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Excerpts from

MARXIAN
INFLUENCES
IN "BOURGEOIS" economics

By MARTIN BRONFENBRENNER

 

"Why on earth should a man, because he is a Marxist, be a drivelling idiot?"

-Boris
PASTERNAK, Doctor Zhivago.

 

Das Kapital's centenary finds Karl Marx still a controversial figure, wherever he is neither a plaster saint nor a fourletter word. Nowhere has he been easily forgotten, and Das Kapital is still the most influential unread book in existence.

… were I personally asked to name the greatest social scientist of all time----not necessarily the greatest economist - I should name Karl Marx, but without considering myself a Marxist or being considered one by my exclusivist Marxian friends. There are too many "bourgeois" elements in my thinking, however great my admiration for the Marxian theoretical structure, and I remain a muddled eclectic. (F.B.I. and Birch Society please note.)

 

Marx was, like Keynes, primarily a synthesizer, at least in his economics. There are few if any elements of his system which cannot be found in embryo in one or another predecessor. (The English "Ricardian Socialists" come immediately to mind.) There are yet fewer elements not paralleled by one or another reformist or socialist contemporary or nearcontemporary. Marx's genius lay, like Keynes's, in synthesis, in combining bits and pieces from one and another system into a whole greater than the sum of its parts. It is this aspect of Marxism, in particular, that seems to have gone unappreciated by Marx's earlier bourgeois critics, …

 

 …some people … [believe] that the subjective, marginal, or utility revolution in value and price theory was prompted ideologically, to escape from the consequence of the labor theory of value as developed particularly by Marx. This thesis is not proven; in fact, the weight of evidence seems to be against it.

I limit myself to a catalogue of some nine "modern" elements of Das Kapital, not all of which I find personally congenial, which academic economists missed almost entirely until the 193O's. Keynesian paral­lels should be obvious, and also "structuralist" ones, involving inter alia Leontief's own input-output system.

 

1. Division of the private economy into "investment" and "consumption"

2. [Marx] was an embryonic general-equilibrium theorist in advance of Leon Walras.

3. Marx presents a theory of underemployment equilibrium well in advance of Keynes,

  4. The notion of a minimum rate of profit, below which capitalists will seek to hoard their savings in monetary form, seems to be a first cousin to the Keynesian liquidity trap in interest theory.

 

5. Marx antedated current institutionalist and structuralist writers from Veblen and Ayres to Leontief and Chenery, in downgrading the importance of prices, and price-induced substitutions, as compared with purely technical production relations…. Nothing in Marx's aggregative "laws of motion of capitalism" would be affected in any significant way by any change in the pattern of divergences between prices and values,

 

 6. I owe to Leontief's 1937 paper to this Association an appreciation of the indebtedness to Marx of business cycle theory

7…in imperfect in contrast with pure competition, Marx gives us no finished theory but an urgent sense of general unease, integrating facts and analysis, which has come to fruition long after his death

 

8. … the smooth and natural articulation of Marxian statics and dynamics, … Das Kapital was the last system with this feature at least until Schumpeter. Static analysis took over the field in the 1870's, and we are not yet back to the Marxian level.

 

9.      In the same way, Marx's assimilation of theory and practice, of economics and other social studies, is not new. He stands last, and possibyl greatest, in a series from Locke through Hume and Smith, Ricardo and Mill, in what we self-consciously call today an interdisciplinary tradition. After Marx, such architectonics went out of fashion among economists, and was left to philosophers and sociologists unin­terested in economics

 

 

 

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