Modasa – It is just a Beginning

Originally posted on Kafila:

How Hindutva Supremacists are rushing to give themselves Clean Chit in terror related cases

(Picture : Courtesy – Indian Express)

Introduction

Whether investigations into Hindutva terror related cases are changing course? A series of apparently unconnected developments definitely strengthen the belief.

Close on the heels of renowned public prosecutor Rohini Salian’s revelations that she is being pressurised to go slow on the Malegaon bomb blast case (2008) and news of no of witnesses turning hostile in the Ajmer bomb blast case (2007) and sudden decision of the NIA to shift the Sunil Joshi murder case back to M.P,  has come the news that the NIA has finally decided to close the Modasa bomb blast case citing ‘insufficient evidence’.

As is being rightly said it is the first concrete indication that with the assumption of power by the BJP investigations into Hindutva terror related cases a shift in emphasis is visible…

View original 3,582 more words

Debt is a Product of Power Relations

Originally posted on Economic Sociology and Political Economy:

Debt is a product of power relations which inherently exhibits capturing and dominating mechanisms of subordination, appropriation and exploitation in various societal, political and economic fields. Debt is degrading institutional tool which not merely controls and masters labor in advance, it also self- and socially estranging, entangling theindebtedperson being solely into the ropes of economistic valuation.
debt to societyThis definition of debt, could be an intellectual point of departure to take a look at a timely and interesting book Debt to Society: Accounting for Life under Capitalism by Miranda Joseph. This book is an important scholarly endeavour to understand, what I term – Neoliberal Pauperism which is a state of dragging-down indebtedness disguised as a fictitious “trickled-down” wealth.
Joseph’s research focuses on one of the key practices related to debt’ control – accounting and quantification. It studies modes of accounting as they are used to create, sustain, or transform social relations. Envisioning accounting broadly to include financial accounting, managerial accounting of costs and performance…

View original 96 more words

Communist, Scientist, Activist and Dreamer Daya Varma (August 23, 1929 – March 22, 2015) : Harsh Kapoor

Originally posted on Kafila:

Guest Post by Harsh Kapoor

Dr. Daya Varma, life-long communist, scientist, activist, dreamer, pharmacologist, professor emeritus at McGill University, Montreal, passed away on 22 March 2015 in St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada. Former member of the undivided Communist Party of India, founder of Indian People’s Association in North America (IPANA) and the International South Asia Forum, founding member of CERAS (Centre d’Étude et Ressources d’Asie Sud) and was on the board of of Alternatives, a progressive think tank in Canada, He also founded and edited the INSAF bulletin. Many in India remember how when the 1984 Bhopal Union Carbide industrial disaster struck,where thousands died, Dr. Varma spearheaded a study to monitor the effects of MIC on pregnant women whilst participating in activities aimed at supporting their compensation claims.

(Read the complete text here : http://www.sacw.net/article10894.html)

View original

Beijie Village: a Land Grab Case, a Village Election, and a Microcosm of China

Originally posted on China Change:

By Yaqiu Wang, published: December 16, 2014

An election in a heartland Chinese village in Henan province, held on December 13th, attracted attention from Chinese scholars, netizens and activists. A 73-year-old man, Chen Ji’en (陈纪恩), was re-elected Chairman of the 8th Village Committee of Beijie Village (北街村) by fellow villagers in what was reported by observers as a fair and free election. Chen was respected, popular, even considered a hero, due in no small part to his leadership during the past eight years as Beijie villagers fought to resist property developers from building commercial real estate projects on the farmland they owned. But Chen Ji’en is unpopular with the local government, and the local government is attempting to deny the election result.

Chen Ji'en (right) holding a copy of China's Constitution, and Xiong Wei. Chen Ji’en (right) holding a copy of China’s Constitution, and Xiong Wei. Click to enlarge (credit: @tufuwugan)

The troubles for the people of Beijie began…

View original 1,374 more words

A CRITIQUE OF THOMAS PIKETTY’S ‘CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY’ – 12

CONTAINING CAPITAL – 12

PRASANNA K CHOUDHARY

8. THANK YOU MR PIKETTY

A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us.

