Underpinning Einstein’s theory of relativity is the philosophical argument that it is both possible and desirable to view a particular event from a multiplicity of points of view to gain a comprehensive understanding of the processes embodied in that event.
If this is the case, then it might also be argued that it is both possible and desirable to view any particular historical and economic event from a multiplicity of points of view. This would be as revolutionary a development in economics as Einstein’s theory was in physics.
Both classic economics and the Marxist variant, promote a singular subjective perspective on structure and meaning of economic systems. Their purpose, openly stated or covertly implied, is to promote the political, moral and cultural system they are representative of.
The formal purpose of capitalist economics is to run the system at its most efficient , it’s covert aim to justify capitalism as the dominant system. The overt purpose of Marxism is to produce a critique of capitalism that will lead to its being abandoned as a consequence of its internal contradictions. Its covert aim is to justify historical attempts to create alternatives to capitalism.
In order to work, both capitalist economics and Marxism need a protagonist, an archetypal hero from whose singular perspective we can see the world and whose actions we can subjectively identify with. This is the real identity politics.
For capitalists the hero of the story is well ,.. The Capitalist who daringly risks all to bring wealth up from the depths of the darkness -a variation on the Prometheus narrative. For Marxists the hero of the story is The Worker whose toil in the mines is the real producer of wealth.
Effectively, both socialism and capitalism are operatic arias in the Wagnerian mode, with two main characters competing for The Ring of Wealth, claim and counter-claim, war, deception and betrayal all part of the story…
In a small accommodation with reality there has been a recognition of this subjective limitation and attempts to modify both classic and Marxist economics. Keynesianism explicitly criticised classic economy from the perspective that it had no macro economic analysis, that it was limited and partial. Marxism also criticised classical economics from the same perspective.
In turn, classical economics responded by broadening the fields of economic activity that it covered and even integrated elements of both Marxism and Keynesianism to produce the modern hybrid that passes for mainstream economics today. At the same time neo liberalism explicitly critiqued Marxist planned economy for offering a limited and distorted perspective on the real world. Only the market was capable of gathering and processing enough information to make the system work it claimed.
Classic economics and Marxism have historically attempted to compensate for narrowness of vision by reaching for an ever more comprehensive breadth of subject matter. Their final strategic purpose is to claim that the point of view they represent is capable of encompassing all of experience. In other words, both capitalism and socialism claim to be universal theories.
This strategy really amounts to nothing more than a form of semantic trickery that exploits the confusion between taking something into account and adequately accounting for something. An analysis undertaken on this basis degenerates into nothing more than description in the form of an ever expanding list of complaints that classic economics makes about Marxist economics and Marxism makes about classic economics.
But neither capitalist economics or Marxism can overcome the fundamental problem that they are subjective in both analysis and purpose- they are in essence particular points of view.
In the back and forth diatribe of mutual complaint each philosophy implicitly recognises the value and need for the other as each seeks new territory to colonise at the expense of the other. Both competing analyses move from old to new battlefields as they become available for domination, seeking both to justify their own existence and to nullify the existence of their opponents.
This is the operation of a dialectic; the domination of thought through the application of a controlled conflict- a drama- a demi-urge.
The last major episode in this opera was the credit crunch. Marxist economics went on the offensive, seeking to gain advantage in this period of capitalism’s distress. In response neo- Classic economy sought to spin events in such a way as to justify itself. Perhaps unsurprisingly classic and Marxist have managed to fight each other to what is effectively a stalemate. Both boxers now winded and bloody, have retired to corners for a chest rub and a pep talk from their respective managers…
The central question now is: Do we wish to invite both protagonists back for a further round of conflict? Would there be any purpose, political or intellectual, in continuing a boxing bout that seems to have stalled in mutual exhaustion? If subjective political economy has nowhere left to go, what can emerge to take its place?
The economic model I propose does not rely on a representation of any particular group as the main protagonist in history and economy. I don’t seek to make The Capitalist the hero of history or The Worker either. On the contrary I am now arguing that there is no such thing as The Capitalist as a concrete economic agent. There is no such thing as The Worker either. They are both literary inventions of Germanic culture. This is where culture meets economics.
Nobody ever in the history of the world ever created capitalist wealth through undertaking risk. Nobody ever in the history of the world ever created capitalist wealth through undertaking labour. Both these ideas are literary fictions.
Instead I am arguing that the only way that capitalist wealth is created is that it is extracted and accrued through the operation of money forms, that is denuded versions of money. These money forms create and operate their own distribution networks within society and economy that allow the extraction of wealth.
Individual or group economic power and significance comes from the extent to which one has access to one or more money forms and is able to utilise them to extract wealth.
This analysis seeks to represent Germanic capitalism from a multiplicity of perspectives to show both action and reaction in any given transaction. We no longer need to be bound to this or that heroic perspective or this or that litany of complaint and counter-complaint.
But there is a price to be paid for this insight. Because in such a model the struggle for economic power becomes a zero sum game. Power is fixed in quantity and quality. If power accrues to one then it necessarily is taken from to another. Wealth cannot be created as in a Germanic literary fantasy.
Just as Einstein’s theory was able to capture the multiplicity of relative motion through the adoption of a constant the speed of light so this model of money requires a constant – that of wealth. Wealth in this model is not created, that is the absolute barrier that cannot be broken through.