A further word on Palley by Paddy Quick

I like, almost everyone, was forced to look up the word “gattopardo” in Palley’s article. For your information(taken from a website):

The reference is to the novel, made into a Visconti movie, about how Sicilian aristocrats manage to maintain their position despite Garibaldi and the coming of democracy, by wooing and co-opting the bourgeoisie.

Palley uses this analogy to describe the use of neoclassical economists in defense of increasing inequality. His analogy, however, reveals a lot more about Palley’s analysis than he might wish to concede.

In the first place, I must say that I find it objectionable to use a term that is not in common usage without defining it. To me, this reeks of the practice of an elite that excludes the “common” people from discussion by using language whose understanding is restricted to that elite. If Palley wishes to say that neo-classical economists have been co-opted, there are much easier ways of saying so.

But the analogy also indicates a serious lack of understanding of the historical process of capitalist development. The transition from feudalism to capitalism was a complex process that indeed involved compromises between sections of the feudal and capitalist class. These compromises involved not only the restructuring of relations of property and the corresponding organization of political authority, but also the transformation of ideology from a religious to a secular form.

Compared with this, the disputes among neo-classical economists must be seen as merely variations on the ideological presentations of the capitalist mode of production. Palley’s cumbersome analogy is not useful, since the dispute over income inequality does not involve an historical conflict between different classes, but rather a conflict within the capitalist class over its practice and ideology.

Palley’s reflections on Piketty are useful, but his own perspective is best revealed by the final two sentences of his article:

Piketty has whetted the public’s appetite with his talk of capital. Friendly criticism may get the public thinking about capitalism and what is needed to make capitalism deliver shared prosperity.

The question that Piketty and Palley do not address is whether capitalism is incompatible with shared prosperity and the development of humanity.