Poetry News

Joshua Clover & Jasper Bernes on 'What Was Neoliberalism?'

By Harriet Staff


We're attentive when poets delve into politics, as Joshua Clover and Jasper Bernes do frequently--this time in the form of a joint letter to the editor in response to Michael Clune's recent article in  the Los Angeles Review of Books, "What Was Neoliberalism?" It's a heady, dense piece, but if you're curious about what a critically-engaged poetic perspective of economics looks like, we recommend reading both their letter to the editor as well as Clune's response. The gist of Clover and Bernes's argument is that Clune has drastically misread Marx in certain key ways:

“The idea that a commodity’s value is equal to the labor that goes into it” is indeed a thing that many people have believed. For example, it is a thing that Adam Smith believed. In somewhat different form, it is a thing believed by David Ricardo, the other great political scientist of the Scottish Enlightenment. If only there had been someone to debunk this zombie idea, we would not be in its thrall!

Rather famously, there was. The debunking of this idea first appears in Capital. We highly encourage those who wish to hold forth on Marx’s political economy to read this well-known text; for ease of use, the damning critique of said labor theory of value is to be found in the first chapter.