Understanding the
Global Economy

Comprensión de la
economía mundial

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The unsettling of traditional ways of life caused by the coming of modernity entered into human discussion as a religious crisis. It took several centuries for the West to frame social issues as debates between the competing secular ideologies.1 Even then, as now, ghosts of ancient religious ideals hover over the subtexts and the silences of the social sciences, as ghosts of Enlightenment humanism hover over the subtexts and silences of the genealogies, noted by Michel Foucault.2 When modernity arrived, pre-modern traditions did not depart. The West, like the rest of the world, is an alloy, a "split-level" culture in which the ancient ideals expressed in religious discourse have remained alive as partners in dialogue about modernity and as elements in a series of cultural syntheses.

The theories that I consider Marxist are ones that explain international trade and the global economy through the idea of accumulation as explained by Marx and as intrinsic to his other key ideas of surplus value, commodity, the labor theory of value and the private appropriation of the social product

In the same discussion, I include Maria Mies' Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labor 3 because she often refers to Marxist ideas, either to disagree with them or, as in the case of accumulation, to employ them. The theories of the Marxists and of Mies give important scientific arguments in favor of an egalitarian and communitarian society. Their socialism and the feminism of Mies project a future cultural synthesis of the modern ideals of liberty and equality with a holistic sense of society as an interdependent family. In this latter respect, their vision of a better future is the vision of goodwill and sisterhood found in the ancient sacred texts.

VI.i. Marxist explanation

Marx and Marxists explain international trade and the global economy as a search for profit.4 In making this generalization, I exclude, in addition to the Marxists I do not know about, Louis Althusser, who, although a Marxist, advanced ideas about the causal explanations that are more relevant to the post-structuralist theories in Part VII. To discuss the global role that Marxists assign to accumulation, it is first necessary to consider the idea of profit.

Much of Marx' Das Kapital, Volume I uncovers the secret of profit making. Before Marx, Adam Smith had presented a moral explanation of profit as properly so-called, even though in Smith's work the moral value is disappearing. Smith's explanation is that the entrepreneur would be willing to invest capital only if he expected to make a profit.5 If a business venture, thus, appeared not to be profitable the entrepreneur would instead loan his money at interest. Indeed, he would prefer to loan his money for its interest even if he could expect a profit from a business venture if the expected profit from the business were smaller than the interest he would get from lending. Similarly, the moneylender would not be willing to loan unless the borrower paid interest.6

Smith's explanation of profit is one based on morality because of its reference to the will of the entrepreneur. Will is the concept often known as spirit and construed by religion to be in need of salvation.7 Actions of deliberated choice continue to be regarded in terms of ethics, which included secular ethics, as acts for which the person is responsible.8 Willful actions merit either praise as righteous, or condemnation as wrong because they are acts of an individual's will.

For the explanatory principle that explains profit, Smith uses the will of a stylized individual: Homo economicus as an ideal type. Because the will explains, it is necessary to examine Smith's account of profit in the light of appropriate categories for the analysis of actions, such as those proposed by Aristotle and the 20th century philosophies of action by Stuart Hamphire,9 Stephen Toulmin,10 Rom Hare,11 and others. In Aristotelian terms, the conduct of the entrepreneur needs analysis within the categories of these elements of ethics: deliberation, choice, convention, habit, character and rule.

Smith's account of profit allows room for realism and accuracy due to its reference to the will of the entrepreneur, which allows the option that the entrepreneur, as an individual, can take some other action. The practices and conventions of the milieu that guide normal action might prescribe conduct different from that of the Homo economicus that Smith supposes. The individual might decide to loan money without charging interest. Indeed, according to canon law and the guidebooks used by confessors even long after the Middle Ages, making zero interest loans is not merely a logical possibility. It is sometimes the course of conduct required by a moral imperative,12 and an action that grace empowers to humans. Upon baptism, caritas enters the human heart, as the mainstream traditional doctrine states and then becomes the ruling principle of the person's actions.13

Smith's reference to will suggests that interest charged or goods sold at a profit assumes that the rate of interest or profit will be at the conventional and customary rate, which is an ethical rate according to the root meaning of the word ethics (in the sense of G sittliche). Allowing for this, is a step toward realism and accuracy, as shown by Cyert and March in their book, A Behavioral Theory of the Firm and others who have documented the roles played by custom, ethics and friendship in the real world of business.14

Smith explains profit by reference to what the entrepreneur will or will not do. Therefore, he invites social psychology or the anthropology of business to study the real life of human beings, which is a moral life embedded in the normative conventions of language and daily practice. Having "invited the guests," he, nevertheless, "refuses their entry" preferring to build a political economy on the basis of his own few and scattered observations serving to confirm his belief that Homo economicus is an ideal type, which can be relied on to explain what humans have done and to predict what they will do next.

Vilfredo Pareto, a 20th century Austrian economist, along with others, prevailed in a debate about the methodology of economic science (G methodenstreit). They prevailed over those who presumed economics to be a branch of history that studies the economic norms of any given time and place. Pareto made the validity of Smith's premise about the behavior of his ideal type inaccessible to empirical inquiry by way of his definition of economic science.15 Authentic economics according to Pareto is the study and use of the behavior of profit maximizers. Pareto's defense of Smith, in effect, means that economics may well be what others have deemed it to be, as Kaldor wrote: ... an arcane academics irrelevant to most of the phenomena observed in the world.

