They could adhere to the discipline’s current conventions, producing narrow studies concerned with the behaviour of prices in markets. As in the Great Depression, then, the concern of the ruling class and their economic advisors is not about saving ordinary people’s lives, but about the viability of their system – the profit system. In the US, Morgan Stanley predicts an annualised fall of 30%. These, in the final analysis, are crises of overproduction. In 1925, sympathisers with the Soviet Union were treated to a world-class […]. Marxism provides a scientific analysis of the capitalist system, its relations and laws, and why these lead to crises / Image: Socialist Appeal. Instead, capitalism periodically found itself – like in the 1930s – stuck in a vicious circle, with rising unemployment leading to falling demand; falling demand leading to a collapse in business investment; and collapsing investment leading to rising unemployment; and so on. His 1930 prediction that economists would either rediscover “the macroscopic problems of society” or retreat into irrelevance by maintaining an obsession with “microscopic phenomena” went unfulfilled. But, like the proper scion of Britain’s elite that he was, Keynes preferred to laugh at his enemies. Only by bringing in common ownership over the means of production and implementing a socialist economic plan can we satisfy society’s needs. He did not reach a settled position on Keynes until after World War II, and even then he was reluctant to make his views known. It was an extraordinary transformation, and economists were indispensable to its realisation, including one of Dobb’s own mentors. Only a clear socialist alternative of common ownership, workers’ control, and democratic economic planning can provide a way forward for humanity. Dobb was not among them. John Maynard Keynes believed that governments could manage and regulate the capitalist system by ‘stimulating demand’ / Image: Public Domain. contend that Marx and Keynes are utterly opposed and share no comm on ground whatever. At a similar time of crisis in the early 1970s, Republican US President Richard Nixon was said to remark that “we are all Keynesians now”, as his administration turned towards expansionist economic policies. Businesses invest, produce, and sell in order to make a profit. In Dobb’s eyes, Keynes’ chest pounding about a great escape from orthodoxy was a mixture of melodrama and marketing. But the vagueness of his references to “contemporary discussion” conceals a more specific regret: when Dobb wrote the book, he still had not grappled with The General Theory. Since capitalism is a rule-based social system, Keynes’s ethical theory is incompatible with capitalism. Keynesianism, however, avoids this key question of economic ownership. Profit, at the same time, however, is appropriated by the capitalists from the unpaid labour of the working class. He was a masterful debater when he wanted to be. The problem is, their arsenals are already empty from their attempts to fight the last recession. Throughout, he displayed a creativity and intellectual dexterity that proved Marxism was a vital, living tradition. These must either fall on the capitalist class, which bites into investment. Recent events seem to offer activists the perfect rebuttal to right-wing critics who ask how radical policies will be paid for. Unlike Marx, however, Keynes did not then subdivide these two departments into their various components of value: constant, variable, and surplus. At the present time, however, the aim is not so much to boost demand; after all, production is largely paralysed by the pandemic. “Boris must embrace socialism immediately in order to save the liberal free market,” declared one writer in the Tory mouthpiece, the Telegraph. For example, all other things being equal, if the government prints two notes where there was one previously, this devalues the currency by half, and therefore prices in the economy will double. Soon not even Keynes could shrug off class conflict. This s… It is as simple as that. Joan Robinson, a former Keynes protégé and one of Cambridge’s most prominent voices after his death, labeled the new style “bastard Keynesianism” and wondered aloud: “Why have the Americans forgotten all that we have taught them?” The answer should have been obvious: the Americans did not care, not when there were papers to publish, growing ranks of students to teach, and desperate governments to advise. Its unclear how much Karl Marx treated his work as an exercise in theory (yet he did accurately describe capitalism. Maurice Dobb was one of John Maynard Keynes’ favorite students. Here, Dobb tied his interpretation to a larger philosophy of history. Keynes’ vocal repudiation of Marshall had divided Cambridge’s economics department. Easy – just add it to the bill! When Dobb’s turn came to present, he delivered an ardent defence of Marx’s economics. We have a duty