Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday 22 September 2011

Between Love and Evil: The Misadventures of Economic 'Science'

Thematically at least, one of the most impressive and instructive films I ever saw is Werner Herzog's version of Nosferatu, The Vampyr. The unsuspecting inhabitants of a Germanic township along what seems like the Danube river are infected with the bubonic plague virus when a boat ferrying Nosferatu the vampire with his loyal servants, the rats that carry the plague virus, docks in its tiny port. Nosferatu is pursuing a lady whose photograph he saw when her unfortunate husband visited his castle on a business visit and has already infected her husband with vampirism by drinking his blood. The lady, who for our purposes personifies Love, has been warned of the imminent Evil visiting her fragile world and tries to alert the town's authorities about its source - the Count Nosferatu who has just arrived with his boat. But the municipal scientist dismisses her warnings contemptuously because - as everyone knows - there is no "scientific" explanation for Evil.

Yet we know that Evil exists! Science, you see, can fail us when we most need it. Its "rationality" is its very "limit" - because it cannot account for human motives and aspirations and intentions. The very fact that so-called "economic science" takes for its starting point as vapid and "metaphysical" a notion as "marginal utility" offers ample proof of its utter irrelevance to the life of societies and of our world!

As it turns out, the Lady in Nosferatu manages to detain the Count until after sunrise and therefore kill him: but her Love prevents her from destroying her own husband, who then survives her and is free to ride out into the wilderness and infect more townships with his pestilential virus! The moral is: neither Science nor Love can free us from Evil: we must be ever vigilant with human motives.

If you look at the Paul Krugman piece linked below, you will find that the Nobel Laureate (the Scientist) from the height of his immaculate "humanistic" motives, is unable to explain why his fellow "economic scientists" are repeating the same mistakes their predecessors made in the Great Depression. What Krugman does not com-prehend is that capitalism has absolutely nothing to do with "Science" where its "interests" are concerned: and those "interests" have everything to do with "profits" - in other words, with the command of dead objectified labour (capital) over the living labour of workers, of the people who pro-duce the wherewithals for the reproduction on an expanded scale of the society of capital. To continue to exist as "capital" this dead objectified labour needs to be able to be "exchanged" for the living labour of workers, without which it cannot be "valourised" and be used to command even more living labour. The meaning of "profits" is all here!

Until he realises that capitalist society is necessarily and fundamentally antagonistic, Krugman will forever keep wondering "why they just do not understand"!

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