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The Spread Of Marxism: A Riddle

Summary:
Karl Marx died on 14 March 1883. Less than 15 people attended his funeral, and Engels gave an eulogy. Marxists existed, a century later, in every country on the face of this planet, and most had political parties, some powerful, that claimed to follow Marx. How did this change from obscurity to world-wide recognition come about? What did Marx have to say that was so persuasive? If economics were a serious subject, these questions would be explored within academic economics departments. And some universities in the United States can be taken seriously. But, as I understand it, one cannot expect mainstream economists in North America to be able to discuss these questions. One would need to be interested in economic history and the history of economics, for example, to have an informed

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Karl Marx died on 14 March 1883. Less than 15 people attended his funeral, and Engels gave an eulogy. Marxists existed, a century later, in every country on the face of this planet, and most had political parties, some powerful, that claimed to follow Marx. How did this change from obscurity to world-wide recognition come about? What did Marx have to say that was so persuasive?

If economics were a serious subject, these questions would be explored within academic economics departments. And some universities in the United States can be taken seriously. But, as I understand it, one cannot expect mainstream economists in North America to be able to discuss these questions. One would need to be interested in economic history and the history of economics, for example, to have an informed take. Mainstream economics, I gather, are trained to deprecate such subjects. Following on the work of such economists as Donald Harris, Michio Morishima, and John Roemer, I would like those exploring Marx's economics to know some linear algebra, as well.

I suppose some might justify this incapacity and ignorance by asserting that Marx just did not have an impact on academic economics, at least in the leading schools. I am not sure this is true. Mainstream economists had to re-invent some of Marx. Consider Michal Kalecki's independent development of Keynesianism. Compare and contrast growth models, such as the Harrod-Domar and von Neumann models, with Marx's schemes of simple and expanded reproduction at the end of volume two of Capital. Employment multipliers in Leontief input-output analysis are labor values.

One can also argue the importance of Marx in the promulgation of marginalism. Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk and Philip Wicksteed explicitly argued against Marx in promoting their theories. John Bates Clark stated that his theories showed the possibility of classes living in harmony. In this sense, the erroneous doctrines that are taught today are strongly influenced by Marx, albeit in a reactionary way.

If Marx is not important to economics, why must we keep on having these purges of economics departments? Of course, those doing the purges, in their wide and deep ignorance, cannot identify a Marxist, no matter how often they look for ghosts under their bed at night.

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