Monday, June 21, 2010

Long-Term Perspective

FLG went over the Arts & Letters Daily and found this article. This part is fantastic:
For the moment, the neo-Keynesian blog posts bear the same relationship to the crisis as cognitive behavioral therapy does to a patient’s troubles. Here is something insightful, helpful; listen carefully and it might save your life. But when the acute pain passes you will be left with the chronic problem of who and what you are. The suffering individual has psychoanalysis to turn to. In economics, the analogous route is Marxism, which like psychoanalysis has a dubious reputation—and an explanatory power and long-term perspective that its rivals can’t touch. With luck, the next intellectual consequence of the crisis will be to pry the lid off Marx’s tomb, since it is only from a Marxian standpoint that the recent credit bubble can be understood in terms of the structural problems it affected to solve as well as those it has created.

Here's the thing about Marxism for FLG. The long-term perspective thing does hold in parts and where it does FLG thinks Marx has a lot of explanatory power. But it's all predicated on a short-term analysis, which is to say that at any given moment there are classes in a struggle with each other. And at any given moment the members of the classes are static; whereas in real life people can move from rich to poor and vice versa. Moreover, the classes are too broadly defined. Not all the bourgeoisie don't have unified interests.

FLG's point here is that Marxism does have its insights. But the supposedly long-term perspective is an illusion created with oversimplified dots, much like a Seurat painting. People are too simply placed in categories that create the illusion that there is a constant struggle that drives history.

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