Fifteen years after the Global Financial Crisis: Recessions and Business Cycles in the History of Economic Thought

Artificial Selection of Theories in the History of Economic Thought: Mehmet Selik (1932-2005) and Translations of Karl Marx's Works of Political Economy into Turkish

Yalcintas Altug, Hamburg Institute for Advanced Study

In this paper, I aim to show that Karl Marx’s works ofpolitical economy include both works that Marx authorized during his lifetimeand works compiled after his death by editors, translators, and publishers.This suggests that theories often rely on various artificial factors, among others, that helpthem survive the intellectual challenges. When the conditions for domesticationare present - i.e. when the theories are taken away from their original formand artificially kept alive - the theories do not change the literature, butinstead are made to fit the literature.  In order to support my argument with historical evidence,I focus my attention on Mehmet Selik (1932-2005), a renowned politicaleconomist at Ankara University where he lectured in courses on the historyof economic thought and Turkish economy during the 1960s and 1970s. Selik’spublished works include A Marxist Theory of Value (MarksistDeğer Teorisi, 1968) and A History of Economic Doctrines in 100Questions (100 Soruda İktisadi Doktrinler Tarihi, 1973), aswell as numerous articles published in academic outlets. He spent the years1963 to 1965 at the University of Cambridge as a student and colleague ofMaurice Dobb. In 1966, he performed the first complete translation of DasKapital (Vol. I) into Turkish, using the German original. He retiredafter some time following the 1980 coup d’état. The following analysis shows that books and articles resulting from the responsibility of intellectuals and activists from Friedrich Engels to Mehmet Selik who knew Marx well, play significant roles in the intellectual history of political economy. Marx’s books onpolitical economy have a history that is independent of the author’s will. Thishistory often moves independently of the author’s personal history. Artificialinterventions related to Das Kapital start with the second and third volumes, which were published after Marx’sdeath and edited by Engels, and reach the Turkish translations of DasKapital, which are mostly published by Sol Yayınevi (Sol Publication House)in Turkey. For example, while the original Das Kapital has 7parts and 25 chapters, the first English translation has 8 chapters and 33parts. We also observe that the contributions of Turkish publishing houses have affected this disorder: almost all ofMarx’s works “translated” into Turkish contain long (and often unnecessary andeven erroneous) sections related or unrelated to the work. These sections,often added at the initiative of the publisher, are not found in the originalversion of the book. For example, Grundrissepublished by Birikim Yayınları (Birikim Publications) includes a long “explanatory”preface of more than 130 pages.

Area: Eshet Conference

Keywords: Turkish history of economic thought, Marxian political economy, economic methodology, philosophy of economics, evolutionary epistemology

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