Home > Uncategorized > 150 years of ‘Das Kapital’: How relevant is Marx today?

150 years of ‘Das Kapital’: How relevant is Marx today?

from Jayati Ghosh

It is quite amazing that Karl Marx’s Capital has survived and been continuously in print for the past century and a half. After all, this big, unwieldy book (more than 2000 pages of small print in three fat volumes) still has sections that are evidently incomplete. Even in the best translations, the writing is dense and difficult, constantly veering off into tangential points and pedantic debates with now unknown writers. The ideas are complex and cannot be understood quickly. In any case, the book aims to describe economic and social reality in 19th-century northwestern Europe – surely a context very different from our own.

This is a book that has been pronounced dead or obsolete many times, but it keeps bouncing back, with the latest recovery in interest and sales just after the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. So why do so many people all over the world still read (or try to read) Karl Marx’s Capital today? Obviously, it must have something going for it – and, in fact, it does indeed still provide a useful framework for understanding the essential features of capitalism, no matter how different its contemporary manifestations may be.

Consider only a few of these insights. First is the central point about capital: for Marx, it is not just a resource in itself, a simple factor of production analogous to land and labour, but an expression of very specific social relations of production. The social relation between employer and worker is what enables capitalist production to take place at all. It requires workers to be “free” in a double sense: “free” to sell their own labour power (not bound by other socioeconomic ties and constraints) and “free” of any ownership of the means of production, so that they have no choice but to sell their labour power for their own material survival. Even when matters appear to be more complex because of the emergence of subcontracting and the “gig economy”, this underlying social relation is still critical.  

The concentration of ownership of the means of production in a few hands is effectively what enables capital to play its role in production. But this concentration was necessarily based on expropriation from those who previously possessed it, such as peasants and small artisans who could have produced on their own. This “primitive accumulation” has often been a violent process, but it can also occur – and still continues to occur – in other more complex ways, because of the uneven development of capitalism in different regions and in different sectors.

A central, and still very powerful, concept is that of “commodity fetishism”: the situation in which relations between people become mediated by relations between things: commodities and money. Commodities (goods and services produced for exchange) are not simply things or objects, because they possess both use value (meeting human needs or wants) and exchange value (as a thing that can be traded in return for something else). But value then gets seen as intrinsic to commodities rather than being the result of labour, and the exchange of commodities and market-based interaction are seen as the “natural” way of dealing with all objects, rather than as a historically specific set of social relations.

More broadly, commodity fetishism is the illusion emerging from the centrality of private property in capitalism, which then determines not only how people work and interact, but also how they perceive reality and understand social change. The urge to acquisition, the obsession with material gratification of wants and the ordering of human well-being in terms of their ability to command different commodities, could all be described as forms of commodity fetishism. The obsession with GDP growth per se among policymakers and the general public is an extreme, but widespread, example of commodity fetishism today.

Marx identified three “cardinal facts” of capitalist production:

1- Concentration of means of production in a few hands, whereby they cease to appear as the property of the immediate labourers and turn into social production capacities;

2- The organisation of labour into social labour: through cooperation, division of labour and the uniting of labour with the natural sciences;

3- The creation of the world market.

The third feature is what we now call globalisation, and it is the natural result of the tendency of the system to spread and aggrandise itself – to destroy and incorporate earlier forms of production, and to transfigure and transform technology and institutions constantly.

Capitalism is dynamic, constantly generating new types of production organisation and economic institutions: not just the factory system but more recent arrangements, financial institutions and structures, legal systems. The accumulation of capital generates higher productivity and transforms systems, but it is also associated with uneven development. Marx saw capitalism as being in a situation of continuous disequilibrium, because of this tendency of uneven development, which is not confined to a single arena, but characterises all social and economic relations.

Thus, there is an inherent tension between the expansion of the productive forces and the ability of the economic system to generate sufficient demand for the goods that are produced. There is disproportionality between the expansion of fixed and variable capital, which makes it more difficult to generate profits. There is disproportionality between sectors that emerges in the process of accumulation. There is geographically uneven development that simultaneously creates both “developed” and “underdeveloped” areas. This can be extended to explain imperialism, which can be understood as the struggle for control over economic territories of different kinds. And the imbalance between money as a medium of exchange and money as a measure of value gets amplified by the development of credit and finance, creating a higher tendency for crisis.

