[OPE-L:7266] Re: Re: Re: Re: interpreting Marx's texts (was: hermeneutics) (fwd)

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Tue May 28 2002 - 00:29:35 EDT

On Mon, 27 May 2002 glevy@pop-b.pratt.edu wrote:

> 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?

Jerry, you have misunderstood this point for the second time.  Please read
the next-to-last paragraph above in which you quote me.  My point is not
that Grossmann and Mattick did not understand the essential nature of
capitalism as exploitation, but that they did not (I think) provide
satisfactory responses to the cricicism of a logical contradiction in
Marx's theory.  

The same point would apply to the others that you name except David Y.  I
think David and I essentially agree on the response to the criticism of
logical contradiction (David can of course speak for himself).  I have
learned a lot from David and much of my own interpretation is derived from
David's articles in the 1970s.  

Jerry, I think you are confusing UNDERSTANDING of exploitation and
THEORETICAL EXPLANATION of exploitation.  I would NOT say that I
UNDERSTAND exploitation better than any of these good comrades.  I would
say only that my interpretation of Marx's theory may provide a better
EXPLANATION of surplus-value as exploitation, because this interpretation
is free of logical contradictions, or because it is able to answer the
criticisms of Marx's theory.  

My interpretation is actually similar to the Bruce's interpretation
(aka. the Wolff-Roberts-Callari interpretation).  We agree that constant
capital and variable capital are the same in the determination of both
values and prices of production, and therefore the inputs of constant
capital and variable capital DO NOT HAVE TO BE TRANSFORMED.  However,
Bruce, et al. argue that the variables of constant capital and variable
capital are defined in terms of quantites of labor-time, rather than in
quantities of money, as I argue.  They argue that almost all the concepts
in the three volumes of Capital are defined in units of labor-time - not
only constant capital and variable capital and surplus-value, etc. in
Volume 1, but also cost-prices and prices of production, etc. in Volume
3.  They also assume that the rate of profit is determined simultaneously
with prices of production, rather than prior to prices of production, and
then taken as given in the determination of prices of production.  

> > 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.

I was responding to your question, which assumed that mainstream
economists accepted that Marx's theory is logically consistent.  So I
assumed that this general acceptance would show up in the textbooks.  I
agree that this general acceptance is not very likely.  

But I think that a demonstration of the logical consistency of Marx's
theory would make it more difficult for the textbooks to make such easy
dismissals.  After all, the textbooks are changing now in belated response
to the "capital controversy" of the 1960s.  It appears that even textbook
writers cannot go on pretending that a theory if OK when it has been shown
in the scholarly literature to be logically contradictory (and admitted as
such by such lumineries as Sameulson).  Hopefully, the opposite will also
be true - that textbook writers cannot go on pretending that a theory is
logically contradictory when it has been shown to be logically consistent.  

> >	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.
> > 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.

Again, I was responding to your question, which made this assumption.  

> > 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.  

Please explain more.  What is the general theory of profit that you
present to workers and/or students?  What is meant by a
"qualitative" theory of surplus-value?  Surplus-value is a quantity (Marx
called it a "pure quantity").  Therefore, the explanation of surplus-value
requires a quantitive theory.  

Jerry, I continue to think that a demonstration of the logical consistency
of Marx's theory of surplus-value as exploitation would be at least a
small contribution to the development of anti-capitalist
consciousness.  But I do not want to exaggerate its importance.  

For example, what difference could it make in the anti-globalization

Plus, working on abstract theory is one of the things I enjoy doing.  I am
not arguing that others should be working on the transformation
problem.  There are many, many tasks to be done in the development of an
anti-capitalist consciousness.  Many more tasks than we have people to do
them.  So I think each of us should choose those tasks that most interest
us and that we are the best at (these two usually go together).  And try
to make a small contribution.

Jerry, one of your contributions has been OPE-L, which I think is a big
contribution.  Thanks again.


> 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.

No doubt as well.  But I think that Marx would also appreciate that, after
a century of superficial scholarship, his theory is finally receiving more
serious scholarly attention.  

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