Michael Heinrich on Marx’s revolution in science

Around 14 minutes in, Heinrich, a Prof. of Economics, talks about a Marx’s work as a “scientific revolution in the history of science”. This revolution was characterised as a questioning of concepts that were taken for granted, so much so that those concepts had been naturalised and were no longer discussed. Marx criticised not only particular theories in political economy but the whole approach to political economy. In summary, he made a scientific break with the following four classical assumptions:

  1. Human essence. In modern economics, the human is always seen as a utility maximiser. Marx argued there is no human essence.
  2. Individualism. Marx argued against methodological individualism i.e. starting from the individual from whom you construct social relations.
  3. Empiricism. Marx was a forerunner of using empirical data but argued that scientific understanding of political economy requires much more. Society is not a transparent thing that data alone can reveal. There are mystifications, fetishism, and so on.
  4. Historicism. Mainstream economics is still an ahistorical science. Neo-classical economics see problems the same across time. Marx argues there are very different historical logics of society and economy.

All of this was (and is still) taken for granted but was put into question by Marx.

Heinrich’s introduction to Capital is very good.

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