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The New Keynes PDF Print E-mail
The Labour Movement-Economy

John Maynard KeynesIn embarking on a discussion of the contribution of John Maynard Keynes to the science of economics, it could be said that this was concerned not with revealing with the way in which things work, but with the way in which we can improve them; he cannot, however, be regarded as a radical of the type of Karl Marx.

In the twentieth century, mankind went through the world economic crash of 1929. Humanity and governments did not have the slightest room for manoeuvre required in order to save matters from fatal destruction. Keynes came to the fore because of this double - political and economic - catastrophe of the inter-War years, and the general ruin brought about by a world war.
Keynes became the proponent of the ideas which emerged from the twin 'crisis / destruction' of his age. And yet, in reality, it was hardly necessary to be a genius to have been a 'Keynesian' at that time. But not even this amount of genius was then available - at a time of polarisation of powers. Instead of this there was an obstinacy which needed radical developments in order to arrive at the self-evident.
Indicative of the narrow-mindedness of the politicians of the period were the unrealistic terms imposed on Germany after the First World War, about which Keynes was the first to voice objections, noting that it was surprising that the fundamental problems of a Europe which was starving and breaking up before their eyes was the only issue incapable of stirring the interest of the Four (victorious Allies).[1]

In order to form an idea of the consequences of this lack of realism, it should be recalled that the excessive economic demands which were stipulated contributed catalytically to the political destabilisation of Germany and to the rise of National Socialism.

Keynes and Marx
Keynes, in reality, added nothing to what Marx had already said, when he observed that philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point, however, is to change it [2] - meaning that our business is not to find out how the market functions, but how to reform it. The only way in which Keynes differed from Marx was in terms of radicalism and realism. He did not arrive at the point of calling private property into question, as Marx can be seen to have done if we recall his words to the effect that the proletarians cannot become masters of the productive forces of society, except by abolishing their own previous mode of appropriation, and thereby also every other previous mode of appropriation. They have nothing of their own to secure and to fortify; their mission is to destroy all previous securities for, and insurances of, individual property.[3]

In this sense, Keynes was not a radical. Keynes was a realist, and this is the factor which has, over time, lent to Keynes much greater penetrative insight into developments than that of Marx's approach. But mankind is very frequently attracted to utopias, and so Keynes has not been celebrated to the same degree as Marx.

The strange thing is that whereas Keynes was profoundly democratic, he found his first adherents among those who wished to create totalitarian utopias. The intermediate economic utopias were also totalitarian, as scientific and social dialogue could not function within these because of the intolerance of governments and capital.

Even capital itself (the major capitalists), in an attempt to create favourable 'impressions', operated in a 'Keynesian' way. For example, they set up public-benefit foundations and took their own steps to communicate with the public, in an effort to produce an image of 'familiarity', so as not to seem unattractive. Strangely, the theoreticians of economics, those who implemented economic policy, both those in government and state functionaries, fell into line with a bigotry which blocked the path towards what would have been obvious progress.

We find ourselves at a point in history where, once again, breaches in the system and points of disagreement having to do with certain corners of the planet which are now alienated from normality have built up. Neither the alienation of large regions of the planet, and their exclusion from any substantive normality of progress nor the creation of tensions throughout its length and breadth can be cured by the option of waiving the rights of political intervention and of reason, which are called upon to serve as substantive regulators of the market.

Keynes told us that it is in our power to function in a way in which we make things evolve, and that we can operate beyond the limits of the mechanism by which things function, and improve it. This field of the creation of mechanisms has become topical once more.

If we approached things in their essential sense, that of the interpretation of history and of the contemporary events which we are passing through, we could say that the world is still Keynesian to a considerable degree. For example, if the European Union, within the framework of the pursuit of a policy of intervention or a policy of homoeostasis within it or of a qualitative policy of regulation in a certain direction, it is Keynesian.

The same could also be said of the laying down of guidelines for development within the framework of an action plan - both in the sphere of the environment and in other areas, such as those of quality and innovation. We can gain an idea from this example as to how effective Keynesianism has been, however much money it requires – comparatively though much smaller amounts are involved than those put into circulation – by the automatic mechanism of the market alone. Furthermore, we see that the European Union is truly expanding the bounds of the market as it follows a Keynesian strategy for this expansion.

It was also Keynesianism which saved the United States from final ruin. The era of Roosevelt has been described as Keynesian, and it was this which laid the foundations for so-called 'social policy'. Attempts at establishing a social policy in the United States were begun by the greatest of its Presidents, who achieved success in broadening the limits of social and environmental, as well as cultural, policy.
Effectively, that is to say, Keynesianism has served as a saving and definitive factor in developments.

The limits of Keynesian policy
The question of what are the limits of Keynesian policy is often put. There has always been a fear that things will work out in such a way that capitalism will be dealt a blow to its economic vitality. This, of course, was no more than a fantasy, because, on the one hand, the way things evolve has been bound up with the maintenance of the normality of economic development, and, on the other, the smoothness of economic development has been a function of the Keynesian parameters of policy.
The following remark is indicative of Keynes's appreciation of the dangers and of his realism: "Men will not always die quietly. For starvation, which brings to some lethargy and a helpless despair, drives other temperaments to the nervous instability of hysteria and to a mad despair. And these in their distress may overturn the remnants of organization, and submerge civilization itself in their attempts to satisfy desperately the overwhelming needs of the individual."[4] It thus could be supposed that every politician is, deep down, a Keynesian.

Towards a new Keynes
Our problem is that we are now in need of a new dimension of Keynesian policy, a new dynamic of Keynesianism, a new Keynes - or many.
The need for a new Keynesian perspective arises from and is highlighted by both the political parameters of world development and globalisation, and by the internal regulation of the markets within their local boundaries, as well as by linkage with parameters such as the environment, culture, and, more generally, democratic development, on the local and the world limits of development.

If the 'social contract' of Rousseau gave us the general outline and the bearing mechanism of parliamentarianism, Keynes opened up for us the horizons for the regulation of the market by actions which draw attention to civil society, the co-operative spirit, and social cohesion. It could be said that Keynes provides us with the way in which it is possible for the state and politicians to communicate with the market and the pluralism of civil society, which takes on a spectacular dynamic which is now developing in the institutional field and which is capable of acting catalytically, constructively - or even destructively, whenever necessary - in future developments.       

[1] Heilbroner, Robert L., The Worldly Philosophers [Greek edition], 2000, publ. Kritiki.
[2] Comte-Sponville, André, Présentation de la philosophie [Greek edition], 2003, publ. Kedros ( a well-known saying of Karl Marx).
[3] Marx, Karl - Engels, Friedrich, Manifesto of the Communist Party [Greek edition], 1994, publ.Synchroni Epochi.
[4] Keynes, John Maynard, 1919, The Economic Consequences of the Peace.

Ioannis Zisis, writer

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