Milton Friedman, a 20th century self-styled positive economist, justifies Smith by claiming that entrepreneurs who do not seek to maximize profit are of no importance to economic science. Friedman wrote:

    A businessman who does not seek in some way to maximize profits will not long be in business. The existence of such people may safely be ignored by social science. Their irrational behavior will cause data about them to disappear from all equations.16

Therefore, Friedman has overlooked 1) the findings of behavioral economics and economic anthropology 2) the histories of civilizations in which Homo economicus was unknown and which survived for centuries and 3) the existence of the nonprofit sectors of the economy.

Though one-sided, the claim that nonprofit maximizers will not be in business for long is a statement about the proper methodology for economic research, which is the bearer of some important truths about social structure. It is true that the competitive structure of modern economic life is such that people are often compelled or pushed to act like Homo economicus. Friedman's point does not imply that Aristotle was wrong to write: —Voluntary human action is the product of deliberation and choice. Friedman's point does underline the fact that what Marxists call the competition of capitals does impose severe constraints. It limits the moves that players can make in the complex language-game known as capitalism. Certain moves lead to the forfeit of capital to what Smith called ruin in which the player is, hence, demoted to the working class. Even worse, the player is demoted to having no money in a world where all the necessities and conveniences of life have to be purchased with money. In a capitalist society, as Braudel wrote: Those who have no money wander dead among the living.17

Marx did not aim to broaden Smith's vision, but instead aimed to exploit the internal contradictions of classical economics. Like an insurgency that captures the weapons of government troops, Marx wrote a critique of the bourgeoisie political economy, a powerful ideology for the working class, from the concepts that Smith and others had constructed. Marx mocked economists like Smith for failing to notice that, according to their own premises, exchanging commodities at their values does not yield a surplus value (mehrwert).18 Therefore, if the classical theory of the market were correct, then making a profit would be, as a rule, impossible.

Smith's Homo economicus may desire a profit and may be unwilling to invest if no profit can be expected. However, it follows from Smith's postulates that profits occur only in unusual circumstances where the capitalist 1) succeeds in cheating, or 2) has the good luck to buy at less than market value and sell at more than market value. The exchange process produces no surplus.

    Turn and twist then as we may, the fact remains unaltered. No surplus value results when either equivalents or non-equivalents are exchanged. Circulation as the exchange of commodities causes no value.19

Marx' Capital, Volume I analyzes this contradiction and solutions to the riddle of profit. Profit-making becomes what we need and have to explain. The labor theory of value, which is the use value of labor power, emerges as the explanation. By explaining what classical bourgeoisie economics could not explain, Marx established the scientific superiority of Marxism. He did this by moving the analysis from the superficial level to a deeper level in metaphysical space of society and circulation in order to encounter the reality that underlies society, which is the level of production. The movement of the argument from surface to depth takes dramatic form in this famous passage; about this, Marx wrote:

    The sphere that we are deserting, within whose boundaries that the sale and purchase of labor power occurs, is in fact, an Eden of the innate rights of man. There alone rule Freedom, Equality, Property and Bentham. Freedom because both buyer and seller of a commodity, say of labor power, are constrained only by their own free will. Equality because each enters into relation with the other, as with a simple owner of commodities and they exchange equivalent for equivalent. Property because each disposes only of what is his. Bentham because each looks only to himself. The only force that brings them together and puts them in relation to each other is selfishness: the gain and the private interests of each.

    On leaving the sphere of simple circulation or of exchange of commodities, which furnishes free-trader vulgaris with his views and ideas and with the standard by which he judges a society based on capital and wages, we think we can perceive a change in the physiognomy of our dramatis personae. He, who before was the money-owner, now strides in front as capitalist and the possessor of labor power follows as his laborer. The one with an air of importance, smirking and intent on business. The other timid, holding back and like one who is bringing his own hide to market and has nothing to expect but a hiding.20

Between the lines of Marx' explanation of profit, in a silent subtext the ancient ideals of love and justice, chant inaudible enthymemes as a mute, invisible chorus. As it turns out, the secret of profit making is the exploitation of labor. The chorus sings, "In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these, so ye have done it unto me.21

The capitalist buys labor power at its exchange value, which tends to fall toward the cost of buying the means of subsistence necessary to keep the laborer alive (here, as elsewhere, Marx follows Smith and Ricardo). The exchange value of labor power, like the exchange value of everything else, tends toward its cost of production. The capitalist, having purchased labor power at its fair value, then uses it as a commodity, a raw material, resource and/or a tool to put the laborer to work. At the conclusion of the labor process, the capitalist owns the product, which he then sells at its exchange value with the result that it has value added, which is a surplus of value. Labor power as a source of value is a source of even greater value when applied to a specific use, which produces an exchange value in excess of what the labor cost. The capitalist, thus, makes a profit by appropriating the product of the social effort.

That only begins, what can be called, the capital syndrome: money (value in the form of currency) having been converted into more money, which is the resulting surplus of money, then returns into the acquisition of more elements of the production process and the cycle begins again and again. Markets toss surplus value afresh into the production of more surplus value, repeatedly it accumulates. It must continue for only the repetition of its self-aggrandizement produces profits and, as by-products, employment, goods and services. The concept of a necessary self-expansion of capital leads Marx and Marxists to think of the global expansion of capitalism as a necessary historical process, an accumulation on a world scale. Whatever the "chorus" may think from a scientific perspective, even the capitalist viewed in historical perspective is no more than the agent of forces that neither he nor anyone else controls. Marx wrote about it as follows:

From a concrete point of view, accumulation resolves itself into the reproduction of capital at a progressive scale.22 The social wealth becomes to an increasing degree the property of those in a position to appropriate to themselves, repeatedly, the unpaid labor of others.23 Moreover, the growth of capitalist production makes it necessary to keep increasing the capital outlays for any industrial undertaking. Competition makes the inherent laws of capitalist production to be perceived by each capitalist as external coercive law. It compels him to extend his capital, though extend it he cannot except by means of progressive accumulation.24 Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets.25