to offer a word of warning to workers and youth: do not believe those trying to foist their quack remedies upon you. When Keynes at such late hour, approached Marx’s position,it was not in order to point to an inherent contradiction of capital productionbut to hail the disparity between employment and investment as a greataccomplishment. After a childhood spent bouncing around the lower edges of Britain’s upper class, Dobb arrived at the university radicalised by World War I, transfixed by the revolutionary wave sweeping across Europe, and eager to do his part to save the world. Mass investment in green energy? Only with the onset of the Second World War and the mopping up of workers into the army and the arms sector did unemployment fall. He never quit the CPGB — a fractured left, he thought, was an impotent left, and he did not lose faith in the party’s ability to reform itself — but shame at what he now considered a lunatic adherence to the party line spurred him to repudiate his earlier Stalinism. Many, in fact, did leave for precisely that reason. It ranged across an intimidatingly vast array of subjects: value theory, the legacies of classical political economy, the origins of economic crises, the character of imperialism, and the laws governing a socialist economy, to name a few. Yes, money can be created ‘out of thin air’. The economy collapses not simply because of a fall in demand (or confidence), but because the productive forces come into conflict with the narrow limits of the market. By the middle of the twentieth century, however, economists had gained an influence over policymaking that their predecessors could not even have conceived. He decided early that he wanted to be an economist. In this respect, we see echoes today of Keynes’ ideas in the policies being carried out in response to the coronavirus-induced crisis. Nor is it particularly modern. “It is, it seems, politically impossible for a capitalistic democracy to organise expenditure on the scale necessary to make the grand experiments which would prove my case — except in war conditions.”. He was also a dedicated activist who helped coordinate rallies for striking union members and organised workers in the economically depressed region outside of Birmingham known as the Black Country. Before the twentieth century, economists simply did not have the tools — like national income accounting, or sophisticated mathematical modelling — that could allow them to claim they had made the economy as a whole governable. Britain: foreign aid – the smiling face of imperialism. His room was a favourite meeting place for campus radicals, who knew their host’s bourgeois upbringing guaranteed a steady stream of tea and éclairs for his guests. The coronavirus crisis is “turning Tories into socialists” announced another headline, this time in the Conservative journal, the Spectator. Production under capitalism is for profit. Mail In particular, his most famous work – his General Theory – was a direct response to the Great Depression, and the mass unemployment seen in America, Britain, and across Europe at the time. He spent countless hours working for party organisations, cultivating young Communists as a teacher in summer schools, serving as “chairman of the faculty of economics” for the party’s educational institute, and even helping to start a CPGB film company. that capitalism is inherently unable to find a market for all the commodities that are produced. But only Marxism offers a solution. The great refutation of Schumpeter to Marx is that, since the latter considered revolution as bringing in the “whole” man as opposed to the modern, alienated one, Schumpeter says that Marx is … In other words, demand can be ‘stimulated’ today through government borrowing, but only by cutting into demand in the future. This falls to 70% or less in times of slump. Similarly with government borrowing. He revised it substantially for a 1940 edition, but even that did not satisfy him. And public debts are already sky-high from bailing out the banks during the last global crisis. By the 1950s, the emphasis on expectations had faded, replaced by recognition of the importance of Keynes’ attention to what Dobb called “the economic system as a whole” and, especially, that system’s vulnerability to crisis. His concern was less that workers might eat, and more that they might buy and consume, thus providing a market – the ‘effective demand’ – that the capitalists required in order to sell their produce and make a profit. “There need be no more unemployment,” stated Keynes. Even at its height, capitalism can only successfully utilise about 80-90% of its productive abilities. Despite being embraced today by the labour movement and the left, Keynes was a devout Liberal. The tangle of personal, political, and intellectual complications that made it so difficult for Dobb to talk about The General Theory gnarled through his career. The feud