The following comments pertain to Ikonoclast’s text from March 9, 2019.Ikonoclast:
Bichler & Nitzan:
By definition, political economy does not separate economics and politics.
As we see it, political economy, both neoclassical and classical (including Marx’s), examines the interaction
between politics and economics. In Marxism, politics is generally seen as supportive
of the capitalist economy, whereas in neoclassical political economy, politics is said to undermine
the economy. The very existence of these interactions presupposes
that economics and politics, although interrelated, are fundamentally distinct.
This presupposition is perhaps the most important ‘proprietary innovation’ of classical-liberal political economy. Speaking for the rising bourgeoisie, classicists from Locke and Smith onward insisted that the voluntary-utilitarian relationships of the market (or ‘civil society’ as they called it) be freed from the hierarchical-coercive relationship of politics and state.
In the late nineteenth century, neoclassical writers turned this emancipatory demand into a rigid theoretical prerequisite. The primordial ‘market’, they insisted, is theoretically autonomous from any outside intervention, and this autonomy means that politics and power, although occasionally present, are merely external distortions
of an otherwise pristine ‘economic’ phenomenon.
Marx’s analysis, although very different in substance, was similarly bifurcated into economics and politics. The underlying process of capital accumulation, Marx argued, occurred at the material economic ‘base’ of labour, production, technical change and class, while the justification, legitimation and enforcement of this process was affected through the political, legal, ideological and cultural ‘superstructure’ dominated by the state.
Although political economists rarely emphasize it (and many vehemently deny it), the economic-politics duality continues to inform – and in our view remains essential to – the building blocks and foundational categories of both neoclassical and Marxist analyses.
Take capital. As far as we can tell, all political economists conceive, theorize and (pretend to) measure its accumulation as an ‘economic’ process denominated either in socially necessary abstract labour time, or SNALT (the elementary particle of the Marxists), or in ‘utils’ (the basic atom of the neoclassicists). And as far as we know, all political economists view politics, politicians and policymakers as ‘intervening’, positively or negatively, in this process. (Out of respect for our intelligent reader, we ignore here the fashionable nonsense of conjuring up new forms of capital – from the ‘natural’, to the ‘social’, to the ‘cultural’, ‘intellectual’, ‘experiential’ and ‘spiritual’, among others.)
Or take the state. The early twentieth-century rise of ‘big government’ and ‘economic policy’ made it difficult to view this institution as a mere ‘political entity’. With direct spending by post-war capitalist governments typically accounting for 20-50 per cent of all ‘economic’ activity, and with so-called ‘policy interventions’ affecting pretty much everything else, it is hard to see where politics begins and economics ends. And given that the modern state ‘infects’ and ‘distorts’ every dollar in the economy, it is now a real challenge to identify a single economic realm where the assumptions of neoclassical theory have any purchase.
During the early twentieth century, these conceptual difficulties contributed to the rise of neo-Marxism, which unlike its classical predecessor is no longer comfortable with the traditional separation between state and capital, power and production and politics and economics. Debates over which activity belongs to which sphere remain heated. Renegade Henri Lefebvre, for example, was expelled from the Communist party for daring to reclassify the city as part of the ‘economic base’, while opportunist Louis Althusser managed to get away with claiming that ideology, although produced by the state, is nonetheless part of the economic base. These ‘territorial’ squabbles have since expanded to other academic disciplines, such as culture, gender and race, and their very continuation proves that the fundamental separation of politics from economics is alive and kicking.
For more on these issues, see:
 Nitzan, Jonathan, and Shimshon Bichler. 2009. Capital as Power. A Study of Order and Creorder
. RIPE Series in Global Political Economy. New York and London: Routledge, Ch. 2. http://bnarchives.yorku.ca/259/
 Bichler, Shimshon, Jonathan Nitzan, and Piotr Dutkiewicz. 2013. Capitalism as a Mode of Power: Piotr Dutkiewicz in Conversation with Shimshon Bichler and Jonathan Nitzan. In 22 Ideas to Fix the World: Conversations with the World's Foremost Thinkers
, edited by P. Dutkiewicz and R. Sakwa. New York: New York University Press and the Social Science Research Council, pp. 326-354. http://bnarchives.yorku.ca/372/ Ikonoclast:
Bichler & Nitzan:
Conventional economics remains, for the most part, mired in mechanistic and deterministic models. These are wholly inadequate for complex emergent and evolutionary systems.
It seems to us that not only conventional economics, but Marxism too is mired in mechanistic and deterministic models. Marx’s dialectics proposed to break this determinism, but in practice, his ‘laws of motion’, and particularly his model of accumulation, tended to reproduce it.
Neo-Marxists – for example, those associated with the Frankfurt School – have tried to augment this determinism with various ‘subjective’ elements, but these attempts have proven difficult to implement – if only because Marxism (and the positive social sciences more generally) originated from and remain part of the modern mechanical worldview. The real contestation of mechanical determinism is associated with existentialists and post-modern precursors like Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Ikonoclast:
Bichler & Nitzan:
Every ideational system, every mathematical system is a model or map (in nominal or formal form) of the real world…. The market, however constituted and however imperfect, is the social and economic instrument of measurement of real value in nominally comparable value terms.
Ulf Martin’s 2018 paper ‘The Autocatalytic Sprawl of Pseudorational Mastery’  distinguishes ontological
symbols that represent reality from operational
symbols that construct reality. Conventional political economy tends to use the former, whereas CasP strives to develop the latter.
In conventional political economy, theory (nomos
) is a map to a territory (phusis
): the territory is the ‘real’ sphere of the economy; this territory is believed to have its own fundamental quantities (SNALT and utils); and these fundamental quantities (measured in ‘real’ magnitudes) are said to map onto and be represented by the quantities of the nominal sphere (money prices). In our work we referred to this correspondence as the ‘quantitative equivalence’ of political economy.
In our view, the problem with this quantitative equivalence is that its ‘real’ (ontological?) quantities of SNALT and utils are fictitious. Unlike the so-called fundamental quantities of physics, they are logically inconsistent and empirically unidentifiable, meaning that there is really nothing to map onto nominal prices.
In CasP, nominal prices do not reflect an independent ontology of ‘real quantities’; instead, they creorder the capitalist reality through the operational symbols of the capitalization ritual.
 Martin, Ulf. 2018. The Autocatalytic Sprawl of Pseudorational Mastery (version 0.12). Working Papers on Capital as Power
(2018/04, June): 1-20 http://bnarchives.yorku.ca/544/ Ikonoclast:
Bichler & Nitzan:
I am however a little puzzled by their rigid insistence that ‘Capitalism is not a mode of production. It’s a mode of power.’ To me, it is clear that capitalism is both a mode of production and a mode of power.
Our claim that capitalism is not a mode of production and consumption but a mode of power does not mean that production and consumption are unimportant, but rather that the significance of production and consumption should be understood through the lens of capitalized power.
Topologically, this view simply reverses the theoretical priorities of conventional political economy. In conventional political economy, power either distorts the mode of production and consumption (neoclassical) or supports it (Marxist). CasP inverts this order, arguing that we should examine production and consumptions as negative/positive dimensions of capitalized power.