Kafka.

 

Thank you, Mr Piketty for unequivocally drawing attention to certain realities (substantiated by data spread over two centuries) that provide enough lessions for emerging economies. Of course for India too where the ruling dispensation, backed by the Chicago school enthusiasts, is pushing through a spate of neo-liberal reforms in the interests of the top centile, accompanied with a regressive, divisive Hindutva agenda. I have already quoted many passages from the book, still some more may be the best way to end this critique:

  • The distribution of wealth is too important an issue to be left to economists, sociologists, and philosophers. It is of interest to everyone, and that is a good thing. The concrete, physical reality of inequality is visible to the naked eye. ..Democracy will never be supplanted by a republic of experts – and that is a very good thing. Classical political economy was born in England and France in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the issue of distribution was already one of the key questions. ..Whenever one speaks about the distribution of wealth, politics is never very far behind, and it is difficult for anyone to escape contemporary class prejudices and interests.
  • One conclusion is already quite clear; it is an illusion to think that something about the nature of modern growth or the laws of market economy ensures that inequality of wealth will decrease and harmonious stability will be achieved.
  • There is no natural, spontaneous process to prevent destabilizing, inegalitarian forces from prevailing permanently. ..In any event, it is important to point out that no self-corrective mechanism exists to prevent a steady increase of the capital/income ratio, together with a steady rise in capital’s share of national income.
  • The very notion of individual marginal productivity becomes hard to define. In fact, it becomes something close to a pure ideological construct on the basis of which a justification for higher status can be elaborated.
  • Today, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, inequalities of wealth are close to regaining or even surpassing their historical highs.
  • The world to come may well combine the worst of two past worlds: both very large inequality of inherited wealth and very high wage inequalities justified in terms of merit and productivity (claims with little factual basis). Meritocratic extremism can thus lead to a race between supermanagers and rentiers, to the detriment of those who are neither.
  • The fundamental force of divergence, which has nothing to do with market imperfections and will not disappear as markets become free and more competitive. The idea that unrestricted competition will put an end to inheritance and move toward a more meritocratic world is a dangerous illusion. The advent of universal suffrage and the end of property qualifications for voting, ended the legal domination of politics by the wealthy. But it did not abolish the economic forces capable of producing a society of rentiers.
  • New forms of organization and ownership remain to be invented.
  • Real democracy and social justice require specific institutions of their own, not just those of the market, and not just parliaments and other formal democratic institutions.

 

Thank you Mr Piketty.

[This critique is divided in eight parts, tentatively titled as: i. Apocalypse and Exuberance; ii. Data and Dialectics; iii. Capital Social and Self-Expanding; iv. Wealth Inherited and Created; v. Century Twentieth and Twenty-First; vi. Yes Marx No Marx; vii. London Chicago Paris; and viii. Thank You Mr Piketty.]

October, 2014.

CONCLUDED.

****

A CRITIQUE OF THOMAS PIKETTY’S ‘CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY’ – 11

 

CONTAINING CAPITAL – 11

PRASANNA K CHOUDHARY

7. LONDON CHICAGO PARIS

The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas. Not, indeed, immediately, but after a certain interval; for in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.

John Maynard Keynes; ‘The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’, Chapter 24, ‘Concluding Notes on the Social Philosophy towards Which The General Theory Might Lead’.1

At the beginning of political economy, British, French and American economists and philosophers dominated the scene. A comparative study of their writings and characters illuminates the social divergence among Britain, France and America at the close of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth. It explains the origins of the national contrasts obtaining in British, French and American political economies. Here, we may have a quick look into the origin of political economy as a separate discipline.2

William Petty (1623-1687): The father of English political economy wrote his ‘Political Arithmetick etc.’ (London, 1699) at a time when Holland was still the predominant trading nation and France seemed to be on the way to becoming the principal trading power. However, Petty believed and proved that England was destined to conquer the world market: “ That the King of England’s subjects have stock competent and convenient to drive the trade of the whole commercial world. That the impediments of England’s greatness are but contingent and removable.” (Holland was then regarded as the model country just as Britain was later regarded as the model country by continental economists.)

