Home > Uncategorized > Economics 999 and “the Monday night club problem”

Economics 999 and “the Monday night club problem”

from Edward Fullbrook

In 1965 in Berkeley, California the New Left came into existence by finding a solution to what its founders called “the Monday night club problem”, a problem remarkably similar to the one that decade after decade emasculates “heterodox economics”.  In Berkeley there were numerous left-wing political groups, each based on a different set of underlying ideas, texts, and key terms, and that by long tradition met on Monday evenings.  Each of these groups had its own informal hierarchy of members and its own way of describing and addressing political issues.  Each group also provided valuable social support and intellectual enhancement for its members.  But when it came to changing things, of having any real-word effect, they were no less powerless than bridge clubs.

It was not, however, that most Monday night club members did not want to bring about real-world changes; it was that they had no means of doing so.  But in the fall of 1964 the university administration decided to ban the card-tables that by long tradition the Monday night clubs maned every lunch-hour near the main entrance to the campus.  Suddenly the members of all the Monday night clubs came together, not as members of their particular club, but as individuals who had a common cause.  The result was the Free Speech Movement, which along with the Human Be-In a few months later in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is often given as the birthdate, in the US at least, of The Sixties.

It was the phenomenal success of the Free Speech Movement, followed by reflection on how it came about, that gave the idea for the New Left.  What if on Monday nights the emphasis remained on the special points of view and interests of each club, but for the rest of the week these same people would now look for a common ground on which they could all stand together and speak not to themselves but to the world and with a terminology that reached beyond each club’s core texts.

Predictably, some leaders of Berkeley’s Monday night clubs, perceiving the new movement as a threat to their personal status, sought to undermine it.  But they were unsuccessful.  And, surprisingly, this realignment of energies toward the larger group and, more importantly, towards real-world efficacy came about quickly and painlessly.  Sometimes even amusingly.  The Tuesday night steering committee meetings of what was soon the country’s largest New Left organization often broke down in laughter when someone would forget it was not Monday night and would then immediately be playfully but seriously reprimanded.

Our Monday night problem is called “heterodox economics”, which signifies tens of little groups, most with their own journal and all with their virtues and own revered texts, terminology, heroes and hierarchy of control, but none of which pose a threat to the dominance of the economics that at increasing speed is leading humanity to the ultimate edge.  As I recently outlined here, I see a huge historical opening that has only come into existence in the last year or two, a way of developing a voice and a means of huge amplification by which we can all come together to address the world, to overcome the censorship that threatens everyone’s existence. But this requires that we overcome our “Monday night club problem”.

  1. September 16, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    Good luck with that.

  2. September 16, 2021 at 3:55 pm

    I had thought that the RWER was the Monday club and this blog the Tuesday club where we tried to reach a consensus. It hasn’t worked out that way because (in the MBTI terminology) sensory thinkers who see what is there now do not understand intuitive thinkers, who see in their memories of the past and other fields possibilities not obvious in current economics. All the things we complain of about neoliberalism tactics are still here: parliamentary filibustering, control of editorial and employment possibilities, silencing and misrepresentation of logical possibilies on the grounds that they are not, never have been and never will be empirical. The problem is, however, not so much institutional as sensory thinkers refusing to consider invisible causes and internal causes they can’t see but intuitives can imagine and scientists show .Our Editor here needs to remember what he says above: “The Tuesday night steering committee meetings of what was soon the country’s largest New Left organization often broke down in laughter when someone would forget it was not Monday night and would then immediately be playfully but seriously reprimanded”.

