Past and present

Posted: 4 February 2013 in Uncategorized
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NPG 6518; Historians of 'Past and Present' by Stephen Frederick Godfrey Farthing

Reading Daniel Little’s commentary of the history of the British Marxist historical journal Past & Present, I was reminded of the differences between economics and history—and, for that matter, between economics and all other academic disciplines.

Little demonstrates that it’s possible for a non-Marxist professor of Philosophy (and now university chancellor) to write a sympathetic review of an avowedly Marxist journal—and a journal that, notwithstanding the fact that it was originally organized by members of the British Communist Party, included among its editors and contributors a wide variety of non-Marxist historians.*

Can you imagine something similar in Economics? Not a chance! What distinguishes the discipline of Economics from history and all other disciplines in the social sciences and humanities is the fact that there is a hegemonic theory—neoclassical economics—that is taken by its adherents to be the sole arbiter of what is and is not economic science. With very few exceptions, Marxist economic theory and analysis are not taught, published, or funded within the discipline. And, again with very few exceptions, mainstream economists do not evince any sympathy for, much less contribute articles to or participate in conferences organized by, the kinds of journals that regularly publish Marxist economics.

Unfortunately, that is both the past and present of the discipline of economics. Perhaps the current crises of capitalism, which were in part created by the hegemony of neoclassical economics, will change that for the future.

*The August 1983 issue of Past & Present includes two articles covering the history of the journal—one by Marxists Christopher Hill, R. H. Hilton, and Eric Hobsbawm, the other by the non-Marxist Jacques Le Goff.

  1. Sheldon says:

    Daniel Little may not consider himself a Marxist today, but I used to have a book of his, probably his published doctoral dissertation, The Scientific Marx, from the analytical marxist perspective which argued that Marx’s work should be considered genuine social scientific work. I also remember his old-websites with articles arguing for a Marxist perspective…. But of course your broader point is well taken.

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