was bitter, often personal, and some of Dobb’s closest allies were on the opposing side. In short, Keynes’ programme was not one aimed at ameliorating the lives of the working class, but at saving capitalism from its own contradictions. That had all changed by the 1950s. Keynes’ closest associates at Cambridge furiously distanced themselves from Americanised Keynesianism. In a letter to a fellow CPGB member, he grumbled about days spent “teaching embryo exploiters how to exploit the workers in the most up-to-date humane way.” Keynes had declared “the end of laissez-faire” in 1926, but Dobb complained that that whenever he raised the question of class, Keynes would “simply misunderstand you, or else say that you are introducing ‘sentimental’ considerations which do not concern him & do not seem to him important.” What Keynes regarded as “sentimental,” Dobb considered essential to any understanding of economic theory — or of the world, for that matter. But the state cannot guarantee that this money has any value. Here, after all, is the famous ‘magic money tree’ that the Conservatives had claimed did not exist! Like their traditional Keynesian predecessors, MMT supporters believe that there should never be any slump, or any need for austerity and balanced budgets, since governments can always step in by creating money and spending it. These were reasonable, albeit harsh, criticisms. But to realise a profit, the capitalists must be able to sell the commodities they produce. He seems to have regarded Keynesianism as chiefly a theory of expectations, one whose reluctance to confront “objective” realities of production, distribution, and exploitation would lead to — and here he sounded every bit the Cambridge don — “quite a lot of nonsense” and “any sort of economic ballyhoo.” Political Economy and Capitalism devoted only part of a single chapter to an oblique appraisal of Keynesianism, just a fraction of the many pages Dobb gave to explication of a subject he believed would have much greater relevance to the future of economics: the labour theory of value, that guardian of objectivity and defender against economic ballyhoo (and, presumably, tomfoolery, horseplay, shenanigans, hijinks, and monkeyshines). In either case, the effect is to restrict demand, not create it. Keynes had never taken Marxism seriously, and for the most part he never would. Over the course of a career that spanned more than half a century, he wrote twelve academic books, more than twice as many pamphlets intended for general audiences, and hundreds of articles for publications ranging from the Economic Journal to the Daily Worker. Though Dobb considered himself an inheritor of a noble tradition of political economy, he was a political economist who did not take the political seriously. Full employment became the horizon of the Left, strangling the more ambitious programs that had flourished in the Depression. Major biographies of John Maynard Keynes (not merely books on Keynes and Keynesianism, of which the supply is far larger) include the 1951 Life of John Maynard Keynes by Roy Harrod; the 1992 Maynard Keynes: An Economist’s Biography by Donald Moggridge, and the multi-volume biography by Robert Skidelsky, who happily gave us also Keynes: A Very Short Introduction for Oxford … But sometimes those forums included newspapers targeted at what hardliners dismissed as bourgeois audiences — a sin that, when combined with his academic day job, was enough to turn a sizeable portion of the CPGB’s hierarchy against him. At the same time, it is also important to recognise the differences between these (failed) Keynesian experiments of the past and the measures being enacted by policy makers and world leaders today in similarly desperate circumstances. Even Marx fit into this tradition — what else is Capital but a guidebook to the capitalist mode of production for the future ruling class; The Prince for the proletariat? Only they could claim to have mastered a subject that had become an obsession across the globe: economic growth. Instead, the discipline followed a third path by redefining macroscopic. Political Economy and Capitalism was Dobb’s attempt to fulfil this promise. In his view only “a wealthy community will have todiscover much ampler opportunities for investment if the saving propensities ofits wealthier members are to be compatible with the employment of its poorermembers” . At most, Keynesianism and MMT provide a palliative medicine for a chronic disease. But the question never asked by the Keynesians (of all flavours) is how we have ended up in this situation in the first place? Traditional Keynesian steps were an attempt to stimulate demand – and, in turn, business investment – through government spending. Now is not the time for the wiley charms of charlatans and snake-oil salesmen. State spending ultimately must be paid out of taxation or out of borrowing. As we have explained elsewhere, Marxism, by