Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Science and scientificity in the Negatives Denken - Schumpeterbuch

The problem with the late-romantic critique of capitalism is that it confuses its social relations of production with the positivism of “science and technology”, and the problem with the late-romantic critique of positivism is that it confuses it with capitalism. The strategic political need of the bourgeoisie to identify social relations with relations between things, or in other words “to reify” social reality, is what is behind this pervasive and deleterious critical deficiency because the rule of the bourgeoisie, like every rule, to the extent that it is political is also dependent on the violent control over material production, and to the extent that it controls material production must also depend on political legitimacy. The Marxian notion of “social relations of production” is all here: it is meant to emphasize the political continuity between the “social relations” (the political, social, cultural and religious aspects) of the society of capital and the fact that capitalism is a specific mode of political domination that relies almost exclusively on the exchange of political freedom for material production, or in other words on the absurd “exchange” of living activity with its “pro-ducts”, that is, with “dead labour”. The difference between “the freedom of the ancients” and “the liberties of the moderns” (Benjamin Constant and John Locke, the founders of liberalism) is that the former was based on the democratic participation of all citizens to political decision-making in the State whereas the latter is based on the protection on the part of a state apparatus (a civil and military bureaucracy) of the “private rights” of citizens to their possessions: under capitalism, “freedom” has been reduced to the legal claim over possessions – to “liberty”, or to what we call “free-dom” or “greed-dom”.

Bourgeois late-romantics – whom Weber called disparagingly “literati” - pine for the “freedom” that their own political violence has reduced to “greed-dom” by shifting the blame for this reduction to an “impersonal” or “neutral” perpetrator, the positivism of “science and technology” – absurdly transforming thereby a political reality into the very “techno-scientific” reification that they seek to denounce!


Our aim in this piece is to illustrate through an exposition of Schumpeter’s pseudo-scientific “methodological individualism”, the real capitalist political strategy that constitutes its ultimate foundation. The “science” intended by Schumpeter is that of the negatives Denken from Hobbes through Schopenhauer to the Austrian School and beyond. It is a neo-Kantian, Berkeleyan-Machian or “idealist-empiricist” notion of science that differs significantly from the Galileo-Newtonian science that preceded the Industrial Revolution when the bourgeoisie was still consolidating its social power and needed to justify its hegemony as the fruit of “labour”. The universe of Galileo and Newton is a divine creation whose secret laws are amenable to human discovery by virtue of the fact that humans have been gifted with the divine powers of Reason. The task of Science is therefore to discover in Nature the divine “rational laws” or “order” by which Nature is bound through the faculty of Reason that humans have been bestowed by the Divinity. Human beings therefore do not “make” these laws, they exist independently of humanity because they are of divine origin and yet they are accessible to humans by virtue of the faculty that they share with the divinity – Reason. Science is therefore the application of human reason to the discovery of the divine laws that govern it and Nature: consequently, science must be subordinate to Reason, values must prevail over facts. This is an essentialist or objectivist science in the sense that the universe is governed by laws independent of the human ability to discover them: in the Galileo-Newtonian worldview, Nature and Reason, Object and Subject, are separate yet interdependent entities. Although human reason is able to discover the laws by which Nature is governed, due to the faculty of free will – liberum arbitrium – and its “arbitrariness”, its “voluntariness”, and therefore the human ability to prefer Evil over Good, human affairs could never be classified in accordance with the same Ratio-Ordo, the same rational order, with which the Divinity had crafted the universe.


