7 may. 2018

Marx/ Lo vivo y lo muerto del pensamiento de Marx (según Jon Elster)

Luego de escribir su monumental "Making Sense of Marx" Jon Elster completó una serie de trabajos más breves sobre Marx, con su elegante "An Introduction to Karl Marx."  Esta visión resumida sobre el pensamiento de Marx concluye con un capítulo didáctico, polémico, provocativo y a la vez muy interesante, sobre lo que queda vivo y lo que ya no vive del pensamiento de Marx, que siempre quise tener cerca y conmigo. Luego de un buen tiempo, y en homenaje a Marx, conseguí una copia, en inglés, de ese capítulo final, que incluyo aquí. Transcribo ese capítulo (que lamentablemente no encuentro con acceso simple en español), introducido por una "lista-resumen" de lo que, en opinión de Elster, ha muerto y queda vivo de la teoría de Marx. Coincidiendo con algunas cosas y no con otras, el resumen de Elster me parece fabuloso, en tanto "destilado" de décadas de estudio sobre "todo Marx" (libros, cartas, comentarios, etc.), y todo lo escrito y relacionado con Marx. Por ello, uno puede desacordar enojosamente con Elster, pero no negar su tremendo esfuerzo por entender a Marx, pasándolo por un "cedazo analítico". El trabajo de Elster en esta materia (su trabajo general, ya que este capítulo ofrece simplemente unas grajeas) resulta, para mí, de los más importantes que se han escrito sobre Marx hasta el presente. Este resumen, por lo demás, muestra a Elster, todavía, con una gran carga de admiración, afecto y simpatía por la impresionante obra de Marx.


1. Scientific socialism is dead. 
2. Dialectical materialism is dead. 
3. Teleology and functionalism are dead. 
4. Marxian economic theory is dead, with one important exception: the theory of technical change. 
5. The theory of productive forces and relations of production perhaps the most important part of historical materialism - is dead. 
6. Other parts of Marx's theory can be declared neither unambiguously dead nor unambiguously well and alive. The theories of alienation, exploitation, class, politics, and ideology are to some extent vitiated by wishful thinking, functional explanation, and sheer arbitrariness, but they also offer vital, even crucial insights. Rather than discussing under separate headings what is dead and what is alive, I consider these aspects together below. 


1. The dialectical method, or at least one version of it, is certainly alive. 
2. The theory of alienation is living, as is, correlatively, Marx's conception of the good life for man. 
3. The theory of exploitation is living, as is, correlatively, Marx's conception of distributive justice. 
4. Marx's theory of technical change is definitely living. 
5. Marx's theory of class consciousness, class struggle, and politics is vibrantly alive, although it is generally recognized that it does not provide the full answer to the questions that motivate its construction. 
6. The theory of ideology is not particularly well and alive, but I believe it can and should be resurrected



THE title of this chapter is adapted from Benedetto Croce's book, What Is Living and What Is Dead in the Philosophy of Hegel? There is little new in it, compared to the preceding chapters. Its task is to dot the /'s and cross the t's, so as to provide the reader with a convenient summary. In order to avoid ending on an anti- climactic note, I reverse the order of the title. I first consider the elements of Marx's thought that in my opinion are dead, including some that are artificially kept alive and ought to be buried. I conclude by discussing elements that I consider to be alive, including some that are widely believed to be dead and hence in need of resurrection. 

There are several grounds on which one can argue a theory to be dead. First, it may be inapplicable today, even though correct when first stated. Because society changes, statements that were true a hundred years ago may be false today. Second, the theory may have been false even when originally formulated, although by no fault of its author. If his theory was the best that could be stated given the data or the analytical techniques available at the time, one should not blame him if it is superseded in the light of later developments. Third, the theory may have been false at the time of inception, in the light of the available data and techniques. A special case is when the theory can be shown to be false on purely logical grounds, prior to the inspection of data. In the evaluation of Marx's theories carried out here, all of these criteria are invoked. Sometimes more than one of them applies to a given theory. It would be pointlessly pedantic to spell out in each particular case what criteria are being used in what combination, but the reader should keep the distinction in mind. 


