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Confessions of an Erratic Marxist

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Helsworth
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Confessions of an Erratic Marxist



When I chose my PhD thesis, I intentionally concentrated on a method within which Marx was not simply wrong, he was irrelevant. When I landed my first economics lectureship in Britain, the implicit contract between my university and me was that the sort of economics I would teach our students would be as far removed from Marxism as is humanly possible. When I moved to Australia in 1988, unbeknownst to me, I was recruited by the right wing of the Sydney University Economics Department in order to keep out of the Faculty another candidate whose former supervisor was thought of (quite rightly!) as a dangerous Marxist. Later I moved to Greece where I (foolishly) became, quiet officially, an advisor of George Papandreou -- the man whose government was to mediate Greece's passage to Hell a few years later. While I resigned that position in 2006, having gotten whiff of the impending disaster, I carried on teaching, at the University of Athens, quaint (and admittedly vulgar bourgeois) subjects like Game Theory and Microeconomics to a large number of Greek students, who remained touchingly oblivious to the catastrophe about to befall them. Back in 2002, well before the Global Crisis erupted, Joseph Halevi and I tried to sound a warning -- but we failed to make an impact. Even though in 2006 I did my best to warn Greek society, and anyone who would listen, of the impending disaster, I shamefully remained part of Athens' and Europe's 'polite society', not once taking to the streets. When the Global Crisis erupted in 2008, and soon engulfed the Eurozone, I began writing articles and making frantic appearances in established and less mainstream media alike, promoting a fundamentally bourgeois agenda for saving capitalism from itself! When the going got really tough, at a personal level, in Greece, I migrated to the USA and took up an appointment at the University of Texas. To this day, I am struggling to impress the powers-that-be that they must urgently adopt specific bold policy recommendations in order to prevent an inevitable crisis from crushing capitalism. In summary, not one of my academic publications can be thought of as explicitly Marxist, while my energies are channeled into preventing capitalism's collapse. Nonetheless, all along, from my student days in Britain to this very day, the only way I could make sense of the world we live in is through the methodological 'eyes' of Karl Marx. In itself, this 'fact' renders me a theoretical Marxist. Moreover, I feel Marxism in my bones every time I am engaged in any form of intellectual pursuit: from discussing the Arab Spring to debating the intricacies of Art with my artist partner. Furthermore, a democratic, libertarian, socialist future is the only future that I would be willing to fight for. A most peculiar Marxist no doubt, but a Marxist nevertheless.

Yanis Varoufakis
Political economist and a professor at the University of Texas, Austin. After training in mathematics and statistics, Varoufakis received his economics doctorate in 1987 at the University of Essex. Before that he has allready began teaching economics and econometrics at the University of Essex and the University of East Anglia. From 1989 until 2000 he taught as Senior Lecturer in Economics at the Department of Economics of the University of Sydney. In 2000 he moved to his native Greece where he was Professor of Economic Theory at the University of Athens. He is an active participant in the current debates on the global and European crisis and the author of The Global Minotaur: America, the True Origins of the Financial Crisis and the Future of the World Economy (2011).


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18.05.2013 20:39
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Roger Mexico
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RE: Confessions of an Erratic Marxist

I've never bothered to read Capital, although I suppose I should. Just the Manifesto and most of the various essays.

Intuitively I'm inclined to agree with the criticisms of Labor Value Theory, and by extension Marxian economics in general, as overly reductionist and based on some unfounded assumptions. (A sort of economic Aether in which abstractions like "labor power" have a value which is independent of the purposes to which the labor is applied.)

The author of [i]New Ideas from Dead Economists[i], in the chapter on Smith, uses the metaphor of a carpenter spending 20 hours building tables which other people can use to put things on vs the same carpenter spending 20 hours making garish wooden sculptures which he likes but no one else actually wants. I think this is applicable to Labor Value Theory, and I've yet to encounter a really persuasive rebuttal (to the argument that "time spent laboring" has a value determined by the value of the product, not vice versa) from any Marxist economist.

Marx's contributions to sociology are Einsteinian in their importance, and he was in some cases a very astute political scientist. (The basic argument that even liberal economies are never divorced from political forces is an important insight.) However, as an economist (and as a politician) I think his ideas are quite dated and suffer from many of the same flaws as others of his era.

18.05.2013 23:18
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Helsworth
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Post: #3
RE: Confessions of an Erratic Marxist

Varoufakis is brilliant in his speeches. And his arguments are always top notch.


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19.05.2013 11:08
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