The “rationality” of the laws governing nature – the rationality of science and the corresponding “rational order” of Nature – could be established and proven only upon condition that the rules of Reason themselves could be proven unconditionally or ab-solutely, that is to say, according to a principle that was itself so certain as to be devoid of or independent of any rational proof. Yet such an intuitus originarius (Leibniz, Kant) is by definition not accessible to human reason and must therefore exist without rational proof. Already Adam Smith (in The History of Astronomy) had attacked the Newtonian worldview on the grounds that Humean scepticism showed how “metaphorical” – and therefore “conventional” - its supposedly “universal laws of physics” were in reality: human reason, let alone science, could not survive the application of its own principles to itself! Both the Cartesian cogito – a fallimentary attempt at syllogism – and the Kantian formalism of the Categorical Imperative so cruelly derided by Nietzsche hinted at the coming ex-haustion (or com-pletion, Heidegger’s Voll-endung) of the summum bonum of Western metaphysics – the identity of value and fact, of the rational and the real. First Machiavelli, then Hobbes and Vico established long before Nietzsche that the “truth” of human reason was not “ab-solute” in any divine sense external to human beings but was ab-solute and certain precisely to the degree that it could be imposed “conventionally” or symbolically – that is to say, “by definition” – by human beings themselves by virtue of their actions. Human reason was “true” not in the sense that its truth was “universal” or “ab-solute” (a legibus soluta), but rather on the inverse principle that it was entirely “arbitrary”: it is the very arbitrariness or conventionality of human principles that assures us of their absolute certainty! Scientific truth becomes thereby the ability of some human beings to assert their interests over other human beings by force if necessary. (The devastating finality of what we have called “Nietzsche’s Invariance” is all here – cf. our Nietzschebuch at scribd.com.)


Kant described his idealism as “critical” because it traced the limits of human knowledge set by the impenetrability of the thing-in-itself; and he called it also “trans-scendental” because the validity of human reason can be deduced only as a requisite of its formal consistency and not by its identification with its Object (the famous Scholastic adaequatio rei et intellectus). But the very fact that the thing-in-itself is unknowable decrees the absolute “futility” of both pure and practical reason and of metaphysics altogether. Kant believed to have traced the limits of human knowledge, but the effect of his philosophy was to establish conclusively that no Object could delimit any longer the use of knowledge as the application of the power of the Subject. This is the real reason why his idealism is “transcendental”. But if the Subject no longer knows or admits of a non-Subject or Object, a natural order, that can sub-ordinate the Subject by the power of its over-arching rationality (Kant designated this with the architectural term “contignatio”) – the ab-solute primacy of the Ratio-Ordo -, the question then arises of how this power of human action is to be governed and restrained inter homines, between Subjects. Herein lies the mortal danger of solipsism: If “man is the measure of all things”, what then is the measure to be applied by some men to other men? As Nietzsche poignantly observes in the Genealogie der Moral, man’s experiments on nature are like nothing compared with those conducted by some men on other men – for the simple reason that if “science” is the rationalization of human domination over nature, then the ultimate abuse of nature is that perpetrated by some men against other men who are also an indivisible part of nature. Our central point here is that there is nothing at all “rational” about this Rationalisierung because it consists solely in the subordination of human living activity to an abstract rule – logical and political – that can be given a quantifiable form.


The problem with the Vichian verum ipsum factum is that if truth is to be found in human actions themselves, then the end not only justifies and sanctions but also actually ascertains and verifies the means and the means ascertain and verify the end: if truth is certainty, then even the most diabolical violence can be true so long as its outcomes are certain! Both Galileo and Newton in the physical sciences, as well as Machiavelli in political theory, had taken care to distinguish the laws of nature from the laws governing human affairs. After Hobbes, Vico and Kant, and finally with Mach, the two realms become indistinguishable because certainty, not truth, is the object and limit – the objective - of science: hence, we have a politics of science and a science of politics. The problem with positivism as the bourgeois philosophy par excellence is not so much that it substitutes values with facts (cf. Koyre, From Closed World to Infinite Universe, and Husserl’s Crisis lecture) or that it con-fuses the two (Kirchhoff): the real problem is that Positivism as a philosophy of science means that the truth of human action is no longer “science” but certainty, that is, the effectuality of domination and violence. The capitalist bourgeoisie was the first historical agency to put this principle into political practice by giving the name “science and technology” to its politically-enforceable and politically certain objectives.