To illustrate the distinction, consider three cases. It can be argued that mid-nineteenth-century Europe was historically unique in several respects. It realized the pure concept of property, as full and exclusive jus uti et abuti, whereas at all earlier and later times the property of a thing has been conceived as a bundle of rights (and obligations) that could be and usually was split among several persons. It allowed for a maximum of separation between the economic and the political spheres, as a distinction among different sets of people, whereas in earlier and later societies the distinction has been one among roles or even aspects of roles. It brought class struggle to the forefront as the main determinant of social conflict, whereas at earlier and later times issues of cultural identity - race, nation, gender, language, religion - have been no less important. It approximated to a high degree the pure model of a competitive market economy, whereas in earlier and later modes of production cartels, monopolies, and state intervention have been much more prominent. These statements, which I believe to be at least roughly true, suggest that Marx sometimes erred because he did not recognize what an exceptional society he was observing. Much of what he said may have been approximately true at the time, but the backward and forward extensions were frequently less successful. 

Next, consider Marx as an economic historian. We know today that his views on the Asiatic mode of production, shared by many of his contemporaries, rested on inadequate information, although probably the best available at the time. We are in a much better position than he was to assess technological change during the Middle Ages, and as a result we can discard his views that essentially no innovation occurred from late antiquity until the modern age. We know that his views about the relation between the eighteenth-century British enclosures and the supply of labor to industry, though shared by all economic historians until recently, are in fact false. The enclosures, far from being labor-saving, were labor-using; the industrial work force grew out of a general population increase. We can hardly blame Marx for not considering monopoly behavior as a possible explanation of the employers' interest in a reduction of the working day, because the analytical tools for the study of monopoly did not exist at his time. All of these are examples of what, in the above classification, corresponds to the second kind of mistakes: Marx was wrong, but it is hard to see how he could have done much better. 

The third kind of mistakes are the most disturbing, in that they reflect upon the quality of Marx's judgment. There is some dishonesty in his handling of empirical evidence, as when Marx updates British economic statistics when it suits him but retains the older figures when they support his case. Certainly there is no trace in his writings of the scholarly practice known as playing the devil's advocate. There are strong elements of wishful thinking, which, if morally less deplorable than dishonesty, probably had a more destructive impact on the quality of his work. Moreover, there are many examples of prejudice, as in his attitude toward Napoleon III or Lord Palmerston. Finally, his economic theories abound with purely logical mistakes. The labor theory of value and the theory of the falling rate of profit are very poor specimens of deductive reasoning. 

Against all this, we need to remind ourselves that although Marx's passion often clouded his judgment it also sustained his sometimes superhuman efforts and his genuinely great achievements. On the one hand, motivation and good judgment both contribute to success; on the other hand, motivation easily subverts judgment. To wish for the first effect of motivation without the second may be to ask for the impossible. Beliefs born of passion serve passion badly, but if lack of passion is a condition for impartial judgment, as some recent psychological findings suggest, the price may be higher than we want to pay. 


1. Scientific socialism is dead. There is no way in which a political theory can dispense with values and rely instead on the laws of history operating with iron necessity. There exists no intellectually respectable argument for the view that history is subject to a progressive pattern that can be detected in the past and extrapolated into the future. To disprove this view, it is sufficient to point to the possibility of a nuclear war, leading to the extinction of mankind. 

How could historical materialism offer an a priori refutation of this possibility? Moreover, there is no reason to expect history to have the property of homeorhesis, or dynamic stability. Think of a ball rolling down the bottom of a valley. The process is dynamically stable, because if the ball is pushed off course and sent up the hillside it will sooner or later return to the bottom again - unless the push is a very strong one, so that the ball is sent over into the adjoining valley. A nuclear war would certainly be a very strong push. Without dynamic stability, however, even small pushes could change the course of history. 

A special case is "the role of the individual in history." Any deterministic macrohistorical theory must deny that the actions of a single individual can influence history in a significant way, but denial is not enough; an argument is also required. None has been forthcoming. Tolstoy's mathematical analogy in War and Peace, that individuals are like infinitesimally small magnitudes whose actions are aggregated into history by a process akin to mathematical integration, is very much in the spirit of scientific socialism. It is also very misleading, because social interaction is not an additive process. The action of one individual can make a small or a large difference to the outcome, depending on his place in the network of social relations. 

