My friend Nick Schulz notes that Brad DeLong and Yglesias aren’t quite on the same page either.
And this is a good moment to notify Corner readers that there is a new, excellent, group blog up at AEI. It’s hosted by the American magazine and run by Nick (an occasional Corner contributor). I wish to impress upon Nick the full power of this fully operational Death Star blog, so please check out the Enterprise Blog when you can — by which I mean right now.
Update: And there’s this from a reader:
You’re letting Yglesias out of the corner he painted himself in.
Marx didn’t talk about various crisises (or whatever J). He talked about A crisis. A huge one from which ‘capitalism’ could not recover (period, full stop). End of its era as a productive force and the only way for it to continue would be via massive repression by the wealthy class (in which the poor would be dirt poor)… or its overthrow. In this, he looks stupid today. He even looked stupid in his day (the social democrat splinter started because some socialists doubted “the crisis of capitalism” would happen).
“the idea that wealth and power have a tremendous ability to gin up self-justifying narratives.”
Marx’s entire thesis is an example of a self-justifying narrative… of the unproductive vs. those he considered to have power (the wealthy). Man, what groups does that remind us of today (hint: hence the term Cultural Marxist)…
Update: And another reader responds:
Your reader doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Marx did talk about various, repeated crises as a feature of capitalism, in addition to the final crisis in which workers would overthrow bourgeois capitalists. Here’s a quote from the Communist Manifesto:
“Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. For many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modern productive forces against modern conditions of production, against the property relations that are the conditions for the existence of the bourgeois and of its rule. It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the entire bourgeois society on its trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of the existing products, but also of the previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed. In these crises, there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity — the epidemic of over-production.”
Marx thinks that crisis in endemic to capitalism–that capitalism necessarily overproduces, collapses, acquires new markets, overproduces more, collapses more profoundly, etc.
There is much that Marx is wrong about, but his general claim that capitalism is prone to crises of overproduction (e.g., housing) seems supported by the facts. Your reader should actually consult the texts before he goes around calling one of the most important intellectuals of the 19th century “stupid.”
Update III: Here’s a nice middle ground position, from a reader:
You could (and maybe should) carry your criticism of Yglesia’s silly argument further. Marx didn’t simply predict cyclical crises, he predicted a fatal crisis of capitalism. His economic theory is founded on the labor theory of value, holding that the value of an item is what is put into it rather than its exchange value. On this basis he predicted an irreversible impoverishment of the proletariat that would lead to a cataclysmic struggle ushering in a new age; he could not foresee real economic growth (at least growth beyond industrial technological improvements). His theory of capital crises has only the loosest relation with our current credit freeze. Moreover, the classical and medieval world had known paralyzing credit crises, so they are hardly a purely post-industrial phenomenon.
The second point, regarding ideology, is very poorly thought out. Marx’s insight wasn’t that people rationalize their belief. He believed that dialectical materialism offered a sound epistemology from which to criticize liberal-bourgeois false consciousness. This fundamentally devalues the autonomous thought of other members of a political community. I seriously doubt Yglesia’s wants to subscribe to any strong notion of Marx’s account of ideology.
Obviously some people feel clever when they say “naughty” words like “Marx,” which apparently excuses serious engagement with what those words, and the underlying ideas, mean.