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Marxian economics, or the Marxian school of economics, is a heterodox school of economic thought. Its foundations can be traced back to the critique of classical political economy in the research by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Marxian economics comprises several different theories and includes multiple schools of thought, which are sometimes opposed to each other, and in many cases Marxian analysis is used to complement or supplement other economic approaches.[1] Because one does not necessarily have to be politically Marxist to be economically Marxian, the two adjectives coexist in usage rather than being synonymous. They share a semantic field while also allowing connotative and denotative differences.

Marxian economics concerns itself variously with the analysis of crisis in capitalism, the role and distribution of the surplus product and surplus value in various types of economic systems, the nature and origin of economic value, the impact of class and class struggle on economic and political processes, and the process of economic evolution.

Marxian economics, particularly in academia, is distinguished from Marxism as a political ideology as well as the normative aspects of Marxist thought, with the view that Marx's original approach to understanding economics and economic development is intellectually independent from Marx's own advocacy of revolutionary socialism.[2][3] Marxian economists do not lean entirely upon the works of Marx and other widely known Marxists, but draw from a range of Marxist and non-Marxist sources.[4]

Although the Marxian school is considered heterodox, ideas that have come out of Marxian economics have contributed to mainstream understanding of the global economy. Certain concepts developed in Marxian economics, especially those related to capital accumulation and the business cycle, have been fitted for use in capitalist systems (for instance, Joseph Schumpeter's notion of creative destruction).

Marx's magnum opus on political economy was Das Kapital (Capital: A Critique of Political Economy) in three volumes, of which only the first volume was published in his lifetime (1867); the others were published by Friedrich Engels from Marx's notes. One of Marx's early works, Critique of Political Economy, was mostly incorporated into Das Kapital, especially the beginning of volume 1. Marx's notes made in preparation for writing Das Kapital were published in 1939 under the title Grundrisse.

The subjects of labour and instruments of labour together are called the means of productionRelations of production are the relations human beings adopt toward each other as part of the production process. In capitalism, wage labour and private property are part of the relations of production.

According to Marx, the amount of actual product (i.e. use-value) that a typical worker produces in a given amount of time is the productivity of labour. It has tended to increase under capitalism. This is due to increase in the scale of enterprise, to specialisation of labour, and to the introduction of machinery. The immediate result of this is that the value of a given item tends to decrease, because the labour time necessary to produce it becomes less.

In a given amount of time, labour produces more items, but each unit has less value; the total value created per time remains the same. This means that the means of subsistence become cheaper; therefore the value of labour power or necessary labour time becomes less. If the length of the working day remains the same, this results in an increase in the surplus labour time and the rate of surplus value.

Technological advancement tends to increase the amount of capital needed to start a business, and it tends to result in an increasing preponderance of capital being spent on means of production (constant capital) as opposed to labour (variable capital). Marx called the ratio of these two kinds of capital the composition of capital.

Current theorizing in Marxian economics

Marxian economics has been built upon by many others, beginning almost at the moment of Marx's death. The second and third volumes of Das Kapital were edited by his close associate Friedrich Engels, based on Marx's notes. Marx's Theories of Surplus Value was edited by Karl Kautsky. The Marxian value theory and the Perron-Frobenius theorem on the positive eigenvector of a positive matrix [12] are fundamental to mathematical treatments of Marxian economics. The relation between exploitation (surplus labour) and profit has been modeled with increased sophistication.[13]

The Universities offering one or more courses in Marxian economics, or teach one or more economics courses on other topics from a perspective that they designate as Marxian or Marxist, include Colorado State University, New School for Social Research, School of Oriental and African Studies, Maastricht University, University of Bremen, University of California, Riverside, University of Leeds, University of Maine, University of Manchester, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Massachusetts Boston, University of Missouri–Kansas City, University of Sheffield, University of Utah, and York University (Toronto).[14]

English-language journals include Capital & Class, Friedrich Engels, based on Marx's notes. Marx's Theories of Surplus Value was edited by Karl Kautsky. The Marxian value theory and the Perron-Frobenius theorem on the positive eigenvector of a positive matrix [12] are fundamental to mathematical treatments of Marxian economics. The relation between exploitation (surplus labour) and profit has been modeled with increased sophistication.[13]

The Universities offering one or more courses in Marxian economics, or teach one or more economics courses on other topics from a perspective that they designate as Marxian or Marxist, include Colorado State University, Colorado State University, New School for Social Research, School of Oriental and African Studies, Maastricht University, University of Bremen, University of California, Riverside, University of Leeds, University of Maine, University of Manchester, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Massachusetts Boston, University of Missouri–Kansas City, University of Sheffield, University of Utah, and York University (Toronto).[14]

English-language journals include Capital & Class, Historical Materialism, Monthly Review, Rethinking Marxism, Review of Radical Political Economics, and Studies in Political Economy.

