Principles of Political Economy (Illustrated)

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Another finding is that Russia was the only BRIC country that de-liberalized and increased its level of patrimonialism in the period under consideration. This article is dedicated to the memory of Uwe Becker — dear friend, mentor and colleague. We use cookies to help provide and enhance our service and tailor content and ads. By continuing you agree to the use of cookies.

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Download PDF Download. Thus, worker-control initiatives, solidarity economies and communitarian and cooperative structures of production are frequently promoted, because they alter the very conditions of productions which are foundational to existing inequalities see also Harvey , — For instance, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the concept of the Commons — the communal organization and use of goods and resources — was highly debated within social movements see e.

Federici The Commons are considered as a way to encounter consequences of alienation, land grabbing, property and income inequality and the marketization of life and knowledge and build on movements especially from Latin America.

Like the Commons, most of these ambitions are not political goals set in party platforms, but rather are formulated as claims by various social movements or put into praxis by existing alternatives. Perhaps one of the most extensive practical alternatives in this sense is the autonomous region controlled by the Zapatistas in Southern Mexico. The capitalist structure of production — in which the organization and type of economic activity is determined by the holders of capital by separating workers from the decisions how to put their productive energy into use — contributes to a psychological condition in which workers are deprived of the meaning of their labour and reduced to nothing more than an instrument in the production process.

This dire condition, alongside the tendency to create poverty and huge inequalities in spite of the huge potentials of production unlocked by capitalism, provides amongst others a rationale for the Marxist argument that capitalism is something that has to be overcome. In the past decades, MPE has contributed to a large body of literature studying such diverse topics as the class constitution and socio-economic consequences of neoliberal globalization, the financialization of the world economy, the power of transnational capital, and the potential for post-capitalist formations in the convergence of various crisis moments.

To map all of these debates and insights would go far beyond the ambitions of this section.


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Instead, a short review of the narrative linking convergent crisis, left strategy and transformation towards post-neoliberal or even post-capitalist societies will be further explored, because these themes are mirrored in almost all of the current MPE debates see contributions and special issues in the journals listed below. The advent of the US subprime crisis in —, which quickly evolved into a financial and economic crisis for most of the world economy, signalled a comeback of Marxian analysis and critique of capitalism.

Perhaps the biggest and first fundamental search for alternatives in the aftermath of the financial crisis was the Occupy Movement. Many MPE scholars claim that this crisis may represent a large or structural crisis for capitalism, potentially changing the structure of the world economy for the upcoming decades.

In this context, an increasing strand of interdisciplinary research has broadened the debate by highlighting that the crisis is not limited to finance or the economy, but is best understood as multiple crises , including the climate and environmental crisis, a crisis of representative democracy and global governance, and a crisis of social reproduction.

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Ultimately, the convergence of these crisis dynamics calls for a fundamental transformation of the social organization of global production, distribution and consumption. In this regard, current contributions intensely debate strategies, and the strengths and weaknesses of transformative politics and social movements in the face of the crisis. Debates about post-capitalism , new forms of socialism or communism have been prominent in recent years. To what extent these debates will translate into effective social change will depend much on the configuration of the balance of forces in society — and not on the speed and scope of academic debate.

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Yet, the latter can offer an interesting starting point for students to fundamentally rethink society and social change, not the least reason why many economics students have become interested in understanding and employing MPE see e. Barkin ; Harvey ; Rethinking Marxism MPE, like most other academic paradigms, has experienced different waves of renovation, reception and magnitude over the past years for an overview of Western Marxism see also Anderson While the first generations were almost exclusively political activists, party strategists and academics, at the same time MPE institutionalized strongly as an academic paradigm with less party affiliation in the US and Europe during the Cold War — especially in the s and s.

From utopian socialism to classical or orthodox Marxism, from Neo- or Post-Marxism to Analytical Marxism and Critical Political Economy, a wide range of historical and contemporary perspectives have been associated with MPE. In an attempt to provide a typology, Stephan Resnick and Richard Wolff have classified these perspectives into the following six broad categories. Property theories emphasize the unequal distribution of wealth and ownership of the means of production.

Class conflict, exploitation and other dynamics inside the capitalist system arise as a consequence of the distribution of property. Power theories emphasize power and authority structures and the possibility of some classes e. Accumulation theories stress the relentless drive for accumulation that is internal to capitalism as the driving force of capitalism and hence reproduces all other dynamics and social relations. Forces of production theories emphasize productive technologies as the determinants of the way a society is structured and the relations that are formed amongst its constituents.

Consciousness theories emphasize the importance of culture and shared ideas.

1800-1900: Economics Classics, Including Neoclassical Thought

Over-determination theories do not privilege any of the aforementioned explanations in a deterministic fashion and instead consider them to be partial explanations. Still, the emphasis on class relations and a critical, emancipatory stance are maintained whilst theorizing the capitalist system. Economists in the Regulation School e. Michel Aglietta research stability and continuity despite recurring crisis in the capitalist mode of production. They examine the historical and spatial existence of regimes of accumulation such as post-war Fordism , which have a distinctive set of institutions, and a mode of regulation, that allows for their continuous reproduction in the sphere of production, consumption, politics, and international context.

