[OPE-L:7262] Re: Re: Re: interpreting Marx's texts (was: hermeneutics) (fwd)

From: glevy@pop-b.pratt.edu
Date: Sun May 26 2002 - 21:10:27 EDT

Re Fred's [7259}:

> This is an interesting question about Grossmann and Mattick.  I would
> say, yes, they understood the essential nature of capitalism as
> exploitation.  But I don't think they provided satisfactory answers to the
> criticism of a logical contradiction in Marx's theory.	At least not
> Mattick.  I don't know about Grossmann, but I have never read anything
> about Grossmann's interpretation of prices of production.  (Rakesh, can
> you help us?  Is there a response to Bortkiewitz?)

Fred, I was only using Grossmann and Mattick *as examples* -- that I thought you could relate to -- to see whether you would maintain your claim about what a resolution of the charge of internal inconsistency would allow.   Previously you claimed that it would be a 'step forward' which would allow us to understand the essential character of capitalism as resting on the exploitation of the working class. Yet, surely, there are many others who would claim that they understand class exploitation at least as well as you without accepting your perspective on the role of givens in Marx's theory.  
Presumably, you wouldn't claim that you have a better comprehension of exploitation than e.g. Bruce, John H, Ernesto, or David Y, would you?

> Yes, I think this would be an important step forward, especially for
> students, probably less so for workers.  Economists and textbook writers
> could no longer easily dismiss Marx's theory with a simple "Marx's theory
> has been shown to be logically contradictory."

The students who are radical and interested in Marx aren't going to buy into that dismissal. In any event, the textbooks aren't going to change regardless of what you or others demonstrate. They serve an important ideological function, after all.

>	The weight of
> authoritative rejection would be lifted, and students would be freer to
> consider Marx's theory more open-mindedly.  I can see this happening on a
> small scale in my classes.

See above.

> It is not just workers who are important in the development of an
> anti-capitalist consciousness; it is also students - future workers.
> And their youth is often conducive to more critical thinking.

I've yet to meet someone who was swayed towards or against radical politics based on arguments for or againt the TP. If there are some, then the #s are insignificant.

> Such a joint statement of radical economists would make less difference
> than the acknowledgment just discussed of mainstream economists that
> Marx's theory is not logically contradictory. 

That's not going to happen. The 'prizefighters' for the bourgeoisie are not going to make such an admission.

> But it would be an
> important step toward the latter mainstream acknowledgment.

As Marxists we shouldn't seek "mainstream acknowledgement".

> What do you mean to "tell them the truth" as you see it?  What does the
> "truth" of capitalism include?	Surely, it would include an explanation of
> profit, right?	Which requires some general theory of profit, doesn't
> it?  Jerry, what theory of profit do you present to workers and students?

>From an educational perspective, I think it's important to stress the qualitative relations rather than get bogged-down in quantitative formulas.  

> Yes, I would present Marx's theory of surplus-value and exploitation, and
> then I would discuss the criticisms of Marx's theory.  And my response on
> the "transformation problem" was similar to Sweezy (and I think most
> Marxists) - that Marx did make a logical mistake, but this mistake can be
> corrected without changing anything fundamental.  Now I think an even
> stronger argument can be made - Marx did not make this logical
> mistake!  As I have said, I think this is a small step forward.  

So a "stronger argument" can be made, but the conclusion remains the same.  How then does the conclusion of your critique differ from that of Hilferding?  If the conclusion is the same, why is the stronger argument necessary?

As for the meaning of your critique, I think we would have to grasp the *significance* of what 'givens' mean in Marx's theory.  As you will recall, my interpretation is that for Marx if something essential to the theory is taken as given then it must be *explained*
(and developed and modified) at a more concrete level of abstraction.  So, the real implication of your critique, imo, concerns the subjects that need further concretization.

In solidarity, Jerry

PS: In your 'PS" you wrote re the Cambride critique of marginal productivity theory:
> Marx must be howling in his grave!
My reply: After over a hundred years debating the TP, primarily by Marxists, Marx is more likely to be cursing or crying from his grave.

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