contrast, sees capitalist crisis as a crisis of “over-production” – i.e. Marxism, Keynesianism, and Modern Monetary Theory In this talk from Revolution Festival 2019, Adam Booth - editor of www.socialist.net - compares and contrasts the economic ideas of Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, and MMT. Articles in the party press condemning his work proliferated under headlines line “Maurice Dobb’s Distortions of Marxism.” These public chastisements were coupled with a deeply personal indictment from his comrades in the CPGB’s Cambridge chapter. In other words, all this money will end up in the hands of profiteering parasites. But what they give to workers in the form of wages subsidies and government spending today, will be taken away through austerity tomorrow. But he never moved beyond the materialism that, despite protests to the contrary, framed his thinking about politics. He correctly identified – as Marx had done many decades before – that the ‘invisible hand’ of the market was not omnipotent; that supply and demand would not always match in perfect ‘equilibrium’. But neither can diagnose this disease correctly, nor offer a genuine cure. At the end of the day, there is no such thing as a free lunch when it comes to capitalism. If anyone could have forged a union between Keynes and Marx, by all rights it should have been Dobb. The same can be seen in China in recent years, where the largest ever Keynesian programme of construction has been undertaken in the last decade, in an effort to escape the impact of the global capitalist crisis. But, as the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with such well-meaning wishes. Seen from Dobb’s perspective, it was a reasonable enough conclusion. In past recessions, the figure falls to as low as 40-50%. It is not the state that creates the demand for money, but the needs of capitalist production. Why has the economy become stuck in this downward spiral of low investment, unemployment, and stagnant demand? The 2008 crash marked the culmination of such a process – a climax that was delayed for decades on the basis of Keynesian policies and a boom in credit alike. On virtually every other subject, it was almost impossible to stop him from expressing himself. 2017 Political Economy Seminar Series. He failed to grasp a truth that events in his own lifetime supplied abundant evidence for: that how people understand their world shapes what they can make out of it. The General Theory’s messy text was converted into a simple model that soon became a staple of introductory economics textbooks. In 1949, he toyed with rewriting the book, calling it a work that “for a number of years now I’ve disliked too much to dare to open,” but abandoned the project to save energy for new material. After all, in his General Theory, the English economist even suggested that the government could boost demand by burying money in the ground and getting workers to dig it back up. The University’s cloistered atmosphere turned out to be a gift for Dobb: to those within its walls, the revolutionary struggles thundering across Europe were just distant rumbles, and a student’s Marxism could be laughed off as another delightful Cambridge eccentricity. This is the ultimate limit to any government’s ability to create and spend money – the productive capacity of the economy: the economic resources available to a country in terms of its industry, infrastructure, education, population, and so on. They merely state that ‘excess capacity’ is the result of a lack of effective demand. Argument Socialism’s Biggest Hero Is a Bourgeois British Capitalist John Maynard Keynes felt little solidarity for workers and inspired a century of establishment economics. Already on our list? The real question is: by whom? Those on the left who have spent years arguing against austerity and for demands such as a ‘universal basic income’ (UBI) understandably believe that their time has come. Meetings were held weekly in Keynes’ rooms amidst paintings he had acquired from one of his lovers of scantily clad young men picking grapes and dancing. Yet Dobb’s analysis, right as far it went, was insufficient — powerful but too easy. Dobb continued to place his hopes, as he had for decades, in the promise of the Soviet Union — the economic powerhouse he predicted in 1953 would soon provide its citizens with a better standard of living than that enjoyed in the United States; the beacon for socialists across the globe that presented an image of the civilisation to come; the promise that had given him hope for a better world since he was a teenager. But the character of economic debate, just like the character of economics, had changed. Dobb also had a powerful intellectual argument for keeping his distance from Keynes. Desperate times call for desperate measures. (He even taught one comrade how to tie a bowtie.) This was not what Dobb had envisioned in 1930 when he called for a revival of political economy, but he acknowledged that it offered a “breath of fresh air” in an otherwise stifling environment. Keynes was an English economist, who came to prominence for his writings on the turbulent inter-war period. Yet Dobb largely watched on the sidelines while others fought this battle. Even if we need a religion, how can we find it in the turbid rubbish of the Red bookshops.” “It is hard,” he concluded, “for an educated, decent, intelligent son of Western Europe to find his ideals here, unless he has first suffered some strange and horrid process of conversion which has changed all his values.”