The system generates many conflicts and contradictions, only some of which culminate in periodic crises. Since the basic dynamics of capital is simultaneously to aggrandise itself and impoverish other classes such as workers and peasants, within and across nations, it obviously generates class conflicts. But the system also generates intra-class conflict, pitting individual capital against other capitals and the individual worker against other workers. There is a Darwinian struggle for survival constantly at work, so individualism, conflict and competition become the driving forces of the system.

But these also create what Marx called the anarchy of the market and the inevitable tendency towards crises. Overproduction in terms of the market (even when human needs of all the people in the society need not be satisfied) is a characteristic feature simply because of the way individual capitals operate in the drive to generate more profit. As a result, the process of accumulation is never smooth. Rather, it is uneven and punctuated by crises. Partly, this is the result of the very success of capitalism in delivering more economic growth and technological advance.

These periodic crises are a way of resolving the contradictions inherent in the dynamics of capitalism, albeit in a sharp and possibly violent way. Because the underlying imbalance is typically one of overproduction (relative to demand, not need) such crises usually involve the destruction of a significant proportion of existing products and productive forces. For Marx, crises under capitalism are never purely “financial” or “monetary” – rather they reflect the real imbalances, disproportionalities and uneven development that are fundamental features of capitalist accumulation, even when they are expressed in financial terms. Marx did not talk about the rise to dominance of finance, but it can be anticipated from this progression, and financialisation also can be seen as an extension of capitalist processes into more and more areas of life.

A fundamental feature of the capitalist system that Marx described, and one that has complex social and philosophical underpinnings, is alienation. This does not refer to an isolated experience of an individual person’s feeling of estrangement from society or community, but to a generalised state of the broad mass of wage workers. Most simply put, it can be expressed as the loss of control by workers over their own work. This alienation of the workers means that they effectively cease to be autonomous human beings, because they cannot control their workplace, the products they produce, or even the way they relate to each other. Because this fundamentally defines their conditions of existence, this means that workers can never become autonomous and self-realised human and social beings under capitalism.

This alienation, combined with commodity fetishism, creates a peculiar kind of unfreedom – which is often not even widely noticed, because individual emancipation appears to result from “universal saleability”. So every living creature is effectively transformed into property and all social relations become transactionary.

Of course, there is much about capitalism that is not captured in this book: the role of unpaid labour, especially in social reproduction and care work within households; the relationship of the economic system with the natural environment, and so on. Even so, the strong contemporary resonance of many of these concepts means that it is not surprising that people still look to this somewhat forbidding book for insights and understanding.

(This article was originally published in the Aljazeera on August 17, 2017.)

  1. August 24, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Marxism is not relevance today. Dictatorship in any form is dangerous to human liberty.

    • August 24, 2017 at 8:18 pm

      I don’t read Ghosh’s essay as advocating Marxism, which is an ideology based, correctly or incorrectly, on the ideas of Karl Marx. As she notes, many of Marx’s ideas are quite relevant today. I advocate such to help counter the dictatorship of predatory global corporate financialized capitalism, which threatens all life on the planet.
      It is my experience that the geniuses — Jesus, Newton, Marx, Smith, Freud, for example — are not the problem, but their true-believer followers can create havoc in their names.
      For example, the libertarianism you reveal misuses Adam Smith’s ideas all the time.

      • August 25, 2017 at 3:01 pm

        Sorry, but Marxism is not an ideology, it doesn´t even exist; what we have is lots of different people calling themselves Marxists for any number of disparage reasons. Marx himself, when asked what he thought of so-called Marxists, he replied: “All I know is that I´m not one of them”. Marx founded not Marxism, but Historical Materialism, which is a scientific proposal for the understanding of complex societal phenomena, including, of course, Capitalism. “Marxism” was a latter creation of all sorts of interpreters of his proposals, and some of them created real religious sects which contributed to the rise of vulgar images of Marx´s work, and the consolidation of the prejudices that are so common nowadays, especially a among people who haven´t read a single word of Das Kapital or other classical works.

