[OPE-L:7323] Re: Re: Mario Cogoy and environmental economics

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Tue Jun 04 2002 - 04:45:27 EDT

In 7318 Alejandro Valle Baeza wrote

>Gerry this information is quite interesting. Do you know some 
>discussion about economic interest related to academic interest? I 
>read, some years ago, an interesting paper  from J. Petras about 
>politics and Latin-American intellectuals. In such paper Petras 
>argued that personal economic  interest are close related to changes 
>in focus by LA intellectual (And elsewhere  I presume).  In Mexico, 
>by example, during 70's  it was compatible to obtain academic 
>prestige and grants with Marxian ascription. This changed 
>drastically during 80's and 90's and most of Marxian Mexican 
>economist rejected the first M; hence they are now Mexican economist.

If one does not drop an M, then one may end up trying to become a 
Marxist Hayekian Mexican (or Indian)?

Marx in the marketplace
                         (Filed: 21/04/2002)

                         Michael Prowse reviews Marx's Revenge by
                         Meghnad Desai.

                         SOME books are more than the sum of their parts;
                         others are less. Unhappily, Marx's Revenge, falls into
                         the latter category. Many of the chapters are
                         entertaining and instructive. Meghnad Desai, the
                         Labour peer and LSE economist, is good at
                         explaining complex ideas, and many readers will
                         learn much from his analysis of two centuries of
                         economic history. But the coherence of the book's
                         central argument is more doubtful.

                         The root problem is one that afflicts many nominally
                         Left-wing intellectuals. Late in their careers they
                         have come to appreciate the strength of the case for
                         markets. Yet they also want to remain loyal to the
                         ideals of their youth. In Desai's case, the problem is
                         extreme: he once admired Marx sufficiently to
                         devote years to the writing of textbooks on Marxian
                         economics. He is now trying to show that one can
                         revere both Marx and some of his sternest critics,
                         such as Friedrich Hayek, the Austrian economist. The
                         task is, let us say, challenging.

                         When Desai refers to Marx's "revenge", he has two
                         different ideas in mind, neither of which will perturb
                         investment bankers. He argues, first, that Marx has
                         already had his revenge with respect to the likes of
                         Lenin and Mao. They deserved to fail, he argues,
                         because they ignored the master's warning that one
                         type of social organisation can succeed another only
                         when the former has exhausted its capacity for
                         development. Capitalism had not exhausted its
                         potential when the Bolsheviks seized power, and
                         their project was thus always doomed.

                         Although Marx didn't live to witness the atrocities
                         committed in his name, he lived long enough to
                         worry about the rationality of his more ardent
                         followers. "Tout que je sais, je ne suis pas marxiste"
                         he once wrote. But Desai hints that there is a
                         second sense in which Marx may yet get his

                         Many people imagine that markets and democracy
                         represent a final destination, the highest imaginable
                         development of social organisation. After the Berlin
                         Wall collapsed, Francis Fukuyama expressed this
                         insight pithily with his claim that "history had
                         ended". But if Marx was right, capitalism, like
                         feudalism, will go under once it has exhausted its
                         potential. And the irony about recent efforts to
                         deregulate economies is that they will hasten rather
                         than retard this process.

                         So long as capitalism was shackled - by high taxes,
                         tariff barriers, capital controls and so forth - its
                         development was stymied. The truest friends of
                         socialism, Desai thus hints, are the conservative
                         leaders who liberalised markets. They restarted the
                         historical process that will lead, ineluctably, to a
                         socialism that is genuine because spontaneous
                         rather than imposed by revolutionary upstarts.

                         The problem with this argument is that it is not
                         rigorous. Marx could neither identify the process
                         whereby capitalism would fail, nor even sketch how
                         a post-capitalist society would function. There was
                         thus little content in his claim that something
                         (communism) would succeed capitalism, just as
                         capitalism had apparently succeeded feudalism.

                         Desai thus fails to produce the evidence that could
                         justify his claim that Marx should still be regarded as
                         a seminal thinker. Indeed if one reads Desai closely
                         one will discover that his allegiance has anyway
                         shifted. Like many centre-left thinkers, he has
                         flipped from one extreme position to another. Having
                         once had too little faith in markets, he now has too
                         much faith in them. If you doubt this, read his
                         hagiographic account of Hayek.

                         The risk he thus runs is of encouraging an
                         unnecessarily supine attitude to global capitalism.
                         The world may need markets for the forseeable
                         future, but the institutional framework within which
                         markets are embedded can be more or less humane.
                         Desai's book will do nothing to encourage a more
                         humane capitalism.

                           Michael Prowse is a columnist on The Financial

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