[OPE-L:5537] Re: William of Ockam's Razor and Political Economy

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Thu May 10 2001 - 08:28:37 EDT

Re Paul C's [5533]:

> Without a causal and hence predictive theory
> of price one can have no basis for the theory
> of relative surplus value, to take just one
> instance from Marx's work. I could equally
> well have said no theory of differential ground
> rent.
> Without a theory of relative surplus value or
> of differential rent, one is unable to analyse
> the basis of the incomes and class interests
> of the two main exploiting classes.
> I would say that that would seriously undermine
> ones analysis of capitalism.

All of the above identifies a causal theory with
a predictive one. One can, however, have a
theory in which causal relationships are
identified but (e.g. because of the quantity of
unknowns) one which does not claim to be

> Well if the TSS people do not have a theory of
> prices what is the point of their work on the
> transformation problem, whose subject matter
> is the theory of price?
> How do they propose to critique the Okishio
> theorem  if they have no theory of price?
> I think you misrepresent them.

Perhaps. I certainly don't feel that I am a
spokesperson for that perspective. However
... I think that from the perspective of the TSSI,
the 'problem' (which they don't think is a
problem) concerns the transformation of
values into prices of production. POP should
not be confused with market prices, after all.
(but I am not sure about the TSSI perspective
here because when e.g. K-M argue that input
prices do not equal output prices, they *do*
seem to be talking about market prices and thus
implicitly *must* have some theory of price.)

> If it was not one of his concerns, his theoretical
> efforts with respect to the transformation
> problem are incomprehensible. He was
> attempting, as he  saw it to address what had
> been seen as one of  the major flaws of the
> Ricardian theory of price -
> its apparent contradiction between the labour
> theory of value and the assumption of equal
> returns to capital in different branches of
> production.

That was a concern of Marx's, but I don't know
that it was his major purpose there. I think he
thought that there was an *actual* tendency for the equalization of the rate
of profit (which was
nonetheless disrupted by other factors and only
realized incompletely during certain periods of
time). In other words, for Marx the transformation
was more than just a history of thought question.

> IF the labour rewuired to spin cotton falls
> THEN the price obtained for cotton by spinners > will fall
> Without an underpinning of predictive statements
> like this the whole analysis of capitalist
> industrialisation  falls apart.

See my first paragraph above.

> As I would regard myself as strongly influenced
> by Althusserian writings, I would dispute this.
> Over-determination relates to the relationship
> between  social levels, and has nothing to do
> with the  theory of price. It is not the same as
> overdetermination  of a series of price equations.

I'm not so sure, but am willing to be convinced.
Over-determination, relatedly, has been cited
by at least one Althusserian (listmember Steve
C) as an important concept that relates to how
we should interpret Marxist discussions on the
TRPF.  Have you ever heard anyone other than
yourself (and perhaps Allin) who identify with
(or have a close sympathy for) Althusserianism
claim that they accept a 'predictive' theory of
prices?  Would any of them be willing to hazard
predictions like you do below?

In solidarity, Jerry

> > (snip, JL)  This leads me to ask: what
> > does your predictive theory of price tell you
> > about what will happen in the next 6 months
> > and year in the UK and the US economies?
> > Isn't that a fair question?
> It is a fair question, but to answer it I would need
> up to date figures on labour inputs for all sectors,
> plus data on product flows between sectors.
> This is in principle capturable, but the data-sets
> are not currently collated.
> What one has to work with are I/O tables
> produced
> typically on a 5 yearly basis. This allows one to
> do hypothetical studies of the effects of changes
> in labour productivity in individual industries etc,
> but I have never done these myself.

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