Scientific socialism is also flawed in its treatment of values. The horns of the dilemma are well known. Either the laws of history operate with such iron necessity that political action is superfluous - communism will somehow come about "by itself without propaganda, leadership, or mass action - or, if this view is discarded, as it must be, political action must be guided by values. One might think that communism, though ultimately inevitable, is also undesirable and therefore try to stave it off for as long as possible. If one thinks communism is desirable, value problems may also arise. To say, with Marx, that the role of action is to "shorten and lessen the birth pangs" is to beg the question, for what if the choice is between a short, violent delivery and a long, more peaceful one? In that case, what are the principles that allow one to choose between different courses of action? Are they purely utilitarian ones, or are they to some extent also constrained by individual rights? Uncertainty and moral responsibility are part and parcel of political action. To deny that they are testifies to intellectual hubris and moral blindness. 

2. Dialectical materialism is dead. This doctrine, like scientific socialism, is mainly associated with Engels, but it is also a minor strand in Marx's thought. In the first place, there is no coherent and interesting sense in which any of the central views in Marxism are "materialist." No Marxist philosopher has offered any useful insights on the problems of philosophical materialism, such as the mind-body problem, the sense-data problem, and the like. And even if Marxism had a specific, well-defined, and well-defended version of philosophical materialism, it would bear no interesting relation to historical materialism. In vague and general terms, both doctrines can be summarized in the statement, "Being determines consciousness." As soon, however, as one attempts to make the statement more precise, the similarity disappears. According to historical materialism, ideas are both separate from and capable of having a causal impact on the economic structure; no similar statement would hold for any form of philosophical materialism. 

In the second place, the form of dialectics codified in dialectical materialism is quite trivial. Sometimes it amounts to little more than a statement of the general interconnections among all things, and at other times it is used as a fancy phrase for feedback processes. The "laws of dialectics" stated by Engels are somewhat less vacuous, although far from laws in the ordinary sense of the term. They can serve as useful reminders that some natural and historical processes are irreversible, nonlinear, and even discontinuous. "Mechanical materialism," a phrase used as the antonym of di- 
alectical materialism, might then be defined as the view (or implicit assumption) that all processes are reversible and linear, except that the term "materialism" does not serve any useful purpose here. 

3. Teleology and functionalism are dead. In Marx's thought, a teleological philosophy of history became wedded, in an apparently paradoxical way, to scientific socialism. The paradox is that teleology explains everything by backward connections, from the end to be realized to the means that realize it, whereas science proceeds by forward connections from cause to effect. In the theological tradition that forms the backdrop to Marx's thinking, the paradox is readily acknowledged. As Leibniz wrote, "There are two realms, that of efficient causes and that of final causes, and each is sufficient to explain everything in detail, as if the other did not exist." When God created the universe, he set up the causal chain that would best realize his goal, so that each link in the chain can be explained both as the effect of its predecessor in the chain and as being part of an optimal chain. 

This reconciliation of teleology and causality presupposes theological premises and, in particular, the existence of a divine subject. For Leibniz, history had a goal and a creator. These two, of course, go together. Hegel has been praised for seeing that history 
is a process without a subject. Yet he also retained, disastrously, the idea that history has a goal, as if the concept of a goal had a meaning apart from a subject for whom it is a goal. This Hegelian vision retained a strong grip on Marx's thinking, at least in many 
of his writings. The main exception is The German Ideology, which espouses a robustly antiteleological view. In the major economic writings, he reverted to the Hegelianism of his early youth, arguing that the immanent purpose of history was to carry mankind through the Purgatory of alienation and class conflict toward communism, because full unity could not be achieved in any other way than by a temporary loss of unity. This is individual rationality writ large, as if Humanity were a supraindividual actor with the capacity to defer gratification. 

Another supraindividual entity mysteriously endowed with powers to act is Capital. The numerous instances of functional explanation in Marx's writings usually take the form of arguing that some institution or behavioral pattern works to the benefit of capital and then simply assuming that these benefits provide a sufficient explanation for its presence. Examples include the explanations of social mobility, physiocrat doctrines, labor-saving technical change, state power, the British Ten Hours Bill, and the prevalence of crime under capitalism. (The last-mentioned account, in Theories of Surplus-Value, is offered as a parody of Mandeville's "private vices, public benefits" and is not in itself evidence for a tendency to rely on unsupported functional explanation. Yet later Marxist criminologists have taken it seriously and written about the benefits of crime against property to the property-owning class.) 

