Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ben Fine on British Coal Industry's Contribution To Work of Paul Sweezy

My research has delved me into the plethora of work produced by the 'Monthly Review School'. Interestingly enough, I came across this article by Ben Fine, which I found to be quite illuminating. 

From the abstract:
Paul Sweezy has been a central figure in the understanding and development of Marxist political economy both in the United States and more widely in the West. For a long period, much like his counterparts in the United Kingdom, Maurice Dobb and Ronald Meek, his was almost a lone voice along with his close collaborators, most notably Paul Baran. Much has changed in the last twenty years with the renewed intellectual interest in Marxism following the student activisim of the sixties-so much that Marxism has even attained the status of academic respectability. This has meant that whilst there was always opposition to the Sweezy problematic (as represented by the “Monopoly Capital” or Monthly Review school), only in recent years has it been substantially criticised and counterbalanced by alternative schools of Marxism. In particular, there has been a lessening sympathy for underconsumptionist theory; for the notion that monopoly and competition are inversely related; for the validity of the concept of the potential surplus and its compatibility with value theory; and, as a more general aspect of the latter, that monopoly and competition and accumulation can be analyzed independently of the labour (value-producing) process, whatever the merits of Braverman’s (1974) seminal contribution. In addition, unfortunately on the margins of political economy, rather than its occupying a central position of debate as within the often supposedly separated discipline of economic history, Sweezy has been a prime mover in the debate on the transition from feudalism to capitalism’ which has subsequently given way to the “Brenner Debate” [...] The purpose of this article could hardly be to provide a “political economy of Sweezy.” For this, the present author cannot claim adequate acquaintance with Sweezy ’s intellectual and political biography. Indeed, here we rely exclusively upon the articles of Sweezy that have appeared in the academic journals. As a study of the evolution of Sweezy’s political economy, we have made use then of only a few of the pieces of the jigsaw that make up his intellectual biography, although we also have available some overall picture of the “final product,” as represented in his mature works.
Read rest here (subscription required).

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