Petty treats the division of labor as a productive force, and in his ‘Essay Concerning the Multiplication of Mankind etc.’ (1698), he shows the advantages which division of labor has for production not only with the example of the manufacture of a watch – as Adam Smith did later with the example of the manufacture of a pin – but considers also a town and a whole country as large-scale industrial establishments. This conception of the source of material wealth leads to the political arithmetic, the first form in which political economy is treated as a separate science. ..His audacious genius becomes evident for instance in his proposal to transport all the movables and people of Ireland, and of the Highlands of Scotland ..into the rest of Great Britain. According to him, this would result in the saving of labor time, in increasing productivity of labor, and ‘the King and his subjects would thereby become more rich and strong’.

Petty rejects taxes which transfer wealth from industrious people to those who do nothing at all, but eat and drink, sing, play, and dance; nay such as study the Metaphysics’.

About the person, Marx writes, “..William Petty is not only the father of English political economy but also an ancestor of Henry Petty, alias Marquis of Lansdowne, the Nestor of the English Whigs. But the Lansdowne family could hardly prepare a complete edition of Petty’s works without prefacing it with his biography, and what is true with regard to the origin of most of the big Whig families, applies also in this case – the less said of it, the better. The army surgeon, who was a bold thinker but quite unscrupulous and just as apt to plunder in Ireland under the aegis of Cromwell as to fawn upon Charles II to obtain the title of baronet to embellish his trash, is hardly a suitable image of an ancestor for public display. In most of the writings published during his lifetime, moreover, Petty seeks to prove that England’s golden age was the reign of Charles II, a rather heterodox view for hereditary exploiters of the ‘Glorious Revolution’.3

Pierre le Pesant, sieur de Boisguillebert (1646-1714): The father of French political economy Boisguillebert wrote his ‘Dissertation sur la nature des richnesse de l’argent et des tributs’ in an entirely different conditions compared to Britain. He fights against the ‘blindly destructive greed for gold which possessed the court of Louis XIV, his tax farmers and the aristocracy; whereas Petty acclaims the greed for gold as a vigorous force which spurs a nation to industrial progress and to the conquest of the world market.

Boisguillebert (although he may not be aware of it) reduces the exchange value of commodities to labor time, by determining the ‘true value’ according to the correct proportion in which the labor time of the individual producers is divided between the different branches of industry, and declaring that free competition is the social process by which this correct proportion is established. But simultaneously, and in contrast with Petty, he wages a fanatical struggle against money, whose intervention, he alleges, disturbs the natural equilibrium or the harmony of the exchange of commodities and, like a fantastic Moloch, demands all physical wealth as a sacrifice.

This difference between Boisguillebert and Petty throws into bold relief more profound fundamental differences which recur as a perpetual contrast between typically English and typically French political economy.

William Petty was just a frivolous, grasping, unprincipled adventurer, Boisguillebert, although he was one of the intendants of Louis XIV, stood up for the interests of the oppressed classes with both great intellectual force and courage.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790): Franklin was a man of the New World – where bourgeois relations of production was imported together with their representatives sprouted rapidly in a soil in which the superabundance of humus made up for lack of historical tradition. Among the first supporters of the labor theory of value, Franklin formulated the basic law of modern political economy in an early work written in 1729 and published in 1731 (‘A Modest Inquiry into the Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency’).

Sir James Steuart (1712-1780), one of the last representatives of mercantilism, was the first Briton to expound a general system of bourgeois political economy. His work ‘An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Economy, Being an Essay on the Science of Domestic Policy in Free Nations’ was first published in London in 1767, ten years earlier than Adam Smith’s ‘Wealth of Nations’. ‘Le Commerce et la Gouvernement’ of Etiênne Bonnet de Condillac (1750-1780) was published in 1776, the same year in which Adam Smith’s work was published. Condillac has been dealt with earlier in this critique.

