[OPE-L] Jurriaan's answers to the 'birthday' questions

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Mon Sep 05 2005 - 14:49:40 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jurriaan Bendien" <adsl675281@tiscali.nl>
Sent: Monday, September 05, 2005 1:10 PM

 And a happy birthday to you, Jerry! (I don't know how old you are, today
 :-)... but young at heart, I'm sure :-o). I'm grateful to have been able to
 discuss various topics on OPE-L.

> *    Have you benefited from your membership in OPE-L?  If so, how?

 Yes, I benefited for scholars steeped in Marx (more so than me) clarifying
 difficult problems.

> *   What do you think will be the most lasting contributions of this list?
>       I.e. how will the last ten years of OPE-L be remembered -- both by
>       those who are members and those who are archive readers?

 Don't really know how to assess that, but the debates on SNLT were
 thought-provoking for instance. I suppose for those who are not scholars of
 some sort, the debates might seem like a dispute about how many angels can
 dance on the head of a pin. But for the serious Marx enthusiast, it can be
 very helpful.

> *   What were the most enlightening, memorable, and/or worthwhile
>       discussions that we have had?

Well I found sparring with Michael Williams very helpful, insofar as he
clarified for me some important issues with regard to the buying and
selling of services, and the concept of "material production", even
although I  haven't finished my thinking about the services economy yet.

> *    What suggestions do you have about how the list can be improved?

My impression of Marxian economics is that, too often, the debate is
pitched only at the level of abstract theory. This is, of course valuable in
its own  right, if it clarifies issues, especially since Marx has so often
been misrepresented, but I would like to see the theory being "disciplined"
or "moderated" a bit more with data and facts. The advantage of such a
more "empirical approach" is that it sheds light on the relative importance
or quantitative proportions of theoretical issues. I could prove beyond
doubt,  that Marx was keenly interested in data, and not just theory -
witness the screeds of data, statistics and anectdotal evidence he culled
from the Blue Books, The Economist and even official Russian statistics.

> *     What topics should we discuss as a group that we either haven't
>        discussed yet or haven't given adequate consideration to?

I would think they include topics which Marx never discussed in detail:
unequal exchange; the theory of market value; international finance capital
and the role of credit money; the operations of multinationals and their
role in foreign trade; the phenomena of unequal exchange; public finance;
the sphere of consumption and its reorganisation by the capitalist mode of
production; price formation for agricultural goods versus industrial goods;
the concept of price; and the political economy of socialism (for which
Profs Makoto Itoh and David Laibman have provided useful pointers).
Specifically, the concept of the "transfer of value", to which Samir Amin
often refers, merits theoretical elucidation, and not just because of
transfer pricing. In general, Marx focused on the value product generated
in the sphere of production, and the distribution of this product. However,
although he explicitly acknowledged the existence of 'profit upon
alienation" outside this sphere, he never explicitly theorised it very
much, nor did he specifically theorise structural unequal exchange. Yet, a
growing  portion of total profit appears to gained from these areas, even
although it  may not show up at all in gross product accounts, or be
disguised by them.   Witness for example how world trade grows twice
as fast as world GDP, and  the large capital gains made in the real estate
area. Logically, if the LTV  holds, then economic value is a characteristic
of labour-products, the products of human work (although non-reproducible
or non-produced assets could have a market price). If then those products
are exchanged, no new value is created by the exchange itself. If,
therefore, a profit or surplus  value is nevertheless made from the exchange
anyhow, this must imply a transfer of value that already existed somewhere.
But this raises the question of how that value can be transferred, and what
its source is, or, whether it is a type of fictitious capital. If this
question cannot be resolved consistently, then the field of application of
the LTV must be respecified, to include only the production and distribution
of new output, i.e., assets and their prices existing outside that sphere
are  governed by laws which are different from those governing the
sphere of production of new output and its distribution. At stake here, in
other words,  is the precise relationship between relations of production
and relations of distribution.

Generally, I think OPE-L would benefit if its membership was broadened
further internationally - very sophisticated Marxian thinking is nowadays
occurring also in St Petersburg, Shanghai, Amsterdam, Havana, Cracow,
Athens, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Sao Paulo, Auckland, Johannesburg and many
other places by scholars who deserve to be included in the list.



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