Friday, August 12, 2016

J. W. Mason — There Isn’t Really a ‘Mainstream’ at All

JKH and Sandwichman have already left comments there.

There Isn’t Really a ‘Mainstream’ at All
J. W. Mason

In my estimation as a philosopher rather than an economist, there are two major influences that are overlooked in the conventional way of doing economics.

The first and most important is Marx in that he takes a wholistic approach based on system theory.
The general conclusion at which I arrived and which, once reached, became the guiding principle of my studies can be summarised as follows.

In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.…
In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.
The second is Institutionalism, general attributed to Veblen as founder. Institutionalism is concerned with, "the totality of these relations of production [that] constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness."

Taking this into account, the proper study of economics encompasses the "relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production." Thus, the proper study of economics far exceeds the boundaries of most contemporary approaches to the discipline called economics.

Institutionalism rounds out Marx, who was of course cognizant only of the institutions of his day. Note that MMT is largely institutional in that modern money is chartal money or state money. Money is an integral aspect of modern legal institutions and in the US Constitution, the legislature is given institutional control, while legal interpretation is left to the courts.

The major problem with so-called conventional economics is the presumption, containing hidden assumptions, regarding the physical, biological and social system in which economic activity is occurring. As Samuelson noted, formalizing economics similar to natural science requires assuming an ergodic system in which economic behavior occurs. However, as even Marx realized well over a century ago, this system is actually a complex adaptive system that not only changes over time but is subject to emergence owing to reflexivity.

The dodgy assumption is revealed in another fundamental assumption employed in conventional economics — ceteris paribus. However, it needs to be shown in any specific case that all conditions other then the variable under scrutiny actually remain the same.

And as Sandwichman points out in a comment there, cet. par. is actually used selectively in order to further an argument, which is a logical fallacy that indicates either ignorance of cognitive bias or else sophistry.


jrbarch said...

For me, this whole discussion may be approached from an entirely different pov, if you start from basics. I end up with different conclusions.

The same atoms (same protons, neutrons, electrons, and sub-atomic particles in different combinations) scattered throughout the known universe - comprise the human brain. The sub-atomic particles appear and disappear into some unknown ‘energy state’. Which begs the question - why isn’t a rock as conscious as a human? Those people who insist consciousness arises from matter are whistling through their electron shells. Consciousness is still an open question to Science (but not to the Ageless Wisdom). And yet, human consciousness exists, and there are two things we can and should do: - look within at consciousness itself, or without at its manifestations. Unless we look within and understand the nature of human consciousness, then we will not understand what we are looking at by looking without. That is why the world is in such a mess.

I think Marx was looking without, when he thought humans .... enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will....

Will, Love, and Intelligence (WLI) are aspects of human consciousness. There are no off/on switches or circuit breakers. Evolution may have other aspects in store. Marx, like most looked out of his eyes to try and see what was happening in the world, but did not know how to look back behind his eyes, to understand the nature of the one that was looking.

A meerkat colony is also conscious, individually and collectively, just as a human colony. WLI are also aspects of their consciousness, evolved to a cute meerkat status. The real difference in the human colony is self-consciousness; which manifests first of all as an ‘I’ (individual, social etc.) a ‘wave in the mindstuff’, and eventually, once the attention has also turned within, as self-awareness of the consciousness itself and an unfolding inner world. The meerkat colony functions automatically, using the instinctive mind. The human colony too functions automatically, but with an intellectual and emotional overlay that creates a (transient) world imposed on the natural world, at the centre of which is the ‘I’. The one who looks within knows that this ‘I’ is an illusion (not what it appears to be). The rest are its unwilling slaves. Desire is a lower manifestation of the Will, appropriated by the ‘I’ as it tries to attract and force things to it.

For me, what is really happening is the evolution of consciousness. As consciousness changes (becomes more sensitive to higher expressions of WLI) the outer world will change. Consciousness at one level creates an ant colony, at another a meerkat colony, at another a human colony, and at another the colony of the self. The self uses WLI naturally like the meerkat but at a higher turn of the spiral. No reason why it should stop there.