Henry Charles Carey (1793-1879): American economist, for whose views the historical background was provided only by the New World, set forth the theory of class interest’s harmony in capitalist society. According to him, the harmonies in themselves are there. But in the non-American countries they are distorted by the state, and in America itself, by the most developed form in which these relationships appear, their world-market reality, in the form of England. Carey finds no other means of restoring them than ultimately to call for help from his denounced devil, the state, and to stand it as the guardian angel at the gates of the harmonious paradise, namely protective tariffs. But since America’s development over the years has dealt such a blow at his harmonious view that he sees the distortion of the ‘natural’ harmonies, to which he is firmly attached, no longer in the external influence of the state, but in trade! A truly remarkable result this: to extol exchange value as the basis of harmonious production, and then to declare that the developed form of exchange, trade, abolishes this exchange value in its immanent laws! That is the desperate form in which Carey expresses his belated conclusion that the development of harmonious exchange value is disharmonic. ..

Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850), the French economist borrowed his economic theodicy, the Harmonies économiques from Carey. But Bastiat’s only real background was the pettiness of French economic conditions, whose long years kept sticking out from his harmonies, and in contrast to these, he formulated the idealized English and American production relationships as ‘the demands of practical reason’.

Here I do not want to prolong this description of early classical political economy. Suffice it to say that soon Adam Smith and his ‘Wealth of Nations’ became the representative symbol of the classical political economy. The rise of Britain as the paramount industrial and colonial power helped in this process. French and American streams were relegated to the background.

Marx’s ‘Capital’ (as its sub-title proclaimed) was the critique of political economy. This critique soon became the guiding spirit behind the working class movement, and this critique was further carried forward by the social-democratic/socialist/communist movements. If one (like Piketty) wants to revive the spirit of political economy, he/she is bound to encounter the spirit of the critique of political economy as well. If political economy faces the challenge of entering new time, then the critique of political economy too faces the same challenge. Mere revival will not do.

We have already seen that between the period 1870s-1920s, the various streams of Austrian School dominated the bourgeois economic scene. Rest of the twentieth century was dominated by the London School (Keynes) and the Chicago School (Milton Friedman). The period 1930s-1970s was dominated by various streams of Keynesian economics, and the latter period (from 1980s onwards) by various proponents of the Chicago School.

Piketty describes the rise of the American school in the 1970s as follows: “It was not until the 1970s Solow’s so-called neoclassical growth model definitely carried the day ..as American economists sought to emancipate themselves from the historical tutelage of their British counterparts, who had reigned over the profession since the time of Adam Smith, while the British sought to defend the memory of Lord Keynes, which they thought the American economists had betrayed.” (Chapter Six/Beyond the Two Cambridges)

But where were the French?

École d’Économie de Paris (Paris School of Economics) is a fairly new institute, created just eight years ago on December 21, 2006 in Paris. Its tagline is ‘Economics serving society’, and its brochure pledges to shake up economics:

“The central paradigm of economic science, according to which man is a rational economic agent, has provided powerful explanations of a number of social phenomena.

However it today faces numerous challenges: the increasing complexity of those phenomena, an explosion in available data, scientific experimentation. In this context, there are now three main possible approaches to studying economics: the first is to deepen the existing paradigm for certain kinds of question, the second is to critically re-examine that paradigm and seek alternatives to remedy its failures; the third possible path is to investigate the boundaries shared by economics and other social sciences (history, demographics, sociology, social psychology, political science) and other disciplines (including neuroscience and cognitive science).

Thanks to its pluralism, PSE is at the forefront of this evolution in economic thinking, using an approach that is both traditional and innovative to investigate the open questions in economics. For instance, our researchers ask how we should manage economic activity and regulate the global economic cycle, especially during periods of crisis; how to reduce poverty in developing countries; how to explain and combat growing inequality; how to evaluate and improve public policy in sectors such as health, the environment and education; or how to model bounded rationality.”4

Piketty’s book strives to follow the brochure’s agenda, and hence, it may be aimed at creating an identity (distinct from the London and Chicago Schools) for this twenty-first century French school. Can it lift the French school of political economy from centuries of oblivion? Can this school emancipate French economists from the tutelage of their American counterparts?

