1st Edition

Economics and Power A Marxist Critique

By Giulio Palermo Copyright 2016
    180 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    180 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In the economic debate, power is defined and studied mainly as an interpersonal relation occurring out of perfect competition. This is a consequence of the combination of methodological individualism and the assumption of competition as a natural and everlasting coordinating mechanism, operating without any sort of coercion. This methodology, however, is not adequate to analyze the forms of social coercion that characterize capitalism.

    Economics and Power criticizes the main theories of power developed in economic literature, analyzing ultraliberal contractualism to radical political economics, and ultimately suggesting a Marxist conception of power and coercion in capitalism. Palermo’s ontological argument is rooted in the philosophy of ‘critical realism’.This unique volume presents his main finding as being that the essential coercive mechanism of capitalism is competition. Capitalist power is not caused by a lack of competition, but by the central role it plays in this mode of production. Following this, the chapters reconstruct a Marxian conception of power where it is analyzed as a social relation and argues that perfect competition does in fact exist under the disguise of capitalist power. This book criticizes the construct of power and the underlying ideas surrounding perfect competition.

    This book is of interest to those who study political economy, as well as economic theory and philosophy.

    Foreword and acknowledgements

    1. Introduction

    The dimensions of power in social sciences

    The unidimensional view of power in economics

    Methodological choices and ontological necessities

    Historical materialism, exploitation and social coercion

    Marx's critique of capital and the critique of power

    Structure of the book



    2. The economic debate on power

    The contractual approach of Alchian and Demsetz

    Williamson's transaction costs economics

    The property rights approach of Hart and Moore

    The radical political economics of Bowles and Gintis

    Golfberg's institutional perspective

    The terms of the debate

    3. Power and post Walrasian economics

    Post Walrasian economics

    From Walrasian to post Walrasian economics

    The theoretical results of Walrasian economics

    The role of perfect competition in the debate on power


    4. Power demystification

    The categories of post Walrasian economics

    As-if economic history

    History and efficiency

    Free contracting, imperfections and class relations

    Exchange without production

    Production, circulation, and the free trader vulgaris

    Scientific research and cultural hegemony




    5. Marx’s critique of capital and competition

    Competition in Marx's work

    Total social capital and competition between individual capitals

    The origins of competition

    Competition and the contradictions of capital

    The development of competition and the process of capital subsumption

    Association against competition

    The end of competition

    Bourgeois economics and the myth of perfect competition


    6. Capitalism as a system of power

    Critical realism

    Critical realism and Marxism

    The ontology of power

    The ontology of capitalist power


    7. Final remarks

    Scientific goals, methodology and ontology

    Formal similarities within opposite conceptions

    Economists as servant of power

    Reorienting the struggle


    Giulio Palermo is Researcher in Economics at the University of Brescia, Italy.