'Crotty's view sharply diverges from mainstream perspectives which have long held that Keynes's overarching project was mild reform of capitalism. An essay of mine comparing James Crotty's newest book, Keynes Against Capitalism with Bhaskar Sunkara's The Socialist Manifesto and applying their lessons to the Democratic Primaries, especially the grappling between the farthest left contenders (Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders), or, perhaps more accurately, their supporters, has just been published by Challenge. David Houston was treated like a pariah at the University of Pittsburgh, was spat upon for his opposition to the War in Vietnam (unlike any returning veterans! That is the controversial claim made in a new book by the distinguished radical economist James Crotty. Mixed his name with Milton Friedman — a (very) different economist," she said. Both men's works has fostered respective schools of economic thought ( Marxian economics and Keynesian economics) that have had significant influence … Only socialism can provide a positive way out of the present crisis. We also find in Keynes’s argument faint echoes of an element of Karl Marx’s falling-rate-of-profit hypothesis. The failure of government-controlled capitalism _____ Introduction. Instead, I want to hone in on Mongiovi’s review as another indication of Sunkara and Chibber’s slow but inexorable retreat from Marxism. Our problem is to work out a social organisation which shall be as efficient as possible without offending our notions of a satisfactory way of life.” — John Maynard Keynes2, An engraving of St George slaying a dragon graces the cover of James Crotty’s monumental new book Keynes Against Capitalism.3 The dragon is meant to symbolize capitalism, and the dragon slayer represents the great twentieth-century economist John Maynard Keynes. The latest issue of Catalyst, a journal that is published by Bhaskar Sunkara and edited by Vivek Chibber, has an article by economics professor Gary Mongiovi titled “Was Keynes a Socialist?” It is a gushing review of “Keynes Against Capitalism: His Economic Case for Liberal Socialism”, a new book by James Crotty. In Keynes Against Capitalism, PERI researcher James Crotty demonstrates that John Maynard Keynes—the most influential economist of the 20th Century—advanced a coherent program on behalf of 'Liberal Socialism. Keynes lived during a time when communism and socialism were considered real, viable alternatives to capitalism. The Keynesian Revolution, in Crotty’s interpretation, was considerably more revolutionary than we have been led to believe. Keynes lived during a time when communism and socialism were considered real, viable alternatives to capitalism. The forces of the nineteenth century have run their course and are exhausted” [emphasis added]. The material in this bulletin has been taken, with minor changes, from articles which originally appeared in the Socialist Standard during the past five years. It is not the ownership of the instruments of means of production which it is important for the State to assume. MARX VERSUS KEYNES. Keynes was averse to class conflict: he was no class warrior; his aim was to diffuse class tensions. His biggest problem with the idea was the fact, which he explores in his writings, that he really did not much like the working class and looked down on them as “inferior”. ... “Fascism entirely agrees with Mr. Maynard Keynes… Opinion polls indicate rising dissatisfaction with capitalism and growing awareness of its many dysfunctions. See John Maynard Keynes, “A Short View of Russia,” in, This aspect of Keynes’s theoretical framework was developed by Hyman Minsky in, Many of these outstanding German-speaking economists were forced to emigrate when Hitler came to power; they went on to form the backbone of the New School’s University in Exile. ( Log Out /  Like many of us, he sometimes told people things that were closer to what he thought they wanted to hear than to what he really believed; and what he did believe could change from one day to the next according to the particular light in which he happened to be viewing a problem. It is precisely because of the devitalizing effect of uncertainty upon investment spending that Keynes looked to public investment as a way to preserve the economy’s dynamism. Most socialist governments own the nation's energy, health care, and education services. By the early 1980s, the Golden Age social contract had been displaced by a neoliberal outlook that reified the market. As the working classes fought for and got higher wages, their rising consumption spending fueled further expansion. An old URPEer, he was in grad school with a very good friend of mine, with whom I taught for a long time. Crotty’s book suggests that turning this situation around must begin with the rediscovery of Keynes’s vision — his actual analytical vision, not the parody of it that has been handed down to us by the guardians of orthodoxy. Was Keynes a socialist? Keynesian economics was supposed to have put paid to socialism. According to this view, the most effective thing the state can do to promote economic well-being is to get out of the way of the great wealth-creating