Thursday, June 6, 2013

Syllabus sketching/Unlearningecon trolling

I wish I could completely skip Marx... does that make me a bad person? I suppose I shouldn't. A few in the department would probably be miffed too if they found out.

UPDATE: So before I get in trouble from David Henderson's gracious boosting of my signal (plus a neat story!), Marx will of course be taught. That was half poking Unlearningecon from a conversation this morning and half just wishing I had more time to talk about other things that I'd like to. There's actually a lot of good modern heterodox work based on Marx that makes a valuable contribution, and some of the best people out there to teach that are at American University so it would certainly be a waste to not point students in that direction. And of course Marx gets at some ideas that Keynes will later develop, although not in quite as sophisticated a fashion.


  1. Well, if I were you, for Marx I would assign "The Communist Manifesto", "Wage-Labor and Capital", "Value, Price, and Profit" and this:

    There's an argument for adding Capital, vol I, ch. 25.

    There's an argument for adding Capital, vol I, cha. 26-32, but I think it a relatively weak one...

    1. Thanks for the thoughts! He will be in. I don't think I have the clout to rearrange things like that, and it's not so much that I'd want to as that I'd rather have other stuff.

      One thing that I am definitely showing them if not requiring as reading is your Russell Sage piece on what we knew a hundred years ago about depressions and financial crises.

    2. Just read the post on brad's blog. It's very good.

  2. Marx is beautiful because he allows you to teach Bohm-Bawerk's refutation of surplus value. In fact I think the millions of deaths under communism are worth it.

  3. Im still confused why you even thought of leaving Marx out of a History of Economic Thought class. Regardless of whether one likes Marx or not, Marx had a big impact in the history of economic thought, not to teach that kinda ruins the whole point of the class, wouldn't you say?

    Im with you though, I didn't personally get a lot out of Marx, I would rather read Adam Smith than Marx any day of the year. This, of course, does not mean that Marx was unimportant, especially when talking about the history of economic thought...

    1. Right... not a serious consideration...


      As I alluded to in the update, there are a lot of professors that do modern Marxian economics in the AU department, and while any department ought to cover him it seems particularly important that AU students get Marx since they've got so many great resources to draw on. I, like you, don't get a whole lot from him but I also am not abreast of all the modern work with him.

  4. I find Marx's take on value and crisis theories worlds more sophisticated than Keynes', but I have few doubts that folks here will disagree.

    That said, by all means: teach him critically. But try to be symmetrical about it, eh? Personally, I think history of economics courses should be taught by a panel of professors, with each major figure covered by someone critical of him/her.

    1. What the hell Marx means by "value" I could never figure out.

      That just puts him in the same boat as the other Classical Economists though. I remember reading that Reverend Sydney Smith joined the Political Economy club to find out what Value was and left when nobody there could tell him.

  5. While there may be a lot of material at your institution and a lot of professors that do have extensive familiarity with the economics of Karl Marx and Marxian economics, Daniel Kuehn, I do agree with Hedlund - teach Marx critically anyway, even if you may not be a specialist on Karl Marx and Marxian economics.

    That stated, I have pointed you to this 2012 article published in Contributions to Political Economy by Professor Miguel D. Ramirez of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut before.

    Professor Ramirez has also published other articles that involve Karl Marx's economic thought before, that you may also wish to take a look for reference. He is not a blind devotee of Karl Marx, and he does examine Karl Marx's contributions to economics critically.

    Professor Ramirez also has an article discussing globalization and its alleged inevitability in the course of Karl Marx's intellectual thought and the Marxian paradigm that will be published some time in the near-future in the Journal of the History of Economic Thought. Here's the link to the working paper version in the SSRN.

    There you go, Daniel Kuehn. I hope I've been of some help!

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  8. I'm not actually a marxist, but since you are trying to troll me, I will leave one thought (which may be obvious):

    If you are critiquing Marx, do not commit the cardinal sin of trying to quantify use value, or saying it is subjective. For Marx, something was a use value, which differs from the subjective theory, which says value is in the eye of the beholder. Furthermore, commodities either had a use value or they didn't: there was no way to measure its 'usefulness'. If a commodity had a use value, this is what gave it an exchange value, though of course the two were not equal as they were incommensurable.

    To answer Current partially, the point of exchange value was to explain how such incommensurable things as a chair, scaffolding and a cleaner could be measured by the same yardstick: money. How could they all be expressed in this way and what determined the quantity of money they were 'worth'. So that's the point of the whole thing.


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