      • August 26, 2017 at 2:04 am

        Ideology: “the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group”

    • Sebastian
      August 25, 2017 at 9:29 am

      Marxism is relevant today as a means to understand, critique an finally abolish capitalism, in a sense a dictatorship of the market which kills millions of people a year because providing them with food and appropriate medicine is not profitable(!) enough for firms. BTW great article by Jayati as I have always wished for more Marxists at RWER.

      I would add two things, though: the fact that capitalist production is only for profit and not necessarily satisfaction of human needs. The tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Although disputed widely, it is still a useful theory for explaining what others call secular stagnation.

    • Benjamin Morgentau
      August 25, 2017 at 6:28 pm

      …the dicatorship of a few owners of capital to freely invest around the globe… or not… then there is a variant of dictatorship of those commodities which for the best part are being controlled by just one family… coffee, cocoa… and there is the dictatorship of globalisation benefiting large corporations and a few rich individuals because few societies have been given a choice… i very much would like to see much more in public ownership, non profit, service public systems… comunications technology, water, land, electricity, media, housing, education, certification authorities…

  2. August 25, 2017 at 10:36 am

    I would suggest that «Das Kapital» (or rather the corpus of Karl Marx’s analysis of capitalism) is as relevant today for the analysis of socio-economic phenomena, as Einstein’s theory of general relativity is relevant to the analysis of phenomena in the realm of Astrophysics.
    It could be argued that our current day «social engineers» do not need Marx (for a correct understanding of the dynamics of «Das Kapital») in order to build a better society (…) just like those engineers of the Roman empire period, or those architects of the European Middle Ages, did not need Newton’s law of gravity (let alone the theory from Einstein, in order to organize the building of those aqueducts, bridges and cathedrals).

  3. August 25, 2017 at 12:28 pm

    I’m with Iconoclast on this. May I add that Ghosh’s succinct summary is a great deal more informative than 2000 pages of small print in which the timber can’t be seen for the leaves. Thank you, Jayati.

    Has anyone else noticed the significance of the term ‘factor’? Is the use of the metaphor due to Marx?

    “a : any of the numbers or symbols in mathematics that when multiplied together form a product (see product 1); also : a number or symbol that divides another number or symbol
    b : a quantity by which a given quantity is multiplied or divided in order to indicate a difference in measurement, e.g. costs increased by a factor of 10”.

    So what is the factor that differentiates entrepreneurs from workers? Access to credit?

    “In the interpretation of the currently dominant view of classical economic theory developed by neoclassical economists, the term “factors” did not exist until after the classical period and is not to be found in any of the literature of that time.[5]”. [Wikipedia]

  4. August 25, 2017 at 5:09 pm

    University of Manitoba poli sci professor Radhika Desai has a most interesting essay today: “Marx’s “Capital” at 150: History in Capital, Capital in History” in Counterpunch (https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/08/25/marxs-capital-at-150-history-in-capital-capital-in-history/).

    • robert locke
      August 26, 2017 at 7:45 am

      For serious historians Karl Marx’s analysis of political-social process is a poor guide to what has actually happened in history during and since his death. But as a moral guide, through his analysis of the ideology of capitalism, he is still a powerful voice.

