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Back to panta rhei (Desai)
by Gernot Koehler
06 October 2002 07:34 UTC
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Meghnad Desai (Centre for the Study of Global Governance, LSE) puts Hayek
and Marx in the same box and throws out anything between old Lenin and young
Frank in this article:

"Globalisation; Neither Ideology nor Utopia", by Meghnad Desai, online at:

Desai distinguishes between mechanist [sc. bad] and organicist [sc. good]
philosophies of society. Old Lenin, Keynesians, monetarists and other bad
folk are counted as mechanistic and Red Rosa, Marx and Hayek are counted as
organicist. The bad luck of the "short 20th century" (expression also used
by Hobsbawm, i.e., the period from World War I to the end of the USSR) was
that it strayed from the organicist path and fell into the snake pit of
mechanisticism. Even Baran-Frank-style [and, probably, also Wallerstein and
Chase-Dunn-style] core-periphery theory is too mechanistic for Desai.

Desai's Table 1 compares and contrasts the two families of philosphy, as

NATURE OF ________ORGANICIST____________________ MECHANIST
CAPITALISM _______Cyclical__________________________ Crisis Ridden
___________________Progressive_______________________  Destructive
___________________Wealth Enhancing ___________________Dysfunctional
___________________Inequality Generating_______________Inequality Generating
___________________Poverty Reducing ___________________Poverty Enhancing

SOCIETY__________ Self Organising _____________________Planned, Designed
___________________Spontaneous Order(Hayek)
______________________vs Dialectical (Marx)_____________ Controllable

STATE ____________External__________________________ Internal
__________________Redundant ________________________ Essential
__________________Interfering ________________________  Enabling
__________________Superstructural_____________________  Pivotal

MARKET_________ Search/Signalling _____________________Resource Allocation
__________________Dynamic Uncertainty _________________Efficient (Chicago)
___________________________________________________ Vs Prone to

After pealing off most of what's dear to world(-)system(s) folk, Desai
concludes that:
The organicist view
sees globalisation as a self organising process not designed by any
one or even many corporations or governments but as an incessant
seeking for profits in a gale of creative destruction. It is
refashioning what was an Inter-state [International] Order into a
Global Process whose end is not predictable. Yet if the organicist
view blames no single agency for the functioning of capitalism, it
neither offers hope of a better world in the near future. In Marx's
vision, there is incessant class struggle as capitalism reproduces
itself. There is a distant end to capitalism and a self conscious,
self organising society emerges at the end. But here again there is
no promises, at least in Marx's own writings, of any immediate
[end quote]

Gernot Koehler

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