[OPE-L:6501] Re: N. Sieber on Ricardo and Marx

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@acsu.buffalo.edu)
Date: Fri Feb 01 2002 - 22:16:58 EST

mongiovg@stjohns.edu (Mongiovi Gary, [6500]) said, on 02/01/02:

>I guess what I really was getting at is that I don't understand why Marx's
> Ricardian roots should be thought problematic. That he built upon what
>came  before doesn't diminish his scientific achievement: what human being
>starts  absolutely from scratch?  

Did Lavosier 'build' on phlogistic chemistry?  I don't think so.  

Engels in his 'Preface' to Capital, Volume 2, posed the question of what
separates Marx from the classical economists, i.e., "what is there new in
Marx's utterances on surplus-value?".  To answer that question, first he
recalls the theoretical revolution Lavoisier produced in chemistry through
the discovery of a new chemical element -- oxygen.  Phlogistic theorists
Priestly and Scheele had produced the fact of oxygen without recognizing
what they had, while Lavoisier produced the new category, i.e., discovered
the new element, and so placed "all chemistry, which in its phlogistic form
had stood on its head, squarely on its feet".  Engels then says that Marx
stands in the same revolutionary relationship to his predecessors in
classical economics.  While the fact of "that part of the value of products
which we now call surplus-value had been ascertained long before Marx",
Marx saw that he had to explain this fact.  And, therefore, Marx first "had
to find out what value was".


>Many of the arguments that attempt to reconcile Marx's reaction to Sieber 
>with interpretations that try to distance him from Ricardo seem to me to 
>boil down to some variation of: "Marx was trying to be polite."  That 
>doesn't jibe with anything we know about his personality or his rhetorical
> style.  

I agree and such a reconciliation is not where I'm going with this.

>And the suggestion that Marx didn't really grasp the extent to 
>which he had broken from the classicals does a disservice to his critical 

I'm unsure of this one and it seems to be rather contradictory to your
feeling that Marx "built on" Ricardo.  If his distance from Ricardo is not
all that great -- cf, Lenin's reading, "Adam Smith and David Ricardo, by
their investigations of the economic system, laid the foundations of the
labor theory of value.  Marx continued their work; he provided a proof of
the theory and developed it consistently" -- then Marx's 'critical power
are not so very extraordinary.

Engels' was writing two years after Marx's death and he did have an
opportunity to get some 'distance'.

But the question cannot be fully answered by such speculations, but rather
by our own work in understanding and developing marxist (class) theory.



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