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  • Exception and Rule. Political and economic arguments of N.I. Sieber against Marginalism before its triumph

Exception and Rule. Political and economic arguments of N.I. Sieber against Marginalism before its triumph

TERRA ECONOMICUS, , Vol. 18 (no. 3),

The article proposes an analysis of the critical arguments expressed by N.I. Sieber regarding the concept of value, which is accepted by economists of the subjective school. Sieber made these critical arguments in his dissertation, published in 1871. However, they remain valid for Marginalism, the principles of which basically continue the line of the subjective school (Leon Walras was among the authors cited by Sieber). In the analysis of Sieberʼs position, not only logic was taken into account, but also the rhetoric of his argumentation, which makes it possible to identify a broader context within which this position remains relevant. Sieber criticizes the views of economists of the subjective school from the standpoint of the classical school. The latter, as the basis for the constitution of value, considers the average, typical state of economic life, while the former is based on the consideration of an isolated, exceptional moment – that is, the moment when a radical change in the parameters of economic activity takes place. To describe this «exceptional moment», Sieber uses a number of metaphorical images, such as state of siege, threats to life and health, the situation of immigrants, etc. Sieberʼs use of these images allows us to compare his arguments with a number of the most important positions of political theorists of the 20th century (K. Schmitt, W. Benjamin, M. Foucault, G. Agamben) associated with such concepts as «sovereignty», «state of exception», «bare life». As a result, Sieberʼs perspective can be viewed as an anticipation of the modern criticism of neoliberalism – an ideology in which the marginalist understanding of the economy is used as an essential resource for the formation of a biopolitical paradigm for managing peopleʼs lives.
Citation: Pogrebnyak, A. A. (2020). Exception and Rule. Political and economic arguments of N.I. Sieber against Marginalism before its triumph. Terra Economicus, 18(3), 108–124. DOI: 10.18522/2073-6606-2020-18-3-108-124
Acknowledgment: The article was written with the support of an internal grant from St. Petersburg State University, «Marxism before Marxism: the socio-economic and epistolary heritage of Nikolaj Sieber» (ID 53363115).

Keywords: Sieber; marginalism; classical school; subjective school; value; state of exception; sovereignty; Marxism

JEL codes: B12, B14, B31

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Publisher: Southern Federal University
Founder: Southern Federal University
ISSN: 2073-6606