[OPE-L:4287] Re: Logic and illogic in defending Marx

From: Rakesh Narpat Bhandari (rakeshb@Stanford.EDU)
Date: Thu Oct 26 2000 - 00:07:10 EDT

In 4268 Alejandro writes:

>I think this is Sweezy version in his edition of one of Bort's articles.
>I'm not sure about that. To point out only one thing. At the beginning of
>that article, Bort. credits Tugan for having devised "the" transformation
>method. Actually, Bort. offers an algebraical elaboration of what Tugan
>produced in arithmetical terms. But the credit for the *conceptual* work
>here is for Tugan, as Bort. himself acknowledges. Now, in 1905, Tugan was
>anti-Marxist and his theoretical work had already an ideological
>anti-Marxist purpose. Later on he was candidate for the Liberal Party and,
>of course, opposed the Bolsheviks serving in the nationalist ukrainian
>goverment. He died when he was emigrating to Paris.

Too bad Professor Tugan Baronwsky didn't live long enough to confront 
the falsification of his theory of the happy merry-go-round of 
capital accumulation.

>  In Bort. case, I don't
>think he was a socialdemocrat, even a right wing one, and his intervention
>in this debate is part of what can be called the "revisionist debate", in
>which we should examine the diverse theoretical contributions.

The quotes unconvered by Michele Naples and Alan Freeman about his 
Walrasian interest in extirpating sequentialism  are interesting to 
say the least.

>It seems to me that Sweezy was interested in a "mild" version of Bort.
>because he was an author well-suited to introduce an "academic" version of
>Marx in the English speaking world. Reading Bort's article people could see
>that Marxian Political Economy can "use mathematics", and hence was as
>"serious" and "fashionalble" as the other one. Bort's article was perfect
>for this.

I think the treatment of the theory of value in Sweezy's book 
deserves a careful critique (there is of course Postone's critique of 
the Sweezy-Meek-Dobb tradition). From the outset there is no 
attention to the forms of value, the explanation of the dazzling 
(puzzling) money form (this is simply astonishing to me), the 3 
peculiarities of the value form. Sweezy then claims that the Marxian 
"law of value is essentially a theory of general equilibrium 
developed in the first instance with reference to simple commodity 
production and later on adapted to capitalism."

I continue to be baffled by Gil's claim that Marx held that value 
determined relative prices. We all know that Marx finished vol 3 
before vol 1.

So if in vol 1, Marx equates the surplus value produced by a firm 
with the profit it appropriates, he obviously has in mind "an average 
industry" which Meek claims is similar to Sraffa's basic industry. It 
is obvious that Marx knew perfectly well in vol 1 that commodities do 
not exchange at value.

At any rate, Sweezy argued that Marx's labor theory of value was 
initially developed in vol 1 on the assumption of an equal VCC for 
all firms. He praises Bortkiewicz for devising a method which can be 
used once this assumption is dropped, and thus praises Bortkiewicz 
for advancing Marx!

Of course the question comes back to Grossmann. Did Sweezy 
misunderstand what Grossmann meant by simplfying assumption? That is, 
did Grossmann argue not that Marx assumed each industry had the same 
VCC but rather that Marx initially treated an individual capital only 
as a perfect aliquot of total capital (the correct position of Fred 
and Felton Shortall for example)? It is obvious that Marx was in fact 
doing the latter.

  So did Sweezy misread the Grossmann method of successive 
appromixations which he had taken over? Or did he wed himself to what 
was faulty in Grossmann's method essay? Either way, Sweezy has the 
incorrect understanding of the kind of abstraction at work in vol 1. 
(Grossmann was saying the right thing; he argued that Marx made 
assumptions necessary to study a pure capitalism and thus had an 
excess of form in vol 1; an identical VCC does not belong to the 
concept of pure capitalism--which opens up questions raised by the 
Uno school which has not recognized its methodological debt to 
Grossmann as did for example Abram Harris).

Of course there is the other criticism. Let us say (as is true) that 
Marx had long ago figured out the law of value governs bourgeois 
society in the form of the average rate of profit exactly as the VCCs 
become more dispersed due to the uneven nature of on going technical 

Then we are brought back to the criticism that this exact hypothesis 
which is already clearly formed in TSV either breaks down upon 
transformation of the inputs in terms of a vector of  equilibrium 
prices (Ajit, Gil, Steve) or cannot have its validity established if 
no determinate transformation of the inputs is possible (Allin).

Of course the latter is a much weaker claim than the charge of fatal 
logical defect which itself is based on absurd premises.  And I have 
tried to indicate that its plausibity can be establshed despite the 
inability to transform the inputs in a determinate way,  leaving the 
theory to be tested in the field of empirical practice.

All the best, Rakesh

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