The point is not that these accounts are necessarily false but that Marx does not provide us with any reasons for thinking that they are true. There exist forms of functional explanation that do not rely simply on the presence of benefits but either specify a mechanism by which the benefits maintain their causes or provide law- like statements that, even in the absence of knowledge of the mechanism, could be used to back the explanation. Marx and most of his followers have not, unfortunately, felt any need or obligation to justify their use of functional explanation. 

4. Marxian economic theory is dead, with one important exception: the theory of technical change. (This exception is discussed in the section "What Is Living?") The labor theory of value is intellectually bankrupt. The very concept of the labor content of a commodity is ill defined in the presence of heterogeneous labor or heterogeneous work tasks. Even assuming that the concept could be defined, it has no useful role to perform. The equilibrium prices and rate of profit can be determined without invoking labor values. If any connection obtains, it is rather the other way around: Prices must be known before we can deduce labor values. The labor theory of value does not provide a useful criterion for the choice of socially desirable techniques, nor does it explain the actual choice of technique under capitalism. It vitiates the otherwise important theory of fetishism and detracts from the otherwise effective criticism of vulgar economy. Nor does the labor theory of value offer any useful insights into the possibility of stable exchange rates and of surplus. 

The other main pillar of Marxian economic theory, the theory that the rate of profit tends to fall as a result of labor-saving technical change, is equally untenable. Although superficially attractive because of its pleasingly "dialectical" appearance, it turns out to have a number of fatal flaws. Most importantly, Marx neglected the fact that even labor-saving technical change has the indirect effect of depreciating the value of constant capital, thereby counteracting and possibly offsetting the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Moreover, Marx offers no argument for the view that technical change tends to be labor-saving. The other crisis theories sketched by Marx are even less convincing, because they are not even stated with sufficient precision to allow for evaluation or refutation. The theory of the falling rate of profit passes this test: It is falsifiable, and indeed false, contrary not just to intuition but to truth as well. 

5. The theory of productive forces and relations of production perhaps the most important part of historical materialism - is dead. This obituary may be more controversial than the others; there is probably more room here for reasonable doubt. The main objection to the view that property relations rise and fall according to their tendency to promote or hinder the development of the productive forces is that it has no microfoundations. Marx does not explain how the tendency is translated into a social force, sustained by the motivations of individual men. Moreover, the view is inherently less plausible than an alternative account, according to which property relations are determined by their tendency to promote or hinder surplus maximization. Individuals have a motive to maximize surplus; only Humanity, in its striving toward communism, has a motive to maximize the rate of innovation. 

In addition to being unsupported and implausible, Marx's doctrine is inconsistent with what he actually writes about the various historical modes of production. As he describes it, the transition from slavery to feudalism did not go together with an increase in the rate of innovation. His account of the transition from feudalism to capitalism relies more on surplus maximization than on innovation. His predictions for the transition to communism invoke the suboptimal use of techniques under capitalism rather than their suboptimal rate of change. One might almost say that the obituary for the general theory, as stated in the 1859 preface to A Critique of Political Economy, has already been written by Marx himself, for he consistently refuses to adopt it in his own historical studies. 

6. Other parts of Marx's theory can be declared neither unambiguously dead nor unambiguously well and alive. The theories of alienation, exploitation, class, politics, and ideology are to some extent vitiated by wishful thinking, functional explanation, and sheer arbitrariness, but they also offer vital, even crucial insights. Rather than discussing under separate headings what is dead and what is alive, I consider these aspects together below. 


1. The dialectical method, or at least one version of it, is certainly alive. Not everything Marx learned from Hegel led him astray. Although Hegel's Logic is among the most obscure books ever written, The Phenomenology of Spirit is vastly more valuable, which is not to say that it is easy reading. Marx was under the influence of both. Sometimes he seems to espouse the doctrine of the Logic, that the world is contradictory in the sense that two mutually inconsistent statements can both be true. This view, frankly, is nonsense. Other analyses seem to draw on the Phenomenology, which offered an account of real contradictions that does not commit one to this absurd view. What Marx refers to as social contradictions correspond both to a certain type of logical fallacy ("the fallacy of composition") and to the perverse mechanisms whereby individually rational behavior generates collectively disastrous outcomes. Before Keynes, he diagnosed an essential paradox of capitalism in the fact that each employer wants his workers to have low wages and those employed by all other capitalists to have high wages. The theory of the falling rate of profit, though mathematically unsound, rests on a structurally similar mechanism. Against Adam Smith's view that the self-interest of the individual and the collective interest of society need not conflict but that, on the contrary, the latter can often be realized only through the former, Marx was more impressed by negative unintended consequences and by the self-defeating rationality of the Prisoner's Dilemma. 

