Poli 349 Fall 2012

Under construction:

Poli 349 Fall 2012

POLITICS 349 Fall 2012
Professor Harold Chorney
Concordia university
Chorney@alcor.concordia .ca
office hours Tuesday 5:10 to 6 :10
This course explores the deep seated search for community in the context of the debate between postmodernism and modernism and the nature of metropolitan culture.We trace the emergence of the global city and the profound impact this form of urbanization has had on everyday life.The recent  prolonged economic slump that  emerged following the great crash of 2008 once again casts a shadow on the life of modernity. The need for solidarity and community is once again a high priority in the values of many.Indeed it may well be an existential need. For the past two centuries the rise of the city has been one of the most profound transformations in daily life. We explore the the evolution of the town into the city, the city into the metropolis, and the rise of class and then mass society.We examine the role of mass society in contributing to the rise of global culture and the tensions that this presents. The debate between modernism and postmodernism is essential to tracing the cultural, political and socio-economic impact of this evolution. The course explores this argument in the history of social theory and the on-going quest for community that appears to be at the heart of the modern urban and political experience.

Texts: Harold Chorney, City of Dreams, Nelson Canada 1990. A large format edition of this work is available from Nelson-Thomson, 2002 and has been ordered for the Concordia  bookshop.

Lawrence Cahoon ed. , From Modernism to Postmodernism:An Anthology Blackwell, 2003.2nd edition.Available in the  bookshop.

Richard Appignanesi and Chris Garrat, Postmodernism for Beginners.

An additional text on contemporary cities and urban politics will be announced in the first several weeks of class. Evaluation: One essay 50 % due mid term and one final test 50 %; or one practicum 20% and one essay 30 % and one final test 50 %.


1. Introduction: The quest for community.reading: Chorney, introduction, pp1-9. Cahoone, introduction pp1-13.

2. Modernism versus post-modernism.The emergence of virtuality. La vie quotidiene.reading; Cahoone introduction, and pp.17-62. Appignesi and Garrat, introduction.

3. Further exploration of modernism versus post modernism.Readings: Cahoone: Hegel, Baudelaire, Freud, Husserl, Heidigger,Bell, Derrida, Horkheimer and Adorno, Lyotard, Rorty and Habermas.Others tba.

4. Alienation and class consciousness. The quest for community in the work of Marx and Engels. The influence of Hegel.The significance of the French Revolution. Reading Chorney. chapter two.

5. The critique of Ferdinand Toennies. Gemeinschaft versus Gesellschaft.Chorney , chapter 3.

6. The metropolis and mental Life. Georg Simmel, Berlin and the intensification of nervous stimuli. chapter 4

7. Urbanization and anomie: The work of Emile Durkheim.Chorney chapter 5

8.Max Weber: Modernism and Disenchantment.Chorney , chapter 6; Max Weber, Economy and society, selected chapters; Arthur Mitzman, Max Weber and the Iron Cage of Reason.Hans Girth and C.Wright Mills, Introduction to Max Weber.

9. The Chicago School and contemporary American mainstream urban theory. From Frank Park to Louis Worth to Herbert Gans and Claude Fischer. Saskia Sassen, Globalization and its discontents .

10. Georg Lukacs:Reification and the consciousness of the proletariat.Chorney, ch. 8.

11.Walter Benjamin:The culture of mechanical reproduction. The culture industry, from Berlin to Paris to Hollywood.The eclipse of post-modernism ? The dialectic of enlightenment. Canadian Renaissance cities. Benjamin, the arcades project.Chorney ch.9.

12. The phenomenology of the urban.From Social theory to public policy and urban politics.The Canadian metropolis;Montreal urban politics. Chorney, ch.10 & .Macleans cover story on Montreal. Nov. 9, 2009.

13. Conclusion: Toward a critical theory of public policy. The metropolis and globalization.

Essay assignment: Due in class the first full week in November on Tuesday Nov.6.

Please research and write a 12-15 page essay on one of the the following topics. Be certain to use a manual of style for example , Kate Turabian, A Manual for Writers, University of Chicago Press and include it in your bibliography. Each essay should have a cover page with your name, the title of the essay, course details etc , as well as footnotes or end notes and a separate bibliography. In your bibliography include all works you have consulted and cited. Be sure to consult books, periodical literature of an academic nature, quality newspapers and magazines where appropriate and internet material .Do not plagiarise other authors’ work. Always acknowledge your sources properly.With respect to internet items give the time and date at which you consulted the material. List of suggested topics:

1. Discuss the relationship between Marx and Hegel. Is it possible to understand Marx without seeing his Hegelian connection?

