Thursday, April 8, 2021

My Understanding of Marx Part Seven — Robert Paul Wolff

So Marx was wrong. The distinction between labor and labor power is not the key to understanding both the exploitation that lies at the heart of capitalism. But he is clearly right that the workers are exploited. Furthermore, he is clearly right when he claims that capitalism misrepresents itself as a system founded upon freedom for all including the workers. And he is right that capitalism manages both the mystify itself and, unlike the church, even to conceal the fact of this mystification so that both workers and capitalists and the economists who analyze their doings imagine wrongly that what goes on in the capitalist marketplace is free of the clouds of mystery that surround the altar and the throne.

It was also clear to me that the sophisticated mathematical reinterpretations of the classical school of Political Economy, while they were an enormous analytical advance on the arguments of Marx or Ricardo, completely failed to capture the mystifications of capitalism or the irony in the description of capitalism as a system of “free markets.” So I put to myself a question: is there some way of revising the mathematical analysis so that it preserves the power and clarity that had been achieved by the modern reinterpreters of the classical school while at the same time, in some manner of speaking, introducing the irony into the equations? No one had ever asked this question before, so far as I could tell. Indeed, no one had ever conceived it to be a question one could ask. But I had an idea....
The Philosopher's Stone
Robert Paul Wolff | Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts Amherst

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