David Harvey integrates the scientific explanations of the global economy offered by contemporary Marxists. Harvey first sees capitalism and accumulation as inseparable and adopts the concept of regimes of accumulation, which implies that as long as there is capitalism there is accumulation. The form and method applied to the regime of accumulation, nevertheless, varies through history and location. About this, Harvey wrote:

A particular system of accumulation can exist because its schema of reproduction is coherent. The problem, however, is to bring the behavior of all kinds of individuals as capitalists, workers, state employees, financiers and all manner of other politico-economic agents into a configuration that will keep the regime of accumulation functioning.26

Harvey describes the present state of the global economy, circa l973, as a period of flexible accumulation, which is in partial contrast to the previous phases of global capitalism. Its characteristics include
  • a rapid change, flux, uncertainty
  • flexible labor, which means more temp workers, less job security and benefits
  • markets that are more inclusive
  • a greater geographical mobility of capital
  • rapid shifts in consumption
  • neoliberalism
  • a revival of the entrepreneurial
  • postmodern culture
  • the breakup of United States economic hegemony
  • new and sometimes exotic financial practices
  • a decline in manufacturing with service sector rise
  • new industrial ensembles in underdeveloped regions
  • high levels of structural unemployment and
  • the rollback of labor union power.27
  • The new trends that characterize this new flexible regime of accumulation were the consequence of the previous regime's crisis of accumulation, which Harvey broadly characterizes as Fordist/ Keynesian, which, for a variety of reasons was unstable.28 The pre-1973 Fordist/ Keynesian regime of accumulation was unable to keep the accumulation process going and therefore, it had to be replaced.

    Consistent with Marx' original vision, Harvey concludes and states in his own words that—Capitalism will produce the conditions of its revolutionary overthrow. Today's global economic regime of flexible accumulation is, as its predecessor, unstable and more of a temporary fix than a permanent solution; about this, Harvey wrote:

    Flexible accumulation has to be seen as a particular and perhaps new combination of old and new elements within the overall logic of capital accumulation.29

    In her book Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, Maria Mies discusses the place of women in the international division of labor. She begins from her observation by writing that

    A close relationship exist between the exploitation, other oppression of women and the paradigm of ceaseless accumulation and growth.30 The confusion in the feminist movement worldwide will continue until we understand the role of women in the context of a global division of labor under the dictates of accumulation.31

    Mies expresses the scientific explanation of the global economy in terms of three phases:

    1. The earliest phase is where the main part of her analysis begins, though not without some attention to even earlier times. What we have to explain is the oppression of women and, in general, everyone except the dominant males. She conceives that patriarchal control over women is tied to the establishment of class societies. The explanation is violence and coercion.32

    2. The second phase is what Mies, Marx and others call primitive accumulation. It is the period before the capitalist global economy began, which is when the initial capital stock of the wealthy classes of the European core countries began accumulating. It is a phase characterized by commercial expansion and the discovery of the new world, according to Mies and other authors (she cites, e.g., Marx, Wallerstein, Carolyn Merchant, Barbara Ehrenreich and others). A series of opportunities for capital accumulation occurred, for example piracy and feeding the working class potatoes instead of grain, which made it possible to reduce their wages. Strong incentives sprang up to amass capital for commercial venture, war,  government and upper class luxury.

    The explanation of how primitive accumulation happened is again violence and coercion, though often under the mask of some moralistic pretext. Mies emphasizes witch-hunts wherein millions of women and some men faced accusations of heresy, their property was confiscated, they were tortured and burned at the stake.33

      The persecution of the witches was a manifestation of the rising modern society and not, as is believed, a remnant of the irrational middle ages. Witch hunts were a mechanism used to subjugate women, quell unorthodox sects and accumulate capital.34
    3. The third phase in which what we have to explain is the modern global economy. The logic of accumulation explains it. Mies gives parallel accounts of the fate of women in the third world under colonial rule and the fate of women in the first world under what she calls housewifization. She shows that family structures and gender relations followed the pattern dictated by profit calculations. For example, when it became more profitable to buy new slaves from Africa than to breed them in the Caribbean islands—the slave women lived in forced celibacy. When it became more profitable to treat the African territories as colonies with their own labor forces breeding slaves in America, then the slave women suffered evangelical brainwashing with pro-family ideologies.35 For example, until the middle of the 19th century lower classes in Germany and other countries were not expected to marry and have families. An ideology that helped keep wages low did so by discouraging the formation of lower class families and, thus, reserved the concept of family for the upper classes.

    In a later phase of capitalism, however, family formation became an important source of consumers. The logic of accumulation led to a different ideology and role for women. The evolution of women's roles in Germany, however, depended on industrial Germany's relationship to the third world, as part of the same global logic of accumulation;
    a
    bout this, Meis wrote:

      My thesis is that these two processes of colonization and housewifization have a causal link. Without the ongoing exploitation of external colonies, formerly as direct colonies and now as the new international division of labor, the establishment of the nuclear family, which is the internal colony and a woman maintained by a male breadwinner, thus, would not have been possible.36

    Mies applies her analysis to the present day, writing that

      Asian women in the electronics industry are placed on a global assembly line that reaches from Silicon Valley to Southeast Asia. On this assembly line, the Asian women work at the most monotonous, distressing, and unhealthy jobs. They have to weld together under a microscope the hair-thin wires, which hold the chips together to make an integrated circuit. The United States and Japanese corporations have worked out a subtle system of labor control, which combines methods of direct compulsion with methods of psychological manipulation. It is common knowledge that trade unions are banned in the factories. Women in Malaysia lose their jobs when found to be active in trade unions. The corporations employ only young women ages 14 through 25 who lose their jobs if they marry. Therefore, the corporations avoid the expense of maternity benefits by always having young, inexperienced women who have to complete 700 chips per day in forced silence and tethered to their work without rest breaks.37

