[OPE-L:7017] Sraffa's Critique of Economic Theory

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Fri Apr 19 2002 - 07:00:36 EDT

What "critique"? 

Let's recall that Sraffa claimed _only_ that the _PCMC_
represented a "prelude to a critique of economic theory"
(the sub-title of _PCMC_).  He was very specific about

"It is, however, a peculiar feature of the set of propositions
now published that, although they do not enter into any 
discussion of the marginal theory of value and distribution,
they have nevertheless been designed to serve as a basis for 
a critique of that theory.  If the foundation holds, the critique
may be attempted later, either by the writer or by someone
younger and better equipped for the task" (_PCMC_, p vi).

As far as I know, Sraffa never claimed that he was later able
to attempt that critique nor did he claim that others had
successfully developed a critique of marginalism that was
built on his "foundation".  

This leads to my *first question*:  in the 42 years since his 
book was published, has anyone  built a critique of marginalism 
on the foundations of his book?  It seems to me that the 
re-switching and capital-reversing literature is *not* the critique
that Sraffa had in mind.  What then would be?

The *second question* would be: how did Sraffa understand
the meaning of "critique"?   Did he understand it in the same
way as Marx?  ...  Wittgenstein?  ...  Hegel?   Are these
understandings of critique the same? (I think not.)

The *third question* might be: in what specific sense was
_PCMC_ a "prelude" to a critique of marginalism?   Did Sraffa
believe that a comprehension of capitalism could be built on a 
"foundation" that itself only claimed to be a prelude to critique?
Note here that Marx attempted to critique (primarily) classical
political economy whereas Sraffa attempted to lay the basis for
a critique of marginalism.  This, then, leads, me to my *last 
question*: does the comprehension of capitalism through critique
depend on the engagement of a *particular* economic theory?
For instance, does the critique of marginalism serve the same
purpose as the critique of cpe?  (although of course, Marx 
subjected other economists to critique as well.)   Would we
be equally able to comprehend capitalism through the critique
of  (old style) institutionalism, neo-institutionalism,  post-Keynesian
theory, monetarism, et al?   For that matter, could we develop
an understanding of capitalism and develop the "economic law
of motion of modern society" through a critique of other social
theorists who aren't economists, e.g. Durkheim, Weber, 
Rousseau,  Sartre? 

In solidarity, Jerry

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