Not certainty itself is the problem, then; the problem is the object of certainty – its political objective - and the violence that the bourgeoisie must exert to demonstrate the certainty, and therefore the factuality or “truth”, of its political objectives. Schumpeter was entirely conscious of the “arbitrariness” of the abstract rules (again, intended in a logical and a political sense) that subtend bourgeois “economic science”:


Pure static economics is nothing but an abstract picture [or model] of certain
economic facts, i.e. a schema that should serve as a description about them. It
depends on certain assumptions, and in this respect, it is a creation of our
arbitrariness, just as every exact science is. … [But] this does not prevent
theories from fitting facts. (Schumpeter, 1908, 527; trans. by Shionoya, 1997,


But the “theory” that fits the facts relies on a reality, social and institutional, that has been created and shaped by capitalist violence such that “the facts fit the theory” – this is the incestuous facticity of bourgeois science whereby theoria is subordinated to praxis. The schemata, the frame-work of bourgeois science, then, does not simply “describe” reality, as Schumpeter wrongly believes: rather, its axiological essence serves the essential purpose of prescribing the shape that reality must take if bourgeois rule is to prevail! The “arbitrariness” to which Schumpeter refers is not the Scholastic liberum arbitrium or the humanist and idealist “freedom of the will” or freedom “of choice”! In the Hobbesian axiological and mechanical paradigm of the negatives Denken, freedom is not contrary to “reason” intended as calculative rationality, it is not “irrational” or “unpredictable” or “indeterminate”: emphatically, it is not “freedom of choice”! As Weber argued, a “choice” is “free” when it is “rational”, not when it is “irrational”, because an “irrational” choice must have been conditioned by factors beyond the control of the decision-maker and therefore it must be “un-free”. It is not “choice” that determines “freedom” but “freedom” understood as “free-dom” that determines or conditions “choice”. For Weber and Schumpeter, as for the entirety of the negatives Denken, free-dom is the ability to make rational decisions, not the ability to choose rationally or irrationally. It follows inescapably therefore that mechanical rationality is the true foundation and origin of “freedom”: and mechanical rationality is possible only if it relates to “individuals” whose irresoluble conflict with one another, the ineluctable clash of their self-interests, “reduces” their freedom to free-dom and their conduct to that of the “inert bodies” of mechanical physics by making their living activity quantifiable through sheer political violence!


Political “freedom” is conceivable in this schema only as the “free-dom” of self-interested individuals. And the ultima ratio of human conduct must be the preservation of one’s life in a world in which individuals in the state of nature will destroy humanity itself because of their unbridled cupidity. The Rationalisierung as intended by the negatives Denken therefore is the exact opposite of humanistic freedom because it is instead the expression of free-dom intended as “the clash of wills” of atomistic selfish individuals - as “dis-enchantment” (Ent-zauberung), as the relinquishment of any and every illusion about the freedom of the human will, the abandonment of any sentimentality about the inviolability and invincibility of the human spirit as a universal goal! (The inability to grasp this crucial point is perhaps the biggest lapse in Karl Lowith’s interpretation of Weber’s work in Max Weber and Karl Marx. Specifically, Lowith confuses Weberian dis-enchantment and Marxian alienation in that the former concept is ineluctable whereas the latter contains its own dissolution or supersession.)




The market mechanism described by the axioms of neoclassical equilibrium theory and marginal utility that only apparently does away with ethico-political considerations in favour of the “productive efficiency” of its paradigm, by eliminating Objective Value, the subject-matter of economic theory, can artificially and arbitrarily limit and confine the ambit, the sphere, of economic science away from its metabolic aspects. The daft excuse opined by Joan Robinson that “a one-to-one map of reality is useless” again marginalizes the reality of production as metabolic interaction and reduces the problem of the ethico-political effectuality of theory to one of “neutral scientific usefulness”, of “universal human instrumentality”. But the very essence of an instrument or a tool rests on the human agency in whose hands it is held! Whereas in the case of market process it is the facts themselves that impose the theory of market process as the ec-sistence of equilibrium, as its extrinsication, unfolding and implementation; in the case of equilibrium, from the perspective of equilibrium analysis, it is the theory itself, its schema, that selects and frames the facts and fits them to a particular Vision or Frame-work of social reality. Schumpeter always conceded the “arbitrariness” of this process:



