Tuesday, August 7, 2012

On Marx

Some people are upset I said that Marxist economics (which I am differentiating from communism) wasn't really viable in economics by Keynes's time.

I want to impress upon people that this of course doesn't mean Marxist economics wasn't talked about by any serious economist ever. That's obviously not true. You all listed many of them - to that I'd add Paul Sweezy and Ronald Meek, who I don't remember seeing in your list.

OK, so? If the question was "did anyone at all take Marxist economics seriously in the twentieth century" then I would have a different answer. But the question was whether there was a great debate between Marxists and New Classicals or Marxists and Keynesians and the answer is that there wasn't (I assume no one disagrees with me on that), and part of the reason was there weren't a whole lot of credible Marxists to argue with.

The Cambrdige Capital Controversy may have discussed a lot of Marx, which wouldn't be surprising to me at all given some of its participants. But even that is obscure to most economists. The SCD is the next closest thing but as I said that really deals with state socialism not Marxist economics.


  1. They also didn't mention Michal Kalecki, who had an influence upon the thought of Hyman P. Minsky.

    In any case, Michal Kalecki himself had accepted the frequency theory of probability, which itself is less applicable than the interval estimate approach John Maynard Keynes had derived from George Boole. See the following link for reference.


    1. I think "defunct" was just a rather loaded way to put it. To say that Marxian economics was at best a marginal presence at most departments would be totally accurate.

    2. Nobody who sympathizes with a school of thought would like "defunct".

      Notice also that the ones that grapple with Marxist economics that aren't Marxists themselves are usually marginal in their own right, or simply historians of thought.

      That no non-historian mainstream economist does much thinking about it is telling. Samuelson is a rare exception in the Marxist case, and he only wrote a little on it and even that was in the vein of dismissing a historical/defunct idea.

  2. How would Oskar Lange fit into this ?

  3. It's impossible for Marxist economics to be defunct since it hasn't even arrived yet. Marx makes a series of vague predictions about the characteristics that post-capitalist economics will have, he doesn't advance a positive economics program of his own. All we really know about marxist economics is that it will replace the role of the capitalist with something and provide the labourer a fuller (though not full) share of labour value somehow. Marxist theory only exists in theory and we'll have to wait and see whether marxism ever actually succeeds in becoming economics before we can judge it as economics.


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