Social Scientist. v 12, no. 133 (June 1984) p. 3.


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PRABHAT PATNAIK*

Karl Marx and Bourgeois Economics

WHEN Karl Marx died in London in 1883, no English newspaper reported the fact immediately. The first report to appear in an English newspaper was after some days in the form of a brief mention, and that too was a despatch from the paper's Paris correspondent! Like the bourgeois press, the bourgeois economics profession too sought to consign Marx to oblivion, initially through a "conspiracy of silence'9 about his work, and, somewhat later, when it did choose to take notice of him, through contemptuous dismissals of his work. Neither Carl Menger, nor Stanley Jevons, nor Leon Walras, all leading bourgeois economists who were more or less contemporaries of Marx, took any explicit notice of him. Alfred Marshall did, but dismissed him as a tendentious thinker who had mischievously misunderstood Ricardo. Eugen von Bohm Bawerk took him seriously enough to write a book on what he called the "Great Contradiction" in the Marxian theoretical system, with the conclusion that "The Marxian system has a past and a present, but no abiding future." And F. Y. Edgeworth thought that "the importance of Marx's theories" derived from their "wholly emotional nature."1

Today, a hundred years after Marx's death, the attitude of bourgeois economics towards Marx is rather different. Not that Marx is not being refuted by leading bourgeois economists all over again down to this day;

not that leading bourgeois economists do not, on occasions, still make derogatory remarks about Marx : one has only to recollect Keynes^ estimate of him as belonging to the dim underworld of heretics, and Samuelson's labelling him as a "minor post-Ricardian", to convince oneself about this. But the bourgeois profession as a whole is distinctly more cognizant of Marx, and distinctly more respectful towards him, at any rate for a number of his specific contributions, though, needless to say, it is as distant from the totality of the Marxian system as ever; after all, bourgeois economics would not be bourgeois economics if it accepted the Marxian system^ but willy-nilly it is forced to recognise a number of what it would call his ^insights". This change in the attitude of bourgeois economics towards Marx is reflective of the fact that it is much less self-confident about its theoretical system today than it was a hundred years

Professor of Economics,, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi attd Editor: Social Scientist.



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