The term “economic determinism” and the interpretation of Marx’s Materialist Conception of History as economic determinism is found in a mixed collection of opponents of Marx (e.g. A.D. Lindsay in his “KARL MARX'S CAPITAL”, Oxford University Press, 1925), “improvers” of Marx such as Herman Cahn (“COLLAPSE OF CAPITALISM”, and “CAPITAL TODAY”), and commentators who have supposed it to be an accurate description (e.g. “MARX AND ENGELS” edited by Lewis S. Feuer).
Prominent among them before, during and after the First World War was Herman Cahn. He held that developments of capitalism which Marx did not and could not foresee had made the imminent collapse of capitalism inevitable. “That downfall will then be like an act of nature, and not dependent on the mental and moral preparation of the peoples of the world for a new form of society which must, perforce, be completely social”.Socialist Studies
CAHN, HERMAN, Capital to-day; a study of recent economic development. 2d ed rev and enl *$2 (2 1/2c) Putnam 331
Changes in this second edition of a work first published in 1915, consist largely of a revision of chapter 6, Money of account. A rewriting of this part of the book has been made necessary by the abnormal addition to credit money as a condition of the war. The author says, "The former proportion of bank created credit money to the banking capital and deposits built up gradually from profits has undergone a truly revolutionary change. This is destined to stand as an historic event of the first order." The index, lacking in the first edition, has been added.
"This book cannot be accepted without qualification. It is uncritical and sweeps along with the assurance of inspired conviction."
"While this book has not been prepared especially for women, it would be advisable for every woman who intends to use the ballot or to assume any responsibility of citizenship to read it."
CAHN, HERMAN. Collapse of Capitalism. 50c Kerr 331
"Mr. Cahn is a Marxist, and carries the analysis of the money, banking and credit phases of capitalism beyond the period of which Marx wrote. The result of his study is the prediction that the capitalist system of production is proceeding to its breakdown, and the tendency is accelerating by the accumulating of war loans in the leading nations. All the world's debts and deposits are payable in gold, but the bank deposits alone are increasing twenty times as fast as the stock of gold, and collapse is near. It is especially near in Germany, and the author contends that the other nations follow close behind."-N Y Call
"Those who have not the time or the inclination to study Herman Cahn's larger work, 'Capital today,' are advised to get this book." James Oneal
Reviewed by Charlotte Kruesi
Book Review Digest - Volume 14
What Mr. Cahn has to say about the imminent crash of the world's financial system is contained easily within the classical orthodoxy of German Marxism. He begins by excluding from the "ranks of real Marxian Socialists, fiction writers, writers for popular magazines, senteimantalists graduated from charitable settlements, professors and others handicapped by their college training, et."
Freed from these non-proletarians, the residual Marxians are able to demonstrate that the moment of capitalism's downfall is a matter of figures-so completely indeed, that it is entirely independent of even the collective will of men. It "will be positively assured by a continuation of the war for, say, another year," on that day when the capitalists "shall desperately seek to realize their profits in actual money, instead of titles to money." The capitalist rabble are making futile attempts to stave off that day by passing the Federal Reserve act, by permitting inflation and bolstering credits by confidence.
But the actual scarcity of gold and the resort to imaginary money have brought the world to social insolvency. The conspiracy of bankers to carry on exchange by faith has failed. Gold has ceased to be the measure of value, or will the instant that redemption is demanded. Mr. Cahn concludes that the continuance of the war is desirable because it hastens the demand for redemption. But in any event, "gold is about to be stripped of its fateful power over the workman and becomes a mere thing of beauty and innocent joy."
The Survey, Volume 40
CAPITAL TO-DAY-A Study of Recent Economic Development. By Herman Cahn. N. Y.: Putnam's Sons. $1.50
Only the courageous reader will persevere in the perusal of this volume. The author very properly says in his Preface that "The diacletics of the first few chapters make somewhat difficult reading." But no doubt one should expect this in a volume which finds it "necessary to start with an exposition of the foundation of all knowledge." If there is anything more difficult to understand than the author's logic throughout the treatise, it is the basis for the gigantic conceit displayed pari passu. In the early chapter on "Economics, A Science," he shows that, aside from the Marxian conclusions, all economic theory is philosophical rather than scientific. In order to prove that Marx's work is scientific the atuhor first sets forth the "missing feature in Marxism," namely, Dietzgen's theory of "what is correct thinking." Why this work of nearly fifty years ago should serve as a better basis than some recent treatise is not made clear. But this prepares the way for the following remarkable conclusions (p. 22) : "Now, every student of Marx's Capital knows that there is not a sentence in the whole stupendous work not based in concrete statement, on sense-perceptions, nor a single abstract statement which is not a generalization of those same sense-perceptions." Indeed the author is not satisfied to have Marx's work considered as ordinarily scientific, but most prove it extraordinarily so. Hence in comaprison with geology which draws conclusions that cannot be tested by experiment, "every sense-perceived economic phenomenon treated to mentioned by Capital is capable of demonstration by actual experiment." In view of this exactness and finality in the treatment of economic fundamentals the author wonders at the strange indifference to Capital on the part of academic teachers of economics. The explanation of this is found in the fact that philosophy is to capitalism what religion was to feudalism (p. 25) and hence "scientific economics never will be taught within the universities, while the state remains a class state, though millions may be familiar with its conclusions outside." Thus the author to his own satisfaction and probably to many of his readers proves that those academic teachers who do not accept Marxian economics are either knaves or fools and at the same time proves by indubitable evidence that he is a thorough-going dogmatist who has accepted Capital as his economic bible, the conlusions of which by their character of sacred truth are forever removed from further questioning, and may be taken as the premises of all subsequent thinking. Whether this be a scientific or philosophical attitude, let the reader judge. Moreover, if all that Marx wrote was indubitably proved, what ground could there coneivably be for a revisionist movement among his followers?