engine of private enterprise. Keynes laid out no detailed institutional blueprint for the arrangement he was advocating. Against the criticism that placing investment spending under the control of the state will cripple an economy’s capacity to innovate, we may call attention to the groundbreaking work of Mariana Mazzucato, which shows that since the end of World War II, government has been a major source of innovation in numerous fields, and, indeed, that without the direct and indirect involvement of the state, many key innovations of the past half century — the internet, personal computers and the software they use, information technology and communications, solar and wind power, countless medical advances — would never have materialized or would have been delayed for decades.27 Keynes, as we have noted, had a great deal of confidence in the ability of technocrats to manage “the socialisation of investment,” but he says little about innovation, or about how it might be fostered through his proposed Board of National Investment. Keynes Was Not a Socialist. He liked to be provocative. One reason I admired Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy, and all of the Monthly Review stalwarts I met or read about, like Istvan Meszaros, Annette Rubinstein, Dirk Struik, and many others (often they were from the Global South, like Samir Amin and Che Guevara), is that they were ALWAYS true to a radical vision and to radical values. Socialist Education Bulletin, Nº 1, July 1973. It is curious how so many of the 1960s radical economists, like Bowles and Gintis, Crotty, Pollin, and many others, most from upper middle-class or downright rich backgrounds, soon enough lost their radicalism and became left liberals. Keynes’s biographers, Roy Harrod, Robert Skidelsky, and Donald Moggridge, position him as a liberal with progressive sensibilities; Skidelsky in particular is skittish about identifying him as a socialist.6. In The General Theory, Keynes famously observed that investment decisions largely, depend on spontaneous optimism rather than on a mathematical expectation … Most, probably, of our decisions to do something positive, the full consequences of which will be drawn out over many days to come, can only be taken as a result of animal spirits — of a spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction, and not as the outcome of a weighted average of quantitative benefits multiplied by quantitative probabilities … Thus if the animal spirits are dimmed and the spontaneous optimism falters … enterprise will fade and die.25. Be that as it may, Crotty, without explicitly making the point, enables us to see that Keynes was an instinctive dialectician. The idea was that a mechanism needed to be put in place to provide a permanent stimulus to the economy. We have no clear idea laid up in our minds beforehand of exactly what we want. In the early twentieth century, he believed, it had entered a phase in which private enterprise could no longer reliably generate full employment, rising living standards, or socially useful investment. This paragraph is riddled with class-neutral terms. Keynes characterised religion as not only a personal experience of communion, but also as the pursuit of a better world for all people, although he showed some ambivalence about how this better world might come about, ultimately adopting a position similar to that of the nineteenth-century Christian Socialist Movement, to which he was connected through the Cambridge Apostles. Its dreary, out-of-date, academic controversialising seems so extraordinarily unsuitable as material for the purpose.”. Younger people in particular are increasingly likely to view “socialism” as a viable and appealing alternative to the profit-driven market system that dominates our economic, political, and social institutions. For them Marx is more than someone to be read in a graduate seminar, and radical scholarship is more than something to pad out a CV. Some might think that he was overly optimistic in supposing that the professionalism of the technocratic class, its commitment to public service, and a bureaucratic ethos that fosters creativity and experimentation would do the trick. 5 June 2019 — Michael Roberts. Regulation of all kinds (but especially regulation of financial markets), minimum-wage laws, labor unions, the social safety net, Keynesian demand-management policies — all of these once-routine features of postwar capitalism have been the targets of sustained ideological attack. James Crotty is emeritus professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This question had already occupied continental scholars for some time and was the focus of lively discussion at the London School of Economics. Britain’s nineteenth-century economy drew its vigor from new inventions and their adaptation to profitable purposes, from population growth, and from the opening of global markets. Keynes did not wish to merely save capitalism ‘from itself’ but to replace it with ‘Liberal Socialism’. However, this simply isn’t so. He cites Lawrence Klein, an early champion of Keynesian economics and a future Nobel laureate: “Marx analyzed the reasons why the capitalist system did not and could not function properly, while Keynes analyzed the reasons why the capitalist system did not but could function properly. Critiques of capitalism. Socialism comprises those tendencies, forces, and institutions that blunt, mitigate or adapt market relations to social goals. The looming dire threat of climate change has prompted calls for a Green New Deal.36 The realization of such a project would require the adoption of an ambitious and optimistic political vision like the one Keynes put forward. Crotty describes at considerable length Keynes’s proposal to expand public control over investment. Keynes was an English economist, who came to prominence for his writings on the turbulent inter-war period. Crotty concludes “Keynes was unabashedly corporatist.”  