      • August 26, 2017 at 1:29 pm

        Dear Robert Locke,
        I am not an Historian by academic training, so I do not start to pretend to the qualification of «serious historians». I turned to the study of History in an instrumental way: as a (kind of…) «warehouse of facts», for the study of «The Political Economy of Development». For example, how the doctrines of Friedrich List (inspired by Alexander Hamilton) contributed to the protectionist ideas that helped the industrial development of the USA and Germany…
        If one considers that Karl Marx himself was not an Historian but rather a Philosopher who studied (extensively) the «laws of dynamics» of capitalism, then – IMHO – one should look, not for detailed predictions of future events, but only for «broad strokes» and long term tendencies of society’s evolution. One such example is to be found in the critique by M.M.Bober.
        Prof. M.M.Bober (of Harvard) has written an interesting essay on this subject: «Karl Marx’s Interpretation of History». On page 305 of the Norton Library Edition (1965), and with reference to a letter from Karl Marx, you can find the following, «In 1850 he hails the gold discoveries in California as an event surpassing in importance even the discovery of America. “The California gold”, he prophesies, “will give world commerce a new direction”, and “what Tyre, Carthage, and Alexandria were in antiquity, what Genoa and Venice were in the Middle Ages, what London and Liverpool have been until now, San Francisco and Panama are in the process of becoming. Then the Pacific Ocean will play the same rôle as is now played by the Atlantic… and the Atlantic Ocean will sink to the rôle of an inland sea…».
        In 2006, approximately 150 years later, the trade within the Pacific Rim surpassed the transatlantic trade.
        M.M.Bober does not indicate the correspondent of that letter but only that it can be found in “Aus dem literarischen Nachlass von K. Marx, F. Engels, III, 443.

      • robert locke
        August 26, 2017 at 4:50 pm

        That predication about the California gold discovery, I remember reading about. I can’t remember the source, but Marx was a correspondent for an American newspaper, The Herald perhaps. My complaint is much deeper. I spent 10 years of my life, primarily because of Marx’s influence on me, trying to figure out the social-political dynamic of French politics, because, like many people, most?, I assumed that Marx view that the French revolution brought the bourgeois to power and that the bourgeois in power carried through industrialization in the 19th century. Only when I realized that he was wrong, could I analytically finished the book on which I was working, my PhD. See French Legitimists and the Politics of Moral Order in the Early Third Republic, Princeton UP 1974, in which I explain my objections and organizationally present them in two chapters which separate the social-political revolution of the 18th century French Revolution, from that of the industrial revolution of the 19th century. Once I made that separation my understanding of modern history was clarified.

        An example: R R Palmer wrote a book called The Age of Democratic Revolutions, which by 1815 had affected different parts of Europe and the US differently. Those countries that did not go through democratic revolutions in the 18th century and early nineteenth were not prevented from industrialization in the 19th, because a democratic-liberal society is not necessary to industrialization. Marx thought it was, and so do most American thinkers. They expect every society in order really to succeed to follow the political-social evolution of the UK and the US.

        If we are learning anything about China, it is that the country is modernizing without becoming liberal-democratic. The Chinese Communist know this makes them a socialist anomaly because they have returned to their Confucian roots and abandoned Marx. If you had a democratic-liberal revolution in the 18th century, the way you go about industrialization in the 19th-20th is different than if you underwent industrialization within a country that had feudal, or other traditions. I had to overthrow the grasp that Marx had on my mind, in order to be able to understand that.

    • August 26, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      With a mathematical mind I read history to absorb the intellectual atmosphere, not to argue over the details of “what has actually happened”, Bob. Econoclast’s link led me to the fifth paragraph of Desai’s lucid article, which with mathematical brevity drove home a point I learned from Critical Realist philosopher of science Roy Bhaskar: “the significance of absence”.

      “We know [the rapid response to Marx’s critique] today as neoclassical economics. It narrowed the focus of analysis – to exchange, leaving out production; to prices leaving out values; and to the agency of individuals, leaving out classes. Its equilibrium assumptions left capitalism’s contradictions and crisis out: they could hardly be denied but were considered exogenous, striking capitalism from outside.

      Desai goes on:

      “Around such an economics, Max Weber, originally trained as an economist, founded a new social scientific division of labour, first hiving off sociology from economics claiming that modern (i.e. capitalist) societies differentiate into autonomous spheres needing separate study. Of course, the economy’s autonomy mattered most, permitting capitalists to keep control of the pace and pattern of economic growth irrespective of performance. Today we perceive the problems with this organisation of knowledge only dimly, lamenting the separation of the social sciences and conjuring with ‘inter-’ and ‘multi-disciplinarity’ but overlooking the far greater blow they dealt, draining history from society.”

      The big question is “What shall we do?” Narrowly, the opposite of “what actually happened”(like replacing a safety net that has been destroyed)? Or something different that can only emerge if we include “Factors” which have been left out, or not yet been put in?

