What new economic thinking?

Posted: 11 April 2011 in Uncategorized
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Tiago is participating in the Bretton Woods conference of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, where he notes the perfunctory nods to history and the confusion about what if anything is new.

Therefore, he is reminded of the quip from The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte:

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

If Tiago had continued, he might have found an even more appropriate description for the events unfolding in the venerable hotel:

The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language. Thus Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789-1814 draped itself alternately in the guise of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now 1789, now the revolutionary tradition of 1793-95. In like manner, the beginner who has learned a new language always translates it back into his mother tongue, but he assimilates the spirit of the new language and expresses himself freely in it only when he moves in it without recalling the old and when he forgets his native tongue.

That may be the problem: the economists assembled at the foot of Mount Washington continue to translate what little they have learned into the mother tongue of their existing concepts and models, thereby conjuring up the “spirits of the past” instead of taking their ideas from the future.

  1. Anarcho says:

    I should note that Marx is here (as is often the case) echoing something Proudhon argued at the start of the 1848 French revolution. Sadly, his comrades on the left did not listen — although it seems that someone in Germany paid attention to his point….

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