The Case for Simplicity: a Paradigm for the Political Economy of the 21st Century

This is my chapter for the New Value Controversy,

I made one correction to the numbers in the table at the top of page 7, which is footnoted on page 8. Thanks to Ascanio Bernardeschi for pointing out this mistake. I have corrected the mis-spelling of the name of Neugebauer, the historian of Astronomy. The text has been reformatted, and some minor spelling mistakes have been corrected. The text is the same as the original in all other respects and can safely be used as a reference copy.

It addresses David Laibman’s (2001) contribution to the same volume, in which he characterises TSSI scholars as ‘New Orthodox Marxists’ erecting Marx as a new dogmatic source of truth. TSSI scholars have responded many times to this mistaken (or in some cases, malicious) charge, pointing out that in order to establish where or whether Marx is wrong or right, one must first establish what Marx actually says – hence the ‘I’ in TSSI. However Laibman makes a second charge which this chapter addresses, raising an argument that has since come to the fore as I developed my critique of ‘theoretical counterrevolutions’ in economics, side by side with my analysis of modern economics as a religion in which Market Perfection takes the place of God. In this case I take issue with Laibman’s notion that progress in science is linear. Actually, thought does not progress linearly. The neoclassical ‘revolution’ was a counter-revolution, refining and honing to a mathematically brilliant but socially bankrupt edge the most reactionary aspects of political economy of the day, as it stood in the 1870s. Indeed this was the second such counterrevolution, the first being the onslaught on the Ricardian Socialists, which lasted from the early 19th Century until the 1870 recession. The third counter-revolution was the ‘equilibrium’ paradigm that swept through all economic schools including Marxism after the second world war, in which it is assumed in advance that the Market reproduces perfectly, and in which all definitions and conclusions are deduced from this Perfect Market assumption.

It should be cited as “Freeman, A. 2001. ‘The Case for Simplicity’ in Freeman, A., Andrew Kliman and Julian Wells (eds) 2001. The New Value Controversy in Economics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. pp55-66.”