Neo-Marxian economics

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The terms neo-Marxian, post-Marxian and radical political economics were first used to refer to a distinct tradition of economic theory in the 1970s and 1980s that stems from the Marxian economic thought. Many of the leading figures were associated with the leftist Monthly Review School.

Marxian economics school of economic thought

Marxian economics, or the Marxian school of economics, is a heterodox school of economic thought. Its foundations can be traced back to the critique of classical political economy in the research by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxian economics comprises several different theories and includes multiple schools of thought, which are sometimes opposed to each other, and in many cases Marxian analysis is used to complement or supplement other economic approaches. Because one does not necessarily have to be politically Marxist to be economically Marxian, the two adjectives coexist in usage rather than being synonymous. They share a semantic field while also allowing connotative and denotative differences.

<i>Monthly Review</i> socialist journal published monthly in New York City

The Monthly Review, established in 1949, is an independent socialist magazine published monthly in New York City. The publication remains the longest continuously published socialist magazine in the United States. The journal has an impact factor of 0.460, ranking 107th out of 161 journals in the category "Political Science".



In industrial economics, the Neo-Marxian approach stresses the monopolistic and oligarchical rather than the competitive nature of capitalism. This approach is associated with Michał Kalecki, Paul A. Baran and Paul Sweezy. [1] [2]

Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power rests with a small number of people. These people may be distinguished by nobility, wealth, family ties, education or corporate, religious, political, or military control. Such states are often controlled by families who typically pass their influence from one generation to the next, but inheritance is not a necessary condition for the application of this term.

Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system and competitive markets. In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investments are determined by every owner of wealth, property or production ability in financial and capital markets, whereas prices and the distribution of goods and services are mainly determined by competition in goods and services markets.

Michał Kalecki Polish economist

Michał Kalecki was a Polish economist. Over the course of his life, Kalecki worked at the London School of Economics, University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and Warsaw School of Economics and was an economic advisor to the governments of Poland, France, Cuba, Israel, Mexico and India. He also served as the deputy director of the United Nations Economic Department in New York City.

Theorists such as Samuel Bowles, [3] [4] David Gordon, John Roemer, Herbert Gintis, Jon Elster and Adam Przeworski have adopted the techniques of neoclassical economics, including game theory and mathematical modeling, to demonstrate Marxian concepts such as exploitation and class conflict. [5] The neo-Marxian approach integrated non-Marxist or "bourgeois" economics from the post-Keynesians like Joan Robinson and the neo-Ricardian school of Piero Sraffa.

Samuel Bowles (economist) American economist

Samuel Stebbins Bowles, is an American economist and Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he continues to teach courses on microeconomics and the theory of institutions. His work belongs to the neo-Marxian tradition of economic thought. However, his perspective on economics is eclectic and draws on various schools of thought, including what he and others refer to as post-Walrasian economics.

David Gordon (economist) American economist

David M. Gordon was an American economist and Professor of Economics at the Graduate Faculty of the New School for Social Research. He founded the Institute for Labor Education and Research in 1975 and later the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis in New York City. Gordon worked to disseminate progressive economic ideas to the general public and to contribute to the development of a left-political movement in the United States. Gordon's work dealt mainly with discrimination and labor market segmentation. He coined the term social structure of accumulation which gave rise to an extensive body of work on the impact of political, social and economic institutions on long-term investment and growth.

John E. Roemer is an American economist and political scientist. He is currently the Elizabeth S. and A. Varick Stout Professor of Political Science and Economics at Yale University. Prior to joining Yale, he was on the economics faculty at the University of California, Davis, and before entering academia Roemer worked for several years as a labor organizer. He is married to Natasha Roemer, with whom he has two daughters, and lives in New York City.

Polish economists Michał Kalecki, Rosa Luxemburg, Henryk Grossman, Adam Przeworski and Oskar Lange were influential in this school, particularly in developing theories of underconsumption. While most official communist parties denounced neo-Marxian theories as "bourgeois economics", some neo-Marxians served as advisers to socialist or Third World developing governments.

Rosa Luxemburg Polish Marxist theorist, socialist philosopher, and revolutionary

Rosa Luxemburg was a Polish Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist, anti-war activist and revolutionary socialist who became a naturalized German citizen at the age of 28. Successively, she was a member of the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania (SDKPiL), the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD) and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD).

Henryk Grossman was a Polish economist, historian, and Marxist revolutionary active in both Poland and Germany.

Adam Przeworski is a Polish-American professor of political science. One of the most important theorists and analysts of democratic societies, theory of democracy and political economy, he is currently a full professor at the Wilf Family Department of Politics of New York University.

Despite being an orthodox Marxist economist, Maurice Dobb was also associated with this current.

Maurice Herbert Dobb was a British economist at Cambridge University and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He is remembered as one of the pre-eminent Marxist economists of the 20th century.