The whole of pure economics rests with Walras on the two
conditions that every economic unit wants to maximize utility and
that demand for every good equals supply. All his theorems follow
from· these two assumptions. Edgeworth, Barone, and others may
have supplemented his work; Pareto and others may have gone
beyond it in individual points: the significance of his work is not
thereby touched. Whoever knows the origin and the workings of
the exact natural sciences knows also that their great achievements
are, in method and essence, of the same kind as Walras'. To find
exact forms for the phenomena whose interdependence is given us
by experience, to reduce these forms to, and derive them from, each

other: this is what the physicists do, and this is what Walras did. (TGE 79)



The Hobbesian roots of this “scientific” framework are unmistakeable: human beings pursue their self-interest in violent conflict with one another and until the exhaustion of all available resources – in other words, to the verge of total civil war (bellum omnium contra omnes). The “measure” of utility is the ability of each individual to impose violently his will and self-interest on others. In this context, the mechanical rationality of Walrasian and Neoclassical equilibrium theory does not describe an “objective reality”, an “essence” or “goal” of the economic system as the maximization of “welfare” or “common-wealth”, but is rather a benchmark, a blueprint against which to measure the effectuality of actions based on possessive individualism. The analytical axiomatic framework of equilibrium theory sets out axiologically – that is to say, prescriptively, not descriptively! - the “rational limits” or “domain” of human action that need to be applied in the “space” of social con-vention outside of which only the bellum civium, the Hobbesian civil war of all against all, is possible. This framework sets out both the axiological hypothetical limits or boundaries of human action and the “tendencies” of conventional agreement based not on a common humanity, on inter esse, but on the “fear of death” held by each individual at the hands of every other individual. The ultimate equality of human beings, as Hobbes established, lies in the fact that each individual is capable of murdering another individual! Within these axiological limits or boundaries, only the “exchange” of existing individual possessions or endowments is possible because any pro-duction of new goods and services would only demonstrate the impossibility of “agreement” by market agents about their respective entitlements to the new pro-ducts!


Infallibly, then, “rationality” is not a neutrally or scientifically determinable quality: rationality is the sheer violence of quantifying human action. The “integration of theory and history” that we find in Marx and whose absence many critics decry in Schumpeter pre-supposes the interpretation of “choice” or human agency as the expression of the “convergence of human interests” in the preservation of this very “freedom”. At the very least, this “freedom” implies the existential unpredictability of human decisions (Heidegger’s “possibility” or, as Weber would say, their “irrationality”). Yet what is peculiar about the “pure” framework of analysis of Neoclassical Economics is precisely the absence of such universal humanistic “freedom” and certainly of its telos of Reason as inter esse (Hegel, Marx) in the sense that the “freedom” of human choice or agency as an existential and ontological reality is limited and circumscribed instead by the equal “free-dom” of each individual will, and is therefore turned into the “necessity” and “co-ercion” of human conflict (not free con-vention and agreement): the “freedom” of economic theory is not a “rationalist” Freedom epitomized by the Freiheit of Classical German Idealism as a faculty that human beings share and that reveals the identity and community of their interests as members of the human race; it is not the Augustinian initium or a common human faculty that in its uniqueness leads to communion, to comunitas, the inter esse of a common humanity, founded on the notion of the soul of Judaeo-Christian religion and the free will of Western metaphysics; and it is not even the existentialist “contingency” of Nietzsche, Heidegger and Sartre or the “uncertainty” of Knights and Keynes. It is instead a “mechanically rational” free-dom, a “room to manoeuvre” (Weber’s Ellenbongsraum) or “living space” - the ineluctable conflict of the Euclidean-Galilean mechanical scientific hypothesis of Hobbesian political theory dictated by self-preservation and self-interest.



