New Departures in Marxian Theory (Economics as Social Theory)
Richard D. Wolff
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Over the last twenty-five years, Stephen Resnick and Richard Wolff have developed a groundbreaking interpretation of Marxian theory generally and of Marxian economics in particular. This book brings together their key contributions and underscores their different interpretations.
In facing and trying to resolve contradictions and lapses within Marxism, the authors have confronted the basic incompatibilities among the dominant modern versions of Marxian theory, and the fact that Marxism seemed cut off from the criticisms of determinist modes of thought offered by post-structuralism and post-modernism and even by some of Marxism’s greatest theorists.
society’s relation to socialism and communism, to communist class structures and to classlessness. Our assessment would differ from those based on alternative Marxist approaches and the specific questions their proponents pose 158 Class analysis to reach their assessments (cf. Sweezy and Bettelheim 1971; Bettelheim 1985; Sweezy 1985a,b). We can integrate social analysis such as ours that focus on class—surplus labor production and distribution—with some of those whose emphases fall rather
show, it offers a way to do analyses of complexities without ignoring or reducing them to one simplicity or another. Since any subject’s thinking (or sensory experience) can only exist in relation to that subject’s sensory experience (or thinking), neither can exist independent of the other. Parallel to all other entities, they constitute one another. Thus, different ways of thinking (theories) influence sensory experiences in correspondingly different ways. We all “see,” in part, what our
now privileging structure (relatively rarely), now individuals (usually). They justify their deterministic privileging of individuals (their “case for microfoundations”) on two grounds: (1) it is merely a “descriptive statement” about virtually all economic systems, and (2) “it is a normative commitment guiding democratic theory” (ibid.). Whatever else one might say about this approach, it does not overcome the determinism of both humanism and structuralism. It recognizes, but cannot overcome,
productive and unproductive laborers “form a continuous mass of employment which, at present and unlike the situation in Marx’s day, has everything in common.” In contrast to Wright, Braverman, and others (Carchedi 1977: 89–91) Poulantzas does make the productive/ unproductive labor distinction serve as a “determinant of a class boundary.” Poulantzas insists that only productive workers “form part of the working class,” and that to include in the working class all wage-earners is theoretically
class process: “productive” vs. “unproductive.”33 Fundamental and subsumed class processes are distinct; they relate differently to the society within which they occur. A person occupying a subsumed class position is dependent upon different social forces and individuals as compared to someone occupying a fundamental class position. Class analysis aims to understand precisely what difference it makes whether and how a person participates in different class processes. This is, we believe, the