History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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The confused legacy of Capital

November 19th, 2017 · No Comments

Karl Marx


These endless paeans to Marx are almost tiresome. We are told ad infinitum how brilliant Marx was but the reality is that his theories don’t really work and

are a source of endless analysis that mostly goes down the drain. Capital was an unfinished book that was a victim of a mysterious writer’s block on the part of Marx. Perhaps he sensed that his theoretical framework was flawed and didn’t know how to deal with. The whole question of economic theory is a botch in Marx and still another botch in the neo-classical economics that soon left Marx behind and created a new approach to the issue of value. However lunatic the marginalist theory was the fact remains that Marx’s labor theory of value is so confused or else confusing that it may as well be set aside. The labor theory of value is an immense distraction and frankly it is almost impossible to extricate oneself from the whole mess of pottage.
The key issue is better stated as an empirical observation instead of as theory: the wage of the worker is a field of exploitation, no more, no less. The question of the labor theory of value (and the marginalist is itself confused) has been a theory disaster on the left and it is totally unnecessary: set it all aside and find a new, clearer, and empirical approach without pretenses to theory. I have studied the general theory of relativity and the mathematics of tensors, a difficult subject. But the theories of value of Marx (and the marginalists) are almost incomprehensible. The earlier classical economists make some sense, their take is basically descriptive. But Marx’s attempts at theory just don’t make much sense.
Frankly Engels was a better writer and might have done better, although he too in his ‘Dialectics of Nature’ contributed to the confusion. We don’t need these theories to move toward a postcapitalist framework: we need to construct an economy and democratic politics on the basis of socialism/communism and stop making a sacred canon out of the fragments in Capital. The book works fine as an historical introit but the whole range of questions must be redone from scratch.

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