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Economics: Marxian versus Neoclassical Paperback – Bargain Price, August 1, 1987

4.7 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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This book is intended as an introduction to Marxian economic theory in which Marxism is defined and developed in relation to neoclassical economics... Resnick and Wolff make an important contribution in urging students of economics to consider the social consequences of alternative economic theories.

(Journal of Economic Literature )
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press (August 1, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801834805
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801834806
  • ASIN: B005DIAXSI
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #198,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Wolff is Professor of Economics Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a Visiting Professor at the New School University in New York. Wolff's recent work has concentrated on analyzing the causes and alternative solutions to the global economic crisis. His groundbreaking book Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism inspired the creation of Democracy at Work, a nonprofit organization dedicated to showing how and why to make democratic workplaces real. Wolff is also the author of Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism and Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It. He hosts the weekly hour-long radio program "Economic Update," which is syndicated on public radio stations nationwide, and he writes regularly for The Guardian and Truthout.org. Wolff appears frequently on television and radio to discuss his work, with recent guest spots including "Real Time with Bill Maher," "Moyers & Company," "Charlie Rose," "Up with Chris Hayes," and "Democracy Now!." He is also a frequent lecturer at colleges and universities across the country.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"Economics: Marxian versus Neoclassical" is meant to introduce readers to Marxian economic reasoning by comparing it to neoclassical economics. Since this book was written over twenty years ago, it is inevitably somewhat dated. However, it still achieves its main goal very well. Anyone willing to learn about this important tradition should find this book valuable.

The book has four chapters. Chapter 1 provides the context for the comparison, Chapter 2 deals with neoclassical theory, Chapter 3 presents Marxian theory, and finally, Chapter 4 wraps it all up by discussing the importance of theoretical differences. Quite predictably, most of the action happens in chapters 2 and 3 while the rest only fulfills an ancillary function.

In Chapter 2 the authors assume basic familiarity with neoclassical economics and go on to discuss the logical structure of this particular theory: its entry points, its logic and how it links the entry points to everything else. According to Wolff and Resnick, neoclassical theory has three main entry points: preferences, resource endowments and technology. Moreover, its logic is determinist with clear causes and effects. The authors proceed using this determinist logic to show how neoclassical entry points (or "essences") lead to certain outcomes in factor (labour, capital) and commodity markets. This discussion of neoclassical theory serves as a backdrop for the later discussion of Marxian theory. The chapter also provides a very brief section with criticisms of neoclassical theory and a section on "the challenge of Keynes". This is easily the weakest part of the book. It is less accessible than the rest as well as visibly dated: as a result of the Keynes section, rational expectations school occupies the only Appendix of this chapter.
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I was going to provide a lengthy, in depth review comparing and contrasting neoclassical theory and Marxian theory as presented in this book but it looks like Matt has already done precisely that so I will limit myself to a more modest review.

There are a number of reasons that I consider this book to be a truly worthwhile read. Just like Debunking Economics: The Naked Emperor of the Social Sciences by Steve Keen (another book I highly recommend) this book provides a really excellent summary of neoclassical economic theory and the foundations of neoclassical economic theory. This is a good book to read as a supplement to the standard intermediate economics textbooks as it lays down the philosophical foundations of neoclassical economic theory more explicitly than is often done in the textbooks (the purpose of course being to contrast these philosophical foundations with the philosophical foundations of Marxian economic theory).

This book also provides a really interesting interpretation of Marxian economic theory. Marxians are a notoriously heterogenous bunch and I have a feeling that many Marxians would take issue with the Marxian theory presented in this book. But there is one aspect of Wolff and Resnick's interpretation that I found to be especially compelling. The Marxian theory of base and superstructure is often presented in a really reductionistic way which many people find to be an especially unappealing aspect of Marx's thought.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is a certain audience for this book, and I feel that it must have grown larger since its initial printing in 1987. When the standard model fails, there is an instinct to reach for alternatives to that standard model for a lot of people. What is strange is that it also is a time for defensiveness and retrenchment, so that instead of looking at alternatives, you reinvest everything you have in the failed model. For economics, for these authors (and this reviewer) that alternative is Marxian economics. It has been so appealing that at last a new edition of this text will be published in the fall of 2012 by MIT Press.

This version has never been out of print in its quarter-century though, and reading it will show you evidence for its longevity. The first 124 pages can be pulled out and stand alone as an introductory text for economics as it is currently taught at the 101 level. The authors understand and explain the orthodox so well it feels like one of the Alfred Marshall Texts.

The second part is a clear, mostly jargon-free description of Marxian economics that is much more accessible than handing someone a single volume of Capital. The authors are able to show the logic behind Marx's analysis of capitalism and his intellectual torch-bearers. The most true thing I can say about this book, and the one that is the highest praise I can bring, is that I wanted to use this book as a teaching text. The only issue is that the Marxian economics don't lend themselves to problems sets as easily as neoclassical problems. There are equations, but you don't end up with the nice charts and graphs that demand curves. I wanted to share this with students and show that there are true alternatives to the status quo, not just tinkering at the edges of the models.
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