    Mies' use of patriarchy and accumulation on a global scale as an explanation refutes the deceived who think that slavery and exploitation happened only in the past. The deceived, however, will cynically say, "Today, advanced societies have put that behind us. What happened in the past is not the fault of anyone living now. So, let's get on with the task of bringing the backward countries up to the standards of the advanced and forget about the bitterness caused by deeds of the past." Mies shows that the same explanatory principles, patriarchy and accumulation, explain capitalism past and present. Whether as exploited factory workers in the third world, or as shop-a-holics running up credit card debt in the first world, a woman now is part of a single global economy. It has the same logic now as when some women were slaves in the sugar plantations while other women were pampered favorites in Paris. Hence, it is false to say that the past is behind us as the same causes are still producing similar effects.

    Mies' theory is, nevertheless, a delicate balance and a synthesis between 1) her explanatory premises of coercion and self-interest and 2) the logic of accumulation, which includes additional factors important to explain a phenomenon, such as the voluntary acts of persons. Mies is troubled by the position taken by Clara Zetkin, a leading 19th century socialist feminist who spoke in favor of women staying home, dependent on a husband's income. Mies asserts that Zetkin should have taken a different position, which would have made a difference today. Similarly, Marx did not deny that the individual is more than the helpless agent of economic laws. About this, he wrote:

    I paint the capitalist and the landlord in no sense couleur de rose. Here individuals, nevertheless, are dealt with only insofar as they are the personifications of economic categories that is the embodiments of a particular interest of class relations.38

    Marx makes it clear that whenever he speaks of what the capitalist will do, he is referring to a particular person only insofar as that person is regarded as capital personified that is assumed to act on the basis of economic calculations.

    In conclusion, where accumulation is the explanatory principle, deliberate action, subject to moral evaluation, is "twice buried": once by classical economic writers such as Adam Smith who replaced concrete action with a stylized ideal type and twice and even deeper when Marx replaced the Smith and Ricardo account of the profit motive with the concept of surplus value ceaselessly augmented through the historical process of capital accumulation.

    Deliberate action is, nevertheless, retrievable from its "shallow grave." Deliberate decisions can make a difference as Marx concedes and Mies illustrates even where the logic of accumulation operates. Furthermore, the fact that accumulation operates at all reflects the existence of certain institutions and certain acts of will.

    VI.ii. Mies' and Marx' prescriptions

    Maria Mies believes that deliberate action can make a difference and she proposes a positive future for humanity: the feminist perspective on a new society.39 The new society would emerge, at least in part, by 1) embracing better concepts, which she suggests and 2) taking the steps to enable superior ideas, models and worldviews.

    In her historical account of the global economy, Mies found that people who had wrong moral philosophies often caused negative effects. Mies cites, for example, A People at School, by Fielding Hall who was a political officer in the British administration in Burma in 1887-91. Hall reports that when the British conquered Burma they found a people who practiced gender equity and, thus, enjoyed full women's rights and independence. The Burmese lived in peace via the precepts of Buddhism. Instead of trying to preserve such a happy society, Hall, the militarist and sexist, believed it was the duty of the British to impose his oppression on the Burmese; he wrote:

      I can imagine nothing that could do the Burmese more good than to have a regiment of their own to distinguish them in our wars. It would open their eyes to new views of life.40 We must never forget that their civilization is a thousand years behind ours. Men and women have no sufficient differentiation yet in Burma. It is the mark of a young race. Ethnology finds that in the earliest peoples, the difference was slight. As a race grows older, the difference increases.41

    As promoting so-called progress, Hall's policies established male dominance by way of a new marriage law, which established male succession. At the same time, inexpensive imports from Britain were destroying the local industries that were the basis of the Burmese women's self-reliance. The large colonial stores in Rangoon undermine the bazaars where the women used to earn their independent livlihood.42 I make this point to dispel the notion that Mies and I believe that deliberate action motivated by good or motivated by bad concepts operates isolated from events in the material world.

    Mies' prescription for a positive future begins with the re-conceptualization of work. Disagreeing with Marx and other economists, she proposes to break down the division between work time and leisure time and, thus, promote meaningful activities in which labor and leisure mix. She advocates, in effect, undoing the so-called progress, which has dimmed the joy of activities among peoples who have not yet learned to reckon time as money and, thus, to divide it into work time and leisure time.

      If we take as our model of a worker, though not the white male industrial wage earner (irrespective of whether he works under capitalist or socialist conditions), but instead a mother, we can see that her work does not fit into the Marxian concept. For her, work is a burden as well as a source of self-fulfillment and happiness. Children involve much work and issues, nevertheless, it is never alienating or lifeless work. Even when children disappoint their mother, when they leave her, or feel contempt for her, as many do in our society, the pain she suffers is more important than the indifference of the industrial worker or engineer in relation to their products produced or commodities consumed.43

    By emphasizing motherhood as the direct production of life and of use values, Mies distinguishes what is more human from what is less human and speaks of a human essence. She asserts, for example, that men should help with housework and childcare because it will help men become more sensual, less alienated and, thereby, more human. Men have to start movements opposing the violence against women if they are to preserve their humanity.44

    Although she differs from Marx on many points, Mies echoes his view that there is an essence of human nature, a human species (gattungwesen) and that the human essence is social and sensual.She advocates as a positive goal in her feminist perspective for a new society, one in which humanity create a future where less alienation divides women and men and both from nature.

