The late Marx and the lost talents of Engels

The left fails to realize that its legacy can’t match the needs of a radical transformation of the future.
Marx is a puzzle in his later work. The deft beginning as with the classic Manifesto (which owes more to Engels
and his slick journalistic talents than is usually acknowledged) yields to a ponderous scientism typical of the era.
The many insights of Marx are lost to his obsession with historical theory.

The confused legacy of Capital
November 19th, 2017

150 Years of Capital—with No End in Sight

These endless paeans to Marx are almost tiresome. We are told ad infinitum how brilliant Marx was but
the reality is that his theories don’t really work and

are a source of endless analysis that mostly goes down the drain. Capital was an unfinished book that was a victim of a mysterious writer’s block on the part of Marx. Perhaps he sensed that his theoretical framework was flawed and didn’t know how to deal with. The whole question of economic theory is a botch in Marx and still another botch in the neo-classical economics that soon left Marx behind and created a new approach to the issue of value. However lunatic the marginalist theory was the fact remains that Marx’s labor theory of value is so confused or else confusing that it may as well be set

aside. The labor theory of value is an immense distraction and frankly it is almost impossible to extricate oneself from the whole mess of pottage.

The key issue is better stated as an empirical observation instead of as theory: the wage of the worker is a field of exploitation, no more, no less. The question of the labor theory of value (and the marginalist is itself confused) has been a theory disaster on the left and it is totally unnecessary: set it all aside and find a new, clearer, and empirical approach without pretenses to theory. I have studied the general theory of relativity and the mathematics of tensors, a difficult subject. But the theories of value of Marx (and the marginalists) are almost incomprehensible. The earlier classical economists make some sense, their take is basically descriptive. But Marx’s attempts at theory just don’t make much sense.

Frankly Engels was a better writer and might have done better, although he too in his ‘Dialectics of Nature’ contributed to the confusion. We don’t need these theories to move toward a postcapitalist framework: we need to construct an economy and democratic politics on the basis of socialism/communism and stop making a sacred canon out of the fragments in Capital. The book works fine as an historical introit but the whole range of questions must be redone from scratch.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s