Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Anti-Delong: Postscript

In my last post I didn't touch on DeLong's other "explanation" for Marx's errors. I'll do this quickly--it's a minor thing, in some ways, but telling.

DeLong thinks Marx and Engels were led astray by the spectacle of hardship in pre-1850 Manchester, which he claims was not representative of England as a whole. He then writes:
Parliament began to regulate conditions of employment in the 1840s. Parliament began to regulate public health in the 1850s. Parliament doubled the urban electorate in 1867, just as volume 1 of Capital was published. Parliament gave unions official sanction to bargain collectively in the 1870s.
Has DeLong read--heck, has he even heard of--Chapters 10-15 of Capital? Marx was hardly unaware of these developments. Moreover, he even has a theory about their cause. He chalks them up to the working class getting organized! Parliament did not swoop down from on high bearing gifts--working class struggle predates and motivates all legislative victories, on Marx's account.

This goes back to what I previously called DeLong's belief in independent state action. It must be nice to be a neoliberal Keynesian who believes that intelligent and benevolent legislation will be the salve and the salvation of the worker--so long as it is directed by neoliberal Keynesians.

The final, ironic coda on DeLong's worship of the benevolent state is his closing line, in which he attributes Marx's late-born interest in Russia to, among other things, "the failure of the Paris Commune and the founding of the French Third Republic," without bothering to mention that the "failure" of the Paris Commune was its failure to withstand bombardment by the French Third Republic! After which, the French Third Republic demonstrated its benevolent feelings towards its working class citizens by summarily executing an estimated 30,000 of them (while arresting, deporting, and/or executing perhaps another 50,000 in the aftermath).


Matt said...

This is all very nice. I'm not sure if you saw DeLong's completely dishonest, even by his pretty low standards, "reply" to Chris Bertram, where he makes crazy claims that are completely and obviously not supported by Bertram's post about what Bertam must think is good in Marx. Sometimes DeLong is useful, and I was glad for his criticism of Bush (though it was made less useful by his tedious style), but his dishonesty and hack approach to anyone to his left (and his dishonesty in the comments) makes him barely worth reading most of the time.

Will Roberts said...

No I hadn't seen it--just read it now. I have no opinion of DeLong's honesty or lack thereof, generally, and I'm actually not very interested in him as a singular person. But he does represent a current within liberalism (and within academia) that is much broader and deeper than himself, and, as such, he's interesting.