    Marx introduced the idea of alienation and Marxists at times characterize the achievement of a socialist society as a process of de-alienation. Overall, however, Marx refrained from prescriptions and chose to distinguish his ideas from those of the utopian socialist by presenting scientific work.45 In principle, he did not think it wise to write blueprints in advance for a future society yet dimly perceived. Marx, nevertheless, did assign a positive prescriptive force to the concept of use value in addition to asserting the value of a humanity free of alienation, which would allow the expression of humanity's social and sensual essence.

    In the whole sweep of Marx' writings, the key concept of exchange value and the related commodity appear as unfortunate detours and distortions caused by the present, perhaps transitory, organization of society. Exchange and exploitation interfere with the direct production and distribution of that which ought to be, yet under present circumstances is not la chose qu'on aime pour lui-meme of use value: the thing one loves for its own sake (the French meaning is deeper).

    By saying that the whole point of economic activity is to produce use values, Karl Marx does not differ from Adam Smith, though Marx embeds use value in a richer conceptual philosophical context. Going deeper than Smith does, Marx finds that capitalist society is wrong because it often loses sight of or frustrates the life sustaining and enhancing qualities of use value. Capitalism is a system governed by the exchange value under capitalism and in Marx' words—The wealth of society presents itself as an immense accumulation of commodities.46 When defining use value Marx treats it as equivalent to what John Locke called natural worth. Locke, as quoted by Marx, wrote:

      The natural worth of anything consists in its fitness to supply the necessities or serve the conveniences of human life.47

    Marx' prescription is, in a precise sense, a romantic one: society should pursue natural worth. Humanity should leave the outdated era in which the production of necessities tend to be motivated by the pursuit of profit driving production, or else no production occurs.

    VI.iii. About metaphysics

    Despite the existence, or former existence, of dialectical materialism (the infamous diamat that bored millions of schoolchildren in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe), I believe that the most useful thing to say about the Marxist metaphysics is that it does not exist. The second-most-useful thing to say, I think, is that a Marxist metaphysical bias does exist.

    The analysis and critique of the logic of accumulation, which is my test for distinguishing what is Marxist from what is not, does not imply a positive program. It does not allow the creation of a comprehensive conceptual system: a metaphysics because it lacks 1) an ethical culture, which has to exist with norms and 2) a social command system merging with the science and technology in order to create a worldview systematically articulated, which is a metaphysics in the tradition that Aristotle defined.

    The logic of accumulation does imply an ethical principle, to wit, use value ought to be la chose qu'on aime pour lui-meme. This is not a controversial principle as proponents of capitalism agree that enjoyment of goods and services is the goal. They argue that a capitalist market economy is the best means for getting use value produced and delivered. What is controversial and establishes a distinct moral imperative is Marx' further implication that the constraints on enjoying natural worth ought to be lifted.The constraints exist as imposed by the private appropriation of the social product and by the mechanism of production for exchange.

    The Marxist critique, however, does not say what cultural structures, normative principles and or caring attitudes meshed with practice would achieve the results mandated by this brief sketch of the moral imperative. The confusion of wielding a powerful critique with only a weak sketch of an alternative to offer has been an embarrassment for Marxist revolutionaries who, though they have seized state power and private assets, have not known what to do next.48 Marx' critique of the logic of accumulation, nevertheless, does introduce a metaphysical bias. It appears as the critique proceeds by moving downward in metaphysical space (an order not created by Marxism but preexisting in the logic of the society, which Marx critiqued) from the sphere of circulation to the sphere of production. This conceptual move, which finds something more real by moving to a deeper level, suggests a series of dualism, which have been the bane of Marxism since. As circulation is to production, thus

  • surface is to depth
  • idealism to materialism
  • the bourgeoisie to the proletariat
  • exchange value to use value
  • commodity to natural worth
  • alienation to the true human species (gattungwesen)
  • price to value
  • culture to economy
  • superstructure to base and
  • ideology to science.
  • Marx was the first to denounce these manifestations of simple dualism. Nevertheless, it is hard to resist the conclusion that Marx did mean to say that the sphere of circulation is properly characterized as surface and is, therefore, less real, less important, more illusory and more deceptive than something else, which is the sphere of production. Given this premise, it is easy to slip into simple dualism and hard to avoid them.

    The lack of an existing society complete with ethical culture to articulate the structure of it seems to preclude a Marxist metaphysics per se.49 Moreover, the bias toward seeing the fact of circulation as a surface fact that must be explained by a theoretical apparatus grounded in processes that are deeper and more real seems to be an impediment to the improvement of the ethical culture. A global economy organized to implement the ideals that Marx suggested and implied does not exist. It is doubtful whether a national economy organized as such ever existed. If there were such an economy, it could function only by way of cultural structures different from those that exist. Hence, no institutional structures exist for a Marxist metaphysics that reflects the ideology.

    At best, there are some partly successful experiments as nascent communities of solidarity struggling to learn to live more humanly and less alienated. Even those are held back by certain features of the Marxist tradition such as a tendency to scorn ideals as idealism, which stems from the analogy that circulation is to production as idealism is to materialism.

    The task of the would-be Marxist metaphysician is unlike the task of Aristotle, Aquinas, or Kant. The novice would have to articulate, if possible, the fundamental conceptual structures of a culture that is still a dream. Otherwise, the task may be to articulate the basic precepts of a process and a historical movement still seeking the desired outcome toward which it is moving.50 That, if I am right, will bring the desired outcome it seeks only by transforming culture. It will, however, only transform culture by adopting a conceptual strategy different than Marx' critique of the logic of accumulation.

