[OPE-L:7282] Re: Re: interpreting Marx's texts

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Thu May 30 2002 - 00:30:56 EDT

On Wed, 29 May 2002, gerald_a_levy wrote:

> Fred wrote in [7279]:
> > No, I don't think Hilferding and Bukharin gave adequate responses to this
> > critique.  If I did, I wouldn't be working on this issue.
> Then, what about David Y?  In [7266] you wrote that David and you
> essentially agree on the response to the criticism of logical contradiction.
> Didn't David, from your perspective, give an adequate response in his May
> l976  article "Value and Price in Marx's Capital" (_Revolutionary Communist,
> #l, 2nd edition: available online now at
> http://www.rcgfifi.easynet.co.uk/marxism/articles ) ?

I think David presented the germs of the right approach to understanding
Marx's logical method and to responding to the critique of logical
inconsistency.  In myview, the two main points of this interpretation are:

1.  The determination of the total surplus-value and the general rate of
profit prior to the determination of prices of production (not

2.  The same quantities of constant capital and variable capital are taken
as given (as quantities of money-capital) in the determination of both
values and prices of production, and thus these quantities do not have to
be transformed in the determination of prices of production.  

However, both of these points need to be further developed, especially #2,
which I think is the  fundamentally new point in this interpretation.  

(The "new interpretation" of Foley, Dumenil, etc. partially agrees with
with #2: they assume that the same quantity of variable capital is taken
as given in the determination of both values and prices of production, but
not constant capital.)

As I have discussed with David, I think his discussion of this important
point is much too brief, and not entirely clear.  So far as I know, David
was the first person to present this interpretation.  (David, was there
anyone before you?)  Any point this fundamentally new requires much more
discussion and development.  But David was on the right track, and I have
tried to follow those tracks.

The other person that influenced my thinking a lot on this point is Mino
Carchedi, especially his original article on this subject ("The Logic of
Prices as Values," Economy and Society, 1984, (4): pp. 431-55). But the
main thing that convinced me of this interpretation was rereading Marx's
texts from this perspective.  

So I think we are on the right track, but more work still needs to be
done, both in terms of fleshing out this new interpretation and in
debating with other Marxists and with non-Marxists about this
interpretation.  One article, or even several articles, is not enough.  

> > First of all, Hilferding responded to Bohm-Bawerk's critique of Marx, but
> > not to Bortkeiwitz's critique.  Bohm-Bawerk's critique of the
> > contradiction between Marx's theory of surplus-value in Volume 1 and his
> > theory of prices of production in Volume 3 is weak, and so is Hilferding's
> > reply.  Bohm-Bawerk's main critique is of Marx's derivation in Chapter 1
> > of Volume 1 of labor as the common property of commodities that determines
> > their exchange-values.  Hilferding's response to this more important
> > critique is also weak and inadequate.
> There was nothing in von Bortkiewicz's critique that wasn't said first,
> stronger and in more detail by Bohm-Bawerk.   Let us recall that
> Bohm-Bawerk was and remains better known and, in addition to publishing
> his article in l896 --  nine years before von Botkiewicz's shorter article
> was published, his article was  published in English in l898 whereas von
> Bortkiewicz's l907 article only appeared in English in l949 (52 years later)
> with Sweezy's  translation.

Bohm-Bawerk said nothing about the failure to transform the inputs of
constant capital and variable capital, which is the main criticism these
days.  I never see references to Bohm-Bawerk's critique of Marx's theory
of prices of production, whereas references to Bortkiewicz are everywhere.  

> > I don't know what Bukharin had to say about critiques of Marx's theory of
> > prices of production.  Jerry, could you please tell us?  I doubt if it was
> > an adequate answer.  I imagine that, at best, it was similar to
> > Hilferding's answer.  I doubt if Bukharin responded at all to
> > Bortkeiwitz's critique.
> Bukharin's book is a critique of marginalism rather than being focused on
> the TP.  This is, in a sense, a stronger response since it purports not
> merely  to reply to the criticisms of Marx-critics but to critique their
> school of  thought.

Both tasks need to be done, and I myself am working on both tasks.  
Bukharin's critique of marginalism is good,  but it is certainly not all
that needs to be done.  And my point was that he provides no response to
the critics of Marx's theory of prices of production.  Even if Bukharin's
critique of marginalism is a stronger response than an answer to the
critics of Marx (I don't think so), the latter still needs to be done.  

> > That is why I think more work needs to be done on this issue.  Because a
> > satisfactory response to this critique of Marx' s theory has not yet been
> > given, or at least has not yet been fully developed.
> Note the tense of your reply.  You wrote above that "more work needs to
> be done"  and that a "satisfactory response" has "not been given, or at
> least  has not yet been fully developed".  Yet, I thought you claimed that
> you  _had_ (past tense)  given a response to the charge of internal
> inconsistency in  Marx.  What do  you now recognize is not entirely
> satisfactory about _your_  response and what  has not been fully developed?
> Wouldn't it then be fair  to say, *from your  perspective*, that you feel
> that  the charges of internal  inconsistency in Marx  have *still* not been
> satisfactorily developed?  That  sounds like a "step backwards" to me.

Please see above.  I think progress is being made, but more progress still
needs to be done.  This is not a step backwards, but slow steps forward.  

Jerry, thanks again for this discussion.  I get annoyed sometimes with
your belittling of interpretive work on Marx's texts, but your questions
have been good ones, and they have stimulated my thinking.  But maybe we
should move our discussion off-list.  No one else appears to be


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sun Jun 02 2002 - 00:00:08 EDT