Indeed – I would add that his concept of corporatism was not dissimilar to that actually being implemented in fascist Germany and Italy at the time. But Keynes felt that the risk in Britain was remote. Some, like Michael Zweig stayed true to a radical vision. Monetary policy, even highly aggressive monetary stimulus, will therefore be powerless to jump-start growth: public investment on a large scale is needed. Despite their disavowal of revolutionary politics, they absolutely doted on Joseph Stalin, whose show trials and mass executions Shaw defended: But the top of the ladder is a very trying place for old revolutionists who have had no administrative experience, who have had no financial experience, who have been trained as penniless hunted fugitives with Karl Marx on the brain and not as statesmen. “Keynes’ book, End of Laissez-Faire, was his most pronounced and clearcut advocacy of socialism.” [Keynes at Harvard] In this book, “Keynes boldly declares: In fact, we already have in these cases many of the faults as well as the advantages of State Socialism. Winter 2020. This definitely was not a short-term government stimulus program designed to ‘kick-start’ a temporarily sluggish economy and then let free enterprise take over.”22 One significant achievement of Crotty’s book is its demonstration beyond a doubt that Keynes’s overarching objective was to make a case for a program of national economic planning. Keynes became the mastermind behind the economic structure of British and American socialism. But once it is determined that market capitalism needs to be well managed, the questions of how and for whom it is to be … But Mann reserves “Keynesianism” proper for a stance to the left of center but short of socialism — reformism, more or less. Without hesitation, he said, “as the truth”!. Is it possible that beneath the rah-rah attitude of the Democratic Party left toward a Green New Deal, there’s not much beyond the kind of formulas encapsulated in Mongiovi’s paragraph above? Military Keynesianism kept industrial demand high, not only in the arms sector, but also in the subsidiary industries that supplied that sector with materials and parts. He characterized Das Kapital as “an obsolete economic textbook which [is] not only scientifically erroneous but without interest or application for the modern world.”19 To George Bernard Shaw he wrote in 1934: “My feelings about Das Kapital are the same as my feelings about the Koran. Keynes as a Theorist of Structural Change, Enterprise, Uncertainty, and the Socialization of Investment, John Maynard Keynes, “Liberalism and Labour,” in, John Maynard Keynes, “The End of Laissez-Faire,” in. ( Log Out /  For him, Marxism was to be condemned for “exalting the boorish proletariat above the bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia, who are the quality in life and carry the seeds of all human advancement.” A good capitalist wants to own all of the means of production so they can maximize profits. A few high points will serve to dramatize the depth and extent of Keynes Fabian immersion. Perhaps realizing that the grounds for calling Keynes a socialist are tissue-thin, Mongiovi takes the tack that labels are not that important: I doubt that there is much to be gained by trying to pin a label like “liberal” or “socialist” onto Keynes — he was too exuberant a thinker to be put into a box. Keynes' work found popularity in developed liberal economies following the Great Depression and World War II, ... acted as a middle-way for many developed liberal capitalist economies to appease the working class in lieu of a socialist revolution. And it was, moreover, the result of massive targeted infusions of demand into the global economy by the government of the United States. He boldly claims, ‘Keynes envisaged and espoused a particular form of socialism’ and ‘it is clear, explicit and unambiguous; he used the term socialism to characterise his own views’ (1999, pp. He was not mainly preoccupied with taming the business cycle: his ultimate objective was to bring about a radical transformation of our economic system. Given all the projects I have taken on, it would not be worth my time or that of my readers. IV.3, p.323-338). Not surprisingly, workers and consumers have not fared well over the past four decades; their real incomes have stagnated, and their economic lives have become alarmingly insecure, while capital has seen its share of national income grow and its tax burden decline. This paper addresses the controversy over Keynes’s political thought. It puts you in the same camp as the staff of the Jerome Levy Institute at Bard College, a school well-known for its housebroken faculty. No 4 Marxism portal. Indeed, Michael Roberts pointedly refers to Crotty’s admission that “Keynes was unabashedly corporatist.”