Marxism w/o revolution: Class. I’ve mentioned Erik Olin Wright’s Envisaging Real Utopias a couple of times, and I’ve also been reading David Harvey’s Enigma of Capital and Jerry Cohen’s if You’re an Egalitarian How Come you’re so Rich.
In different ways, all these books raise the question: what becomes of Marxism if you abandon belief in the likelihood or desirability of revolution? To give the shorter JQ upfront, there are lots of valuable insights, but there’s a high risk of political paralysis. I plan alliteratively, to organise my points under three headings: Class, Capital and Crisis, and in this post I’ll talk about class The analysis of economics and history in terms of class struggle is the central distinguishing feature of Marxism, and remains essential to any proper understanding. As Cohen puts it, the revolutionary working class postulated by Marx had to satisfy four conditions: It seems clear, as Cohen says, that no sensible definition of the working class is going to satisfy all four conditions. fn1.
DR_TAD A response (Part 1) Marxism w/o revolution: Crisis. I’m writing series of posts examining the question – what is left of Marxism, as a way to understand the world, and as a way to change it, once it is accepted that capitalism is not going to be overthrown by a working class revolution.
Last time I talked about class. This post is about crisis. As before, the shorter JQ is “there are lots of valuable insights, but there’s a high risk of political paralysis.” One of the most powerful feature of Marxian analysis is the idea that crisis is a normal part of capitalism rather than an aberration resulting from exogenous shocks. Marx asserts that crises arise from inherent contradictions in the system and proposes a dialectical account by which the resolution of one crisis produces the contradictions that set the scene for the next. Marxism w/o revolution: Capital. I’ve been writing series of posts examining the question – what is left of Marxism, as a way to understand the world, and as a way to change it, once it is accepted that capitalism is not going to be overthrown by a working class revolution.
The first was about class and the second about crisis. Now for the final instalment: capital. By the way, the first post got translated into Spanish, here. It’s one of the things that I still find stunning about the Internet that things like this can happen. First there is Capital, the book,, and the value theory which is its main focus. As the theoretical basis for a proletarian revolution, Marx’s value theory had some obvious merits. Marx’s theory of value remains as unsatisfactory as ever, and the attempt by Sraffa to revive Ricardian economics, only showed up more problems.
For those engaged in attempts to achieve a better, more equal and more sustainable society, Marx’s theory of value has little to offer. Fn1. Fn2. Fn3. Final timetable released. Economic Manuscripts: Capital Vol. I - Chapter Four. Karl Marx.
Capital Volume One Part II: The Transformation of Money into Capital Chapter Four: The General Formula for Capital The circulation of commodities is the starting-point of capital. The production of commodities, their circulation, and that more developed form of their circulation called commerce, these form the historical ground-work from which it rises. If we abstract from the material substance of the circulation of commodities, that is, from the exchange of the various use-values, and consider only the economic forms produced by this process of circulation, we find its final result to be money: this final product of the circulation of commodities is the first form in which capital appears.
The first distinction we notice between money that is money only, and money that is capital, is nothing more than a difference in their form of circulation. Now let us examine the circuit M-C-M a little closer. Let us see, in the first place, what the two forms have in common. Footnotes 1. 2.