Michael Kidron

Three Book Reviews

(Winter 1965/66)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.23, Winter 1965/66, pp.30, 33
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Manual in Mufti

Political Economy Vol.1: General Problems
Oskar Lange
New York: Macmillan; Oxford: Pergamon Press, 45s.

Despite the author’s disclaimers, this is a textbook: a set of concepts clearly defined, classified and mutually related. Like most textbooks it is useful as a reference work and deadly as an introduction to the subject, particularly since the subject is itself a critical embattled one on which there are no final, arced views and the author dares not break from Eastern orthodoxies.

Orthodoxy mars not only the mood, but the matter of the book. By basing production relations on ownership rather than control Lange bars any understanding of the Eastern bloc as well as a clear explanation of Marx’s ‘Asiatic social formations’ (the latter on pp.27-30). He finds it easy to separate superstructures from bases – diagramatically. He invokes Kautsky and Stalin – as against Rosa Luxernburg, Hilferding and Bukharin – to support the thesis that economic laws will prevail under socialism (pp.84f.). He rates as the finest achievement of ‘socialist’ planning methodology the system of ‘balance accounting’ (national income accounting) (pp.182ff.) – just when it is about to be augmented by a variant of market pricing. He does not mention international trade – a point of some stress in the Eastern Bloc.

Occasionally, orthodoxy is neutral or even benevolent, as in the final two chapters. Here the mind begins to turn as Lange races trough an excellent critique of the subjectivists (in Chapter 6) and an interestng, though often crude, attempt at anchoring modern Western orthodoxies in different strata of the middle class (chapter 7).



Crooked Sixpence

The City in the World Economy
W.M. Clarke
Institute of Economic Affairs, 42s.

In socialist literature the City is the very crucible of hell; in the City’s own literature – of which this is certainly the most informed and factual example to date – no amount of gilt can obscure its weakness.

Finance capital is not what it was: ease of communications internationally has devalued the advantages of concentration within the square mile; the scale of many industrial and commercial operations is now such that many City markets are bypassed or if used, badly distorted; and state regulation and control here and abroad have slowed its metabolism. On a larger canvas, it has suffered from Britain’s displacement as the Great Power and by the attendant shakiness of sterling.

All this is meaty stuff, invaluable in filling the accumulated void of most contemporary socialist analysis. At the very least, it gives a glimpse of how the other one per cent operate.



Coal, Gas & Sparks

Economic Performaace Under Public Ownership. British Fuel and Power
William G. Shepherd
Yale University Press, 37s 6d.

This is a record of the treatment meted three nationalised industries in Britain and of their performance. The author concludes that they have not benefited from favourable treatment in the matter of interest rates for example; that they have been hampered in their operations more than comparable private industries; yet have succeeded in returning a comparable rate of profit. He clears them of the charge of misallocating resources through cross-subsidisation. In sum, nationalised fuel and power in Britain are models of large capitalist enterprise.

Last updated on 15 April 2010