  3. September 16, 2021 at 7:46 pm

    I think this is a deeply insightful comment, and reflects a feeling that I have had for a long time. I wrote about it a while back in “Is there a core of heterodox economics we can all believe in?” https://rwer.wordpress.com/2016/01/25/is-there-a-core-of-heterodox-economics-that-we-can-all-believe-in/ But now I see that I got it wrong – we don’t need to be united on a common theory, only on a common course of action to be pursued. The problem of how to get a “rainbow coalition” to work together on common policy, without agreeing to a common theoretical framework, is rather different from coming to agreement on a theoretical framework for looking at the world. It is possible to act together without have ideological agreement. I believe Edward’s insight here is of central importance, and the methodology of Econ 999 provides a way to implement it. With the world moving towards online courses because of COVID, this proposal has far greater potency than it would otherwise

    • September 17, 2021 at 11:01 am

      I think THIS is a deeply insightful comment : “we don’t need to be united on a common theory, only on a common course of action to be pursued”.

      However, why NOT a common theory of heterodox economics? Because, I suggest, practical theories like economics pursue aims rather than truth, so that multiple aims lead to multiple theories. A common theory needs to be much more fundamental, and all-embracing enough to account for the differences we observe. The “rainbow coalition” is a lovely idea much nearer what I have in mind.

      A TV screen can display all the colours of the rainbow, but it does so with a mix of just three colours in differing levels of brightness. The logic of the display system has to light up the colours separately to allow three different types of retinal cells to detect them and four parts of our brain to recombine and either switch off or act on them. But even in economic terms we and the parts of our brain are not isolated atoms: we/they need to work together because they are seeing different “colours”; the scientific logics of abduction, deduction and induction representing the beginning, middle and end of experimental action provide another handle on this need for diversity within uniformity.

      By now we all ought be agreed on the need to change the perception of money, from theoretically non-existent to accounting entries representing our own credit and debts; for the Ponzi credit and debt holdings of the rentier banking system represent its debt to us..

  4. Edward Ross
    September 16, 2021 at 11:01 pm

    I find the above posts and blogs very interesting because from my experience they raise the very important issues of, one may say informal conversations, as a way to exchange ideas and understanding, without dogmatic ignorance. I also think these sort of informal conversations can contribute to fostering an open mind and balance the various competing ideas against one and other. This idea also leads to the importance of leading conversations in the workplace and clubs that challenges the views of the intellectually disadvantaged seeking power and importance over others. here my point is if economics is ever going to be reformed the whole community has to be involved. Ted

  5. Craig
    September 16, 2021 at 11:46 pm

    The way to insure the efficacy of research is to analyze on the level of the paradigm both old/current and new. A paradigm change is a deep conceptual change of an entire pattern after all.

  6. Ikonoclast
    September 17, 2021 at 2:53 am

    I agree with Edward Fullbrooks’s proposal. It makes sense in theoretical, practical and pragmatic terms. First, I would like to try to deal with general objections which appeared which appeared once before to criticize the proposed framework, its feasibility and its chances of success.

    It seems to me that some have suggested that we must step entirely out of the frame of economics and out of the frame of academia. If this is what is meant then I cannot agree, albeit I have caveats. We can and must step out of the frame of narrow neoliberal economics. This is the whole point of economics 999. We can and must step INTO the frames of political economy and environmental economics, biophysics and/or thermoeconomics. Again, this is the whole point of economics 999.

    Also, we don’t need to step out of the frame of academia but rather to have one foot or footprint in academia and another foot or footprint in broader society (student movements, worker movements, women’s rights movements, minorities rights movements and so on).

    As to chances of success for Economics 999, they may be slim or not slim but to assay no attempt at all absolutely ensures failure and abandons the entire theoretical and institutional field to neoliberalism. If you don’t marshal forces and take the field you cannot win. I refer to intellectual and moral forces here. Of course, this doesn’t always mean you always assemble a conventional force only. You may also assemble unconventional, asymmetric forces. Indeed, both are useful when you are under occupation. Neoliberalism IS an occupation of our society and it oppresses the people.

    Economics 999 looks like a proposed conventional force intellectually, pedagogically and institutionally speaking. This is so even though it is using unconventional (and quite frankly much more empirically supportable) theories and arguments. The assemblage of a conventional force does not preclude the multiple assemblages of smaller irregular forces as well. A conventional force can engage frontally and directly. It can pin the main enemy forces committing all their attention and forces to the main front as it were.

