The video/audio of the Platypus panel “Radical Interpretations of the Present Crisis” has just been posted:
What is your opinion of the debate?
I certainly have some self-criticisms as to my moderation of the event. Some of it was rushed in that a previous event had just ended and we were scrambling to set everything up. The reading of the questions aloud came off badly, and in future we’re just going to pass around an event brochure that has the description and questions written down on it.
For the record, however, I timed it: reading out the questions took from 14:05-16:50 of the video. Two minutes, forty-five seconds. Not, as David Harvey suggested, “twenty minutes.” I’m pretty sure that reading out their bios in introducing the panelists, listing all their accolades, took just about as much time as reading the questions aloud. In either case, my presence on the panel from that time on was fairly minimal, I think. I exercised my prerogative to pose two brief questions that I felt were being somewhat skirted in their remarks, clearly and directly (1. Is US hegemony at an end; 2. Is neoliberalism at an end?). Apart from that, though, I tried to just give the panelists space to hash it out.
Otherwise I think that the event went exceptionally well. In terms of my own (admittedly biased) impressions: Mattick was excellent throughout. I was blown away, quite honestly. Kliman’s prepared remarks were very strong. Harvey’s remarks toward the beginning were quite good, though I think he got a little tripped up in the Q&A. I didn’t quite follow his logic regarding oxidizable currency, and was quite surprised to hear Harvey defend Proudhon against some of Marx’s criticisms of him. Goldner’s opening was a bit technical, and didn’t touch on the really political dimensions that we were hoping to elicit through the questions. Which is sad because he’s the most politically active of the speakers we invited. He asked some very poignant questions during the Q&A and was good in the back-and-forth.
I’ve just had a chance to listen through once and, admittedly, wasn’t able to give it my entire attention so I can only give a qualified response.
I think it was a great achievement to bring the four thinkers together in one place and I’m glad that they were able to actually engage with and exchange ideas. So kudos to the organizers for putting this together. I wish there had been less questions put to the speakers- maybe just one question- so that their exchanges could have been more directly related.
Goldner’s presentation didn’t seem to go anywhere. I reminded me of a Glenn Beck chalkboard moment, a mess of diagrams (not easy to make out since the video camera is across the room), with no real focus, thesis, argument. When it was over I thought my internet connection had skipped over part of the video so I went back and listened again but apparently there was no conclusion or point.
I found Harvey’s remarks typical of Harvey, and regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve been quite critical of Harvey in the last few years. What are these 17 new contradictions of capital that Harvey has come up with? I’m sure they will be the topic of his next rambling, nonsensical book, and he will probably win big awards and go on tour with it, mesmerizing audiences with vivid descriptions of social problems but not really contributing anything to the understanding of how capitalism works. Zizek also likes to make up his own contradictions of capital. I suspect that the tendency of post-Marxists to abuse the word “contradiction” is directly related to the abandonment of the centrality of value analysis. The exchange with Kliman over whether the contradiction is between use-value and exchange-value or use-value and value was quite illustrative of the sort of mistakes and confusion we are bound to get in Harvey. Like Ross, I was surprised to hear Harvey defending Proudhon and advocating alternative currencies and “oxidizable money” That’s just batty.
I was sorry to hear that Mattick felt that there was no point to doing theory. Is theory really just a hobby? Does it have no relevance to revolutionary practice at all? I am not willing to accept this. Certainly OWS showed us what sort of crap we can potentially get when we do politics while avoiding theory.
Followers of this blog will already know that I’ve been sympathetic to Kliman’s position on the crisis for some time now. I thought his remarks were quite clear, that he laid out the real political issues at stake, and was able to back up his statements with empirical and theoretical meat. I’d also point out that he actually discussed the current crisis directly in this panel, rather than dealing with general statements like other speakers. He is the only one of the four who has actually done real empirical work on the crisis, as far as I know. In addition to providing a good critique of the neo-liberalism explanation of the crisis, and a critique of the underconsumptionist take, he also made some really good points in his comments about the importance of value as a category as distinct from exchange-value. This is more important a distinction than it may seem at first sight.
I look forward to listening to the presentations again and perhaps saying more here once I’ve had more time to reflect.
Thanks for your very thoughtful reflections on this. To make it a bit more clear, the questions were divvied up a bit differently in reading them aloud than they would have been otherwise (as I should have stated in reciting them, though that would have taken up more time). And the panelists weren’t required to respond to every single question.
I’d love to see this as a write-up of the event, maybe after we publish an edited/distilled transcript from the event, with the speakers’ approval of course. Though I’d understand if you’d want to reflect on it a bit further. There was a ton to process there. Thanks man.
I am, like The Son of Marx, interested to know your opinion of the proceedings.
The opinion of Mr.Everpresent: I’m perplexed how Kliman has a completely different idea on the situation compared to other people in the field. If he is correct (and people read his work), it will be a transformation of the paradigm. I liked his book “reclaiming Marx capital” a lot. It’s a very good book. I haven’t read his most recent.
“I’m sure they will be the topic of his next rambling, nonsensical book, and he will probably win big awards and go on tour with it, mesmerizing audiences with vivid descriptions of social problems but not really contributing anything to the understanding of how capitalism works.”
Do you think that the work of Harvey on Marx his method is also flawed (for example the beginning pages in limits to capital)? I think he used Ollman there. What’s your opinion?
I find Kliman’s position to be sometimes confusing: does he actually think we cannot produce things for other people? And that we should be producing only for ourselves?
I’m *so* glad he pointed out that the antithesis of use-value is actually value, and exchange-value is just a representation of value. This aspect of Harvey’s course on Das Kapital had been confusing me for months, the way Harvey explains it just never seemed to make theoretical sense, though I just assumed he was correct and the fault was my misinterpretation.
The panel was disappointing and even a bit irritating. There were far too many questions for the candidates, so they all (even Kliman, though he was best) waffled without direction, leaving me to wonder what the feckarse I was listening to and what these people had been assembled to actually talk about.
It’s also a pet peeve of mine when multiple people from the audience are asked to get up and ask their complicated questions and the panellists are supposed to remember it all.
Overall though, I have a strong bias towards Andrew Kliman’s empiricism and emphasis on research.
Quick point of clarification: did Kliman continue to say that working class wages in the US have remained the same or increased since the 70s? I honestly couldn’t hear what he said.
I think he says wages have been steady, but that the working class’s share of the overall profit compensation (e.g., health benefits, retirement, vacation, etc) has grown. So the neo-liberal critics like Harvey say look wages are stagnant, therefore there’s not enough consumption power for the working class. And Kliman is roughly replying that although wages are stagnant the working class is still garnering other benefits from the profits of the capitalist (e.g., 401k matching, or something like that).
I could be wrong, but that’s how I understand him.
Thanks CB, that’s what I’ve heard from him in the past, so I was quite surprised when it sounded like he said that wages had fallen.
You’re probably correct, I was just mis-hearing him.
Well I am making this assumption from what I read in his book; I don’t really remember what he said at the panel discussion, so I could be wrong about that.
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