      See my previous comment above. Multiplying two different factors does not give us more of the same but something different: e.g. in geometry [earth-measuring] an area instead of a line, in human economics a graph of a population’s income distribution [factor definition a] instead of a point GDP [factor definition b]. Adam Smith seems to have been (a), Ricardo (b), Marx seeing the material of history but not yet the significance, channelling and distortion of information flows, Jevons reducing utility through lifetimes to profit at the time of exchange.

      So the prior question is, “What should we now be teaching”? I’m wanting to teach a network of material and information flows [in time] between consumers and humans specialising in the four factors of production, distribution, development and maintenance (this last being heavily dependent on accountancy). The development of this takes the form of a relational database of past transactions and stock states, not a formulae ignoring the diversity of what actually happens.

  5. robert locke
    August 27, 2017 at 7:03 am

    “So the prior question is, “What should we now be teaching”? I’m wanting to teach a network of material and information flows [in time] between consumers and humans specialising in the four factors of production, distribution, development and maintenance (this last being heavily dependent on accountancy).”

    So, who is the “we”, Dave? You as a philosopher of science want to teach what your quote presents. But I am an historian. We could give up the subject (Henry Ford said History is bunk), or we could continue to do so, and if we do, we have to base what we say on “what actually happened” as every Phd student use to learn from the great von Ranke in historiography seminars. To get at what actually happened, the historian researcher must use historical sources, original and secondary, to get a fix on what people actually said and did in their individual lives and epochs. Marx’s ideas were striking and original, but they just don’t mesh with what people learn from studying sources, and other theories of historical teleology must be subjected to the source critic as well, not the critic of a formal science, but of what actually happened through a close scrutiny of the debris of history, left behind in the sources and commentary on them. It is not a science, but a discussion of the sources, because what they say isn’t clear and is confused by the “views” that the people bring with them to the sources, like Marx’s interpretation. The enlightenment historical study brings, is in the debate that historians have in a free and open discussion, guided by source references. Throw out the historical source references and you have neoclassical economics or Marxist ideology, etc.

  6. August 27, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Beware of «Marxists» and «Marxism»… Looking at what so many «Marxists» have written (both in the past and in present times…), I’m always reminded of that famous sentence (attributed to Marx by his friend Engels), «if that is Marxism, one thing is for certain, I am not a Marxist». IMHO, Marx is still very much relevant today, but as an Economics Professor friend of mine once commented, «if they continue to teach Marxism that way, it would be much better if they did not teach it at all». Looking at some of the comments posted so far, (Robert Locke, thks…) has given me «food for thought» in revising, yet again, the second edition («stop the press» … lol…) of my book «The “errors of Marx and the Blunders of Others».
    One of those errors may well have been (and a lot of «Marxist» will crucify me for this…) that Karl Marx himself, was not following his dialectical way of reasoning… As Joan Robinson once commented (and she was not – at all – a «Marxist») addressing herself to a Marxist: «You have Marx in your mouth, I have him in my bones»…

  7. August 28, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Thank you for taking the trouble to reply, Bob. I’d been wondering whether our 16,215 registered followers were all on holiday. Not that I’d blame them if the weather where they are is like it has been here in the UK this week.

    Anyway, in the context of the widespread dissatisfaction expressed here about what is now being taught by mainstream economists, I was thinking of “we” in terms of those here [relatively few of them economists] who already see that to change what mankind does we need to change what apprentice economists are being taught, not just express dissatisfaction.

    So I’ve brought from my own field an understanding of how communication and control systems (and hence computers and brains) work. I take it you are asking what can you bring to the discussion as a historian. What you seem to be offering is the current method of historical research, trying to get at “what actually happened”.

