[OPE-L:6362] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: recent science and society and Fred M's interpretation (fwd)

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@MAIL.WESLEYAN.EDU)
Date: Fri Jan 18 2002 - 17:23:08 EST

Rakesh's post 6337 takes up my response to Fred, where I ask:

>>1)  What is the "law of value" in this context, and what mechanism assures
>>its "law-like" operation at the macro level, understood as analytically
>>prior (otherwise it could not be "taken as given") to the determination of
>>prices at the micro level?  And if there is no clear mechanism, why should
>>this be considered a valuable or valid contribution?

Rakesh, you write.

>Gil, analysis is fine and much needed in fact, but you have to do 
>some work to understand the other side, 

I thought that's what I *was* doing.  What better way to gain understanding
than to ask questions?

>except when they question 
>your points if this is to be a list for the development of Marx's own 

I think questions of the sort I'm asking now are appropriate, if not called
for, precisely because this list *is* devoted to the "development of Marx's
own theory,"  if it is accepted that Marx is not a deity, and thus his
theory is open to refinement or revision, as theoretical investigation
dictates.  Otherwise we're just exegetes and disciples, no?

>Also it would be helpful that if in this discussion that you don't 
>come across as suggesting that the tradition that you represent has 
>everything worked out--

I realize I have a tendency to make my theoretically points rather
emphatically--a communicational flaw I'm trying to modify--but I've never
at any time suggested that I, or the "tradition I represent" (what
tradition is that, I wonder) have "everything worked out."  Quite the
contrary--I feel I'm an engaged in an ongoing process of figuring out
what's what in Marxian and related areas of political economy, a
significant portion of which effort is pursued here on OPE-L.  

>there is not a clear statement on Marx's 
>theory of money and general crisis from Roemer and you. 

I don't see why there needs to be.  Per the above, I've never represented
myself as offering a comprehensive revision of Marx's theory.  Before that
can be done, groundwork must be done on the basic tenets or starting points
of his argument, which is what I've focused on.  

>So just among the people here on OPE-L you have to 
>recognize that your hard questioning of others

[Why call it "hard" questioning?  Why not "interesting" or "curious" or
"intendedly development-provoking" questioning? Shouldn't we all be asking
questions of this sort on the list?]

> can come across as a 
>refusal to turn the analysis inward on the gaping holes in the 
>tradition that you represent.

Again with the caveat that I don't really know what "tradition" I
"represent", I certainly have not "refused" to criticize the problems of
analytical Marxism!  For instance, I've written papers criticizing Roemer's
(non-) treatment of the labor-labor power distinction.  But isn't whether I
do this or not entirely beside the point?  Aren't the sorts of questions
I've posed legitimate and relevant in themselves, whether or not I've
engaged in this sort of "inward" criticism?

> yes, you think there are big problems 
>with chapter 5 and value analysis is unneeded for the theory of 
>exploitation and/or illogica due to the putative transformation 

(Not "due to" the putative transformation problem--the problems I see with
value analysis run much deeper than that, and are encountered much more
immediately in Capital.)

And for what it's worth, since you've paired me with Roemer, no part of my
critique of Marx's analysis in Chapters 4-6 in volume I depends in any way
on Roemer's work.  Roemer's work only suggested to me why a critique was
needed, and where to look for it in Marx's writing.

>(ha!no one can make the two equalities stick!!). You think 
>Andrew  K can't do basic math.

Huh?  No, I think he does basic math just fine.  

> Everyone is familiar with your judgement.

I have come to doubt that strenuously, in light of how my "judgments" are
represented, but again that's beside the point of  the present inquiry.

>  But what we have not heard from you is any kind of critical analysis 
>of your own system that you tell us takes us past Marx's Al Magest 
>(is that the Arabic for Ptolemy's great work or Euclid's) to the 
>Copernican world of John Roemer.

