[OPE-L:4708] Re: David Yaffe on Ricardo and Marx

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Fri Dec 15 2000 - 18:01:44 EST

I finally have a little time to comment on the discussion about Sieber and

Paul Z. started the discussion as follows:

> David,
> How do you reconcile the fact that Marx has a high regard for the work of
> N. Sieber (who wrote a book published in Russian in 1871 which Marx read
> and recommended highly; he also wrote articles in the 1870s on Marx's
> theories) even as Sieber explicitly wrote (and Marx read) that Marx was
> following in Ricardo's footsteps?  In other words, if Sieber was wrong,
> why did Marx praise Sieber's work and why didn't Marx correct Sieber?
> Paul Z.

I think it is misleading to say that Sieber says that "Marx followed in
Ricardo's footsteps."  In the Postface to the Second Edition, Marx
responded to a review which had called Marx's theory "METAPHYSICAL" by
saying that Sieber had "already given the answer to this reproach".  Marx
quoted Sieber: "In so far as it deals with actual theory, the method of
Marx is the DEDUCTIVE method of the whole English school, a school whose
failings and virtues are common to the best theoretical
economists."  (C.I: 100)

This always struck me as potentially important sentence, but I am still
not sure what it means.  What seems for certain is that Marx is agreeing
to Sieber's description of his method as a DEDUCTIVE one.  But what
exactly does "deductive" mean?  And how does this answer the reproach of

Does "deductive" include or imply the postulation of unobservable
("metaphysical") entities (e.g. abstract labor) from which explanations or
conclusions about observable reality are deduced?  In more modern terms,
does "deductive" mean something like "hypothetico-deductive"?  Are Sieber
and Marx saying that it is OK for a theory to be "metaphysical" (in the
above sense), if it is able to deduce conclusions about the real world?

Paul Z. discovered this fall that a U. of Kansas sociologist named David
Smith had edited a translation of the chapter in Sieber's book on Marx,
and I obtained a copy of the translation through Paul (Paul and I have
corresponded for a while about Sieber).  I was quite excited.  I had high
hopes that the translation of Sieber's chapter would yield significant
insights into the above questions and about Marx's logical method in
general.  Unfortunately, it does not (or at least that is the way it looks
to me now).  Sieber does not explain (at least not in this chapter) what
he means by either "metaphysical" of "deductive".  The sentence quoted by
Marx seems to be just a passing comment that is not developed further.  

Beyond this apparent similarity between Marx and Ricardo (that both
theories are "deductive", whatever that means), I agree with David Y. and
Paul B. that there are fundamental differences between Marx and Ricardo,
which Marx emphasized many times, especially Ricardo's failure to
distinguish between concrete and abstract labor and his failure derive the
necessity of money from his theory of value (the latter of which Marx
noted in Notes on Wagner that Sieber understood well, as David Y. and Paul
B. and Paul Z. have pointed out).

So it seems to be misleading to say (based on Marx's comments on
Sieber) that "Marx followed in Ricardo's footsteps".  Paul Z., would you
please clarify: "followed" in what specific sense(s) (besides having a
"deductive" method)?  

And if anyone has any ideas about the meaning of "metaphysical" and
"deductive" in the above passages, I would appreciate learning about them.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sun Dec 31 2000 - 00:00:04 EST