A Comparative Study of Marxism and Critical Realism

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    In my thesis I attempt to compare Marxism with critical realism. My conclusion is that critical realism is incapable of supporting Marxism. My understanding of Marxism is based on Capital. In Capital, the method of social exploration employed by Marx is historically contextual. Capitalism provides Marx with the condition to construct his method, so that the explanation of capitalistic production is realised. In Marx‘s explanation, the calculation of
    surplus value is important. This presupposes the equation of the amounts of value possessed produced commodities. Conversely, the critical realist method is trans-historical, because it relies on a questionable ontology. Further, critical realist ontology founding these methodological principles is problematic. The transcendental arguments on this ontology relies, as exemplified by Roy Bhaskar and Tony Lawson, are weak.On the basis of their social ontology, critical realists propose a methodology of social sciences is proposed. Thanks to it, critical realism criticises mainstream economics and supports heterodox economics, including Marxism. This argument, however, is problematic.For one thing, mainstream economics is condemned for mathematic formalism. This critique presupposes a distinction between open systems and closed systems. Because critical realism is ambiguous about the definition of open systems and closed systems, its critique of mainstream economics is questionable. In addition, a critical realist methodology is compatible with utilising mathematics to study open systems. Therefore, it is also compatible with mainstream economics.
    Finally, in terms of critical realism, Marx‘s account of capitalism is read as an application of a trans-historical method strategy. This contradicts my idea that the method adopted by Marx presupposes a social-historical context: capitalism. Second, being interpreted in terms of critical realism, the explanatory power of Marx‘s theory is reduced, in that the calculation of surplus value in his theory is excluded.
    Date of Award1 Apr 2014
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • King's College London
    SupervisorAlex Callinicos (Supervisor) & Daniela Tepe (Supervisor)

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