Archive for August, 2012

The ‘Implications’ of Paul Baran

August 5, 2012

In its July-August 2012 issue, Monthly Review has published a new document entitled “Some Theoretical  Implications,” written by Paul Baran, which was originally intended to be a chapter of “Monopoly Capital.”  The summer issue also includes the correspondence between Paul Sweezy and Baran during what turned out to be the final weeks of Baran’s life. Written between February and March 1964, we see two of the greatest economists of the 20th century discuss among themselves the “Implications.”

Monthly Review editor John Bellamy Foster put together the “Implications” piece as it appears in the summer 2012 issue from two texts by Baran that were recently found in Sweezy’s papers. These documents were long believed to have been lost, so their discovery and publication is an event of the highest significance for the history of 20th-century economic thought.

Monthly Review plans to publish next year an additional document by Baran that was to be a second chapter on the quality of life under U.S. monopoly capitalism. As it was published in 1966, “Monopoly Capital” has only one such chapter.

While all indications are that Foster has done an extraordinary job editing the Baran documents, they are so important for the history of economic thought it might be a good idea to scan the original texts and make them available online so that future economists and historians can examine them just as Baran and Sweezy left them.

Though all the materials in this fascinating issue of Monthly Review will be posted online before the end of August, I would urge my readers if they possibly can to purchase the issue in hard copy. It is well worth the 12 U.S. and Canadian dollars, 9 euros or 8 British pounds, unless you are really broke.

The importance of the “Implications” document is that it is here that Baran explores the relationship between “the surplus” and Marx’s surplus value. What Marx called surplus value is the most important category of all economics. Ever since “Monopoly Capital” was published in 1966, the question has been asked: Is “the surplus” simply another name for Marx’s surplus value? Or is it something else?

Now a half a century after “Monopoly Capital” was published, we have material that for the first time allows us to answer this question.

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