Crisis and ‘law of motion’ in economics: a critique of positivist Marxism
This is a prepublication version of the paper published in Review of Political Economy Volume 26, 2010 (http://www.emeraldinsight.com/books.htm?issn=0161-7230&volume=26). It should be cited as Freeman, A. (2010). ‘Crisis and “law of motion” in economics: a critique of positivist Marxism’, Review of Political Economy Volume 26, 2010, pp 211-250. This paper restores the concepts of freedom, consciousness, and choice to our understanding of ‘economic laws’, so we may discuss how to respond to economic crisis. These are absent from orthodox economics which presents ‘globalisation’ or ‘the markets’ as the outcome of unstoppable forces outside human control. They were integral to the emancipatory political economy of Karl Marx but have been lost to Marxism, which appears as the inspiration for mechanical, fatalistic determinism. This confusion arises from Marxism’s absorption of the idea, originating in French positivism, that social laws are automatic and inevitable. The article contests the organizing principle of this view: that economic laws are predictive, telling us what must happen. Marx’s laws are relational, not predictive, laying bare the connection between two apparently distinct forms of appearance of the same thing, such as labour and price. Such laws open the door to democracy and choice, but do not unambiguously predict the future because what happens depends on our actions. The commodity form conceals these laws, disguising the true social and class relations of society. Accumulation, however, undermines the circumstances that permit the commodity to play this role. The result is crisis, defined in this paper as the point when the blind laws of the commodity form are suspended and open political forces come into play. In past crises, capitalism has restored the rate of profit through such destructive interventions as imperialism, war, and fascism. Economic laws, properly defined, offer society the real choice of alternative outcomes from crisis.
|Date of creation:||02 Jun 2010|
|Date of revision:||05 Jul 2010|
|Publication status:||Published in Research in Political Economy 26 (2010): pp. 211-250|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: Ludwigstraße 33, D-80539 Munich, Germany|
Web page: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de
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- Andrew J. Kliman, 2002. "The law of value and laws of statistics: sectoral values and prices in the US economy, 1977--97," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(3), pages 299-311, May.
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- Freeman, Alan & Kagarlitsky, Boris, 2004. "World Empire - or a world of Empires?," MPRA Paper 52543, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 27 Dec 2013.
- Andrew J. Kliman, 2005. "Reply to Cockshott and Cottrell," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 29(2), pages 317-323, March.
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- Wesley Clair Mitchell, 1927. "Introductory pages to "Business Cycles: The Problem and Its Setting"," NBER Chapters,in: Business Cycles: The Problem and Its Setting, pages -23 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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