Remember, in this century different streams of economic thought emanating from emerging economies like China, India, Brazil, etc. will claim their share of economic discourse. Piketty keeps the dialogue confined, in the main, to Europe and the United States.

All said, Thomas Piketty still deserves many thanks.

NOTES

  1. Keynes, John Maynard; op.cit.
  2. Descriptions regarding the beginning of political economy are taken from and based on Marx’s ‘A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy’, Part One, (Written in November 1858-January 1859) and ‘Grundrisse’; op.cit.
  3. Ibid
  4. From the Brochure of École d’Économie de Paris.

[This critique is divided in eight parts, tentatively titled as: i. Apocalypse and Exuberance; ii. Data and Dialectics; iii. Capital Social and Self-Expanding; iv. Wealth Inherited and Created; v. Century Twentieth and Twenty-First; vi. Yes Marx No Marx; vii. London Chicago Paris; and viii. Thank You Mr Piketty.]

October, 2014.

CONTINUED.

NEXT: 8. THANK YOU MR PIKETTY

A CRITIQUE OF THOMAS PIKETTY’S ‘CAPITAL IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY’ – 10

 

CONTAINING CAPITAL – 10

 

PRASANNA K CHOUDHARY

6. YES MARX NO MARX

For if it is rash to walk into a lion’s den unarmed, rash to navigate the Atlantic in a rowing boat, rash to stand on one foot on the top of St Paul’s, it is still more rash to go home alone with a poet. A poet is Atlantic and lion in one. While one drowns us the other gnaws us. If we survive the teeth, we succumb to the waves. A man who can destroy illusions is both beast and flood.

Virginia Woolf; ‘Orlando: A Biography’.1

Since the publication of the Volume I of Marx’s Capital one hundred forty seven years ago (in September, 1867), economists have been trying to (some even claiming to) find an answer to Marx and have been miserably failing in this task. Yet the tradition is being zealously maintained.

During the last decades of the nineteenth century (particularly from 1870s to 1890s), feverish attempts were made to clear the economic field of any trace of the classical theory of labor value, and particularly of Marx’s theory of surplus value. What remained after this clearing was ‘pure economics’ secured within the circles of a few schools – the Austrian School (Carl Menger, Friederich von Wieser, and Eugen Böhm-Bawerk), the Mathematical School (Léon Walras and William S Jevons), the Americal School (John B Clark), and the Cambridge School (A Marshall and Arthur C Pigou).

In the 1920s, in an attempt to find an answer to Marx, German economist Werner Sombart enunciated the theory of social pluralism explaining the evolution of society through co-existence of systems, with each newly emerging systems joining the foregoing one, rather than superseding it. He was just advancing upon another German economist Adolf von Wagner’s theory of mixed economy.

In the 1940s, Joseph Schumpeter was very much engaged with Marx while writing his ‘Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy’. And in the post-Second World War period, American economists John Galbraith, Pitirim Sorokin and the Dutch economist Jan Tinbergen advocated the theory of convergence maintaining that the evolution and inter-penetration of capitalism and socialism will result in the emergence of a so-called universal society, combining the best features of the two socio-economic systems. No need to add that Marx was very much in their minds while they were contemplating on convergence.