    What is actually happening now is that economists are not students of history but readers of historian’s accounts, which are already coloured by what historians have left out, c.f Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall” and the Whig version of history in which Christ is ignored and pre-reformation Christendom figures mainly as a straw man target for verbal abuse. What these don’t reveal is the Macchiavellian character assassination and “scorched earth” policy of the reformers, which can be compared with what Free Traders have done with Marx and Muslim iconoclasts with Mecca . So I don’t agree with the “death of history” economists who say the past is “water under the bridge”, but I did say “I read history to absorb the intellectual atmosphere, not to argue over the details”, and Fonsecca-Statter has said something similar about “broad brush treatment”. His quote from Joan Robinson about having Marx “in her bones” anticipates what I’ve tried to do, which is to build history into my economic model, drawing attention to the already existing electronic databases of commerce as the data of economic history: of “what actually happened”. My future would be built not on governments or profiteers seeking to change the quantities in this, but on “restocking shelves” which are actually being emptied.

    If I may be so bold, it seems to me historians haven’t caught up with the existence and nature of Information Science, for a Humean obsession with votes (or dollars) and a Marxist obsession with Dialectical Materialism mean “the elephant in the room” is seen as bits of or developments in Information Technology rather than a sensate animal with a history of its own. What change brought about the change of ideas brought about the Christian Reformation? My argument is, the invention of printing, which cause millions of minds to become more focussed on understanding code-words in books than on looking around them. This shows up now in the statistics on personality differences: 70% “right” thinking left brainers, 30% “left-thinking” right brainers, of whom of whom only about 4% use both sides of their brain. With so few books pre-1500 a.d., is it not likely these proportions would have been reversed then, with what most people saw localised and clerics more likely to develop the mind-set of story-telling economic accountants now? In my opinion religion doesn’t come overtly into this, but mind-sets do, and mind-sets can be formed by the religious and economic teachings which historians tend to studiously neglect but are the primary sources of those not specialising in historical studies. It is significant that E F Schumacher learned his economics from Buddhists and died a Chestertonian Catholic.

    I’m interested in what Fonsecca-Statter says about ” Karl Marx himself, was not following his dialectical way of reasoning…”. It occurred to be the other say that Pythagoras’s Theorem gets to the heart of dialectical (and hence evolutionary) logic. To combine two completely different things (the complete difference being represented by units at right angles) then the hypotenuse squares the circle of how to add apples and bananas by creating a new unit larger than either of the others which adds the dimensionality (logarithms) and not the quantities to form a square out of two lines. Did Marx, then, continue to think quantitatively? Information scientist Shannon didn’t. He abstracted the quantities, showed how to measure the logarithms, and showed how to put right for the future what had gone wrong in the past. Not that that was news to me, of course, for Catholicism had long practised Confession.

    • August 28, 2017 at 10:10 am

      Apologies for some irritating if not confusing omissions. (“My eyes are dim, I cannot see …”). Should have read “What change brought about the change of ideas THAT brought about the Christian Reformation? My argument is, the invention of printing, which causeD millions of minds to become more focussed on understanding code-words in books than on looking around them.” Also, the two dimensions of Pythagorean dialectic are its thesis and antithesis, the hypotenuse its synthesis.

