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Not at all, in my humble opinion.

Marx was writing nearly 200 years ago, after all. The available base of politico-economic knowledge was much smaller then, and the world had had much less experience with the effects of industrialization. Marx was a great genius, but his insights were limited by the knowledge base of his time. Nevertheless, his thought formed the major basis for socioeconomic theory ever since. Even the language of "capitalism" had its origins in Marx, and all subsequent writers, no matter where they positioned themselves on the theoretical spectrum, had to define their positions in terms of Marx.

The dominant trend in economic theory, at least since World War II, was essentially to reject the "messy," qualitative sociological aspects of the field in favor of a hypertrophied set of mathematical models that fed on the more readily quantified aspects of our economic existence. This distortion caused us to reduce all values to monetary measurement, and produced models that became further and further separated from the experienced reality of daily life. It was this systematic, self-inflicted blindness to the fullness of the human experience that permitted economists like Milton Friedman to get away with postulating greed as a virtue.

So along comes Piketty. Yes, he's a post-Marxist. He doesn't have "Marxist credentials." What he does, however, is to broaden the scope of his concerns to something closer to the fullness of human experience, thereby shifting the public consciousness back into an awareness of the things that really matter in the politico-economic sphere.

He does this by attending to a wider set of variables than the economists of the last 70 years or so have acknowledged as important in their models--things like the growing inequality between the classes. He is able to do this in ways that traditional economists find either persuasive or highly threatening (depending on their sociopolitical allegiances) because he has found ways to assign numerical values to these previously unmeasured factors--a range of variables that the Marxists had previously only been able to grapple with in qualitative terms, and the post-war mathematical economists had ignored in their models as unquantifiable.

Thus, in some meta-theoretical sense, he provides a synthesis of the qualitative and humanistic Marxist doctrines and the numerically-driven modeling approaches of the mathematical economists, thereby producing a new and more satisfying level of politico-economic theory.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I blame von Neumann (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, The Hindsight Times

    for pandering to the economists' physics envy.

    You don't become a science by mathematics alone. There has to be a deep interplay of models with observations, and the observations have to be solid, repeatable, refinable measurements.

    The social sciences always fall apart in the measurement department. Either they just ignore them, as in economics, or they just fake them, as in much of psychology.

    American Presidents: 43 men, 0 women. Ready for Hillary

    by atana on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 11:37:21 AM PDT

  •  no rewarming necessary - still fresh and vital /nt (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, The Hindsight Times, sfbob

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 11:38:38 AM PDT

  •  he's an LSE grad and as much a (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, tardis10, The Hindsight Times

    post-marxist as Bill Kristol is a post-trotskyist

    along comes Piketty. Yes, he's a post-Marxist. He doesn't have "Marxist credentials." What he does, however, is to broaden the scope of his concerns to something closer to the fullness of human experience, thereby shifting the public consciousness back into an awareness of the things that really matter in the politico-economic sphere.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 11:41:23 AM PDT

  •  He is not a Marxist. (9+ / 0-)

    Marx thought that capitalism could not be reformed in any real sense.  Marx wished to overturn the market economy.  Piketty would keep the market, but redistribute after the unequal results are created by the market.  Market stays, but radical redistribution ameliorates the deepest harms of capitalism.   It's still capitalism.  But it is with a human face.  (Cf. Prague 1968).

    Piketty thinks we need the market, but would restrict its outcomes (and regulate it).    

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 11:42:26 AM PDT

    •  Marx Lived Before the New Deal - Great Society, (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10, TomP, Bob Love, joedemocrat, sfbob

      and analogous governance in Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe. Bismarck only proposed Social Security 2 yrs before Marx died.

      It'd be interesting to have someone go through Marx [I wouldn't be surprised that it's already been beaten to death] and try to figure how he'd regard the heavily regulated capitalism of the mid 20th century given the results it had for the bulk of the citizens of those countries practicing it.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 11:59:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hard to know because he assumed (5+ / 0-)

        that things would get worse and worse, leading the proletariat to revolt.

        Marx was insightful, but not a prophet.  He did not envision those reforms.  Perhaps his late writings (or Engels) addressed the Bismarkian reforms like nation health care.

        I think wondering about Marx leads to a trap.  It's not about Karl.  Some insights were useful, but he's dead and what is important is ideas that fit today.  

        I'm ok with Picketty's project of humanizing capitalism.  Might work, might not, but worth trying I think.

        Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

        by TomP on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 01:05:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Marx was an awful writer! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TomP

        I have never read more turgid, convoluted, repetitive text in my life. Marxists must spend 75% of their careers just analyzing his writing. The guy really needed an editor.

        Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

        by Anne Elk on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 02:29:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Marx is a Hegelian, but (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sfbob, TomP

          he sure is easier to read than Hegel.

          "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society, including the chance to insure" - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Compania General De Tabacos De Filipinas v. Collector of Internal Revenue, 275 U.S. 87, 100, dissenting; opinion

          by HugoDog on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 03:34:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  If you need/want a quick (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          annieli, TomP

          guide to Marxist thought, or at least want to read a smart person answering the most common criticisms of Marxism, I would recommend Terry Eagleton's book, Why Marx Was Right.

          "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society, including the chance to insure" - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Compania General De Tabacos De Filipinas v. Collector of Internal Revenue, 275 U.S. 87, 100, dissenting; opinion

          by HugoDog on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 03:40:58 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I think I have the basic Marxian concepts (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            TomP

            clear. I lived for a few years with a Marxist scholar and learned more than I ever wanted to know. But that doesn't change the granite-like impenetrability of his writing.

