[OPE-L:5733] RE: Re: why are we on this list?

From: Rakesh Narpat Bhandari (rakeshb@Stanford.EDU)
Date: Fri Jun 01 2001 - 14:33:33 EDT

Thank you Gary for your reply.

>This discussion has heated up and there is a danger of some bad feeling
>developing. I hope we can take things down a notch or two before the debate
>becomes unpleasant.
>I'm sorry Rakesh interpreted my silence as arrogance, and I apologize for not
>responding to him and Jerry.  I was indeed very busy just when that discussion
>was going on, and as a matter of sensible time-management, I try to limit my
>interventions in on-line discussion. The issue of equilibrium versus dynamics
>has been hashed out at length in many forums, and the participants seldom seem
>to budge from their entrenched positions.  My points, in my intervention, were
>1.    that different tools are useful for addressing different questions;
>2.    that the questions addressed within the long-period equilibrium method
>are interesting and important, and therefore deserve our attention and ought
>to be sorted out;
>3.    but they are not the only interesting and important questions;
>accordingly dynamic and historical (and I suppose dialectical) approaches have
>merit; and
>4.    just as the long period equilibrium method has its limitations, so too
>do these other methods,which is why we ought to be hesitant to say this method
>or that method can't tell us anything useful about how the world works.
>I do think that Marx was interested in essentially the same issues that
>occupied Ricardo (but again I do not claim that these are the only issues that
>interested him)

Last quarter I took a week to read the Principles and then Terry 
Peach's Interpreting Ricardo of which I found a well priced copy in 
an used bookstore (my annotated copies are in boxes right now). I am 
sure I will have to read it many more times.
There is no doubt that important quantitative aspects of Marx's 
theory of value  are based firmly on Ricardo's theory. There is also 
no doubt that Marx's dilineation of two reasons why prices of 
production change--change in the value of the commodities themselves 
and change in the average rate of profit--comes straight from 
Ricardo. In my previous response to you, I noted that changes in 
value from the first reason was understood by Ricardo himself to 
happen on a daily basis, which to me makes long run thinking somewhat 
inimical to Ricardo's vision of capitalist dynamics. It is also 
obvious that what was most important to Marx--the chapter on the 
distinction between value and riches--has almost no real conceptual 
relation to the rest of the Principles.

But all this aside, I think it is absurd to argue that Marx was 
interested in essentially the same issues as Ricardo.

What after all is the point of the critique of the neglect of the value form?

And do you deny that Marx argued that Ricardo was unable to 
understand the possibility of a general crisis due (in part) to an 
inadequate theory of money?
Or have I in my autodidactical seclusion not understood what Marx was 
saying in TSV? In his critique of Marx on Ricardo, does Steedman even 
raise this central topic? Not that I remember but the Meek 
festschrift is packed in a box right now.

>  and that he addressed THOSE PARTICULAR ISSUES from a
>methodological stance that was not very different from Ricardo's.  It is in
>denying this that the TSS school goes wrong, and in my forthcoming RRPE paper,
>to which Rakesh refers, I outline the reasons for my position.  Surely no on
>can deny that we ought to be interested in disequilibrium dynamics, crisis,
>and so forth; on this point I don't see any conflict between my own position
>and Rakesh's or the TSS view. The difficulty is that the TSS "vindication" of
>Marx trivializes his project by reducing it to the problem of explaining a
>temporal sequence of short-period prices and values.

But Ricardo himself saw commodity values changing on a daily 
basis...and this was even before the full development of science 
based industry the impact of which has been very insightfully studied 
by Nathan Rosenberg and Chris Freeman. Perhaps we should not forget 
that Alan F is Chris Freeman's son.

>   That problem may be
>interesting in its own right, as it is when taken up by Hicks and Hayek.  But
>the TSSers can't make the case that it was the problem that preoccupied Marx;
>he was surely after bigger fish.

Too vague. What fish do you think he was after? An invariable 
standard to allow for the study of distribution? Do you think Marx's 
main concern was distribution? Not even the analytical Marxists would 
make this claim

>I don't think it helps the discussion to say that adoption of an equilibrium
>method amounts to a "bourgeoisification" of one's economics.

There is of course very good sociology of knowledge work on the 
importation of the equilibrium concept from mechanics into economics. 
I don't think my off the cuff remark is out of line--see for example 
Israel and Ingrao.

>  Marx himself was
>a product of bourgeois values--one of which is a rational skepticism about
>intellectual authority.  The very notion that there is something called
>"science" which is distinct from "ideology" (even if the former is always to
>some degree tainted by the latter) is itself a bourgeois idea -- and one that
>Marx would not find uncongenial: he did after all distinguish between
>classical political economy, which he regarded as scientific (albeit flawed)
>and vulgar economy, which he considered to be an ideology masquerading as

Yes but Marx also thought that scientific political economy had ended 
with Richard Jones.. As for Sraffa's relation to Ricardo, I cannot 
say. I haven't studied Sraffa, but I do await a Sraffian reply to 
Blaug's recent critique.

>I presume we're all on this list because we think that the kind of discourse
>that takes place here can help us to clarify our own thoughts on complicated
>issues; and because we believe that by articulating our disagreements we can
>identify common ground and isolate the real bones of contention, so that we
>don't just keep spinning our wheels reiterating entrenched positions. Is
>ideology involved in this? Well, yeah.  Every thinking being is driven to some
>extent by his or her ideological views.  The trick is to sort out the ideology
>from the science, which I believe is true to Marx's own project.

Well, I do think there are some points which are more philosophical 
than scientific in Shaikh's criticism of the neo Ricardian idea that 
technical conditions can DETERMINE the profit rate and relative 
As an autodidact, I seize on a point I find correct and then scour 
the literature to see if there has been a reply. And as far as I can 
tell there has never been a reply to Shaikh.

You don't owe me a reply; you are busy as a prof and an editor. I am 
very sorry that a real debate has not developed on this list about 
the equilibrium idea and the methodology of comparative statics. As 
an autodidact, I depend on written exchanges since I am not attending 
the conferences.

Yours, Rakesh

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