2. What is post-modernism ? What is its relevance to the contemporary world we live in ? Is it excessively pessimistic or realistic about political change and popular culture ?

3. Select a writer from City of Dreams and explore his work in depth.

4. Discuss the political economy of Marx. What relevance , if any does it have to the global metropolis ?

5. What is a feminist critique of metropolitan life entail ? Can we differentate the urban experience by gender ? Provide a detailed answer.

6. Select an urban planning issue like homelessness, public transportation, building an ecological city, grassroots urban political movements or rebuilding urban infrastructure and explore it in detail.

7. Explore the political and constitutional status of cities in Canada. What changes are needed in order to improve the governance and economic performance of our cities.

8. How has the recent economic crisis affected our sense of global culture and metropolitan life ?

9. Select a major Canadian or global metropolis and do an intensive case study of the city, its history, its contemporary status, its political economy and its cultural life.

Class notes:

A:Useful in conjunction with the lectures on Marx and the metropolis

1. The falling rate of profit. Major financial crises like the one we have just experienced and the tensions surrounding globalization raise fascinating questions about the structural problems of modern capitalism. In the nineteenth century and for much of the twentieth century many economists debated this question. Keynes was convinced that there was little value in returning to any debate that was wedded to the anachronistic labour theory of value. Instead, he approached the issue of crisis from the point of view of less than full employment aggregate demand and the failure of the classical labour market clearing mechanism to operate consistently to deliver full employment. The labour theory of value that originated in the work of David Ricardo and was built upon by Marx to develop his theory of crisis that was rooted in the tendency of the rate of profit to fall over time because of a tendency to increase the organic composition of capital, that is the ratio of embodied technology, physical plant and raw material that was a key ingredient in the production process. These increases were motivated by the entrepreneurial and corporate desire to increase labour productivity.If the productivity gains are large enough they can reverse the tendency for the profit rate to fall. This was the argument of Bortkiewicz .In a funny sort of way it is also the argument of those who argue that high end technological innovation will rescue the first world from the global outsourcing that is going on whereby production is being shifted from North America and West Europe to countries like China, India and Asia generally. The unresolved problem still remains that high end technology does not appear so far to generate enough jobs quickly enough to replace all those that are being lost due to outsourcing. In addition there is the very real problem of ensuring enough global effective aggregate demand to purchase all of the high end output generated by these high tech centres of activity. Keynes dismissed the labour theory of value as out of date controversializing, but members of his circle like Michal Kalecki were less certain. Even Keynes chose to use an hour’s employment of ordinary labour and the remuneration it received as his numeraire in the General Theory.(see ch.4 GT) Bortkiewicz and Bohm Bawerk in their work raised effective critiques of Marx’s doctrine, according to Sweezy, although Sweezy remained much more convinced that Bortkiewicz was closer to the truth than was Bohm Bawerk.( Bohm Bawerk, Karl Marx and the Close of his System, P.Sweezy editor, London , 1948; L.Bortkiewicz, “Value and price in the Marxian system” translated from “Archiv fur Socialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, ertrechnung und Preisrechnung in Marxschen System” Bd.xxlllHeft 1, 1906, International economic papers no.2.) Bortkiewicz argues that Marx was guilty of methodological inconsistencies and neglected the mathematical relation between the productivity of labour, dependent upon the organic composition of capital and the rate of surplus value.The rise in productivity may be such as to totally reverse any tendency for the rate of profit to fall. Roman Rosdolsky attempts not completely successfully to refute both Sweezy and Bortkiewicz and Keynes’s colleague, Cambridge economist Joan Robinson in their critique of the falling rate of profit in his work the Making of Marx’s Capital, (London, Pluto Press, 1980, pp.398-411). Meghnad Desai in Marxian Economic Theory, ( London, Gray Mills publishing , 1974) has pointed out that Michio Morishima (whose class I regularly attended at the L.S.E.) believed that it would be better to abandon the labour theory of value because of the very difficult technical complications requiring complex mathematics to resolve in order to transform values into prices. Morishima wrote ” We conclude by suggesting to Marxian economists that they ought radically to change their attitude towards the labour theory of value. If it has to determine the amounts of labour which the techniques of production actually adopted in a capitalist economy require, directly and indirectly , in order to produce commodities, it is not a satisfactory theory at all.” M.Morishima, Marx’s economics, Cambridge University press, 1973 p.193. Paul Baran and Paul Sweezy attempted to do precisely that in their classic Monopoly Capital wherein they substituted the tendency for the surplus to rise and the problem of surplus absorption for the falling rate of profit.Piero Sraffa’s classic work The Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities:Prelude to a Critique of Economic Theory, 1960, Cambridge University press, demonstrates a workable mathematical method for assessing dated labour in terms of its contribution to the value and price of a commodity which makes a very key contribution to this debate. Sraffa demonstrates convincingly how prices and values vary with variations in the rate of profit. Sraffa was a friend and colleague of Keynes who Keynes had helped rescue from fascist Italy before the Second World War by helping him secure a position at Cambridge. Sweezy in his classic Theory of Capitalist Development reduces the falling rate of profit to the following striking formulation; p=s'(1-q) where p is the rate of profit and q the organic composition of capital i.e. c/c+v (Marx in Capital vol 2 defines it as c/v rather than as Sweezy defines it c/c+v )p.625 chapter 23, vol.2 Dutton, Everyman’s library edition, London&N.Y. translated by Eden and Cedar Paul, introduction by G.D.H. Cole. &vol.3 p.214 ch xlll, progress edition, 1966.) He arrives at this as follows. p= s/c+v = sv/v(c+v) = sc+sv -sc/v(c+v) = s(c+v)/v(c+v) – sc/v(c+v) = s/v-s/v.c/c+v= s/v(1-1.c/c +v) = s'(1-q) (p.68) We won’t be pursuing this controvery further in the course but those who wish to read further about it consult the works cited above and also look at Ronald Meek, Studies in the Labour theory of Value, Jesse Schwartz, The Subtle Anatomy of Capitalism and M.Desai, Marx’s Revenge as well as Paul Mattick, Marx and Keynes. Desai who is a former teacher of mine who may now want to revise his assessment about the success of globalization in the light of recent events has an interesting chapter on Marx, Hayek and Keynes.You might also want to look at my conference paper which I presented to the association for heterodox economics in London in 2001 which is part of the Deficit Papers, The Theory of the Business cycle in Keynes, Hayek and Schumpter:What do we know in the Age of globalization ?