It is the very impossibility of finding both theoretically or scientifically and practically or politically a conventum, a “social harmony” or “agreement”, or an objective measure of social equality or “development” – a social synthesis -, it is this impossibility of establishing a universal, objective, scientific theory of capitalist development, let alone a universal human goal – a summum bonum – in the interests of Power, against the Ohn-macht of late-romantic existentialisms or humanisms, that necessitates for Schumpeter the recourse to a rigid instrumental theoretical measure such as that of equilibrium theory that preserves the scientific economic status of the Dynamik by anchoring it to the axiological mechanical foundations of the Statik! This is why for Schumpeter the Dynamik can never be reconciled with the Statik: this is why for him the two theoretical frameworks must remain logically contradictory and practically incompatible. Consciously or not the Austrian economist himself recognized the impossibility of bridging this particular hiatus irrationale between Statik and Dynamik because, for one, he believed that social reality is irreconcilably and immutably conflictual so that no “theory” (Statik) can ever correspond to “history” (Dynamik), and, consequently, any attempt or claim to such integration would mean that the “reason” in “history” was not just “instrumental” but “teleological” or “metaphysical”, giving rise therefore to a “prophetic rationalism” that Schumpeter, like Weber, always imputed to and impugned against Marx’s own theory of capitalism and of history (cf. “Marx the Prophet” in CS&D). The “reason” in Schumpeter’s notion of “histoire raisonnee” is entirely “instrumental” and not “teleological” as in the “prophetic-dialectical” Marx (or indeed in Hegel and even in Husserl [philosophy as totality] and Heidegger [philosophy as thinking rather than thinking as technique, p.240, Pathmarks, “Letter on Humanism”]).



The scientific hypothesis is the rationality that co-erces action into “rationalization” in the sense that human institutions cannot escape or evade the boundaries of this mechanical rationality. Clearly, the axiomatic framework of the scientific hypothesis lacks the “friction” that is provided by social metabolic interaction and therefore it cannot found the convention of its individual agents. The only social convention allowed by Neoclassical Theory is the “negative” one of the mutual compulsion exerted by the clash of wills. This is not “freedom” in any “idealistic” sense; it is “free-dom” in an antagonistic and conflictual sense – it is “creative Destruction” where “creative” is merely the attribute but the noun is “Destruction”! It is “free-dom” in a negative sense, not “con-structive” freedom but “de-structive”, antagonistic “free-dom” in the sense hypothesized by Hobbes at the beginning of the negatives Denken. It is incorrect to say then that Schumpeter leaves out antagonism from his Dynamik: the antagonism, the conflict, are still there; but they are not seen from a rationalist-humanistic standpoint, in such a way, that is, that their resolution or supersession is contained dialectically in the definition of the “object” of the conflict itself (the com- of competition, the con- of conflict, the polemos, the disputandum, the “bone of contention”, the “apple of discord”).











The aim of “economic science” for Schumpeter is not to describe “reality”, because reality is very different from the scientific framework constructed to analyze it. Science is not a “closed system” of the type “whenever x, then y, where x is a dependent variable or function of y”. This kind of “closedness” (Ab-schluss) is in fact a tautology, as Bohm-Bawerk showed to the detriment of Marx, because the effect follows necessarily from the definition of the cause (in Marx’s “transformation problem” observable market prices in aggregate are determined by unobservable labour values in aggregate, making the empirical proof of the theory a mere article of faith). Every theory that seeks to de-fine, to de-limit social reality as a “totality” must by that very reason renounce all practical application – because such practical or instrumental application can be made effectual only by renouncing the “totality” of the theory, by renouncing the claim of theory to be able to reconcile human interests, of being non-partisan, of being “neutral”. For Schumpeter the only neutrality possible for economic theory is not that of being a “totalizing” science but that of being an instrument, a tool – indeed, in his own definition falsely attributed to Joan Robinson but in fact derived from Ernst Mach, economics is, like all science, “a box of tools”.


[O]ur objects of investigation are certain relations of dependence or functional relations.
The fact that economic quantities stand in such relations to one another legitimizes
their separate treatment provided that they are uniquely determined . . . If a system
of equations yields absolutely nothing but the proof of a uniquely determined interdependence,
this is already very much: it is the founding stone of a scientific structure.