Specific arguments

Big business can maintain selling prices at high levels while still competing to cut costs, advertise and market their products. However, competition is generally limited with a few large capital formations sharing various markets, with the exception of a few actual monopolies (such as the Bell System at the time). The economic surpluses which result cannot be absorbed through consumers spending more. The concentration of the surplus in the hands of the business elite must therefore be geared towards imperialistic and militaristic government tendencies, which is the easiest and surest way to utilise surplus productive capacity.

Big business involves large-scale corporate-controlled financial or business activities. As a term, it describes activities that run from "huge transactions" to the more general "doing big things". The concept first rose in a symbolic sense after 1880 in connection with the combination movement that began in American business at that time. United States corporations that fall into the category of "big business" as of 2015 include ExxonMobil, Walmart, Google, Microsoft, Apple, General Electric, General Motors, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase. The largest German corporations as of 2012 included Daimler AG, Deutsche Telekom, Siemens, and Deutsche Bank. Among the largest companies in the United Kingdom as of 2012 are HSBC, Barclays, WPP plc, and BP. The latter half of the 19th century saw more technological advances and corporate growth in additional sectors, such as petroleum, machinery, chemicals, and electrical equipment.

Bell System telephone service provider

The Bell System was the system of companies, led by the Bell Telephone Company and later by AT&T, which provided telephone services to much of Canada and the United States from 1877 to 1984, at various times as a monopoly. On December 31, 1983, the system was divided into independent companies by a U.S. Justice Department mandate.

Economic surplus economic supply that exceeds demand

In mainstream economics, economic surplus, also known as total welfare or Marshallian surplus, refers to two related quantities. Consumer surplus or consumers' surplus is the monetary gain obtained by consumers because they are able to purchase a product for a price that is less than the highest price that they would be willing to pay. Producer surplus or producers' surplus is the amount that producers benefit by selling at a market price that is higher than the least that they would be willing to sell for; this is roughly equal to profit.

Exploitation focuses on low wage workers and groups at home, especially minorities. Average earners see the pressures in drive for production destroy their human relationships, leading to wider alienation and hostility. The whole system is largely irrational since though individuals may make rational decisions, the ultimate systemic goals are not. The system continues to function so long as Keynesian full employment policies are pursued, but there is the continued threat to stability from less-developed countries, throwing off the restraints of neo-colonial domination.

Position on the labor theory of value

Baran introduced the concept of "economic surplus" to deal with novel complexities raised by the dominance of monopoly capital. With Paul Sweezy, Baran elaborated the importance of this innovation, its consistency with Marx's labor concept of value and supplementary relation to Marx's category of surplus value. [6]

According to Baran's categories, "[a]ctual economic surplus" is "the difference between what society's actual current output and its actual current consumption" and hence is equal to current savings or accumulation. "Potential economic surplus", in contrast, is "the difference between that output that could be produced in a given natural and technical environment with the help of employable productive resources, and what might be regarded as essential consumption". Baran also introduced the concept of "planned surplus"—a category that could only be operationalized in a rationally planned socialist society. This was defined as "the difference between society's 'optimum' output available in a historically given natural and technological environment under conditions of planned 'optimal' utilization of all available productive resources, and some chosen 'optimal' volume of consumption". [7]

Baran used the surplus concept to analyze underdeveloped economies (or what are now more optimistically called "developing economies") in his The Political Economy of Growth.

See also

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Paul Marlor Sweezy was a Marxian economist, political activist, publisher, and founding editor of the long-running magazine Monthly Review. He is best remembered for his contributions to economic theory as one of the leading Marxian economists of the second half of the 20th century.

Paul A. Baran American Marxist economist

Paul Alexander Baran was an American Marxist economist. In 1951 Baran was promoted to full professor at Stanford University and Baran was the only tenured Marxian economist in the United States until his death in 1964. Baran wrote The Political Economy of Growth in 1957 and co-authored Monopoly Capital with Paul Sweezy.

Marxism Economic and sociopolitical worldview based on the works of Karl Marx

Marxism is a theory and method of working-class self-emancipation. As a theory, it relies on a method of socioeconomic analysis that views class relations and social conflict using a materialist interpretation of historical development and takes a dialectical view of social transformation. It originates from the works of 19th-century German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

Value product

The value product (VP) is an economic concept formulated by Karl Marx in his critique of political economy during the 1860s, and used in Marxian social accounting theory for capitalist economies. Its annual monetary value is approximately equal to the netted sum of six flows of income generated by production:

The tendency of the rate of profit to fall (TRPF) is a hypothesis in economics and political economy, most famously expounded by Karl Marx in chapter 13 of Capital, Volume III. Economists as diverse as Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, David Ricardo and Stanley Jevons referred explicitly to the TRPF as an empirical phenomenon that demanded further theoretical explanation, yet they each differed as to the reasons why the TRPF should necessarily occur.