. “England is in a state of transition,” he wrote, “and her economic problems are serious. The standard interpretation is that Keynes was a great liberal. Even a thousand page book would not exhaust Keynes’ Fabian trail. The system of planning that he had in mind would not, and indeed must not, hobble “the constructive energy of the individual mind, [or hamper] the liberty and independence of the private person.”31, Crotty gives the impression, perhaps inadvertently, that Keynes was an isolated voice. (Read parts one and two) Hayek, credit and the crisis. I doubt that there is much to be gained by trying to pin a label like “liberal” or “socialist” onto Keynes — he was too exuberant a thinker to be put into a box. Keynes was not advocating half measures. He understood, sensibly, that muddling through is an unavoidable aspect of all human activity. He pushed for such a board again in the early 1930s when he served on the famous Macmillan Committee to formulate a response to the problems confronting the British economy. Robert Skidelsky writes, “Keynes was a lifelong liberal” and “He was not a socialist” (2009, 135, 157; 1992, 233; 2000, 478).4 Contrary to Skidelsky, important Keynes scholars have aligned him with socialism.5For example, Rod O’Donnell writ… Leave no doubt that Keynes was much more a socialist than the typical interpretation would lead on to believe. The central institution Keynes envisioned for this function was a Board of National Investment, an idea he first put forward in the late 1920s when he helped to draft a Liberal Party report on Britain’s Industrial Future. Change ), You are commenting using your Google account. During that so-called postwar Golden Age, unemployment was low, productivity growth and profitability were high, and real wages grew in step with productivity; business investment was robust, and the economy grew at a healthy clip. John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes CB FBA (/ k eɪ n z / KAYNZ; 5 June 1883 – 21 April 1946), was a British economist, whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments. Instead, Keynes “Keynes was building a case to replace it [capitalism] with a form of democratic socialism in which most large-scale capital investment spending would be undertaken by the state or by quasi-public entities.” All this would unfold in a “gradual transition, through a process of trial and error, to a planned economy.” According to Keynes’ biographer, Robert Skidelsky, it would be “an interconnected elite of business managers, bankers, civil servants, economists and scientists, all trained at Oxford and Cambridge and imbued with a public service ethic, would come to run these organs of state, whether private or public, and make them hum to the same tune.”. Keynes argued that investment, which responds to variations in the interest rate and to expectations about the future, is the dynamic factor determining the level of economic activity. Like the rest of the Fabians, he saw socialism as a project to be carried out by a modern version of Plato’s philosopher-kings who would administer a mixed-economy state. Socialist economics. Rod O’Donnell has already made a persuasive case that Keynes was a socialist in his philosophical outlook, his political orientation, and his economics. He characterized Das Kapital as “an obsolete economic textbook which [is] not only scientifically erroneous but without interest or application for the modern world.” To George Bernard Shaw he wrote in 1934: “My feelings about Das Kapital are the same as my feelings about the Koran. Again in February 1918, Keynes admitted to “being a Bolshevik.”6 The famous journalist Clarence W. Barron, founder of Barron’s magazine, met Keynes in 1918 and recorded: “Lady Cunard says Keynes is a kind of socialist and my judgment is that he is a Socialist … The real radical of the Keynesians at Cambridge was Joan Robinson. Keynes’s writings are shot through with evidence of his engagement with capitalism as a dynamic, evolving system, one that had, by the early decades of the twentieth century, arrived at an existential crossroad. The decision of OPEC (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) to raise oil prices triggered both a deep recession and an inflationary spiral; the extended episode of stagflation put mainstream Keynesianism on the defensive. Instead, it is more important to define socialist in terms of a criterion that can be applied to a state like Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Many believe that John Maynard Keynes was a communist or a socialist. It is beyond the scope of this article to offer a critique of John Maynard Keynes or James Crotty’s new book. While unfettered trade undoubtedly inflicts considerable harm on large numbers of workers, protectionism and economic insularity