2. The theory of alienation is living, as is, correlatively, Marx's conception of the good life for man. By emphasizing the ideal of the self-realization of the individual, Marx wanted to mark his distance from two rival conceptions. First, the emphasis on the self-realization of the individual excludes any conception that places the self-realization of mankind at the center. Although Marx's commitment to methodological individualism was intermittent at best, his ethical individualism was unwavering. He hailed the contributions to science and culture made by class societies in general and by capitalism in particular, but he also recognized that they were achieved at the expense of lack of self-realization for the vast majority. Second, the emphasis on the self-realization of the individual excludes any conception of the good life as one of passive consumption, however enjoyable. His was an Aristotelian conception of the good life for man, as one in which men bring to reality their "species powers/' that is, their creative potentialities. He did not ask or answer the question of why men ought to develop their species powers, but some responses can be suggested. Because of the economies of scale involved in self-realization, it is inherently more satisfactory than consumption. Also, self-realization allows the development of self-respect, without which even consumption loses most of its attractions. Finally, to the extent that self-realization leads to more people engaging in creative activities, others will benefit from what they create. 

If properly modified and restricted, Marx's theory of self-realization is a good guide to industrial reform and, more ambitiously, to large-scale social and economic change. Some of the modifications are the following. It will not turn out to be possible for everybody to develop all their abilities, if only because this would prevent exploitation of the economies of scale. Nor can one expect that everyone will be able to find satisfaction in a restricted form of self-realization. Because it is difficult to know what one's abilities will turn out to be, there is always the risk that one may embark upon a mode of self- realization that is either too easy or too difficult, leading to boredom or frustration. Moreover, self-realization is demanding in that it requires some delay of gratification; not everyone might be willing to wait, especially as there is some uncertainty as to whether the result will be worth the sacrifice. Finally, it is uncertain to what extent complex industrial societies can be reorganized so as to allow universal scope for self-realization. 

3. The theory of exploitation is living, as is, correlatively, Marx's conception of distributive justice. Although exploitation is not a fundamental moral concept, as it would be if exploiting someone ipso facto was doing something morally wrong, the theory provides a robust guide to what is right and wrong in a large number of standard cases. These arise when people perform more labor than is needed to produce the goods they consume, for any of the following reasons: physical coercion, as in slavery and feudalism; economic coercion, as when employers interfere with alternative employment opportunities for workers; or economic necessity, as when people, by no fault of their own, are forced to sell their labor power. The underlying principle of distributive justice is "To each according to his contribution," deviations from which can be justified only on grounds of special needs. Neither the contribution principle nor the principle whereby needs justify deviations from it is clearly stated by Marx, although, again, they can serve as useful first approximations. 

To see why exploitation is not a fundamental moral concept, consider two cases. Imagine first that current injustices have been eliminated and that society can start from a clean slate, whatever that means. (What it means would depend on which finer approximation to distributive justice one adopts.) If under these conditions some people save more than others, who prefer immediate consumption over delayed consumption, and if the former offer jobs to the latter that would involve exploiting them, on what grounds could anyone object to such "capitalistic acts among consenting adults"? It would seem perverse to punish practices that do not impose harm on anybody and that are the result of freely undertaken, mutually beneficial contracts. Although some of the arguments developed with respect to other "victimless crimes," such as gambling or prostitution, might sometimes apply here, one can also think of circumstances in which they would not be relevant. Second, imagine that the persons who own most of the capital also have a very strong preference for consumption over leisure, in which case one can construct cases in which the rich will offer themselves out for hire to the poor, who do not want to use even what little capital they have. Although strictly speaking the poor would then exploit the rich, they would not be doing anything morally wrong. Exploitation, when wrong, is wrong not just because it is exploitation but because of some further features. Hence, the concept of exploitation has mainly a descriptive and heuristic function, which, in any actual inquiry into social in-justice, can be a very important one. 