(Schumpeter 1908: 33 – 4)


At the interface of scientific model or schema and its extrinsication in social reality lies the “tendency”. Science is an open system if its hypotheses represent tendencies that furnish a guide to action by warning against the necessity of the economic system, its “closedness”. The closed theory is “a box of tools”, a frame-work from which hypotheses can be derived with which to frame and to correct reality according to one’s will. The aim of science is to provide “a box of tools” needed to correct reality or at least to take into account the ineluctable conflict contained in its axioms when we attempt “to bring them into being”, to pro-duce them or turn them into reality, into ec-sistence.


[Can capitalism survive?] What counts in any attempt at social prognosis is not the Yes or No that sums up the facts and arguments which lead up to it but those facts and arguments themselves. They contain all that is scientific in the final result. Everything else is not science but prophecy. Analysis, whether economic or other, never yields more than a statement about the tendencies present in an observable pattern. And these never tell us what will happen to the pattern but only what would happen if they continued to act as they have been acting in the time interval covered by our observation and if no other factors intruded. Inevitability” or “necessity” can never mean more than this.

What follows must be read with that proviso. But there are other limitations to our results and their reliability. The process of social life is a function of so many variables many of which are not amenable to anything like measurement that even more diagnosis of a given state of things becomes a doubtful matter quite apart from the formidable sources of error that open up as soon as we attempt prognosis. These difficulties should not be exaggerated, however. We shall see that the dominant traits of the picture clearly support certain inferences which, whatever the qualifications that may have to be added, are too strong to be neglected on the ground that they cannot be proved in the sense in which a proposition of Euclid’s can.


Once again, bourgeois science is neither a Sein nor a Sollen: it is a Mussen. For it, whatever is rational is real because the “real” is not a Kantian Is or Ought but rather a Must: it is the way the world must be for the bourgeoisie to maintain the rule of dead labour over living labour by means of the wage relation.


Fast möchte ich sagen, dass die konkreten Resultate für meinen Zweck von nur sekundärer Bedeutung sind. Jedenfalls strebe ich, wie gesagt, nicht systematische Vollständigkeit an. Kur eine verhältnismäßig kleine Zahl von grundlegenden Sätzen soll vorgeführt werden. Im Zentrum steht das Gleichgewichtsproblem, dessen Bedeutung vom Standpunkte praktischer Anwendungen der Theorie nur gering, das aber fundamental für die Wissenschaft ist. In Deutschland ist ihm nicht hinlängliche Beachtung geschenkt worden und es ist von Wichtigkeit hervorzuheben, daß es die Basis unseres exakten Systemes ist. Die Tausch-, Preis-und Geldtheorie und deren wichtigste Anwendung, die exakte Verteilungstheorie, basieren darauf und ihnen ist der größte Teil der folgenden Ausführungen gewidmet. Diese Dinge bilden jenen Teil der Nationalökonomie, der für exakte Behandlung reif und dem eine solche bisher zuteil geworden ist.
Meine Darstellung beruht auf der fundamentalen Scheidung zwischen „Statik" und „Dynamik" der Volkswirtschaft, ein Punkt, dessen Bedeutung nicht genug betont werden kann. Die Methoden der reinen Ökonomie reichen vorläufig nur für die erstere aus, und nur für die erstere gelten ihre wichtigsten Resultate. Die „Dynamik" ist in jeder Beziehung etwas von der „Statik" völlig verschiedenes, methodisch ebenso wie inhaltlich. Gewiß ist jene Scheidung nicht neu, (Introduction to Das Wesen und der Hauptinhalt der theoretischen Oekonomie).


It is also true to say that once the bourgeoisie has managed to subsume the entirety of social reproduction to capital and has therefore established a veritable “society of capital” – a society in the image and likeness of the wage relation -, then and only then for it “whatever is real has now also become rational”!



