Radical Political Economy: Explorations in Alternative Economic Analysis

By Filho, Alfredo Saad | Capital & Class, Autumn 1997 | Go to article overview

Radical Political Economy: Explorations in Alternative Economic Analysis


Filho, Alfredo Saad, Capital & Class


Radical Political Economy: Explorations in Alternative Economic Analysis

M.E. Sharpe, Armonk, NY and London.

ISBN 0-87332-606-7 (hbk) L66.95

ISBN 0-87332-607-5 (pbk) L25.95

In this book, Victor Lippit provides a fairly comprehensive overview of the current research in the area broadly known as `radical political economy' (RPE). This makes this book potentially useful to a wide audience. The book includes seventeen papers, divided into seven sections: labour, class, discrimination, macroeconomic instability, economic development, market socialism and the environment. Many papers included in this collection are rightly regarded as classics. Section one (labour) includes three papers, two of them by Stephen Marglin: the excellent `What Do Bosses Do?,' originally published in 1974, and `Losing Touch: The Cultural Conditions of Worker Accommodation,' from 1990. This section also includes a very good chapter by Richard Edwards (from his 1979 book, Contested Terrain), that ably introduces the reader into segmented labour markets theory. The two papers by Marglin are quite distinct from that by Edwards, but on the whole this is a stimulating section.

Section two (class) is also very interesting. It includes one good (new) paper by Howard Sherman, where he outlines his approach to class, and one excellent paper by Wolff & Resnick (from the Socialist Review, 1986), in which they discuss the proposition that classes should be defined by the mode of extraction of the surplus, instead of property or power relations. Section three (discrimination) is less substantive than it should. It includes only two papers, the first by Heidi Hartmann (originally published in Cd>C Summer 1979) on the 'marriage' between Marxism and feminism, and the second by Michael Reich, on racial inequality (from his 1981 book with that title).

Section four (macroeconomic instability) includes a very interesting and constructive survey of recent developments in the Marxian and post-Keynesian theories of money, credit and finance written by Robert Pollin (revised from the 1993 original), and an introduction to SSA theory by Gordon, Weisskopf and Bowles (from the URPE book The Imperiled Economy). Section five (economic development) starts with a new paper by Laurence Harris, on the relevance of theories of finance for the Third World. The second paper is Lippit's. It was originally published in RRPE 1985, and discusses the concept of surplus in developing economies. The third and last paper, by A.R. Khan, stands out for the oddity of its content; this chapter has little to do with the other papers in this section or in the book as a whole.

Section six (market socialism) includes a chapter by Alec Nove (originally published in 1979), where he polemicizes with Charles Bettelheim on the content and appropriateness of market socialist theory.

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