Surplus economics is the study of economics based upon the concept that economies operate on the basis of the production of a surplus over basic needs.

John Bellamy Foster is a professor of sociology at the University of Oregon and also editor of Monthly Review. He writes about political economy of capitalism and economic crisis, ecology and ecological crisis, and Marxist theory. He has given numerous interviews, talks, and invited lectures, as well as written invited commentary, articles, and books on the subject.

James R. Crotty is an American Post-Keynesian macroeconomist whose research in theory and policy attempts to integrate the complementary analytical strengths of the Marxian and Keynesian traditions. He has made contributions to the social structure of accumulation (SSA) theory; the implications of radical uncertainty for macro theory and theories of financial markets.

Stephen Alvin Resnick was an American heterodox economist. He was well known for his work on Marxian economics, economic methodology, and class analysis. His work, along with that of Wolff, is especially associated with a post-Marxist and post-Althusserian perspective on political economy.

Criticisms of Marxism

Criticisms of Marxism have come from various political ideologies and academic disciplines. These include general criticisms about a lack of internal consistency, criticisms related to historical materialism, that it is a type of historical determinism, the necessity of suppression of individual rights, issues with the implementation of communism and economic issues such as the distortion or absence of price signals and reduced incentives. In addition, empirical and epistemological problems are frequently identified.

Ronald Lindley Meek, also known as Ron Meek, was a Marxian economist and social scientist known especially for his scholarly studies of classical political economy and the labour theory of value. During the 1960s and 1970s, his writings had a strong influence on the Western academic discussion about Marx's economic theory.

Richard D. Wolff American economist

Richard David Wolff is an American Marxian economist, known for his work on economic methodology and class analysis. He is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and currently a Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University in New York. Wolff has also taught economics at Yale University, City University of New York, University of Utah, University of Paris I (Sorbonne), and The Brecht Forum in New York City.

<i>Monopoly Capital</i> book by Paul A. Baran and Paul Sweezy

Monopoly Capital: An Essay on the American Economic and Social Order is a book by Paul Sweezy and Paul A. Baran published in 1966 by Monthly Review Press. It made a major contribution to Marxian theory by shifting attention from the assumption of a competitive economy to the monopolistic economy associated with the giant corporations that dominate the modern accumulation process. Their work played a leading role in the intellectual development of the New Left in the 1960s and 1970s. As a review in the American Economic Review stated, it represented "the first serious attempt to extend Marx’s model of competitive capitalism to the new conditions of monopoly capitalism." It attracted renewed attention following the Great Recession.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to economics:

<i>The Theory of Capitalist Development</i> book by Paul Sweezy

The Theory of Capitalist Development is a 1942 book by the Marxian economist Paul Sweezy, in which the author expounds and defends the labor theory of value. It has received praise as an important work, but Sweezy has also been criticized for misrepresenting Karl Marx's economic theories.


Neo-Marxism encompasses 20th-century approaches that amend or extend Marxism and Marxist theory, typically by incorporating elements from other intellectual traditions such as critical theory, psychoanalysis, or existentialism.

Surplus value is a central concept in Karl Marx's critique of political economy. "Surplus value" is a translation of the German word "Mehrwert", which simply means value added, and is cognate to English "more worth". Surplus-value is the difference between the amount raised through a sale of a product and the amount it cost to the owner of that product to manufacture it: i.e. the amount raised through sale of the product minus the cost of the materials, plant and labour power. Conventionally, value-added is equal to the sum of gross wage income and gross profit income. However, Marx uses the term Mehrwert to describe the yield, profit or return on production capital invested, i.e. the amount of the increase in the value of capital. Hence, Marx's use of Mehrwert has always been translated as "surplus value", distinguishing it from "value-added". According to Marx's theory, surplus value is equal to the new value created by workers in excess of their own labor-cost, which is appropriated by the capitalist as profit when products are sold.

Crisis theory, concerning the causes and consequences of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall in a capitalist system, is now generally associated with Marxist economics.


  1. Baran, P. and Sweezy, P. (1966). Monopoly Capital: An essay on the American economic and social order, Monthly Review Press, New York.
  2. Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler. Capital as power: a study of order and creorder . Taylor & Francis, 2009, p. 50.
  3. Samuel Bowles, "Post-marxian economics: Labour, learning and history", Social Science Information, Volume 24 (3): 507, SAGE – Sep 1, 1985.
  4. Richard D. Wolff and Stephen Cullenberg, "Marxism and Post-Marxism", Social Text 15 (Fall 1986), 126–135.
  5. Barry Stewart Clark, Political economy: a comparative approach, ABC-CLIO, 1998, p. 67.
  6. Baran, P.A. & Sweezy, P.M. (2012). "Some Theoretical Implications". Monthly Review. 64 (3).
  7. Baran, Paul A. (1957). The Political Economy of Growth. New York: Monthly Review Press. pp. 22–23, 41–42.