    Yet, Marxism remains with us as a project, a pro-ject (Fr pro-jet from jeter, which is to throw, G ent-wurf from werfen also to throw). It is a throwing forward into the unknown..

    Resources

    1. Christopher Hill, Reformation to Industrial Revolution: a Social and Economic History of Britain 1530-1780  (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1968)

    2. Maurizio Passerin d'Entreves, Critique and Enlightenment: Michel Foucault on `Was ist Aufklarung'.(Barcelona: Institut de Ciencies Politiques i Socials, 1996)

    3. Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labor. (London: Zed Books, 1986)

    4. These works show the key role of accumulation in Marxist explanations of the global economy: 1) V. I. Lenin, Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism in which the need to keep profits increasing was said to require the partition of Africa by the European powers. The policy of imperialism went together with the domination of finance capital as bank ownership of big business in Europe. Lenin built on the earlier work of Rudolf Hilferding. 2) Similarly, Paul Baran argued in The Political Economy of Growth that drawing the poor countries of the world ever more into the capitalist orbit has been a way of subsidizing first world profits by exploiting the third world. 3) Rosa Luxembourg makes a similar argument that the accumulation process of capitalism is stabilized through geographical expansion by incorporating into international markets the natural economies, as the previous non-capitalist areas. 4) Maria Mies' Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labor names accumulation as central within the narrative history of the origins of global markets.

    5. Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of Wealth of Nations: Chapters 6-7 and :II, Chapter 5. (various editions of the Modern Library Edition) p. 48, 54-56, and on p. 355 Smith wrote:

      The profits of stock, it may perhaps be thought, are only a different name for the wages of a particular sort of labor that is inspection and direction. They are, however, altogether different being regulated by quite sufficient principles bearing no proportion to the quantity, the hardship, or the ingenuity of the supposed labor of inspection and direction. No country employs its entire annual produce in maintaining its industrious. The idle consume a great part of it. Although, in common language, what is called the prime cost of any commodity does not comprehend the profit of the person who is to sell it again. Nevertheless, if he sells it at a price, which does not allow him the ordinary rate of profit in his neighborhood, he is a loser by the trade, because by employing his stock in some other way he might have made that profit. Unless they yield him the profit, they do not yield him what they may be said to have cost him. Though the price that leaves him this profit is not always the lowest at which he is likely to sell them for any considerable time; at least where there is perfect liberty, or where he may change his trade as often as he pleases. The consideration of his private profit is the sole motive which determines the owner of any capital to employ it either in agriculture, in manufactures, or in a certain branch of the wholesale or retail trade.

    6. Adam Smith, Id.,:II, Chapter 4 (various editions of the Modern Library edition) on p. 333, Smith wrote:

      The stock lent at interest is always considered as capital by the lender. He expects that in due time it is to be restored to him and that, in the mean time, the borrower is to pay him a certain annual rent for the use of it.

    7. See, for example, the near identification of spirit as animus and will, which is voluntas in St. Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises  (various editions).

    8. See, for example., Aristotle's, Nichomachean Ethics: III  (various editions).

    9. Stuart Hampshire, Thought and Action (London: Chatto and Windus, 1959) p. 177-78. Echoing Aristotle, Hampshire writes:
      A sincere declaration of intentions is the most reliable information about a man's future action if he is a free agent. This entails that he is not at the mercy of forces that he does not recognize and that are beyond his control. This is a necessary truth. If the most reliable basis for prediction of his future actions is the record of similar people in similar situations in the past and if his own announced decisions afford no basis at all, then he is not free to guide his own activities; forces beyond his control drive him.
    10. Stephen Toulmin, Knowing and Acting: an Invitation to Philosophy (New York: Macmillan, 1976) p. 305 Toulmin discusses the human standpoint in a way that characterizes humans as rational creatures who act with reason. About this, he wrote:
      The least we can demand of a satisfactory philosophy of individual action, at this point, is a clear account of the manner in which we are going to distinguish acting rationally from being overwhelmed by emotion. How does the individual recognize that a compelling reason exists for acting in this way instead of that? How does the relevance for him of such considerations differ from the influence of those factors upon him that are casually compulsive?

    11. Rom Harre and Paul Secord, The Explanation of Social Behavior. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield, 1973. See also the discussion of the need for a more adequate theory of human action to replace the methodological individualism of orthodox Western economic science in Martin Hollis and Edward Nell, Rational Economic Man  (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1975)

    12. The traditional doctrine concerning the right use of money follows the principles summarized by St. Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae 2a, 2ae of Part 2, in the treatment of the virtues of charity and justice; he wrote:

    For we should make loans and, indeed, do any good deed not because we expect anything of men, but because of what we expect of God.

    Question 78, The Sin of Usury, reply to the 4th objection: 38, p. 239 of the Blackfriars Latin-English edition (New York and London: McGraw-Hill and Eyre and Spottiswood, 1975)

    13. When St. Augustine wrote...

      Baptism has the effect that the baptized are incorporated into Christ as his members. The fullness of grace and virtues, however, derives from Christ the head to all his members, from his fullness all have received. [John I: 16] Thus, through baptism a person receives grace and virtues.
    St. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae 3a, in article 5 of Question 69 "Effects of Baptism"on p. 135 of Vol. 57 of the Blackfriars edition, he replied that
      Charity: caritas directs the acts of all the other virtues to our end. Thus, it shapes all these acts and to this extent is said to be the form of the virtues, for virtues are so called with reference to formed acts. Charity is likened to a foundation or a root and is known as the mother of the other virtues.