The foregoing will give a fair presentation of the general character of the book. It has much in it that is worthy of commendation, but mixed up, often in an illogical manner, with assertions that are purelyh dogmatic in character and theoretical statements that do not obviously lead to any broad general thesis. Throughout the devotion to Marx is complete; it is almost touching in places (p. 208). To such eulogy of his patron saint we may all assent, and yet wonder what it proves with reference to the author's contribution. It seems to have become a good deal of a fashion with some socialist writers to lambast the college professors. This brings gleeful satisfaction to a certain class of readers, tends to fix beliefs more firmly than would inductive proof and is a most excellent substitute in a treatise of a polemic nature for sound cogent argument.
In Chapter II a basis for subsequent discussion is laid by a presentation of the Marxian theory of value. The principal statements of this chapter will be familiar to students of socialism, and even to students of economics, in spite of the author's sophomoric remarks that "the validity of Marxian economics is not impaired because the universities choose to ignore its existence." To the reviewer the reasoning in this chatper does not seem perfectly logical. We may all pray for the day when values of commodities will be actually in proportion to the "socially necessary labor" involved in their production, but that this warrants the conclusion that the price of an article is different from its value is not clear. The author himself seems to be aware (p. 40-41) that the term "social" requires the estimate of society. Since this estimate may be actually far from the real labor time involved in the production and since this would simply mean that labor thought to be "socially necessary" was really not fully "socially necessary," but only partially so we get back to the old formula of supply and demand as determination of value and money price as merely a convenient measure. Consequently such statesments as "Supply is not an element in the determination of value, but merely affects the temporary market price" (p. 100) are confusing and illogical.
Much that the author says in the chapters dealing with the theory of money is orthodox doctrine for both the counting room and the academic hall, but the author's drift is really hard to grasp and one continually finds himself dazed in an effort to discover how it is all related to a central theme and purpose. The chapter on money of account seems to the reviwer only vain imaginings. The authors seems to think (pp. 123 and 188) that bank accounts originate in profits which are secured by robbing the workers. Capitalists are not the only person who have money on deposit in banks. If wage-earners succeed in making such deposits, as thousands have, how did they get it? Here, of course, is involved the familiar thesis that labor produces all. But if so, why not destroy capital and have an end to such a robberty?Would a socialist state dispense with capital? Would it give the entire product of industry to present labor or would it as a part of good business bookkeeping set aside not marely a replacement fund, but also an interest fund representing the legitimate return on publicly owned capital? If it didn't do the latter it would fail to do a very common-sense thing. Is not, after all, the real issue here, not whether labor produces all *which is so patently untrue as commonly used), but whether the private ownership of capital with the power thus conferred is expedient in comparison with the public ownership of such capital?
The later chapters, as the earlier ones, give considerable that is unquestioned as matter of fact along with theoretical matter that is difficult to seize as a thesis or body of doctrines. It would seem that on the whole the reading of this book is a waste of time. If the author has something new let him first set it forth in brief form as a clearly defined line of argument so that the ultimate significance of what he has to say may become manifest.
F. H. HANKINS
The Intercollegiate Socialist, Volume 5
An Important Book
A study of recent economic development
by Herman Cahn
An original, scientific analysis and exposition of the post-Marxian development of capital, with reference to the concentration and unification of industrial and money capital and especially to the portentous changes in the form of money.
"An instructive study . . . . a keen analysis of the growth of capital."-- Springfield (Mass.) Republican.
"The work is unquestionably an appeal to intelligent minds."--The Nation
"Silence reigns concerning the menacing money question. The author's work is designed to break silence in the interest of up-to-date economics."-- Philadelphia North America.
"A complete and clear analysis of the accumulation of money capital and its influence on modern social conditions, and is the best work of its kind since the close of the period dealt with by Marx. Cahn is an able economist... He has handled the money problems from a dual standpoint, that of the scientist applying the exact analysis to his work, and that of the practical business man with wide experience."--Kansas City Post.
"It is not superfluous to commend the book to that part of society which does not know what the other part of society which does not know what the other part is thinking . . . . An interesting exposition of Marxism brought up to date."-- The New York Times.
Price $1.50 net.
New York G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS London
The Nation, Volume 103
Money, Prices, Credit, and Banking
Capital Today. A Stidy of Recent Economic Development. By Herman Cahn. Second Edition, revised and enlarged.
The first edition of this book appeared in 1915. Since that time many important and startling economic changes have taken place. These changes necessitated a complete revision. The most emphatic change is in the chapter entitled Money of Account, which has been entirely rewritten and largely expanded. Bank credit money has taken on new significane in the last three years in practically all the important commercial countries of the world.