[OPE-L:5765] Re: Marx & Ricardo

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Sun Jun 03 2001 - 16:47:16 EDT

Gary asks in [5763]:

> I'd be interested to hear what other listmembers think about this
connection  between Ricardo and
Marx, since so much Marxist hostility to the
Sraffian   tradition stems from the belief that it inappropriately attempts
to "transform
 Marx into Ricardo" (as one TSSer has put it). <

Let me begin with noting an agreement: I certainly
agree that Marx held Ricardo in far higher
regard than 'Parson Malthus'.  Indeed, Marx
displays the utmost contempt for Malthus (perhaps
second only to his contempt for the 'stupid'  J.
B. Say).

In brief, I think that Marx's position was that
Ricardo represented the culmination of 'scientific'
bourgeois political economy. After Ricardo came
the 'disintegration of the Ricardian school'
(Torrens, James Mill, Bailey, McCulloch, J.S.
Mill, etc.) and 'vulgar economy' followed by
'the bad conscience and evil intent of apologetics'.

Yet, despite this, Marx was not a Ricardian --
his object, in part, was to *critique* political
economy. In so doing, he had to appropriate
from Ricardo what he deemed to be
scientifically valid but also surpass Ricardian
theory. And one can *never* forget that Marx
was a 'scientific socialist', i.e. a communist.
Nor can one forget that while Marx viewed
Ricardo as the 'last great representative' of
cpe, he also viewed him as an advocate of
bourgeois  theory (when it was still possible for bourgeois economics to be
scientific.) From
*this* standpoint, their two projects were
*vastly* different: Ricardo was an advocate
for capitalism; Marx called upon the working
class to bury that mode of production.

To give some idea of just how many differences
there were between Ricardo and Marx from
Marx's perspective, consider the following 'errors'
of Ricardo that are noted *IN ONLY ONE
CHAPTER of _TSV_* (Part III, Ch. 20):

1. "Ricardo's mistake is that he is only concerned
with the magnitude of value" and fails to see how
value is an expression of the social relations of
production under capitalism;

2. he mistakenly identifies surplus-value with

3. he sees only the physical difference between
fixed and circulating capital and not the relation
between  c and v;

4. He assumes capital and capitalist relations and
does not explain their inner nature or how they
are brought into being;

5. he assumes a general rate of profit rather than
showing how it is necessarily brought into being
by the nature of capital itself;

6. he identifies cost price with value and does
not see that this is is contradiction to the law of

7. his definition of a general rate of profit where
there are differing organic compositions contradicts the law of value;

8. he didn't comprehend the distinction between
labor and labor power;

9. he saw the surplus product in its physical
sense but not surplus value;

10. He accepted Say's Law of Markets.

11. He denied the possibility of a crisis of
generalized overproduction;

12) the functions of money are overlooked and
assumed rather than analyzed.

Remember -- that is only *from 1 chapter of

Of course, it is possible that Marx 'got Ricardo
wrong' on some of these matters. It is also
possible that Marx himself was wrong on some
of these matters. But, I think the evidence is
pretty clear that Marx did not consider himself
to be a Ricardian.

As for some of the (misplaced) hostility towards
Sraffians, I believe that this has less to do with
Marx's critique of Ricardo than it has to do
with his critique of 'vulgar theory' -- a subject you
should have some familiarity with since it was
included in the title of a recent paper of yours.
Perhaps the Sraffians have been victims in part of
a *polemical style* of Marxists that goes back to  ...  Marx  (and the title
of your paper was 'payback'.)

Of course, no one likes to be called a 'vulgar'
anything ... even (or especially) at a dinner
table ... let alone in print or at a conference.
Under those circumstances it is not entirely
surprising when there is 'hostility' by some in
return. On the other hand, I guess if you call
someone 'vulgar' then you shouldn't be surprised
when you are called 'vulgar' in return (similarly
it is considered to be rude to call someone else
rude.)  Yet, these are questions of how different
traditions communicate with each other rather than
the underlying questions of substance that
separate those traditions.

In solidarity, Jerry

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