I continue my response to this short article by stressing the conclusion made in the previous post: Keynes' work doesn't stray very far from the mainstream view of economic theory. Keynes' grand view of the economy is still very divorced from the tough political issues that need to be addressed if some of the conclusions which Keynes arrives at are to be implemented.
There is another subtle assumption in Keynes' writing here which I turn to now, an assumption which drives at one of the fundamental principles of mainstream theory: people face tradeoffs. Specifically, people face tradeoffs between work and leisure.
I feel sure that with a little more experience we shall use the new-found bounty of nature [once we are at the stage of technology at which we can solve the 'economic problem'] quite differently from the way in which the rich use it to-day, and will map out for ourselves a plan of life quite otherwise than theirs. For many ages to come the old Adam will be so strong in us that everybody will need to do some work if he is to be contented. (368-369)
But this is not a "given," it is a product (as is everything else) of history and culture. First of all, the very use of a Judaeo-Christian biblical concept should set off some bells and whistles. Other religions have different understandings of the role of work in life. The Islamic religion, for example, has a more positive view of work. Buddhism no doubt also has a different view of work (though I don't know enough about it to comment). Second, Marx himself had a very different view of work, and argues that it is only the social system of capitalism which fosters the neoclassical understanding of the modern individual as facing a dilemma of tradeoffs between work and leisure. As David Spencer notes in a recent paper in Labor History:
People were required to work in order to meet their basic material needs but they also benefited from the challenge and difficulty of work itself. Marx suggested that human beings were drawn to work as a means to realise their 'species being' and he considered the participation in work as the basis for a contented and fulfilled life. ("The 'work as bad' thesis in economics: origins, evolution, and challenges," Labor History Vol. 50, No.1 [Feb. 2009]: pg. 48)
Keynes revolutionized the field of economics in methodology, theory, and policy conclusions. But Keynes' understanding of the economy is not radically different from those in the profession he aimed to overthrow. In a sense, it was a trading of places between one set of elites and another. Basic bourgeois understandings of the economy did not change.
That concludes my comments on this article. Within a week or so, I will tie this argument up with an examination of Linder's own analysis of the "Rise and Fall of Keynesianism," from Anti-Samuelson.