4. Marx's theory of technical change is definitely living. Some of the most exciting chapters of Capital I are those in which Marx dissects the relations among technology, profit, power, and property rights at the level of the firm. When the capitalist confronts his workers, he does not simply deal with a "factor of production" that is to be combined optimally with other factors of production. The workers have a capacity for individual and collective resistance, which can be affected by the specific organization of the work process, including the choice of technology. Because their capacity for resistance affects the wage the capitalist has to pay the workers, the effective cost of employing them is partly decided within the firm, not only by outside market conditions. Hence, the employer may have an incentive not to introduce new technology if it goes together with a physical reorganization than enhances the solidarity or bargaining power of the workers or if it involves prohibitively high costs of supervision. (On the other hand - and this is an aspect that Marx did not stress - the workers may have an incentive to restrict their freedom of action, so that the capitalists will not be deterred from introducing new techniques that allow scope for improvement for both parties.) This problem may create a free-rider difficulty among the employers, if the solidarity- enhancing effect of new technology occurs only if it is widely adopted. 

5. Marx's theory of class consciousness, class struggle, and politics is vibrantly alive, although it is generally recognized that it does not provide the full answer to the questions that motivate its construction. At the most general level, one would expect a theory of classes to provide some flesh and blood for the abstract theory of productive forces and relations of production. If this was Marx's intention, he failed to carry it out. The latter theory fails, as noted, precisely because Marx did not show how social classes and the individuals who make them up would want to link their fate with a new social arrangement just because it promises a higher rate of innovation. 

At another level, Marx believed that his theory of class offered the key to the understanding of social conflict. He thought deeply about the conditions under which members of a class were likely to act in a concerted way, that is, to become collective actors in the arena of social conflict. He emphasized, among other things, spatial isolation, high turnover rates, and cultural heterogeneity as obstacles to class consciousness. He had, moreover, pioneering insights into the nature of class conflict, class cooperation, and class coalitions. Because members of different classes may have 
common interests and common enemies, one cannot take it for granted that the class struggle is one of implacable opposition, at least not in the short or medium term. Today we would emphasize more than Marx did that the class struggle is also blurred by thepresence of other, cross-cutting conflicts. There is no doubt that class is one important source of social conflict in Northern Ireland, South Africa, or Poland, but one would have to be very dogmatic to assert that it is the only or the dominant element. Religious, racial, and nationalistic sentiments have proved to be independent focuses of loyalty and organization. Marxism is not really able to come to grips with this fact, except by the somewhat desperate measure of arguing that in the very long run, defined by the emergence of a new mode of production, these cultural struggles have little importance - a statement that seems both false and somewhat irrelevant. 

Finally, Marx wanted the class theory to provide an explanation of political phenomena and in particular of the behavior of the state in capitalist societies. The theory for which he is best known, that the state is "nothing but" a tool for the collective class interests of the capitalists, is one that he himself abandoned early on, when it was disproved by the turn of events in the main European countries around 1850. Instead, he proposed an "abdication theory" of the state, according to which the state is allowed to have some autonomy but only because it suits the interests of the capitalists. A closer look at this theory, however, shows that the autonomy granted to the aristocratic-feudal-bureaucratic governments in England, Germany, and France was quite substantial. Indeed, it would not be a great exaggeration to say that in Marx's historical writings, as opposed to his more theoretical pronouncements, the autonomy of the modern state is a cornerstone. The reason why Marx did not fully acknowledge this fact must be sought partly in his reluctance to abandon his general theory of history, in which the derivative nature of the political superstructure was equally much of a cornerstone. In part it may also be found in his insufficient grasp of the strategic nature of politics and of the fact that a political system can assign power in ways that do not correspond to the prepolitical resources of the actors. These flaws should not, however, obscure Marx's insight that the state depends structurally on the capitalist class, simply because its self- 
interest compels it to take some account of the interest of that class. How much account it must take is a strictly empirical matter, which cannot be prejudged by appealing to the general statements of historical materialism. 

