical theory.

This is not to say that marginal utility is not important. But to say that it by itself overthrows all of Marxian economics is a stretch.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]