    Summa Theologiae 2a, 2ae, answers in Article 8 of Question 23 The Nature of Charity: 34, pl 33 of the Blackfriars edition.

    14. Richard Cyert and James March, A Behavioral Theory of the Firm (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963). The title of this book may mislead as this is not behaviorism in the sense of treating the mind as a black box known only by studying its inputs as stimuli and its outputs as responses. The book is behavioral rather in the sense that is an empirical study of what people in business do, as distinct from what economic theories deduced from the behavior of a hypothetical Homo economicus suppose they do.

    15. Vilfredo Pareto, The Mind and Society (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1935, as translated from the last edition of Pareto's Trattato di Sociologia Generale, Italy in 1923). In sections 825 and 263, Pareto explains what he repeated many times that human beings perform in order to acquire things satisfying to their tastes (note to Section 825). Pareto writes in disapproval of literary economists who compare them to his mathematical economics, even though as he wrote:

      I recognize that my mathematical models have only an approximate relation to the real world; their logical precision is possible merely by definition and that, to a certain extent, arbitrary.

    Pure economics has the advantage of being able to draw its inferences from very few experimental principles. It makes such a strict use of logic to state its reasoning in mathematical form, reasoning having the further advantage of dealing with quantities. If the science of political economy has advanced much farther than sociology, then that is chiefly because it deals with logical conduct.

    16. Milton Friedman, Essays in Positive Economics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953) p. 22

    17. Braudel wrote—Those without money wander like dead men in the land of the living.

    18. Karl Marx, Capital I, Part III., various editions, p. 212-213 in the Modern Library edition. (New York: Random House 1936). Subsequent page references are from in this edition. Marx wrote:

    Our capitalist stares astonished. The value of the product is equal to the value of the capital advanced. Our capitalist, at home in his vulgar economy, exclaims, "Oh, but I advanced my money for the purpose of making more money." As the way to hell is paved with good intentions, he might just as well have said he intended to make money without producing.

    19.Marx, Capital: I, p. 181-182

    20. Marx, op. cit. p. 195-196

    21. Matthew 25:40

    22. Marx, op. cit. p. 636

    23. Marx, op. cit. p. 643

    24. Marx, op. cit. p. 649

    25. Marx, op. cit. p. 652

    26. David Harvey, The Condition of Post-modernity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990) p. 121

    27. Ibid. p. 124, p. 147 ff.

    28. Ibid. p. 141-197

    29. Ibid. op. cit. p. 196

    30. Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale (London: Zed Books, 1986) p. 1

    31. Ibid. p. 2

    32. Mies, op. cit. p. 66-67

    33. Mies, op. cit. p. 83

    34. Mies, op. cit. p. 78-88

    35. Mies, op. cit. p. 92

    36. Mies, op. cit. p. 110

    37. Mies, op. cit. p. 136

    38. Marx, op. cit. p. 15. Marx made simple assumptions and, as a result, his theoretical framework applies, in part, to the real world, stated by Louis Althusser in Lire, Le Capital (Paris: Francois Maspero, 1965). Reading Capital. (London: New Left Books, 1970 English version)

    39. Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, chapter 7 (London: Zed Books, 1986) p. 205 ff.

    40. Mies, op. cit. p. 93, citing p. 264 of Fielding Hall, A People at School.

    41. Ibid.

    42. Ibid.

    43. Mies, op. cit. p. 216

    44. Mies, op. cit. p. 222

    45. Friedrich Engels, Socialism, Utopian and Scientific (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1970)

    46. Marx, op. cit. p. 41

    47. John Locke quoted by Marx, op. cit. p. 42. Besides use-value, one might cite the ideal of a society or a socialized humanity from Marx', Theses on Feuerbach or the goal of realizing the species of humanity (gattungwesen) as a social animal from Marx' early writings.

    One might cite, as well, the concept of alienation (a word used in English that translates two German words that Marx used, which were entfremdung and entausserung) and suggest that the opposite of alienation as engagement is what Marx prescribed. I advise, however, that 1) that the realization of any such Marxist prescriptions would at least overlap and perhaps coincide with producing for use and 2) the conclusion is that Marx proposed only an outline of the character of a better society, not an ethics. See, in these connections, Erich Fromm's, Marx' Concept of Man. New York: F. Ungar, 1961; John Torrance, Estrangement, Alienation and Exploitation (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977)

    48. Among the accounts of the ventures into uncharted territory of those who undertook the arduous tasks involved in the planning of a post-revolutionary economy are Maurice Dobbs, Soviet Economic Development since 1917. (New York: International Publishers, 1948) and (2) Arthur MacEwan's Revolution and Economic Development in Cuba (New York: St. Martin's Press 1981)

    49. Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 1988) p. 390. Philosophical theories give organized expression to concepts and theories embedded in forms of practice and types of community.

    50. Ernest Mandel, Marxist Economic Theory (London: Merlin Press, 1968, first edition 1962 in French ) At the end of his two-volume analysis, he agrees with Marx, Rosa Luxembourg, et al that the science of political economy will disappear when the institutions it describes and prescribes disappear. Mandel speculates on a future communist society based on a positive natural science, which would be, in effect, a surrogate metaphysics, which is a comprehensive rational framework articulating the categories in which social life would be recognized and guided. Mandel, ibid. p. 730. Mandel wrote:

      The survival of the political economy will happen by way of a positive natural science, which will integrate the laws of psychology and health, etc. It is difficult to prophesy what forms will prevail by this positive science. By virtue of the questions it will seek to answer, however, it is clear that it will have little in common with economic theory, bourgeoisie political economy, or the Marxist criticism of it. The Marxist economist can claim the honor of being the first category of people of learning to work consciously toward the abolition of their profession.