The regulation school combines aspects from Marxian theory with Institutionalist approaches. World Systems Theory e. World Systems Theory economists e. Neo-Gramscian economists e. Antonio Gramsci, Ernesto Laclau, Chantal Mouffe, Robert Cox emphasize the political, cultural, and identitary aspects in the struggle for a dominant structure of production and class relations hegemony.

Ideas and discourses alongside institutional and material power determine the existence of hegemony, which always stays contingent and is both historical and spatial. Eco-Marxism e. Eco-Marxism evolved as a critique of a lack of class analyses in ecological thinking, and the absence of ecological writings in Marxism in the late s O'Connor These scholars were inspired by the so-called new social movements and ever since try to combine Red and Green thinking.

Principles of Political Economy - Wikipedia

Key to this approach is a re-reading of Marx in the light of the ecological dimensions of capital's reproduction. Moreover, eco-Marxists claim that nature—society relations should be understood as a metabolism, consisting of the exchange of matter between society and nature, which is mediated through different modes of production. Similar to the alienation of the wage labourer, humans are alienated from nature, referring to an imbalance between the natural and economic cycle.

This imbalance is deepening with the expansion of capital accumulation and is referred to as metabolic rift Foster et al. In the midst of the present ecological crisis of resources, energy, climate, etc. Feminist-Marxism e.


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  • Feminist Marxists address the oppression of women within capitalism and patriarchy. One important aspect is the organization of work and unpaid caring activities. Thereby, they point to omissions in Marxist analysis, in particular the reproductive work of women. Since most traditions of MPE reject the reduction of the analysis of capitalism to an economic realm only, there are many relations with other disciplines.

    Current special issues of the Global Labour Journal : precarity; unionism; decent work; labour standards. The different entry points have vast implications for how to analyse the economy, for example, on how to analyse the income of individuals. According to MPE, individuals' income does not depend on their free decision on how much labour to supply or their marginal productivity but on the capitalists' appropriation of the surplus value.

    MPE criticizes neoclassical economics for ignoring the power relations between classes, as for Marx, these determine the behaviour and decisions of individuals. According to MPE, individuals are related by multiple societal, economic and political structures, not only via the organization of supply and demand within the market. Those socio-economic relations are determined by the mode of production — capitalism — which is characterized by hierarchies and conflicts.

    Thus, the economy is not a mere platform of exchange between equal individuals. For MPE, capitalism is one mode of production which evolved historically. Other forms slavery, feudalism existed and other modes of production may evolve namely socialism. The historical analysis and the dynamic conception is necessary in order to understand current configurations of the economy. Moreover, Marxist and Neoclassical Economics have different conceptions of capital, a central category of Marxist analysis.

    The neoclassical conception of capital is very broad, including money, means of production, but also knowledge or social networks human and social capital. For MPE those things are perceived as capital if they are employed in the production process by the use of wage labour. Capital is a social relation, a relation which is determined by the exploitation of labour power.

    Even if MPE does highlight certain laws of motion, it states that there is not one perception of the societal and economic reality, but that perceptions may vary. Thus, there is not one objective reality that needs to be analysed. Moreover, the political character of academia is stressed because science plays a crucial role in legitimizing and normalizing certain policies and social orders, while rendering others impossible.

    In this sense, Marxist political economists highlight their societal responsibility real-world economics. Anderson, Perry Considerations on Western Marxism.

    London: New Left Books. Federici, S. As soon as we form distinctly the idea of values, we see that high or low wages can have nothing to do with them; but that high wages make high prices, is a popular and widely-spread opinion. The whole amount of error involved in this proposition can only be seen thoroughly when we come to the theory of money; at present we need only say that if it be true, there can be no such thing as a real rise of wages; for if wages could not rise without a proportional rise of the price of everything, they could not, for any substantial purpose, rise at all.

    This surely is a sufficient reductio ad absurdum, and shows the amazing folly of the propositions which may and do become, and long remain, accredited doctrines of popular political economy. It must be remembered too that general high prices, even supposing them to exist, can be of no use to a producer or dealer, considered as such; for if they increase his money returns, they increase in the same degree all his expenses.

    There is no mode in which capitalists can compensate themselves for a high cost of labour, through any action on values or prices. It cannot be prevented from taking its effect a on a low profits. If the labourers really Edition: current; Page: [ ] get more, that is, get the produce of more labour, a smaller percentage must remain for profit.

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    From this Law of Distribution, resting as it does on a law of arithmetic, there is no escape. The mechanism of Exchange and Price may hide it from us, but is quite powerless to alter it. The causes which make wages vary from one employment to another, have been considered in a former chapter. When the wages of an employment permanently exceed the average rate, the value of the thing produced will, in the same degree, exceed the standard determined by mere quantity of labour.

    Things, for example, which are made by skilled labour, exchange for the produce of a much greater quantity of unskilled labour; for no reason but because the labour is more highly paid. If, through the extension of education, the labourers competent to skilled employments were so increased in number as to diminish the difference between their wages and those of common labour, all things produced by labour of the superior kind would fall in value, compared with things produced by common labour, and these might be said therefore to rise in value. We have before remarked that the difficulty of passing from one class of employments to a class greatly superior, has hitherto caused the wages of all those classes of labourers who are separated from one another by any very marked barrier, to depend more than might be supposed upon the increase of the population of each class considered separately; and that the inequalities in the remuneration of labour c are much greater than could exist if the competition of the labouring people generally could be brought practically to bear on each particular employment.

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