            Voting is the means by which the public is distracted from the realities of power and its exercise.

            by Anne Elk on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 04:26:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Marx (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        joedemocrat, HugoDog, sfbob, TomP

        One of the criticisms of Marxists is the over reliance on the opinion of a single personality, which is a very unsocialist approach to socialism. Many socialists, like Kropotkin, held the concept that it is impossible to calculate one individual's contribution to advancements in knowledge, since no one originates anything without the milieu of all who came before, and often history assigns credit to one personality, brushing aside all others who contributed. History is written often from a capitalistic, individualistic perspective. So, everyone speaks of Marx, as if all socialism came from his writings.

        In fact, much of what Marx expounded upon did not originate with him. For example, the concept of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" was popular before Marx entered the socialist scene. Proudhon and others had a large influence on the socialist scene, which preceded Marx.

        The working class understood quite well, sans Marx, that is was being exploited. Marx turned many of the preceding socialist observations into economic equations, but he did not originate the concepts, themselves.

        So, if Marx were alive today, his would be one more opinion to consider, but today we have many contemporary socialist thinkers whose opinions are as valued.

        But having said this, I think Marx would be appalled at the situation today, and would be surprised to learn that after all these decades, we still have worker exploitation, growing levels of economic disparity, unequal pay for minorities, a dissolution of unions, outsourcing of labor, the lack of a meaningful minimum wage, lack of benefits. Most socialists, then and now, have had a far more sweeping vision of social security than the paltry sums provided by the new deal.

        And socialists of Marx's era were keenly aware of reformism as a countermeasure to socialism. Reformism is the capitalist's way to avoid true wage equality. The New Deal simply abetted capitalism by assuaging to some degree the suffering, yet not really solving the problems of capitalism. There is still poverty, wage slavery, exploitation, an owning class, and a working class.

        All one need do is work in some of the horrible jobs to learn in a few months what Marx, et al, were writing about. One doesn't need to read Das Kapital to know how capitalism creates a working class if one lives it everyday.  Exploitation is real, the problem is we need the Marx's of history to get professional classes (academics, pols, the more enlightened bourgeoisie)  to listen and take heed. We don't need them to tell us we're exploited, and why -- we already know that. Much of what people like Marx accomplish is being a good mouthpieces to get these ideas across to people in control of the microphone.

        It isn't as if the working class didn't know they were being exploited by capitalism before Proudhon, Bakunin, Marx, and Engels.

        The notion the earlier thinkers would be okay with capitalism with reforms is misplaced. The writings of socialists of earlier periods often rings as true today as they did 100 years ago.

        "The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue." Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays

        by ZhenRen on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 03:00:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Are You Sure About "Last 70 Years?" (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lunachickie, TomP, sfbob, Nisi Prius

    70 years ago we were about to launch the Marshall Plan, Asian Reconstruction, the GI Bill, top marginal individual income tax rate was just being set to 95%. A full 20 years later we would pass civil rights laws forcing the doors of economic opportunity to open wider to ethnic minorities, and we'd launch the Great Society which brought health care to seniors and cut the national poverty rate in half, among a great many other benefits to poor and middle income Americans.

    I don't know the history of economics, but if economists were turning away from the human side of existence and turning to the likes of Friedman as long as 70 to 50 years ago, thank God we still had ignorant liberals making the economic decisions, because that's the point at which human history's only large comfortable middle class was launched.

    At least the liberals were able to leave us with a generation of the aging who still remember governance for the people, however dimly.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 11:55:00 AM PDT

  •  Someone commented here (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, Meteor Blades, sfbob

    last week--very astutely, IMO--about Piketty's book and about how he couldn't possibly be a Marxist because he does not reject the market.

    So if that's a good summary, then how can the guy be a "post-Marxist"? I don't think there's any case to make for that, either, other than to try and find another way to equate "Marxism" with "Thomas Piketty" in the minds of readers.

    I'm not saying you, personally, do that here, JPR, I'm just saying "no thanks", period. This book is way too important to get bogged down in such a debate. I see no need to complicate the glass of water Piketty serves up, it's crystal-clear.

    Obviously, that scares a lot of people.

    This all started with "what the Republicans did to language".

    by lunachickie on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 12:53:10 PM PDT

  •  Zachary Levenson's 10 tips for a Marxist critique (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Anne Elk, HugoDog, sfbob

    Piketty without actually reading the book (lifted from Doug Henwood's Facebook comment):

    1. Be sure to emphasize that Piketty's conception of capital differs radically from Marx's.
    2. Note that his model is fundamentally at odds with the tendency for the rate of profit to fall.
    3. Point out that his solution is openly reformist, and besides, would require worker militancy on a scale not witnessed in nearly a century.
    4. Something something law of value something.
    5. Okay, inequality. But then point out that he doesn't explain it!
    6. Mention in an aside his affiliation to Ségolène Royale and the PS.
    7. Compare his beady eyes to David Graeber's.
    8. Feign astonishment that people care now given that he simply codifies empirically what we already knew.
    9. Claim that you are going to buy it though, as "the data will be useful."
    10. Lament his conflation of finance and industrial capitals.

    Dick Cheney 2/14/10: "I was a big supporter of waterboarding"

    by Bob Love on Wed Apr 30, 2014 at 02:14:34 PM PDT

  •  A genuine Marxist take (0+ / 0-)

    A Marxist review of Piketty's book is at
    http://mltoday.com/...

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