The Political Economy Series

An Introduction

Hello everyone, and welcome to the next project I would like to focus on in the coming days and weeks. The ultimate goal of this project is to present a complete, coherent, feasible post-capitalist system that is in line with what I consider to be the broad tenets of the economic philosophy of the Left. I do not intend to restate every theoretical point regarding political economy that is relevant to this project (do not expect me to defend the labor theory of value; there are hundreds of other defenses of it already out there written by people smarter and more knowledgeable than me); rather, I intend to focus on the specific points of this project where a post-liberalism is incorporated and provide new perspectives on the success of capitalism in order to build a proper replacement for capitalism.

The project will be split up into multiple parts within three series. The first series will focus on building a new post-liberal foundation for the study of political econom. The second series will focus on asking why capitalism actually works. The third and final series will focus on taking the lessons we learned from analyzing capitalism and applying them to the construction of a post-capitalist system.

The Five Questions

Before discussing any capitalist or post-capitalist system, I would like to provide answers to five questions:

  1. What is the purpose of political economy? More specifically, what does it engage with, and why do we study it?
  2. What is a market?
  3. What kinds of different markets/sectors exist in political economy?
  4. What kinds of problems exist with political economy? In other words, what collective action problems must any system of political economy answer in order to actually work and be viable?
  5. Why has capitalism succeeded while non-capitalist systems have largely failed? In other words, what does capitalism do that other systems do not? And, by extension, what must other systems accomplish to provide functional alternatives to capitalism?

And before answering these questions, I aim to provide a serious (but understandable) definition of capitalism that is hopefully not overly theoretical.

What is “Capitalism”?

To put it simply, capitalism is a system defined by

  1. the production of commodities (production for exchange and to maximize exchange-value over use-value),
  2. the accumulation of capital (through production for exchange and profit),
  3. And the primacy of the capitalist-laborer relationship (in which there are those who own the means of production and those who do not) and the wage-labour system that co-exists with it.

Capitalism is not to be defined as a system of markets, as other systems use markets and yet are not capitalist. Capitalism is not to be defined as a system of “freedom” in opposition to “authoritarian” “socialism” (as such a concept of “freedom” is incoherent/nonsensical for many reasons). When I refer to capitalism, I am referring to the three-part definition above.

Wrapping Up and Looking Forward

Now that we have gotten through that definition and the list of questions, I will be wrapping up this post by presenting the future of this series. Over the next week I aim to post pieces daily to answer each of the four questions discussed above. Some of the pieces will be longer than others; some questions may need to be answered through multiple pieces. I am hoping I can complete this within a week; however, as I continue working through outlines and see new topics/issues I need to cover, that may change.

Expect my post on the grounding of political economy tomorrow. I am attempting to bring a post-liberal lens to the field and establish a solid ground for us to move forward with our analysis. I will be drawing on the work of many people who have come before me, but I hope to bring my own unique perspective as well. Thank you all.

Complete List of Pieces (as of 6/16/20)

Part 1: Developing a Post-Liberal Grounding for Political Economy

Part 2: Deconstructing (and Reconstructing) the Concept of the “Market”

Part 3: Who Gets What? A Post-Liberal Understanding of the Means of Production and the Frameworks to Determine Who Owns Them

Part 4: The Foundational Problems of Political Economy

Part 5: Why Capitalism Works (and What Other Systems Must do to Compete)

Part 6: Revenge of the Nerds: How Pricing Really Works in Capitalism

Part 7: Nothing is Free, Including Capitalism and Markets

Part 8: Signals and Incentives: How Capitalism Coordinates Production

Part 9: The Failures of Markets: Capitalism’s Original Sin

Part 10: Capital Fragility: A Defense of True Localism

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Building Post-Liberal Theory. 🌲 🏴‍☠️.

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