    • August 28, 2017 at 12:24 pm

      When I wrote that it is possible (…) that «Karl Marx himself was not following his dialectical way of reasoning», I was thinking about the causes he indicated for systemic crises (and the associated – and infamous – «law of the falling tendency of rate of profit»).
      This is what Karl Marx wrote:
      On the one hand, in Volume II of «Das Kapital», he says:
      «It is a pure tautology to say that crises are caused by the scarcity of effective consumption, or effective consumers. The capitalist system does not know [of] any other modes of consumption than effective ones. That commodities are unsaleable means only that no effective purchasers have been found for them, i.e., consumers (since commodities are bought in the final analysis for productive or individual consumption)«… But if one were to attempt to give this tautology the semblance of a profounder justification by saying that the working class receives too small a portion of its own product and the evil would be remedied as soon as it receives a larger share of it and its wages increase in consequence, one could only remark that crises are always prepared by precisely a period in which wages rise generally and the working class actually gets a larger share of that part of the annual product which is intended for consumption. From the point of view of these advocates of sound and ‘simple’ (!) common sense, such a period should rather remove the crisis». Karl Marx, – «Capital, Volume 2», page 486 Penguin Edition
      On the other hand, in Volume III, he says,
      «The ultimate reason for of all real crises always remains the poverty and restricted consumption of the masses, in the face of the drive of capitalist production to develop the productive forces as if only the absolute consumption capacity of society set a limit to them» – Karl Marx – «Capital Volume 3», page 615 Penguin Edition (1981)
      In these two examples there is ample «food for thought» in terms of «dialectical reasoning»
      As for the «law of the falling tendency» (and also the dialectical way of reasoning (!…), whereas Marx (and many others, including Keynes) talk of a «falling tendency», Nobuo Okishio has demonstrated («in such a devastating manner» – Parijs, 1980:9) an opposite «growing tendency».
      Now, if Marx had applied his own dialectical way of reasoning, he would have stated very plainly that, within his own «laws of the dynamics», there are periods of growth and there periods of stagnation. An obvious platitude that needs no dissertations. But it seems one needs to be reminded that «nothing ever grows forever» and that «nothing ever remains at zero rate of profit».
      The algorithm that I developed many moons ago, shows that Marx and Okishio are both right even if – apparently – they say exactly the opposite of each other. That is what I mean by «dialectical way of reasoning». As Hegel would probably say «everything is always in the process of becoming its opposite»…

      • August 28, 2017 at 1:13 pm

        Thanks. But do Marx and Okishio actually say exactly the opposite to each other? or do they make COMPLEMENTARY statements in totally dissimilar contexts? If truth and probability are represented by a complex number rather than a real “one”, there are three distinct ways in which something can be NOT true, as in not only Not now but Not in the past and Not in the future. It may possibly be true in a particular context, or probably near enough true in rather similar contexts.

    • August 28, 2017 at 12:57 pm

      A ps. on the inadequacy of Marx’s Dialectical Materialism as Hazel Henderson ends “Paradigms in Progress” with Soddy’s “Cartesian Economics”. Herman Daly offers most interesting reflections on this at http://www.steadystate.org/dualist-economics/.

    • robert locke
      August 29, 2017 at 7:42 am

      Dave, one positive for rwer blog, is that it includes so many “we’s”, a strength if many with different backgrounds participate in the discussion. You are right that historians and others in the humanities have not absorbed the Information Age technology, which hinders their ability to really understand what you mean in your comments. We historians are waiting to hear that those who do understand Information Age technologies, agree with your project; then we can report a paradigm shift.

    • August 29, 2017 at 12:44 pm

      Bob, it takes two to tango, and I readily accept how much my inability to make what I am saying intelligible to (say) historians is due to my being unsure how much they understand.
      In not wanting to talk down to them, I suppose I’m going over their heads. But that’s how I started myself: not understanding my mentors, but following up clues until I did.

      Perhaps this will help. I’ve just mentioned Hazel Henderson ending up with Soddy. Actually Hazel’s last chapter and reference, introduced by her saying “classical science still has no theory of PROCESS”, are about Arthur M Young’s “The Reflexive Universe” (1976).

      The blurb describes Young, an innovator in helicopter engineering, as “the greatest theoretical genius since Einstein … but understandable, entertaining, astonishing”. His book is: “an enlightening way of viewing modern science and the phenomena of nature …With our world teetering between senseless self-destruction and spiritual transformation, here is a comprehensive paradigm of hope”. Much needed, after Smith’ specialisation and Thatcher’s TINA. As Young sees it (p.30), it is “a paradigm which deals expressly with the interplay of freedom and constraint”.

      As it happens, I’ve had this on my shelves since c.2000 and, unlike its companion, “The Geometry of Meaning”, not read it. I acquired these because my late Chestertonian friend’s father had apparently been their first publisher, and my friend thought what I was trying to say was rather similar to them. Anyway, I’ve developed my line of thought independently from the point of view of using the minimum number of arbitrary symbols to express it (Shannon’s information capacity), and now, reading Young with Hazel’s recommendation, find the drift of what I had worked out for myself expressed intelligibly without reference to information processing. Our methods are somewhat different, the scope and outcome much the same, except that I go on to apply my still more fundamental basis of evolution to that of economics.

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