Simply pathetic is Joan Robinson’s attempt to combat this Rationalisierung with the romantic-existentialist and humanist protestations about the irreversibility of time – cf. her “Time in Economic Theory” in On Re-Reading Marx and “History vs. Equilibrium” [– or indeed Tony Lawson’s bemoaning of the loss of “reality” in bourgeois economic theory]. This from the theoretician who described economics as “a box of tools” and derided the Classical notion of Value as “metaphysical”! For the negatives Denken it is precisely the elimination of “metaphysical” notions such as “time as history” - the “spatialisation” and mathematisation of time decried by Bergson and Heidegger - that is one of its greatest achievements! Only by eliminating the “experience” of time, the “reality” of time, the “metabolic content” of human living activity – even time as kairos rather than chronos, or worse still even in its ethereal version as Husserlian epoche’ or Bergsonian duree – could the Neoclassics hope to establish general equilibrium as an “exact science” founded on a system of simultaneous equations! (Cf. Colletti’s complete incomprehension of this problematic in his misguided attempt to correct the Marxian notion of value with neo-Kantian epistemology in “From Bergson to Marcuse” in Marxism and Hegel.)


This is a point that completely escapes Lawson in his assessment of “the confused state of equilibrium theory” because he is too preoccupied with the idea that a “closed” system simply abstracts from the “contingency” of “existence” or “reality” – hence, the title to his work, “Economics and Reality”! For Lawson, and for Moura, a system is “closed” if it does not allow for “contingency”, if it presumes to predict the future and thereby banishes “history”. But this “prediction” is the property of all nomothetic social sciences, and Lawson’s objection is both pathetic in the face of the brutal violence of the bourgeoisie and unwarranted because no “science” is possible except as a theoretical framework for a given political practice! Of course, even Heidegger would not share Lawson’s “existentialist humanism”, the petulant pretense, reminiscent of Sartre, that “human beings are free”, that they have “choice”! (Cf. Heidegger’s Letter on Humanism.) Lawson has simply misunderstood Heidegger entirely because “freedom-toward-death” is a property of Da-sein and not necessarily of human beings. In essence, Da-sein is only “possibility”: it is the “free-dom” of Hobbes and Schopenhauer or at best the “liberty” of liberalism (Locke, Constant), not the “freedom” of philosophical rationalism from Plato to Rousseau and Marx; and it is certainly not the teleological Freiheit of Classical German Idealism.



The problem with these critiques of Neoclassical Theory is not that they are wrong but rather that they entirely miss the point of the political purpose behind the theory! It is the effectuality of “economic science” that we must examine, not its theoretical shortcomings or logical inconsistencies – for all theories are internally inconsistent and even Robinson opined that “a one-to-one map of reality is useless”. But a map of “reality” serves the purposes of those who draw it – it is never “neutral”, and that is the point that the obtuse Robinson could not see because she was too busy caviling at the “flaws” in bourgeois economic theory when in fact they were “strategies”. These people still believe that it is possible “to humanize” economics without changing its real subject-matter – “the economy”, the frame-work of violence as imposed by the bourgeoisie!


Schumpeter’ s scientific hypothesis is simultaneously a logical requirement of the concept of pure competition and the practical implementation of the concept, which is what makes it “logical” yet not “closed” or self-referential and therefore tautologous. To repeat, a closed system is one in which the final effect is connected by definition to the initial cause so that cause becomes effect and effect becomes cause – a circulus vitiosus. Here instead the real outcome of a concept is the result of its practical implementation and causality plays no role whatsoever in the connection between concept and reality. The outcome is what must occur if the concept is to be realized; but there is no causality between the concept and its realization. Hence, economic science cannot tell us what to do; it can tell us only what we must do if we wish to attain a particular goal. It is this instrumental purpose dictated by the inevitable conflict or clash of wills in society that is theorised by economic science and that can be applied to the reality of society to achieve stated goals. Equilibrium theory assumes that all economic agents are equal participants in the process of market competition both formally and materially. Dynamic theory instead assumes that for the system to escape the stagnant gravitational pull of competitive forces keeping the system at equilibrium there must be “frictions”, sociological and historical, that arise from the operation of the market process itself and that lead it away from theoretical equilibrium. Both these theories can be “pure” but the latter can be so only in the sense that it considers the empirical operation of economic agents in the social network.


