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Pinketty on Marx and the distraction of Marx’s theories

May 7th, 2014 · 2 Comments

Thomas Piketty Is Pulling Your Leg He clearly read Karl Marx. But don’t call him a Marxist.

This article is a perfect example of the way marxists have frittered away a solid place in the economics debate. At a moment when a liberal economist, with an overwhelmingly cogent thesis on inequality, comments on a key issue relevant to marxism with a fund of data to boot, the discussion in an interview (no doubt manipulated by the sneaky center right TNR crowd) ends up with a discussion of Marx’s theories, and the discussion ends with a liberal economist rejecting the Marx theoretical stance. End of discussion. Marx is off. The issue rendered clear by Pinketty’s analysis is that capitalism is shown to manifest inefficient on the question of economic equality, as a built factor, no less. At the end of this discussion the issue of Marx has been deftly sidelined by the leading questions of the TNR interviewer, who is apparently hardpressed to keep the Marx monster from surfacing.

This was a conscious or unconscious journalistic strategy at work. But Marxist obsession with Marx’s theories makes it easy to manipulate discussion.

In LFM, out soon, I suggest that leftists should embrace the historical legacy of praxis in Marx/Engels and drop his economic theories as not worth bothering with at this point. They can be referenced briefly to color an historical introduction, but then the discussion must adjourn to new perspective that is postcapitalist/communism/socialist, and up to date, exposing the problems with modern economic theory. To defend Marx’s theories in a discussion of marginalist economics always ends up in a discussion of Marx’s theories, and an easy expose of their limits. End of discussion. Capitalist economics never enters the discussion. In part because noone understands those theories anyway.

Let us point out here that the issue is postcapitalism, a communist, neo-communist outcome, and that may or may not be a marxism-theorized discussion. The framework of Marx couild be of great help, but always his religious converts miss the point of his great contribution and bring in his failed theories, which are trifles on the sidelines.

Pinketty’s book would have been a clarion for those who foresee the endgame of capitalism. Here instead we have the TNR people able to dispose of Pinketty’s work in the process getting him to comment critically on Marx.

This situation is absurd. Time to consider a new rule of discussion: left marxist should NEVER fall for the bait of discussing Marx’s theories in an interview or other analogous context. In a scholarly arena, or a debate on the left, fine. But the realization needs to sink in that discussions of capitalism are better off without Marx’s theories. Capitalists sense this and use them as a foil to control discussion.
The issue here was the failure of capitalism, the generation of class division, not the failure of Marx’s theories. The data of Pinketty is relevant to a project of neo-communists. If it isn’t exactly marxist, so what?

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