I think Marx was looking without, and getting things back to front, when he thought - It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness…

Unfortunately, because we so habitually look without, evolution uses pain to awaken our WLI. Pain is resistance. It is a beautiful little blue-green jewel of a planet we humans have, but we don’t really appreciate our own existence.

Tom Hickey said...

Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness (L'être et le néant) is probably the most radical expression of consciousness as freedom since consciousness is "nothing" and can become anything through thought whereas physical reality is determined by causality. This is the idea that consciousness as subject is completely independent of the object as matter. Sartre later reconsidered his radical position and adopted a Marxist dialectical view in Critique of Dialectical Reason (Critique de la raison dialectique) in which he posited that social conditions also shape consciousness.

Conscious human acts are not projections of freedom that produce human 'temporality', but movements toward 'totalization', their sense being co-determined by existing social conditions. People are thus neither absolutely free to determine the meaning of their acts nor slaves to the circumstances in which they find themselves. Social life does not consist only of individual acts rooted in freedom, since it is also a sedimentation of history by which we are limited and a fight with nature, which imposes further obstacles and causes social relationships to be dominated by scarcity. Every satisfaction of a need can cause antagonism and make it more difficult for people to accept each other as human beings. Scarcity deprives people of the ability to make particular choices and diminishes their humanity.Wikipedia

According to perennial wisdom, consciousness in itself is all there is. This is realized in the state of unity but is obscured in the states of duality in which subject and object are differentiated existentially. In dualistic states, consciousness is bound. Those bonds are the residue of the past that exist in the deep mind, and actually constituted mind. IN biology, this is reflected in the fact that ontogenesis replicates phylogenies. From an expanded point of view it means that all impressions of the past carry forward and influence (determine) the present state of a being.

Rumi, from Wikiquote

I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar
With angels blest; but even from angelhood
I must pass on: all except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel-soul,
I shall become what no mind e'er conceived.
Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence
Proclaims in organ tones, To Him we shall return.
— "I Died as a Mineral", as translated in The Mystics of Islam (1914) edited by Reynold Alleyne Nicholson, p. 125

Variant translation: Originally, you were clay. From being mineral, you became vegetable. From vegetable, you became animal, and from animal, man. During these periods man did not know where he was going, but he was being taken on a long journey nonetheless. And you have to go through a hundred different worlds yet.
— As quoted in Multimind (1986) by Robert Ornstein

jrbarch said...

Two very different musicians, Sartre and Rumi.

Sartre wrote at a time when the world was horrified by the inhumanity of the Nazi concentration camps, and the devastation of war and nuclear weapons; people were shocked by the depths to which human nature could sink. Forming the UN was intended to prevent this ever happening again - short memories in the political class.

Sartre decided very early on in life (like so many people do) that no Absolute Principle exists and no soul in a human. This was his belief (which makes him a believer, just as those who believe the opposite are believers). In life, it is better to know; or be honest and say ‘I do not know’.

And like Nietzsche and every good atheist in the world, the human persona being all that there is, the idea is to make the best of it. Even the Nazis wanted to breed a superhuman. Today people are focused on their careers, acquisitions, exposure, and influence – elevation of the persona.

Rumi on the other hand opened a door within himself and saw Being face to face. No need to speculate about it. Like Kabir, he began to write mystic poems, from the heart. His music was different.

Star Without a Name

When a baby is taken from the wet nurse,
it easily forgets her
and starts eating solid food.

Seeds feed awhile on ground,
then lift up into the sun.

So you should taste the filtered light
and work your way toward wisdom
with no personal covering.

That's how you came here, like a star
without a name. Move across the night sky
with those anonymous lights.

Today, the mystics have to have degrees in philosophy, psychology, and science etc. too.

I wonder what Sartre would have thought, if he were one of those 24 astronauts, only 24 out of all the billions of human beings who have come and gone on this earth, who have been on another heavenly body? They all came back describing how beautiful our little planet is, how insignificant are human affairs, how amazing space and the galaxy are – highly technical human beings whose hearts opened to existence and minds tried to describe the experience in their own way. Maybe that’s what we should do to our ‘world leaders’ – send ‘em into space for a few weeks. Give us a break .....!