The transition between equilibrium points cannot be pure in the same manner of static analysis but only in the sense that it takes into account the “real operation” of competitive conflict at its interface with the social system. Schumpeter tries to capture the “purity” of the Dynamik by focusing on the necessity of innovation as the ex-pression of profit-seeking pure competition – that is to say, on the necessary implication that the “purity” of competition in equilibrium analysis must be relinquished the minute the analysis comes into contact or “friction” with reality. It can be argued that the “necessity” or pre-supposition (Heidegger’s famous Zurucktritt where he comes closest to Hegelian dialectics) of this “friction” is what preserves the conceptual “purity” of the Dynamik itself! (Cf. Bobbio’s similar argument with regard to Kelsen’s “pure theory of law” requiring not just the concept of State and People, but also that of “co-action” or “enforcement”! The purity of the perfect mechanism is lost when somebody has to switch it on [Da Hobbes a Marx, p.65]. Bobbio’s discussion of Macpherson on Locke is a brilliant exposition of these points with regard to their different interpretations of the state of nature.)


This is a passage that displays the conceptual hiatus between the “determinateness of prices” in equilibrium analysis, because they are “relative prices” or mere “exchange rates”, in a static schema that admits of no “transformation”, of no metabolism, of no pro-duction, and the “indeterminateness of prices” in a dynamic process that allows of such transformation. The reason that compels Schumpeter to use equilibrium as a benchmark, as a “centre of gravitation” (Schumpeter uses the term “Gravitationszentrum” in the Theorie) or “neighbourhood of equilibrium”, is precisely the need to anchor the bourgeois analysis of the economic system as a historical and institutional market process to a “scientific frame-work”, one in which prices at the very least appear to be determinable, at least sufficiently to yield “interesting results” (Schumpeter’s phrase), that is to say, to guide economic policy for the bourgeoisie in accordance with the fundamental postulates and axioms of its worldview – the view of “labour as disutility” (see our “Capitalist Metaphysics” on this central notion in the praxis of the bourgeoisie) and possessive individualism! 





From the point of view of the market process, equilibrium analysis is the logico-mathematical schema or “anchor” that allows prices to be determined, however “approximately” or “asymptotically”. Equilibrium therefore encapsulates the “tendency” of the capitalist economic system to gravitate around its core ethico-political and institutional imperatives and objectives. The trans-crescence or mutation of the economic system must be formalized by “crystallizing” this political process with its social antagonism into a “scientifically and logico-mathematically predictable or exact pattern”. The ability to formalize reality is an indication of the ability to control it! (Cf. Heidegger in “Postscript to ‘What is Metaphysics?’ in Pathmarks at p.235:


“Calculative thinking compels itself into a compulsion to master everything on the basis of the correctness [we should say, effectuality] of its procedure.”)


This is why both Schumpeter and the rest of the Austrian School of economic theory always held tight to the notion of “equilibrium” even when they denounced its “unattainable” character. That is why Schumpeter and the Austrian School hold steadfastly to the fantastic notion that it is possible to gravitate or to reach the neighbourhood of, and to display the tendency to equilibrium – as if this were a “process” of a series of quantitative approximations to equilibrium – without ever being able to reach it – because otherwise the conceptual inconsistency of the market process with the equilibrium schema would be entirely evident: a “metabolic process” can never be a “logical schema”; and vice versa! (On Schumpeter’s Dynamik as “a series of approximations”, see Moura.)

1 comment:

  1. The connections you make between philosophy and economic thought seem very apt for the most part. But what do you make of the Austrian School's claim to an Aristotelian influence? Take for example this paper by Barry Smith: http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/articles/menger.html

    It seems that Smith is putting Austrians into the essentialist ("reflectionist"), Galileo-Newtonian camp and trying to distance them from the "impositionism" of Kant and Mach.