- The Poetry of The Communist Manifesto: a Combination of past and present
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- Marx’s sincerity – Dangerous & Lazy
- Robert Paul Wolff
Excerpt These reflections on the relation between the literary form and philosophical message of Capital were originally delivered at the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts as the Romanell-Phi Beta Kappa Lectures for Read preview Overview. Burns, Thomas J. Notes On.
The Poetry of The Communist Manifesto: a Combination of past and present
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Wolff, Robert Paul. Moneybags must be so lucky : on the literary structure of Capital. Request this item to view in the Library's reading rooms using your library card. To learn more about how to request items watch this short online video. You can view this on the NLA website. Login Register. Advanced search Search history. From a purely formal standpoint, the key to the rehabilitation of Marx is the development, by Wassily Leontief, John von Neumann, Piero Sraffa, and a host of lesser theorists, of linear reproduction models of a capitalist economy.
The marginalist conception places concepts of efficiency and mutual satisfaction at the centre of its analysis, thereby representing a capitalist economy as a fundamentally harmonious equilibrium. The classical and Marxian linear reproduction conception makes class conflict over the distribution of the social surplus the central problem of static analysis, and the conditions of balanced growth the central problem of dynamic analysis.
This approach is thus better suited to understanding both advanced capitalist economies and the phenomena of growth and development in the Third World. The classical economists and Marx had expressed their theories either in discursive form or else in quite elementary semiformal models. For a variety of reasons, Marx in particular failed to carry through the theoretical implications of his analytical premises, with the result that he arrived at incorrect or confused conclusions.
Nevertheless, his formal intuitions were for the most part brilliant, and modern theorists have had relatively little difficulty recasting his arguments in acceptably rigorous forms. Indeed, Michio Morishima, one of the most important mathematical re-interpreters of Marx, offers the startling judgment that Marx should in my opinion be ranked as high as Walras in the history of mathematical economics.
The mathematics is not difficult by the standards of the scientific and mathematical world. The principal tool is linear algebra, with the theory of partial differential equations playing a subordinate role. The principal aim of this book is to present an interpretation of the development of classical and Marxian political economy in a form that is accessible to readers unfamiliar with linear algebra.
My goal is to articulate the central insights of the modern reinterpretation so that their philosophical and theoretical implications are clear, while keeping out of the body of the text all but the most elementary formal machinery. The device I have chosen is a series of little models of capitalist economies, in which two or three kinds of commodities are produced under capitalistic conditions of private ownership of the means of production, wage labour, and a free and competitive market.
The fundamental ideas of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Karl Marx can be explicated, analysed, and subjected to critique, I am convinced, without the more elaborate machinery that makes the modern economic literature on this subject so off-putting.
All that readers will be expected to know is the familiar technique for solving systems of two or three simultaneous equations — what is today taught as high school algebra. No calculus or linear algebra is used in the text. For readers who wish to pursue more formally the various statements made in the course of the exposition, rigorous proofs are provided in Appendix A.
I have tried, without overburdening the text or notes, to indicate where in the literature one can find the first, or at least early, proofs of the formal propositions developed below.
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Needless to say, my narration of the theoretical story of classical and Marxian political economy is what the French call guilty. I have a particular view of what Marx was doing and to what extent he succeeded, and that view is inevitably controversial. Nevertheless, I hope that readers of many ideological persuasions will find their understanding of Marx deepened and made more precise, whether or not they end by agreeing with my interpretation. Human beings live by transforming nature to satisfy their needs. This act of transformation, or production, is repeated periodically in such a manner that the products or output of one period of production become the materials or input for the next period of production.
In short, human beings live by a process of reproduction. There are three moments, or modes, of reproduction. Material reproduction is the cyclical reproduction of the food, clothing, shelter, tools — and also the technical knowledge and craft skill — required for human life and for the continuation of the process of production.
Marx’s sincerity – Dangerous & Lazy
Classical political economy, arising as it did in the nations of Western Europe during a time when agricultural production predominated, organised its analysis of material reproduction around the annual cycle of Northern Hemisphere agriculture. For reasons of convenience, convention, and tradition, we shall follow that practice in this discussion. The grain becomes seed as well as food. The wood becomes tools as well as chairs and tables. Human reproduction is the day-by-day reconstitution of human powers and capacities by means of food, sleep, shelter, medical care, and so forth, and also the generational reproduction of the species through conception, birth, and child rearing.
Here, as in all reproduction, the output of one cycle the children becomes the input of the next cycle the parents. Social or historical reproduction is the daily re-creation of society itself as a largely unintended collective human product. It is also the historical transmission and transformation of culture.
This social reproduction is carried out in and through language, kinship and child-rearing practices, patterns and rituals of interpersonal interactions, religion, laws — and also, of course, through the reproduction of the social relationships of material production. Material, human, and social reproduction constitute a single whole — they are three aspects of the same process.
Robert Paul Wolff
Nevertheless, they can be distinguished for purposes of analysis. Our primary focus throughout most of this book will be on the analysis of material reproduction, and on human reproduction insofar as it is construed as a sort of material reproduction.
Classical political economy has a good deal to say about the relationship of human to material reproduction, as does Marx, and we shall have to explore that relationship at length. Consider an extremely simple, primarily agricultural economy in which there is only one kind or quality of labour and in which arable land is freely available. Assume that there are only two goods produced in this economy, namely corn and iron.
Let the productive activities of the society be so differentiated that we can distinguish two sectors, in each of which only one good is produced. We shall call these the corn sector and the iron sector.