(OPE-L) RE: Say's Law in Marxian Theories?

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Tue Mar 02 2004 - 10:02:48 EST

Hi Andrew T.

>  My weaker point was that maybe they move to the LTRPF
> too quickly, and the complexity of technological change and
> prices deviating from values If Marx's method were followed
> correctly then they would stop off for longer in Volume II of
> Capital for Marx's attack of Say's Law and the capitalist nexus,
> before getting lost in the high seas of Volume III.

A few comments:

1) yes, of course, there is much of value (no pun intended) in
Volume II and it has historically been under-rated by many
Marxists.  More specifically, the Volume II  critique of Say's
Law seems to be passed over by some Marxists.  Note, e.g.
in Arthur and Reuten (eds.) (1998) there is hardly a mention of
Say (only twice, once in a footnote on p. 63 and once
sandwiched between Ricardo and Ramsey as "Later Writers"
on p. 171).  On the other hand,  Ernest Mandel deals with the
topic explicitly in his  1978 "Introduction" to the Penguin/Vintage
edition of Volume II (pp. 23-24).

2) whether your weaker point is valid for a particular author has
to be examined in relation to the writings of the author in question.
In other words, it has to be _shown_ rather than assumed that
Grossmann or a particular "Grossmannite" implicitly assumed
Say's Law.  Insofar as Grossmann himself is concerned, note
that the 1992 Pluto Press translation of  Grossmann's 1929 book
is an *abridged*  edition (translated and abridged by OPE-L
member, Jairus). [Also note that the 'Bibliography' in the Pluto
Press edition includes a reference to a 1924 article on Sismondi
by Grossmann.  The reference says that it was a 'facsimile'
published in Warsaw.  Has this _ever_ been translated into
English?  The article on Sismondi, I suspect, has a bearing on the
issue of Grossmann's understanding and critique of Say's Law,
don't you think?].

3) What Say's Law of Markets means is a *very* controversial
question in the history of economic thought. Schumpeter (1954)
discusses the many *different* meanings of Say's Law (615-625).
[Schumpeter, btw, like Marx, had a very low opinion of Say:
e.g. he states that it is difficult to determine the original meaning of
Say's Law because Say was "so inexact a writer" (616)  and that
"the last type of identity or tautology was ludicrously created by
Say for the purpose of making his law unassailable" and that "The
professional world has laughed at him ever since" (619-620)].
Another useful reference, which isn't so good on Marx, is Sowell
(1972).  So ... to avoid confusion, I think it's important to
explicitly state _which_ meaning of Say's Law you are using
when attempting to determine if a particular author implicitly
assumes it.

4) Even if  we "stop off longer in Volume II" before proceeding to
the LTGRPF there are other questions relating to the relation
of that law to crisis.  E.g. what is the explanation given for the
periodicity of the business cycle? [an issue aised in Itoh (1980)].
What about the relation of the trade cycle to 'long waves'?
[an issue raised, but in my view not satisfactorily answered, in
Mandel (1975)].  What about the relation of the law to state
policy, trade, and the world market?  In other words, even if we
stop off longer in Volume II, they're are still a lot of ananswered
questions about crisis theory remaining after Volume III, Part III.

In solidarity, Jerry


Arthur, C.J. and Reuten, G. (eds.) (1998)  _The Circulation of
    Capital: Essays on Volume Two of Marx's 'Capital'_. London
    and  New York: Macmillan Press Ltd. and St. Martin's Press, Inc.

Grossmann, H. (1992) _The Law of Accumulation and Breakdown
    of the Capitalist System_. London: Pluto

Itoh, M. (1980) _Value and crisis: essays on Marxian economics in
    Japan_. New York and London: Monthly Review Press

Mandel, E. (1978) "Introduction"  to Marx, K. _Capital_, Volume
    2. London: Penguin

---------- (1975) _Late Capitalism_. London: NLB

Schumpeter, J. (1954) _History of Economic Analysis_. New York:
    Oxford University Press

Sowell, T. (1972) _Say's Law: An Historical Analysis_.  Princeton:
    Princeton University Press

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