Much of the critique of classical Marxian economics came from Marxian economists that revised Marx's original theory, or by the Austrian school of economics. V. K. Dmitriev, writing in 1898,[15] Ladislaus von Bortkiewicz, writing in 1906–07,[16] and subsequent critics claimed that Marx's labor theory of value and law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall are internally inconsistent. In other words, the critics allege that Marx drew conclusions that actually do not follow from his theoretical premises. Once these alleged errors are corrected, his conclusion that aggregate price and profit are determined by, and equal to, aggregate value and surplus value no longer holds true. This result calls into question his theory that the exploitation of workers is the sole source of profit.[17]

Whether the rate of profit in capitalism has, as Marx predicted, tended to fall is a subject of debate. N. Okishio, in 1961, devised a theorem (Okishio's theorem) showing that if capitalists pursue cost-cutting techniques and if the real wage does not rise, the rate of profit must rise.[18]

The inconsistency allegations have been a prominent feature of Marxian economics and the debate surrounding it since the 1970s.[19]

Among the critics pointing out internal inconsistencies are former and current Marxian and/or Sraffian economists, such as Okishio's theorem) showing that if capitalists pursue cost-cutting techniques and if the real wage does not rise, the rate of profit must rise.[18]

The inconsistency allegations have been a prominent feature of Marxian economics and the debate surrounding it since the 1970s.[19]

Among the critics pointing out internal inconsistencies are former and current Marxian and/or Sraffian economists, such as Paul Sweezy,[20] Nobuo Okishio,[21] Ian Steedman,[22] John Roemer,[23] Gary Mongiovi,[24] and David Laibman,[25] who propose that the field be grounded in their correct versions of Marxian economics instead of in Marx's critique of political economy in the original form in which he presented and developed it in Capital.[26]

Proponents of the Temporal Single System Interpretation (TSSI) of Marx's value theory claim that the supposed inconsistencies are actually the result of misinterpretation; they argue that when Marx's theory is understood as "temporal" and "single-system," the alleged internal inconsistencies disappear. In a recent survey of the debate, a proponent of the TSSI concludes that "the proofs of inconsistency are no longer defended; the entire case against Marx has been reduced to the interpretive issue."[27]

Large part of the criticism of the Marxian economics comes from contradictions observed in countries declaring allegiance to the Marxist economical and political doctrine in the 20th century. János Kornai analyzed the widespread scarcity of goods in these countries and prevalence of second economies (black markets) for very basic goods, coining the term "shortage economy". Dembinsky pointed out at inconsistent approach of Marx to determining "labor value", a central concept in the labor theory of value, which led to significant decline of effectiveness of these economies.[6]

Louis Menand, the Lee Simpkins Family Professor of Arts and Sciences and the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of English at Harvard University, remarked that "[t]he nineteenth-century philosopher’s ideas may help us to understand the economic and political inequality of our time."[28]

Marxist economics was assessed as lacking relevance in 1988 by Robert Solow, who criticized the New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics for over-sampling articles on Marxist themes, giving a "false impression of the state of play" in the economics profession. Solow stated that "Marx was an

Marxist economics was assessed as lacking relevance in 1988 by Robert Solow, who criticized the New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics for over-sampling articles on Marxist themes, giving a "false impression of the state of play" in the economics profession. Solow stated that "Marx was an important and influential thinker, and Marxism has been a doctrine with intellectual and practical influence. The fact is, however, that most serious English-speaking economists regard Marxist economics as an irrelevant dead end."[29]

According to George Stigler, "[e]conomists working in the Marxian-Sraffian tradition represent a small minority of modern economists, and that their writings have virtually no impact upon the professional work of most economists in major English-language universities."[30]

The terms Neo-Marxian, Post-Marxian, and Radical Political Economics were first used to refer to a distinct tradition of economic thought in the 1970s and 1980s.

In industrial economics, the Neo-Marxian approach stresses the monopolistic rather than the competitive nature of capitalism. This approach is associated with Michal Kalecki, Josef Steindl, Paul A. Baran and Paul Sweezy.industrial economics, the Neo-Marxian approach stresses the monopolistic rather than the competitive nature of capitalism. This approach is associated with Michal Kalecki, Josef Steindl, Paul A. Baran and Paul Sweezy.[31][32]