    Other groups (student movements, worker movements, women’s rights movements, minorities rights movements etc.) can be coordinated, with their agreement, to fight in irregular fashion and sometimes to open other fronts, these being direct action fronts. There is no reason not to see the overall struggle in this larger organic or holistic form. Each ought to fight, intellectually, socially, morally, industrially etc. after his own/her own starting position and fashion. There are many strategies and tactics available while maintaining a peaceful struggle.

    Let us not forget, the mind theorizes and proposes actions. Then we must act and continue acting. There is not necessarily one great act. There are many small, accumulative, additive and finally multiplicative acts. This is how masses act. Only then can real change emerge and overthrow an ossified system. There can be no doubt that this system is ossified. That is why it can never change its prescriptions and never flexibly adapt to new facts on the ground and in the air (like climate change, sea level rise, mass extinctions etc.

    Intellectually, neoliberalism is an ossified fortress. Ossification can be strong but it is inflexible and finally brittle. It lacks movement, suppleness and agility. Neoliberalism is committed to the complete denialism of all real empirical facts with respect to economics. That’s not a good place to be caught when the facts on the ground are changing rapidly. Keep telling the truth about the facts on the ground. Await the empirical demonstrations of nature which confirm your case and bring people to your cause, which is their cause. Watch the intelligent and the caring come to your cause. Watch the indoctrinated and the callous double-down on denialism and oppression, holing up in their fortress of denial even while the earthquakes of global phsyical and social change engender a liquefaction of their entire foundations. Eventually they will throw down their intellectual arms and plead to be saved from their own collapse. We won’t be cruel but we might laugh a bit.

  7. Ikonoclast
    September 17, 2021 at 2:58 am

    I accidentally posted my reply on the original post from July on this Economics 999 topic. Now I can’t post my reply here as it would be a duplicate. Darn. In brief, am fully in favor of Edward Fullbrook’s proposal. The Economics 999 strategy does not preclude other complementary strategies in broader society . People can still vote, demonstrate, strike, rent strike etc. against this system.

    • Ikonoclast
      September 17, 2021 at 2:59 am

      Oops it did come up and is above now. This mix up…is… all my fault.

  8. Craig
    September 17, 2021 at 5:38 am

    Steve Keen has accurately stated that neo-liberal economics’ major flaw is it ignores money, private debt and banks. Michael Hudson empahasizes the parasitical and dominant power of finance. Finance is the most overweeningly powerful busines model and it enjoys a monopolistic monetary and financial paradigm of Debt Only. You want to change all of this… focus on policies that align with a new paradigm that is conceptually opposed to the current monopolistic one.

  9. Edward Ross
    September 18, 2021 at 5:51 am

    Here I would like to add that I am not against academics that are concerned with the inequality in the world . But I have no respect for academics who sit in ivory towers isolated from the real world. On this bases I respect the authors on this section of RWEA and learn from their disagreements. Thus as I said above the whole community has to be involved in the conversation and as I understand it Ikonoklast and others seem to agree. One stumbling block I see with the general public is that they have no respect for academia simply because in their eyes academia ignores them and toadies to the extreme wealthy. Therefore I think the challenge for academia is to earn the the trust of the people. Once this is achieved in the home it may foster in the young a desire to improve the system and ready them for the 999 introduction into a more equitable economics. Ted

  10. Ken Zimmerman
    September 21, 2021 at 2:26 am

    David Graeber helped setup ‘Occupy Wall Street.’ This movement established the framework for achieving legitimate and effective progressive changes. Even more than 10 years after its founding the movement continues to be successful. And many the changes it helped achieve remain in place today. This is the Wikipedia description of Occupy https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occupy_movement
    It’s generally accurate.

    Dozens of anthropologists, historians, and social scientists are or have been actively involved in Occupy. It’s time economists got involved.

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