[OPE-L:3019] empirical verification of interpretations of Marx?

From: JERRY LEVY (jlevy@sescva.esc.edu)
Date: Fri May 05 2000 - 07:46:58 EDT

[ show plain text ]

For some time, Andrew K and others have claimed that there needs to
be some way of emprically verifying or falsifying different
interpretations of Marx. I don't think there has been much response
to this claim. So can we discuss the general issue?

It seems to me that whether we can develop a meaningful "empirical"
measure depends on what proposition(s) we are attempting to verify
or not verify. Clearly, there are many instances in which Marx wrote
different things at different times in different places. Determining
some way to access what can most accurately be said to be his
position under these circumstances can be very difficult ...
although not necessarily impossible.

Let us take a simple example. Not long ago, I pointed to a quote from
Paul Mattick, Jr. in which he said that: "The starting point of
Marx's critique, accordingly, must be the category that is most
elementary with respect to capitalist society *as theorized by
classical theory*: the commodity" (in Moseley ed. _Marx's Method
in Capital_, p. 124).

It would seem to me that this interpretation can be *tested* in the
following way:

(1) did Marx ever write that he was starting with the commodity
    for the above reason?

(2) did classical theory (or some significant section thereof)
    begin with the commodity and view it as the "most elementary"
    category with respect to capitalist society?

If the answer can be determined to (1) and (2) and the answer to
both is "No", then will the statement in question thereby be said
to be inaccurate and, thereby, not validated?

I would answer "Yes" to the last question.

If others agree, then they also will recognize that *under certain
circumstances* empirical testing of different interpretations of
Marx is possible.

If that is the case, *what makes* the proposition that Andrew wants
to test either testable or not testable? Thus, if you think it is
not testable, why? If you think that it is testable, what would be
the most meaningful and accurate test?

Further: do others think that the *range* of testable prositions
(should read, propositions) in different interpretations of Marx
is relatively broad or relatively narrow? How do we make this
determination in specific instances?

In solidarity, Jerry

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed May 31 2000 - 00:00:07 EDT