[OPE-L:5246] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: one commodity models and illustrations

From: Duncan K. Foley (foleyd@cepa.newschool.edu)
Date: Fri Mar 23 2001 - 17:45:13 EST

Models are far from the whole content of a theory, and this is 
particularly true for Marx. They still play an indispensable role in 
linking theoretical concepts to reality in Marx's work. For example, 
Marx's discussion of simple reproduction is a model intended to 
clarify certain issues about the balance of demand and supply. It's 
not a good representation of concrete capitalist reality for several 
reasons, including the fact that real capitalist societies always 
accumulate, and that accumulation always involves changes in the 
composition of capital, the scale of production and so forth. My 
point was certainly not that we should restrict Marxist theoretical 
practice to model-construction, but that when we do model 
construction we should do it critically and parsimoniously.


>Duncan writes --
>>In general, models always abstract from critical features of reality.
>>The important question is whether the model has enough detail to
>>throw light on the problem it's aimed at. For example, it is very
>>difficult to deal with the relation between c and v in empirical
>>studies of most modern economies because the data is not available at
>>the flow level to measure c. But I don't think that means Marxist
>>economics should just give up on those economies.
>Is this assimilation of Marx's methods to a methodologically indifferent
>sense of model building correct?  Abstraction is always *from*, but more
>importantly for Marx, abstraction is overwhelmingly *to* critical features
>of reality.  This is not true of social science generally.  For example,
>when we abstract to producers who produce independently for private
>exchange or to the separation of workers from the means of production, we
>abstract *to* the most critical features of value and capital respectively.
>  Similarly value, for example, doesn't abstract from reality to suppose
>that in perfect competition the price of a product is homogeneous; instead
>it tends to generate that result.  So it's not enough, for Marx's
>abstraction, that it has enough detail to shed light on the problem.  For
>Marx, the question is whether the abstraction reaches and identifies those
>(simpler) aspects of reality essential for understanding how a thing tends
>to behave. 

Duncan K. Foley
Leo Model Professor
Department of Economics
Graduate Faculty
New School University
65 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10003
messages: (212)-229-5717
fax: (212)-229-5724
e-mail: foleyd@cepa.newschool.edu
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alternate: dkf@ultinet.net
webpage: http://cepa.newschool.edu/~foleyd

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