Economics and power : a Marxist critique


    • Palermo, Giulio


Economics and power : a Marxist critique

Giulio Palermo

(Routledge frontiers of political economy, 210)

Routledge, 2016

  • : hbk

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Includes bibliographical references and index



In the economic debate, power is defined and studied mainly as an interpersonal relation occurring out of perfect competition. This is a consequence of the combination of methodological individualism and the assumption of competition as a natural and everlasting coordinating mechanism, operating without any sort of coercion. This methodology, however, is not adequate to analyze the forms of social coercion that characterize capitalism. Economics and Power criticizes the main theories of power developed in economic literature, analyzing ultraliberal contractualism to radical political economics, and ultimately suggesting a Marxist conception of power and coercion in capitalism. Palermo's ontological argument is rooted in the philosophy of 'critical realism'.This unique volume presents his main finding as being that the essential coercive mechanism of capitalism is competition. Capitalist power is not caused by a lack of competition, but by the central role it plays in this mode of production. Following this, the chapters reconstruct a Marxian conception of power where it is analyzed as a social relation and argues that perfect competition does in fact exist under the disguise of capitalist power. This book criticizes the construct of power and the underlying ideas surrounding perfect competition. This book is of interest to those who study political economy, as well as economic theory and philosophy.


Foreword and acknowledgements 1. Introduction The dimensions of power in social sciences The unidimensional view of power in economics Methodological choices and ontological necessities Historical materialism, exploitation and social coercion Marx's critique of capital and the critique of power Structure of the book PART I. POWER IN ECONOMICS 2. The economic debate on power The contractual approach of Alchian and Demsetz Williamson's transaction costs economics The property rights approach of Hart and Moore The radical political economics of Bowles and Gintis Golfberg's institutional perspective The terms of the debate 3. Power and post Walrasian economics Post Walrasian economics From Walrasian to post Walrasian economics The theoretical results of Walrasian economics The role of perfect competition in the debate on power Conclusions 4. Power demystification The categories of post Walrasian economics As-if economic history History and efficiency Free contracting, imperfections and class relations Exchange without production Production, circulation, and the free trader vulgaris Scientific research and cultural hegemony Conclusions PART II. THE ONTOLOGY OF CAPITALIST POWER AND THE COERCIVE LAW OF COMPETITION 5. Marx's critique of capital and competition Competition in Marx's work Total social capital and competition between individual capitals The origins of competition Competition and the contradictions of capital The development of competition and the process of capital subsumption Association against competition The end of competition Bourgeois economics and the myth of perfect competition Conclusions 6. Capitalism as a system of power Critical realism Critical realism and Marxism The ontology of power The ontology of capitalist power Conclusions 7. Final remarks Scientific goals, methodology and ontology Formal similarities within opposite conceptions Economists as servant of power Reorienting the struggle

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