Tag Archives: Economics

Staughton Lynd – John L. Lewis and His Critics: Some Forgotten Labor History That Still Matters Today

Link to an article by Staughton Lynd:

“John L. Lewis and His Critics: Some Forgotten Labor History That Still Matters Today”

The point that Lynd makes is much the same as the difference between Lenin and Stalin‘s methods of leadership.  Someone even shared a link with me to some garbage business school article that said much the same thing about humble vs. charismatic narcissist CEOs.

One flaw in Lynd’s article is the statement, “There is the subtle but all-important understanding that the experience of solidarity in action, not ideology, comes first.”  This is not outside ideology, but rather about putting the ideology of solidarity before some other kind of ideology.  Ideology always comes first (to be fair, though, Lynd seems to rely on the old formulation of “ideology” as “false consciousness”).  The other issue with the article is perhaps the historical focus.  In an age of digital telecommunications and globally integrated transportation networks, and the so-called “post-industrial economy,” the ability of workers to strike by setting down their tools and have an impact on employer behavior is not what it was in the historical period Lynd describes.  Strikes succeed primarily because they drive a wedge between capitalists and finance, not merely because the workers slow or stop production as such.  In other words, strikes work primarily where factory owners owe debt to banks/financiers that continue to accumulate as those same machines sit idle in a strike.  There is nothing wrong with Lynd’s history in this regard, but its practical relevance to the present is maybe in question.

James Kwak – Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality

Economism

James KwakEconomism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality (2017)


Probably everything readers need to know about James Kwak’s book Economism comes from this quote by Richard Wolff (which, incidentally, pre-dates the writing of this book):

“over the last 50 years, the major debate in mainstream economics has been between neoclassical devotees of laissez-faire and Keynesian devotees of government economic interventions. From the Great Depression through the 1960s, Keynesian economics prevailed and neoclassicals were marginalized. Since then the reverse situation has obtained. The crisis since 2007 shifted some influence back to the Keynesians, but the old debates continue. While both sides disagree on much, they do both endorse capitalism as ‘the best’ economic system and they do both cooperate to exclude Marxian economists from their debates, discussions, journals, and campuses.”

Kwak is kind of a “new Keynesian”, so naturally he fights against neoclassical monetarist economic theocracy, at a time when Keynesians have regained some prestige, while subtly joining with them to declare “there is no alternative” to their shared capitalist assumptions.  What is most embarrassing about his book is that the title, “Economism,” is a term coined by Marxists like Lenin to describe bourgeois economists who sought to exclude class struggle from discourse and pursue trivial reformist trends.  In other words, Lenin would have excoriated Kwak as guilty of “economism”!  Then again, Kwak is quite explicit that he would consider a democratic, Bolshevik-style revolution to be terrible — an outcome to avoid at all costs.  He makes a concerted effort to signal that he is an anti-communist cold warrior.  Anyway, Kwak’s book is pretty superfluous.  There are many, many books like this already in print.  Kwak’s is very readable, maybe more so than some others.  Yet the way it tries to paint neoclassical economists as ideologues while implying that its new Keynesian perspective is non-ideological is a joke — Kwak can fairly be accused of promoting ideology masquerading as a critique of ideology.