    Review

    1. Modernity caused an unsettling of traditional ways of life, which entered into human discussion as a religious crisis. Do you think that the religious crisis was, to some extent, an effect of the feudal system, monarchy, and theocracy clinging to its ownership? If so, to what extent?  p. 100

    2. Smith's account of profit allows room for realism and accuracy; its reference to the will of the entrepreneur allows the option that the entrepreneur as an individual might take some other action. What motives do you see for profit and its counterpart, benevolence?

    b. Are the actions taken for profit and for benevolence more automatic (impulsive, instinctual) than deliberate (willful, mindful)?  
    p. 101,  p. 102

    3. Milton Friedman's assertion that nonprofit maximizers will not be in business for long does not invalidate Aristotle's call for voluntary human action, nor Marx' concession about the fact of deliberate action in a capitalist system (or any system). The prescriptive view of Aristotle and Marx' acknowledgment of deliberate action contrast Friedman's statement, which he meant in the context of the market growth model. p. 102,   p. 103

    Which approach to and spirit of economy makes you feel more assured, less anxious 1) voluntary and deliberate action, or 2) the prime decree of profit maximization?

    4. Culture will transform only by adopting a conceptual strategy that differs from Marx' critique of the logic of accumulation. In spite of this, do you think that the basic Marxist critique can be adapted to make it a starting point for a cultural transformation?

    b. If so, how would you describe this adaptation? p. 102 through p.104

    5. Marx mocked economists for failing to notice that, according to their own premises, exchanging commodities at their values does not yield a surplus of value, which then must come from the work of labor. That contradiction, still active today, defies the basic purpose of economics, yet it persists. Does that fact decrease your confidence in the prevailing economics?

    b. What is your view of the premise that alienation always comes by way of an injustice when there is no means to right the injustice?   p. 103

    6. Exploitation of workers by owners is the fact of capitalism that yields profit. Do you see this as basic to the treadmill of growth, which is working harder just to maintain?

    b. Do you see it as basic, perhaps even equal though in different contexts, for both workers and owners? p. 104, p. 105

    7. In the quest for accumulation, capitalists face the need to bring the behavior of all individuals as economic actors as owner, workers, merchant and consumers into a configuration thus, to facilitate increased profit. As you see it, what basic challenges does the owner of production face in configuring the economic actors? p. 100,  p. 106, 

    8. Marx' worldview led him to omit a comprehensive conceptual system that is a metaphysics of his economics. What is your sense that Marx might have seen ethics as inseparable from the fact of having the correct economic ideology, i.e., socialism instead of capitalism?    p. 112

    9. Marx realized that the key to accumulation is also the ethical violation by the market. What is your sense of the ethics of accumulation ( profit and the growth of it) as it relates to your needs, e.g., shelter? p. 106 through p. 110

    b. How would you view today's stagnate wages and inflation, in relation to primitive accumulation?

    10. Maria Mies defines three phases of the global economy as a scientific explanation of it. In each phase, Mies points to some form coercion as the means to patriarchal control. In Mies' expose, do you see that violence, which is central to coercion in each phase, had become part of the ethic of the global economy?   p. 107

    11. Marx introduced the idea of alienation and gave name to a process of de-alienation as an achievement of a socialist society. However, Marx largely omits a remedy for alienation. Why do you suppose that Marx did not include an explicit, direct cure?  p. 111

    b. In your words and summary view, what does Mies prescribe for alienation? What impression does this leave with you, what your sense of her feminist, mother-centric approach to economics? p. 111, note 47

    12. Homo economicus is the concept of a human as a rational and self-interested actor who 1) desires wealth, 2) avoids unnecessary labor and 3) has the ability to make judgments towards those ends. Do you see any limitations that might suppress the ideal Homo economicus in a global market?

    b. Instead, is it your view that global markets are enhanced by Homo economicus?   p. 103

    13. If you feel inspired to, find the aspect of capitalism that you think Marx deconstructed best. Do you think that overall his critique was comprehensive and by intention and purpose?    p. 111

    b. Do you see the omission of an economic metaphysics in Marxism as 1) a step toward the abolition of economics as a profession, or 2) a return to the etymological meaning of the word economics, or both?

    1. What difference do you see between the outcome of # 1 and that of # 2?  p. 112,   p. 113

    2. If reason # 2 is a result of Marxist economics, what effect, if any, would it have on the global economy, in your view of it?   p. 104,  p. 112

    Keywords: accumulation, alienation, capital syndrome, capital, capitalism, circulation of commodities, commodities, competition of capitals, communitarian, economics, contradictions, de-alienation, ethics, equality, exchange value, feminist, flexible accumulation, flexible labor, Homo economicus, human action, international division of labor, international trade, labor, labor power, labor theory of value, logic of accumulation, markets, Marx/Das Kapital, Marxist, materialism, metaphysics, methodenstreitmodernity, neoliberalism, nonprofit, patriarchy, political economy, primitive accumulation, profit, property, regimes of accumulation, Smith, social product, social structure, socialism, solidarity, structural unemployment, surplus value, use value, wages, women's rights

    Description: Do the Marxist theories and the feminist theory of Maria Mies explain the rise and current rule of global capitalist economics? Part VI examines this and other questions as the next step in Understanding the Global Economy, an expose of global capitalism and a new economic paradigm, which will replace the economic rule of free trade as enforced by trade laws in pacts between corporations and central governments.

     

    Part VII: post-Marxist and post-structuralist theoriesTOC cover pagetop

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