However, it is not necessary to go into that history. But it will be quite unfair not to mention John Maynard Keynes in this regard. Keynes finds his answer to Marx in the person of ‘the strange, unduly neglected prophet Silvio Gesell (1862-1930)’. He writes:

“Gesell was a successful German merchant in Buenos Aires who was led to the study of monetary problems by the crisis of the late eighties, which was especially violent in the Argentine. .. He returned to Switzerland in 1906 as a man of some means, able to devote the last decades of his life to the two most delightful occupations open to those who do not have to earn their living, authorship and experimental farming. .. The first section of his standard work was published in 1906 (at Les Hauts Geneveys, Switzerland) under the title ‘Die Verwirklichung des Rechtes auf dem vollen Arbeitsertrag’, and the second section in 1911 at Berlin under the title ‘Die neue Lehre vom Zins’. The two together were published in Berlin and in Switzerland during the war (1916), .. the English version .. being called ‘The Natural Economic Order’. In April 1919 Gesell joined the short-lived Soviet cabinet of Bavaria as their Minister of Finance, being subsequently tried by court-martial. The last decade of his life was spent in Berlin and Switzerland and devoted to propaganda. Gesell, drawing to himself the semi-religious fervor which had formerly centered around Henry George, became the revered prophet of a cult with many thousand disciples throughout the world. The first international convention of the Swiss and German Freiland-Freigeld Bund and similar organizations from many countries was held in Basle in 1923. Since his death in 1930 much of the peculiar type of fervor which doctrines such as his are capable of exciting has been diverted to other (in my opinion less eminent) prophets. Dr Buchi is the leader of the movement in England, but its literature seems to be distributed from San Antonio, Texas, its main strength lying today in the United States, where Professor Irving Fisher, alone amongst academic economists, has recognized its significance.

In spite of the prophetic trappings with which his devotees have decorated him, Gesell’s main book is written in cool, scientific language; though it is suffused throughout by a more passionate, a more emotional devotion to social justice than some think decent in a scientist. The part which derives from Henry George, though doubtless an important source of the movement’s strength, is of altogether secondary interest. The purpose of the book as a whole may be described as the establishment of an anti-Marxian socialism, a reaction against laissez-faire built on theoretical foundations totally unlike those of Marx in being based on repudiation instead of on an acceptance of the classical hypotheses, and on an unfettering of competition instead of its abolition. I BELIEVE THAT THE FUTURE WILL LEARN MORE FROM THE SPIRIT OF GESELL THAN FROM THAT OF MARX. The preface to the ‘The Natural Economic Order’ will indicate to the reader, if he will refer to it, the moral quality of Gesell. The answer to Marxism is, I think, to be found along the lines of this preface.2

Contrary to Keynes’ wishes, today no one (including Mr Piketty) remembers Gesell and his preface to ‘The Natural Economic Order’. Gesell is forgotten, but Marx still continues to preoccupy the minds of twenty-first century economists.

Marx’s long shadow is quite apparent in Thomas Piketty’s book from beginning to end. At every point, before propounding his conclusions, he remembers and cites Marx, but quickly backtracks. He strives hard to find an answer to Marx, but fails. He is not the first to do so, and not the last to fail. In the earlier parts of this critique, I have already dealt with the ‘Yes Marx No Marx’ syndrome of Mr Piketty, and hence, no further elaboration is needed.

However, one complaint remains, and very often mentioned in the book. He says, “He (Marx) no doubt lacked the statistic data needed to refine his predictions. He probably suffered as from having decided on his conclusions in 1848, before embarking on the research needed to justify them. Marx evidently wrote in great political fervor, which at times led him to issue hasty pronouncements from which it was difficult to escape. That is why economic theory needs to be rooted in historical sources that are as complete as possible, and in this respect Marx did not exploit all the possibilities available to him.” (Introduction) “To summarize: he (Marx) occasionally sought to make use of the best available statistics of the day (which were better than the statistics available to Malthus and Ricardo but still quite rudimentary), but he usually did so in a rather impressionistic way and without always establishing a clear connection to his theoretical argument.” (Introduction/Note 8) Further, “Despite important intuitions, Marx usually adopted a fairly anecdotal and unsystematic approach to the available statistics.” (Chapter Six)

Given the conditions under which Marx had to work, and even conceding that he might have missed some available data, anyone who has gone through his writings – Grundrisse, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, three volumes of Capital, Theories of Surplus Value, etc. – will hardly agree with Piketty’s observations. Two facts are all too clear – one, Marx rigorously tried to collect and analyze all available statistics to the extent possible, and second, he critically and quite extensively examined almost all the currents of thought then existing. No book of his time comes even close to his voluminous works.

