The goal of this forum is to create a community for producing and reproducing scientific knowledge in political economy that exists totally outside of the realm of academia, the world of bourgeois non-profits and thinktanks, and the state apparatus. Today, political economy, which has been transformed into the “scientific” discipline of economics, has been both gutted of its most insightful content and held back by obscurantist and outdated mathematical models. It was once the case, in the days of Smith, Ricardo and Marx, that political economy was a form of thinking, researching and discussion which was undertaken by a broad public: working men, skilled craftsmen, professionals, clergy and professors. In this time, people didn’t write textbooks of economics, books to be taught by rote learning, they wrote books which were meant to be read by people interested in political economy and further their own research and understanding.
Among the great classical thinkers, it was Marx, who wrote his magnum opus for ordinary workers to read and use, who best embodied this ethos, and whose critique was most reviled by the academic economists. Beginning in the late 1800s and the early 1900s, economics became simply another academic department, another PHD program, a purely institutional science, and Marshall’s Principles of Economics the first great textbook. It became closed to the outside world and to the insights of other disciplines such as philosophy, physics, and history. The expert economist, whose opinions and language were indispensable for crafting public policy and generating political legitimacy for the bourgeois state, was born.
After the second world war, there was scarcely a place on Earth where political economy existed as it did before the turn of the century. Various political movements might include political economy, especially Marx, in their educational programs for members, but overall, research in the field remained sporadic, atomized, and largely cloistered from the public. This atomization and lack of a real scientific community outside of academia remains the case today, even in the internet age. Books and blogs by intelligent authors are still being written and inducing immense progress in political economy proper (rather than “economics”), and some being discussed on a handful of forums. The problem is that, among the public and on these forums, all that’s being done is reproducing and educating people of existing scientific information made almost entirely by individuals still within academia. There almost no production of scientific research in political economy being done on the outside, among the public, among ordinary workers and professionals.
This is not because we lack the tools. In fact, the statistical information being aggregated on the internet is immense, giving everyone an unprecedent access to data that would have been unthinkable a generation ago. So too do we have access to incredibly powerful computational tools at our fingertips. With a laptop or a desktop PC you can program and run sophisticated simulations that tell you a lot more about the world than any of the bloated math of a dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model generated by top economists. No special expertise or certification is required to do this kind of research, all that’s required is the willingness to learn and use the resources available.
The Forum Itself
This forum is built on the optimism for human curiosity and ingenuity, on the hope that there’s a possibility for creating a social science that isn’t trapped in the confines of a state ideology. A place for discussing political economy and related issues outside of the universities, economic bureaucracies and institutes funded by and for the ruling class; to the extent individuals from that world use this forum it should be to escape that world. On the other side of things, while it would be excellent for the work of this forum and its users to go on and inspire political movements, the forum itself is not sectarian, and is intended as a place for a general scientific community where all stripes of researchers can present their findings and debate.
The features of this site are intended to nurture such a community. Users can write posts on their own personal blogs in long form to describe their research, as well as follow the works of other users. The actual forum allows users to create topics to discuss anything political economy related, as well as developments in real world economies, keeping dialogue open and inclusive to the public. The debates in the forum can teach people about political economy, as well as inspire further investigation. If you see a user post some interesting ideas, you can click on their profile and see what blogs they’ve written about their own research. More personal connections and collaborations can be formed by users utilizing chat features. The front page hosts the best research of the CASPER Forum as well as articles and papers related to political economy from important authors and institutions. The point is to centralize and socialize the free labor of producing science.
The Material Reproduction of the Forum
Presently, as the CASPER Forum is getting off the ground, it is the work of hobbyists. The website is paid for at my own expense and will always remain ad-free. Users contributing their research, their comments, and their time are doing so with whatever free time they might have. We accept donations via paypal and patreon with the goal of paying for scaling up the site as necessary, creating a journal of user research that will allow them to be compensated for their work, and eventually hiring full time researchers. By using donations and my own funds as the basis for the material reproduction of the Forum and its activities, it allows the community to develop outside of the direct control of the corporate social media platforms which are operated according to extracting maximal profits from users. Instead, the forum can be designed to nurture real connections between users for the purpose of advancing scientific knowledge.
If you haven’t already, register an account, check out our resources for researchers, read new blogposts, and browse our forum topics.