postmodernism and neoclassical economics

Michael Yates mikey+ at
Wed Feb 3 03:35:43 PST 1999


Actually, though, doesn't supply-side economics go back to the arguments of J.B. Say? And is not the labor conomics notion that educating workers, training them, etc. will get them jobs and higher wages a supply-side notion too?

michael yates

Doug Henwood wrote:
> Michael Yates wrote:
> >Friends,
> >
> >In a review of "In Defence of History: Marxism and the Postmodern
> >Agenda" (edited by Ellen Wood and John Foster, Monthly Review 1997),
> >economics professor, Yanis Varoufakis of the Univ. of Sydney, says,
> >
> >"Come to think of it, the asymptotic limit of postmodern fragmentation
> >is the neoclassical general equilibrium economic model. In both cases,
> >the only admissible social explanation springs from differences in
> >preferences (and if identities are freely chosen, in identities) which
> >are constructed in such a manner that they ban any comparison across
> >persons. As for social relations, these are reduced to interplay,
> >voluntarism and exchange. Freedom is defined in negative terms, and
> >structural exploitation is axiomatically rendered meaningless. Above
> >all else, both neoclassicism and postmodernity espouse a radical
> >egalitarianism that is founded in the rejection of any standard by which
> >the claims of one group (or one person) are more deserving than those of
> >another. Moreover, both fail to provide a principle that promotes, in
> >the context of their radical egalitarianism, respect for the other's
> >difference or utility. If indeed postmodernity is analytically
> >indistinguishable (at least in the limit) from neoclassical economic
> >method, is there any doubt about this book's pertinence? After all, the
> >whole purpose underpinning the emergence of the neoclassical economic
> >project, at a time when Marx's "Capital" was beginning to bite, was to
> >rid economics initially, and social science later, of history."
> The claim that "postmodernism" is against history is itself pretty strange,
> to anyone who thinks of Foucault as "postmodern." But this formulation
> pushes postmodernism's birth back to the late 19th century, which is a bit
> of a stretch, no? You could argue that neoclassical economics is almost
> high modern, in the sense of Eliot or Schoenberg, in its devotion to rigor
> and abstraction from the quotidian. Supply-side economics is more
> postmodern - an ad hoc, devious invention scrawled on a cocktail napkin, so
> wacky it *had* to be ironic.
> Doug

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