[OPE-L:5033] Re: v = 0

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Thu Feb 22 2001 - 08:33:43 EST

To continue on with the thoughts expressed in [OPE-L:5032]:

Some might ask: what is wrong -- "what's the harm?"-- with employing the v =
o assumption?

My answers:

1) What is the *subject* that one is investigating?  *If* one wants to say
anything meaningful about *capitalism*, it is both an absurd and
illegitimate assumption. It is *illegitimate* because the v = 0 assumption
is inconsistent with the defining character -- the class relationships -- of
capitalism. In other words, if you assume v = 0 you are no longer talking
about capitalism on even the *most abstract* level.

2) It is *politically retrograde* -- harking back to the "vulgar economists"
that Marx was so critical of --  to obscure the class relations of
capitalism. Indeed, to make the v = 0 assumption is to (at least
temporarily) vacate the *working class* from one's theory.  This is not by
any means an innocent assumption. Rather, it is a assumption which allows
the theory to be developed by omitting the working class from what we call
capitalism. Alternatively, it is as legiitmate as if one were to claim that
one is talking about capitalism even if there was no capital and
capitalists. One might call either conception a *petty-bourgois fantasy*.

3) It is attributing a perspective *to Marx* that runs counter to his whole
understanding of  the specificity of modes of production. It is therefore
not part of what it claims to be -- an interpretation of Marx. Rather, it is
currently being used in an *interpretation of interpretations of Marx*.
What makes this worse is that it has not been acknowledged (at least

4) *Mathematical simplification* is desirable but it can not be used when
and where it represents an injustice to the theory itself (see  above).
Thus, using the v = 0 assumption  is part of a *trend* among Marxists who
also routinely use such contrivences as one-sector models/illustrations and
corn models. This trend has been sometimes referred to, originally by Alain
Liepitz I believe, as "Algrebraic Marxism".   Yet, there is hardly ever a
recognition of the extent to which the *adaption* to  the mathematical
techniques of bourgeois or "heterodox" economic theories affects the
*methodology* that one is employing.

5) It allows the critics of Marx, in this case Steedman and Okishio, to
determine the *agenda* of the discussion around Marx. Indeed, one might see
it as a *concession to Sraffian theory* (see my previous post).  In doing
so, there has been an acceptance of  at least part of the *methodology* of
surplus approach theory.  Moreover, and far worse, it keeps Marxists within
a *defensive* mode, i.e. defending Marx from perceived attacks against his
theory rather than advancing the analysis. This strategy has been *so
successful* that for over 100 years Marxists have remained stuck on a
discussion of the transformation et. al.!  I guess the real winners are
Bohm-Bawerk, Tugan-Baranowsky, and Bortkiewicz -- since it has been *their*
agenda which has ensnared research on Marxist political economy for the last
century. They could not have been successful without Marxists that have
implicitly conceded that the issues that the Marx critics have raised are
the most important issues to discuss and debate.

Thus the v = 0 assumption has to be seen within the above contexts to fully
appreciate its meaning.

In solidarity, Jerry

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