6. The theory of ideology is not particularly well and alive, but I believe it can and should be resurrected. Of all Marxist doctrines, this more than any other has been brought into disrepute by the arbitrary procedures adopted. Sometimes functional explanation has been the culprit, sometimes the even less intersubjectively valid method of looking for "similarities" between economic and mental activities. The first step to remedy the situation must be to draw upon the rich insights of cognitive psychology and its accumulated evidence about the motivational and cognitive processes that distort belief formation and preference formation. In fact, there could potentially be a two-way influence. The Marxist tradition in the sociology of knowledge might be able to suggest some specific hypotheses that could be tested by rigorous experimental procedures. One might, for instance, try to specify in a testable way the idea that the economic agents' perception of economic causality depends on their location in the economic system. Similarly, some forms of hot ideology formation, such as the motivated preference for some economic theories rather than others, would not seem to be outside the reach of experimental research. These are proposals for the future. The immediate task is to achieve recognition for the fact that the theory of ideology must have microfoundations if it is to go beyond its present stage, which is partly anecdotal, partly functionalist, partly conspiratorial, and partly magical. 

Above all, the sheer vitality of Marx's thinking makes it impossible to think of him as anything but alive. His endless curiosity, vast culture, burning commitment, and brilliant intellect combined to create a mind with whom we can still communicate across the century that has passed. Commitment, of course, is not a value in itself; commitment to the wrong goals can be disastrous. Marx's goals were generous and liberating: self-realization for the individual, equality among individuals. His Utopian attitude and lack of intellectual control prevented him from carrying out the theoretical and practical tasks he had set for himself, but without these qualities he would not even have tried. He suffered the cost; we are the beneficiaries. 

6 comentarios:

Anónimo dijo...


Martha Casas dijo...

Sin dudarlo un Marx revisitado es una de las lecturas urgentes de nuestro tiempo. Muy valioso aporte que se agradece.

Agustín Reyes dijo...

Roberto: Hay que leer ese capítulo junto con su ponencia sobre la crisis de las ciencias sociales que ustedes publicaron en la revista de la UTDT. Después, respirar hondo, tomar lo que todavía sirve y seguir. Jerry Cohen cita al final del magnífico "The future of a disillusion" la carta de Engels a Sorge el día después de la muerte de Marx: "Local lights and lesser minds, if no the humbugs, will now have a free hand. The final victory is certain, but circuitous pahts, temporary and local errors -things which even now are so unavoidable- will become more common than ever. Well, we must see it through. What else are we here for".

PD: Acá está el texto en versión digital y en español. https://josefranciscoescribanomaenza.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/aquc3ad.pdf

Eduardo Reviriego dijo...

Entiende Elster que “(…) Marx a veces se equivocó, al no reconocer cuál excepcional era la sociedad que observaba. Mucho de lo que dijo puede haber sido una aproximación a la verdad para la época, pero al proyectarlo hacia atrás o hacia adelante fue menos afortunado” (*)
Es posible que los errores de Marx hayan derivado en parte de no haber tenido en cuenta las advertencias que le hiciera Pierre-Joseph Proudhon en carta del 17/05/1846 en la que le escribe:
"Busquemos juntos, si quiere, las leyes de la sociedad, los modos en los que se realizan tales leyes, el progreso mediante el cual llegamos a descubrirlas, pero, ¡por amor de Dios!, después de haber abolido todos los dogmatismos a priori, no pensemos nosotros también en adoctrinar al pueblo...No nos convirtamos en jefes de una nueva intolerancia, no nos pongamos en el papel de apóstoles de una nueva religión, por más que esa religión sea la religión de la lógica, de la razón...no debemos considerar la acción revolucionaria como medio de reforma social, porque ese pretendido medio sería simplemente un llamamiento a la fuerza, a la arbitrariedad, y, en resumen, una contradicción" (**)
(*) Elster, Jon. Una introducción a Karl Marx. Siglo XXI. México. 1992. Página 195.
(**) Citado por: Winock, Michael. Las voces de la libertad. Edhasa. Barcelona. 204. Páginas 343/344.-

Anónimo dijo...

Los marxistas analíticos están equivocados sobre que la explotación no es un concepto normativamente fundamental.

Benjamin Ferguson tiene una interesante tesis al respecto:


Anónimo dijo...


Debate iniciado por Ernest Mandel, en respuesta a Elster. "how to make no sense of Marx"