also have undesirable consequences that Crotty ought to have addressed. The main problem, however, is that Keynes had no coherent theory of the state, as Mongiovi’s review and presumably Crotty’s book show. At such places, Hyman Minsky is taken in large doses and a smidgen of Karl Marx is thrown in just to add some spice to the stew. In an important new book Keynes Against Capitalism: His Economic Case for Liberal Socialism (Routledge, 2019) James Crotty argues that Keynes was a socialist who advocated a much more radical economic agenda than most mainstream economists and political analysts realize. Again in February 1918, Keynes admitted to “being a Bolshevik.”6 The famous journalist Clarence W. Barron, founder of Barron’s magazine, met Keynes in 1918 and recorded: “Lady Cunard says Keynes is a kind of socialist and my judgment is that he is a Socialist of the type that does not believe in the family.”7 Vol 3 Crotty marshals all of the available evidence and sets it out in an exceedingly clear way. He did not always take the trouble to reconcile the views he expressed in one context, while in a particular frame of mind, with the views he expressed in other contexts, while in a rather different mood. Instead, what Keynes believed was that there were certain times that the government would need to … Keynes was no radical, and it is a stretch to claim he was. He also maintained that deliberate government action could foster full employment. He was critical of the sloppy application of orthodox ideas to complex real-world circumstances, but he was no renegade. If we want to rely on the private sector to do the job, investment will have to increase. Socialist Education Bulletin, Nº 1, July 1973. Robert Skidelsky portrays Keynes as a liberal who wanted to save capitalism. Change ), You are commenting using your Twitter account. We may be on the eve of great changes in her social and industrial structure … The most serious problems for England have been brought to a head by the war, but are in their origins more fundamental. His vision of a democratically guided economy that serves the needs of people rather than those of capital is as relevant now as it was in the first half of the last century. And many, of course, suffered for their principles. He was actively opposed to socialism, Bolshevism, and the Russian Revolution, proudly declaring that, “the class war will find me on the side of the educated bourgeoisie.” At the start of his review, Mongiovi recapitulates what most of us, including me, think of Keynes. This essay argues that Crotty’s interpretation of Keynes has a great deal of merit: Keynes’s economics is indeed more radical than commonly thought, and it has considerable relevance for the Left today. Keynes, the conventional story goes, sought not to dismantle capitalism but to reform it; he recognized that, contrary to the precepts of orthodox neoclassical economics, market forces are not reliable guarantors of full employment and robust growth. Capitalist economies, he argued, routinely deliver suboptimal levels of employment. But investment spending depends on business expectations of future consumption demand; if the share of consumption spending in aggregate income is shrinking, private-sector enterprises are unlikely to anticipate levels of future demand adequate to stimulate a sufficiently high level of investment. Apparently, Crotty’s book is a corrective to this false characterization. In a shrewd analysis of Crotty’s book, Michael Roberts identified the elitist bent: As Crotty puts it, Keynes’ central point was that the emerging importance of the system of public and semipublic corporations and associations combined with the evolution of collusive oligopolistic relations in the private sector already provided the foundation for a qualitative increase in state control of the economy. Crotty marshals all of the available evidence and sets it out in an exceedingly clear way. A common argument adduced against socialism is that the removal of the profit motive blunts the incentive to take the kinds of risks that lead to innovation and growth. Lynn Turgeon, the heterodox economist who died in 1999, saw corporatism as a system that was not inherently progressive. This inter… Far from wanting to rehabilitate capitalism, Keynes was building a case to replace it with a form of democratic socialism in which most large-scale capital investment spending would be undertaken by the state or by quasi-public entities. They weren’t people to compromise. by michael roberts. He bend economic science into a socialist direction, without changing anything fundamental about the discipline. His purpose in writing his 1936 masterwork The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money was to understand why slumps occur, and to identify remedies to contain their destructive force. I know that it is historically important and I know that many people, not all of whom are idiots, find it a sort of Rock of Ages and containing inspiration. Keynes was not a Socialist. This makes complete sense because capitalism is inherently monopolistic. Keynes is kind of a perfect example of this. 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