See above.  For what it's worth, I think the jury is still very much out on
whether Roemer is the Copernicus to Marx's Ptolemy.

>To tell you the truth, I think many people here think the problems 
>are so grave and obvious in analytical marxism--and analytical 
>marxists are so unwilling to come to grips with the obvious--that 
>it's a waste of time to criticize their interpretations. 

If so, I think that is a really dreadful and counterproductive case of
throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  Granting entirely that
analytical Marxism has not yet established a complete alternative to Marx's
theoretical edifice, it might  nevertheless be capable of generating
relevant insights with respect to specific aspects of that edifice.  For
example, nothing Marx wrote in Capital *rules out* a priori the conditions
of exchange on which Roemer's "general theory of exploitation" is based,
and many of Roemer's assumptions--e.g., self-interested behavior,
negligible mobility costs--are explicitly embraced by Marx at one point or

So I wonder:  what do you find to be the "grave and obvious" problems with
analytical Marxism?

>For example 
>in Roemer, ed. volume I think the only systematic treatment of crisis 
>is Przeworski's wage squeeze kind of theory but such theory has much 
>difficulty accounting for movements in the profit rate, and Fred has 
>argued that his theory does not suffer from the same problems.

Granting the former point entirely, this suggests not that analytical
marxism has "grave and obvious" flaws, but that its theoretical program is
as yet incomplete, doesn't it?  On the latter point, perhaps so, but does
anybody else but Fred argue that Fred's theory does not suffer from these

>In terms of this question, I think we should emphasize--as I have 
>said in another context--how Marx's theory extends Ricardo's critique 
>of the adding up theory of price (Duncan suggested to me that I pay 
>careful attention to Dobb's summary here, and II Rubin is very 
>helpful too). So for Ricardo *the total value* of the product is 
>given in advance, so any increase at the micro level of the price of 
>labor (wages) will invariably lead to an inverse change in the so 
>called price of capital (profit).
>Of course in terms of Marx's price of production theory, one 
>capital's ability to beat off the average rate of profit does not 
>necessarily add more surplus value to the system but rather 
>redistributes a given magnitude of value that is fixed prior to 
>This complicates the theory of counter-tendencies for some 
>counter-tendencies beat off fall in the average rate of profit by 
>adding to the surplus value in the system as a whole (say a system 
>wide rise in s/v) while other counter-tendencies stave off the fall 
>in the rate of profit for some capitals at the expense of others.
>But total value (i say total value instead of surplus value) coming 
>before price and price changes in themselves not changing that total 
>value seem to be pretty basic to Marxian theory. 

Let's pursue that point a second.  Do you accept the possibility that
profit-seeking capitalists would choose among available production
techniques based on relative prices of inputs (so as to minimize costs)?
And if so, since the choice of production techniques determines the direct
and indirect abstract labor requirements for production, wouldn't it be
more appropriate to say that prices "come before" total value?

This is why I would 
>hold total value=total direct price=total price of production in a 
>complete transformation if one were in fact so needed.
>I am not saying that this is correct. But surely if you want to 
>criticize the analytical priority given to value, you should say why 
>Ricardo and Marx did just that in the course of critiquing the adding 
>up or cost of production theory of price and then tell us why this is 
>the wrong way to go.

Well, I have, in detail, and on this list, but again I think that's beside
the point.  If the questions I've posed are legitimate and relevant, aren't
they worth answering whatever else I've said or not said on other topics?

>As for the law of value, I don't think anything too complicated is 
>meant other than economic magnitudes (the sum of prices of 
>production) are determined by abstract labor time 
>expenditures--though of course for Marx indirectly.

I'd like to pursue this a bit more if you don't mind:  in your reading, is
it only the (weighted, I presume) *sum* of prices of production that are
"determined" by abstract labor time expenditures?  Not, say, individual
prices of production?  And on what grounds are prices of production held to
be "determined" by SNLT?  The grounds Marx gives in Vol. I, Ch. 1?


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