. However, shortof closing the gap between income and consu… This is the real problem with reformist demands like UBI, which do nothing to challenge the power of the capitalist class. Casting politics as a debate over the management of the economy allowed economists to address “macro” subjects without relying on the vocabulary — of capitalists, workers, and the conflict between them — that had sedimented around discussions of what earlier generations called “the social question.”. Ultimately, as long as the economy remains dominated by big business and private monopolies, any money pumped into the system will go to pay for commodities – food and shelter, etc. No economist — maybe no human — has ever been better at scorn than John Maynard Keynes. He had still been part of the inner circle a few years earlier when he had composed a short but thoughtful review of The General Theory’s predecessor, Keynes’ two-volume Treatise on Money, which Dobb judged a “milestone.” But as the 1930s advanced, he drifted outside Keynes’ inner circle, standing apart from the debates that swirled around The General Theory. The purpose of this article is to consider the contributions that John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx can make to our understanding of the nature of the capitalist system and the causes of crises. Marx probably wasnt even a Marxist. And as Japan and the rest of Asia have gone into an economic tailspin, it is Keynesianism, not Marxism, that offers useful guidance about how they might save themselves. “It would, indeed, be more sensible to build houses and the like,” he continued, “but if there are political and practical difficulties in the way of this, the above would be better than nothing.”. Looking back in 1965, Dobb would say that in the 1930s he dedicated himself primarily to “political activity (mainly on a local and regional basis) and polemical writing” rather than scholarship. Today, these same ideas are raised in relation to proposals for a Green New Deal (GND), which has become a signature demand of the left, advocated by AOC in the US and by left-wing Labour activists in the UK. But in his lifetime, even his critics acknowledged that he was one of the world’s premier Marxist economists. But despite the rhetoric, he could treat individual Marxists with respect. He complained to friends outside Cambridge that the department was mired in an academic war of attrition between self-appointed inheritors of Keynes’ legacy and an array of skeptics. There is no reason to believe a new New Deal would fare any better today in America, Britain, or anywhere else. The coronavirus pandemic has triggered what is likely to be the deepest crisis in the history of capitalism. If you want more information about joining the IMT, fill in this form. Where the capitalists cannot make a profit, they will not produce. Throughout Capital, Marx frequently highlights the need to examine the economy in its totality, rather than simply isolating specific aspects of the system or concentrating on the behaviour of single individuals and transactions. It definitely differed from the other chapter on ‘Marxism and economic theory today’ written by Pierangelo Garegnani and Fabio Petri, along the lines of a Neo-Ricardian reading of Marx. The work to make people aware that Marxist communism not only was but still is a really nasty piece of work continues, but with many challenges. In reality, it is not much of a theory. The problem is, eventually this bill must be paid. He was also a committed Marxist and a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.No economist — maybe no human — has ever been better at scorn than John Maynard Keynes. Or they could recover a lost tradition and return to the study of deeper social forces that had occupied their greatest predecessors: Smith, Ricardo, even Marx. Philosophers had interpreted the world, but Dobb believed that in the twentieth century economists would be the ones who changed it. To this, the Keynesians have no answer. ABSTRACT: This paper examines John Maynard Keynes’s ethical theory and how it relates to his politico-economic thought. Difference is surplus value, which bites into investment para ser um revolucionário famous ‘ magic money ’! 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