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A Handbook of Alternative Theories of Public Economics

A Handbook of Alternative Theories of Public Economics

Elgar original reference

Edited by Francesco Forte, Ram Mudambi and Pietro Maria Navarra

This comprehensive and thought-provoking Handbook reviews public sector economics from pluralist perspectives that either complement or reach beyond mainstream views. The book takes a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach, drawing on economic elements in the fields of philosophy, sociology, psychology, history and law.

Chapter 3: Marxian public economics (with a comment by Massimo Florio)

Giuseppe Coco and Silvia Fedeli

Subjects: economics and finance, austrian economics, history of economic thought, public choice theory, public finance, public sector economics, politics and public policy, public choice


When we try to understand the writings and the mind of some social thinker of the past, we may approach the matter in two ways. We may start by enquiring what answers he gave to the sort of question that thinkers of our own day are accustomed to pose . . . On the other hand, we may start by trying to find out the sort of questions he was really seeking to answer to make out what shape the problem had which formed the background of his thinking. Having done this, we may then ask ourselves whether some of these questions he was asking may not be ones that we should be asking today. (Dobb, 1950 [1955], p. 178) A treatment of Marxian public economics, more than other cases, faces several problems and needs some initial methodological premises and justification. There exists an objective difficulty in discussing Marxian economics as such for a simple reason: Marx himself laid out his programme in Das Kapital as a critique of political economy (and more generally of economics), to be read as a critique of capitalist economics. Economics is, in Marx's view, a false science reflecting the interest of the ruling class, and, chiefly among other social sciences, will necessarily be based on an ideological bias in favour of the status quo. This presumption has generated difficulties of understanding and cross-breeding in Marxian economics with the advances in standard economic theory.

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