While describing the ‘History of the Ricardian Law of Rent’ (‘Theories of Surplus Value’, Part II), he studies and analyses the annual average prices of corn from 1641 to 1859 (quoting Sir Edward West’s ‘Price of Corn and Wages of Labor’, London, 1826). Moreover, in order to gain greater access to available data and literature, he got himself admitted to the Society of Arts and Trades (which was formed in 1754) in May 1869. It gave him access to the Society’s library, including the extremely large collection of works by the 17th-19th century economists. Many of them he used when working on Capital.

Marx’s economic writings contain very extensive critical examination of almost all the figures of classical political economy – William Petty, Boisguillebert, Benjamin Franklin, Anderson, Sir James Steuart, Condillac, Adam Smith, Sir F M Eden, Townsend, Wallace, Malthus, Bentham, Ricardo, James and John Stuart Mill, Wilhelm Thukydides, Roscher, George Ramsay, J B Say, Cobbett, Rodbertus, Hopkins, Sismondi, William Carey, Bestiat, etc.

And his great political fervor (in favor of the working class) was invariably accompanied with his relentless struggles against sectarianism.3 His political fervor did not cloud his vision to the extent that he could not see the objective facts and their historical sources. Contrary to Piketty’s observations, see what Bertrand Russel has to say about Marx in this regard, “.. He (Marx) was always anxious to appeal to evidence, and never relied upon any extra-scientific intuition.”4

Marx’s ‘Capital’ was met with a ‘conspiracy of silence’ and Kugelmann and Engels had to take considerable trouble to blow up this conspiracy. Kugelmann managed to publish anonymously a number of reviews by Engels in various newspapers. But soon, the book got organically linked with working class/socialist/communist movement.

Piketty’s book is an instant hit, a bestseller from the very start. I will not go into the marketing strategy of the publishers cashing in on the popular sentiment prevailing in the background of the ‘Occupy movement’ in the US and anti-austerity movements in Europe. Nothing can be more false and misleading than comparing Marx’s ‘Capital’ with Piketty’s ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’, and to call Piketty’s book Capital 2.0. To call him ‘Modern Marx’ or ‘Bigger than Marx’ is simply ridiculous.

The sound of the book that met with a ‘conspiracy of silence’ is still reverberating in the ears of 21st century economists. The fate of the book that is a blockbuster from the very start is at present anybody’s guess.

It was really rash for Mr Piketty to go home with Karl Marx while writing his book. In that case he should not have hoped to survive the teeth and to avoid succumbing to the waves.

NOTES

  1. Virginia Woolf; op.cit.
  2. Keynes, John Maynard; ‘The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money’ (1936), Chapter 23, ‘Notes on Mercantilism, The Usury Laws, Stamped Money and Theories of Under-consumption’. A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook, February 2003. This eBook was produced by Col Choat: colc@gutenberg.net.au
  3. In his letter to the Lassallean Johann Baptist von Schweitzer (October 13, 1868), Marx wrote, “The sect seeks its raison d’être and its point d’honneur not in what it has in common with the class movement but in the particular shibboleth distinguishing it from that movement. ..Yet instead you, in fact, demanded that the class movement subordinated itself to a particular sect movement. Your non-friends concluded from this that you wished to conserve your ‘own workers’ movement under all circumstances.” Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 43; op.cit.
  4. Russel, Bertrand; ‘History of Western Philosophy’, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., London, 1967.

[This critique is divided in eight parts, tentatively titled as: i. Apocalypse and Exuberance; ii. Data and Dialectics; iii. Capital Social and Self-Expanding; iv. Wealth Inherited and Created; v. Century Twentieth and Twenty-First; vi. Yes Marx No Marx; vii. London Chicago Paris; and viii. Thank You Mr Piketty.]

October, 2014.

CONTINUED.

NEXT: 7. LONDON CHICAGO PARIS