Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON
LECTURE ONE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d__In2PQS60
LECTURE TWO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al7O2puvdDA

ALSO AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ONE THROUGH TEN ON IDEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE



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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

MORE RESPONSES TO COMMENTS


My first two posted lectures have provoked so many thoughtful comments that I must stop me work on Lecture Four [Three is ready to post] in order to attempt some sort of response.  Here goes, in no particular order.

First, let me just say a heartfelt thank you for the very kind comments.  They mean more to me than you might imagine. 

Now, to work:

Andrew MacDonald said:  "Found the first lecture very interesting. Mannheim's idea that one must go back to the origins in order to understand a thought is interesting (reminiscent of Nietzsche and Foucault). I wonder if we could also say that along with this backwards movement one must also engage in a horizontal movement; relating the thought to the context of significance it inhabits at this particular place and time."

Absolutely.  I hope I conveyed that in my extended Marx example.  I chose the story about my childhood because it struck me as an example people would not immediately think of.  Mannheim's own examples of ideological thinking very often make this "horizontal movement."

Formerly a wage slave said:  "Steve Keen made an argument along the same lines in his "Debunking Economics". That is, he argued that there are articles in mainstream economics journals that undermine most of what's taught (at undergraduate levels) as Economics and also that the same refuted doctrines influence policy. Keen suggests those articles are either ignored by Economists, or it is assumed that the details of the math. is someone else's job. In Ha Joon Chang's remarks about Neo-Classical Economics in his "Economics; a User's Guide" he says something along the lines that it's not the overwhelming evidence on the side of the theory which has made Neo-Classical economics dominant."

I think the situation is a bit worse than this.  Only ideological blindness can explain the fact that professional economists who do indeed know better [as I argued] nevertheless appeal to arguments they know are inapplicable to justify policy positions that serve the interests they consciously or unconsciously serve.  Some of them are just con artists and frauds, but the best of them, I believe, are truly in the grip of an ideology they cannot see for what it is. 

As I have several times observed, Freud says somewhere that if there is one subject one cannot discuss in an analysis, sooner or later the entire analysis comes to be about that one subject.  For economists like Krugman, Marx is that subject.

 

2 comments:

Chris said...

Krugman's article on Marx is just awful:
http://www.pkarchive.org/theory/keynes.html

formerly a wage slave said...

I don't doubt that you are correct so far as the truth goes. I meant to suggest that these two economists writing for the public were pointing to the same sort of problem you're on to, even if they are less robust in their language, even if they do not share all of your views.

But I think Chang's oblique mention of an absence of evidence is closer to you-- a step away from saying what you've said. Elsewhere he does say there are political reasons for the popularity of neo-Classical Economics, and I think that if one allows for a difference of idiom, that is what you are saying. On the other hand, he is not a Marxist, though he finds something of value in Marx. So, he's not going to say exactly what you say.

On a personal note, I should have liked to know what you know about Economics and Marx before I came to be where I am today, teaching English to students of Economics in Central (for some Americans forever "Eastern") Europe. But I've never sat in on a class in Economics, my study of math. stopped too soon, even my advanced undergraduate Logic teacher did not do his job, and I'm trying to learn something outside of my numerous hours of teaching. Your blog (and others) have influenced what I say to my students, but I'm not in a position to say what really needs saying. And I'm lacking the detailed knowledge which would allow me to make things clearer for myself or my students. It's maddening to know that what's in a textbook is crap, and see students nodding their heads at hearing another recitation of the claim that higher wages automatically lead to fewer jobs, or any other of a dozen oft-repeated untruths.

And when I look at local newspapers, or listen to local television, there are the same falsehoods repeated ad nauseam.

There are many days when I tell myself: Well, at least I have health insurance.....