A Freeway in Hell

My thoughts on the nature of our late capitalist society. The title should give some clue what I think of that! US 101 or I-80 as metaphor for our imperatives. Besides worrying about what sort of black hole we are speeding into, I like airships. One reason being the almost inescapble desire to have one to get out of a traffic jam!

Location: Sonoma County, California

Grew up a military brat, Californian-in-exile, reactionary libertarian-essentially spent the 70s on Mars, for I am hearing impaired and I did not know what the music was saying. Generally still don't unless I listen to it over and over or find the words captioned on a movie or somewhere on line. Came "back" to California to begin my adult life, have not lived elsewhere since. No regrets there despite our problems here. Have studied physics, more math than most human beings will ever need, worked on spaceship projects (well, one) at JPL. Lived with a wonderful disabled person who lives no more--L Natasha Littletree RIP October 2004. I have a life plan, just kind of vague on some of the short-term stuff.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Because It Apparently Has To Be Said Again

One side effect of the brouhaha about John Edward's brief employment of world-class feminist blogger Amanda Marcotte on his campaign staff and the subsequent right-wing Swiftboating of her and the candidate is that nowadays Pandagon has apparently quadrupled or quintupled its traffic, and among new commentors there are a lot of hostile right-wingers. In this new ecosystem, I have become more motivated to expound my Marxist views, particularly on the core subject of Marx's labor theory of value political economy. I don't know how far I'll get or how fast I can post, but clearly I need to write down my reasons for believing that Marx did in fact develop the rational approach to economics whereas mainstream "economics," called variously NeoClassical, Marginalist, or the "Austrian" or "Chicago" school, is a bunch of ideological hooey, of no scientific value and having no practical uses except for making apologies for the outrages of capitalism.

For now, just a long blockquote from the late Ernest Mandel, Trotskyite economist extrordinaire, from his Introduction to the Vintage Edition of Capital, Volume I, 1976.

[Capital] was never intended as a handbook to help governments to solve such problems as balance-of-payment deficits, nor yet as a learned, if somewhat trite, explanation of all the exciting happenings in the market place when Mr. Smith finds no buyer for his last 1000 tons of iron. It was intended as an explanation of what would happen to labour, machinery, technology, the size of enterprises, the social structure of the population, the discontinuity of economic growth, and the relations between workers and work, as the capitalist mode of production unfolded in all its terrifying potential. From that point of view the achievement is truly impressive. It is precisely because of Marx's capacity to discover the long-term laws of motion of the capitalist mode of production in its essence, irrespective of thousands of "impurities" and of secondary aspects, that his long-term predictions--the laws of accumulation of capital, stepped-up technological progress, accelerated increase in the productivity and intensity of labour, growing concentration and centralization of capital, transformation of the great majority of economically active people into sellers of labour-power, declining rate of profit, increased rate of surplus-value, periodically recurrent recessions, inevitable class struggle between Capital and Labour, increasing revolutionary attempts to overthrow capitalism--have been so strikingly confirmed by history.

This judgement has generally been challenged on two grounds. The easiest way out for critics of Marx is simply to deny that the laws of motion of the capitalist mode of production which he discovered have been verified at all. This is generally done by reducing them to a couple of misstated and oversimplifed formulae (see below): "progressive immiseration of the working class" and "ever-worsening economic crisis." A more sophisticated objection was advanced by Karl Popper, who denied the very possibility, or rather the scientific nature, of such "laws," calling them "unconditional historical prophecies" to be clearly distinguished from "scientific predictions." "Ordinary predictions in science," says Popper, "are conditional. They assert that certain changes (say, of the temperature of water in a kettle) will be accompanied by other changes (say, the boiling of the water)." Popper denies the scientific nature of Capital by asserting that, unlike scientific theories, its hypotheses cannot be scientifically tested.

This is obviously based upon a misunderstanding of the very nature of the materialist dialectic, which, as Lenin pointed out, requires constant verification through praxis to increase its cognition content. In fact, it would be very easy to "prove" Marx's analysis to have been wrong, if experience had shown, for example, that the more capitalist industry develops the smaller and smaller the average factory becomes, the less it depends upon new technology, the more its capital is supplied by the workers themselves, the more workers become owners of their factories, the less the part of wages taken by consumer goods becomes (and the greater the becomes the part of wages used for buying the workers' own means of production). If, in addition, there had been decades without economic fluctuations and a full-scale disappearance of trade unions and employers' associations (all flowing from the disappearance of contradictions between Capital and Labour, inasmuch as workers increasingly become the controllers of their own means and conditions of production) then one could indeed say that Capital was so much rubbish and had dismally failed to predict what would happen in the real capitalist world a century after its publication. It is sufficient to compare the real history of the period since 1867 on the one hand with what Marx predicted it would be, and on the other with any such alternative "laws of motion," to understand how remarkable indeed was Marx's theoretical achievement and how strongly it stands up against the test of history.

Pages 23-25


Blogger LtRand said...


In following your link from Amanda's post, I found your blog intriguing.

The issue I have is not that you support socialism, as I have seen several countries succeed in its usage, but with your ill definition of what capitalism is. Not to be confused with corperatism, like our current economic system which uses the worst aspects of socialism and capitalism to isolate corperate interests from market dynamics while forcing greater market risks to the individual, true capitalism is something much different.

Converse to what socialism is, were you sacrifice individual liberties for a common good, capitalism sacrifices common good for individual liberties. Overall, in it's pure form, it is overall no better or worse than socialism, just a differing means of economic production, one focusing on the collective, the other focusing on the individual. Just as the collective can think in terms of the individual, the individual can think in terms of the collective, and I think this is something not widely discussed by either "wing" of partisan politics.

As you can contrast Russia and Japan; the former having negative socialism, the latter positive socialism, there is currently no standing capitalist country to give a modern example of what true free-markets would look like. All exposure to working capitalism have been driven out in favor of "mixed-economies" or corperatism, with the exception of some third world countries. This is why I think there is such a perrogative cannotation with Austrian Economic Theories.

Just some thoughts in efforts for dialog.

6/16/2007 2:36 PM  

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