Perspectivism:One of you brought up this approach which is identified with Nietzsche’s view of the relativity of belief according to the perspective of the individual , as opposed to the objective circumstances of reality. You are right , of course, to suggest a close affinity between the views of the post moderns, relativism and those of Nietzsche. However, in City of Dreams I drew not upon Nietzsche but rather upon the phenomenology of Husserl, Merleau Ponty, Schutz, Mead and Berger and Luckmann among others, as well as my own observations about the metropolis and the work of Benjamin.Clearly the approaches are related.

Jurgen Habermas: for those interested in exploring the work of Jurgen Habermas and the culture of communications in more detail you can start by checking out the references in footnote 34 on pp.52-53. see also Harold Innis’s Bias of Communications. See also, Jurgen Habermas’s prolific writing for example: Knowledge and Human Interests; Toward a Rational Society;Legitimation Crisis(available on the internet)The Theory of Communicative Action; also Thomas McCarthy, The Critical Theory of Jurgen Habermas.


About haroldchorneyeconomist

I am Professor of political economy at Concordia university in Montréal, Québec, Canada. I received my B.A.Hons (econ.&poli sci) from the University of Manitoba. I also completed my M.A. degree in economics there. Went on to spend two years at the London School of Economics as a Ph.D. student in economics and then completed my Ph.D. in political economy at the University of Toronto. Was named a John W.Dafoe fellow, a CMHC fellow and a Canada Council fellow. I also was named a Woodrow Wilson fellow in 1968 after completing my first class honours undergraduate degree. Worked as an economist in the area of education, labour economics and as the senior economist with the Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation for the Government of Manitoba from 1972 to 1978. I also have worked as an economic consultant for MDT socio-economic consultants and have been consulted on urban planning, health policy, linguistic duality and public sector finance questions by the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan,the cities of Regina and Saskatoon, Ontario and the Federal government of Canada. I have also been consulted by senior leaders of the British Labour party, MPs from the Progressive Conservative party, the Liberal party and the New Democrats on economic policy questions. Members of the Government of France under the Presidency of Francois Mitterand discussed my work on public sector deficits. I have also run for elected office at the municipal level. I first began to write about quantitative easing as a useful policy option during the early 1980s.
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