Thursday, 17 October 2013
The bond of political economy
Politics and economics in my opinion as was Karl Marx cannot be separated and the two go hand in hand politics effect economics and economics effect politics. To some people certainly in the bourgeois media politics and the economy seem detached but they are really not. Karl Marx recognised this many years ago when he set about his work on political economy including his most famous works in Das Capital. Marx's critique of political economy was not a proposal for a new, 'socialist economics'-for Marx, socialism implied the withering away of economics. Nor was it a 'critique of capitalism'. I think that 'criticising' a social order is a bit like criticising the weather. (As Mark Twain complained, everybody grumbles, but nobody seems to do anything about it.) In any case, Marx never used the word 'capitalism'. As he explained, his critique is directed primarily against the categories of political economy, that is, against economics as such. (When Marx spoke of 'the system of bourgeois economy', he always meant the science of political economy.) For Marx, classical political economy, utopian socialism and the Hegelian system represented the attempts of the greatest bourgeois thinkers to grasp the nature of modern society. Their categories and methods of thought gave the highest theoretical expression to the contradictions of bourgeois social relations. Essentially, all of these contradictions, including the struggle between capital and the proletariat, express a more fundamental one: that between humanity-self-creation, selfconsciousness, sociality-and inhumanity-whatever blocks and perverts these. What economics took for granted as 'natural' and 'rational', Marx saw as the inhuman and irrational shell inside which human life was imprisoned. Marx's critique is inseparable from its struggle to smash this shell. Marx characterised the 'classical political economists' as those who, 'since the time of W Petty have examined the real internal framework [innern Zusammenhang = inner coherence] of bourgeois relations of production' (Marx, 1976 Vol.I/l: 174-5). As he wrote in a well-known letter: Once insight into the connectedness has been gained, all theoretical belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions collapses before the practical collapse. (Marx to Kugelmann 11/7/1868, in Marx and Engels, 1983:149). There clearly is a dialectical relation between politics and economics which for Marx made perfect sense. In examining the work of the classical political economists, Marx was investigating a social illness. It was like his attitude to religion: it could not be cured by correcting some logical errors, but only by overthrowing the social order whose contradictions they expressed. His critique opened the way for 'revolutionary practice', in which 'human activity or self-change' could be seen to coincide with 'the changing of circumstances' (ibid. The greatest philosophers and political thinkers tried to systematise this ordinary consciousness. That was how political economy, when it was still a science, studied the heart of the capital relation, its 'inner coherence', and that was why Marx spent forty years on its critique. Political economy took the upside-down forms within which the inhumanity of bourgeois relations seemed 'natural' to ordinary consciousness, and tried to make them into a coherent system. But because these forms were essentially a denial of humanity, this attempt could not succeed. Just as the exchange relation itself was crazy [verruckt],4 so were the categories of the very best political economy. ('Vulgar economists' were absolutely no use for Marx's purposes.) Through the essential inconsistencies in this science, Marx sought to reveal the contradictions of those social forms. The critique of this bourgeois science thus showed that the 'integument' could be broken through by the socialist revolution, to open the way for a life 'worthy of our human nature' (Marx, 1978 Vol 3. So when we think about politics we must link it always in to economics and vice versa. Marx was right on this point and we should not forget this fact.