[OPE-L:3888] Re: Re: Re: Re: Marxists AND Sraffians Misinterpreting Sraffa

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@Princeton.EDU)
Date: Wed Sep 27 2000 - 10:30:02 EDT

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As for the very clever airplane analogy, let me note that we still need to
need to know the laws of physics which must be respected if there is to be
flight at all--the more general case of airplane activity.

Perhaps we need to think in organic metaphors.

Perhaps what the critics have in mind is something like biological

Some of us want to allow prices to vary interperiodically. Yet in
biology all variations are not possible. For instance if you have an
organism with four legs, you have to have a frame strong enough to
carry them. And this means not every change possible in theory is
possible in practice. changing one part of the organism may not be a
biological option, given other parts of the organism, not to mention
the molecular and physiological difficulties of simply achieving any
change you may need or want. To put matters another way, we might say
that biological necessity imposes certain 'constraints' on possible
routes of organic development.

Now what I think the critics are implicitly thinking is that we are
simply allowing prices to vary any which way over time with no
consideration for the constraints imposed by the reproduction of the
system on how much freedom prices actually have to vary

We simply need a way to move from the straightjacket of static
(simple or expanded) reproduction to those simple constraints which
allow for and make possible development. So I think that we owe to
our critics some kind of recognition that while we are allowing for
continous interperiodic change in prices we recognize that the change
has to be constrained in some way if the system as a whole is to
develop. Marx after all recognized that there were certain relations
between the departments which had to be more or less respected (even
if only behind everyone's back) if the system as a whole was to be
able to grow without a permanent consumption deficit. In short, we
need a theory of system constraints similar to biological constraints.

We cannot however accept static or equilibrium reproduction prices
since they simply rule out the possibility of development. That is,
simple or expanded reproduction models or growth models are like
preformation in biology. They are basically like an enlargement of a
miniature that is just as complex as the fully grown adult. This is
simply easy to comprehend because it appeals to our visually
dominated mind (see Enrico Coen The Art of Genes). Yet the capitalist
economy, just like the egg, is marked by development as an actual
increase in structural complexity over time. We can take snapshots of
this process over time or we can try to understand the actual
dynamics of development which is a constrained (yes) but never static

But perhaps we can't reject any kind of constraint unless we offer
more positively a less binding one, though of course as dialecticians
we cannot be after anything like ahistoric structural laws--Stuart

Since as schumpeter recognized capitalism incessantly generates new
forms we do need a theory of how the pressure for change is indeed
always building up, though actual morphological change is not always
immediately possible as some kind of constraints may rule it out for
some...until the dam breaks and the constraints give way with rapid
change occuring and the organism switching to radically new forms in
terms of vintage, product variety, labor organisation and socio
political regimes (monopoly capital, mixed economy, fordism, post
fordism, wall street capitalism, regional blocs, etc).

Of course this kind of evolutionism (one should not be deceived by
the saltationism) runs every risk of depriving Marxism of its
revolutionary practice. The organism can begin to age, even become
senile. But its natural death can surely be prolonged.

All the best, Rakesh

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