Re: [OPE-L] On inevitability

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Sat Sep 24 2005 - 22:19:01 EDT

At 6:46 PM -0700 9/24/05, michael a. lebowitz wrote:
>At 16:14 23/09/2005, Rakesh wrote:
>>But this list seems intent on pursuing the discussion of Sraffa and
>>economics rather than Marx. That was inevitable once an economist
>>demanded that he remain in charge forever.
>         Without in any way granting the premise that any economist
>made such a demand (something you have raised ad nauseam on this list
>but without getting any support that I am aware of),

Yes that you are aware of. Moreover, as I noted, several people
already quit the list over the question of moderation. So I am not
sure what you mean by support.  And I still have not raised
publically the people whom our moderator rejected for admission.
That is, before he had to justify his decisions to someone else.
Which (an advisory committee) was imposed on him because other people
were threatening to leave.

>  how does having
>an economist as (non-monitoring) moderator make it 'inevitable' that
>this list pursues 'the discussion of Sraffa and economics rather than

This is a list run by an economist who has chosen economists to
advise him. There are few or no geographers, political scientists,
environmental scientists, sociologists and historians on this list.

Seriously how are we going to complete Marx's critique with that list
composition? Especially since the outsiders are almost entirely

Moreover, it is economists who think the list should be consumed with
attempts to annihilate Marx's critique, not complete it.

So we spoke for years about Marx's mistakes in chapter 5.

And we have spoken ad nauseaum about dispensability of value theory
in light of the surplus approach.

Yet despite the hubris and scientism of the Sraffians and their
sympatheizers, it is clear that they have no idea what Marx was
trying to do.

Take the main questions of chapter one of Capital.

1. Why are commodities considered to have the property of value?
2. What kind of property is value?
3. Why is value expressed in the form which it does take in bourgeois society?

These seem to me the most important questions that Marx attempts to
answer in the first part of Capital; he does not seem to be offering
a value theoretic explanation for exchange ratios, which even here he
recognizes are not always perfectly proportional to value though Marx
rightly insists that prices are a function of value.

The Sraffians do not even understand the questions that Marx was
posing, much less his answers. Yet they think they have successfully
critiqued him.

I have read quite a bit of the secondary literature, and it seems to
me undeniable that the best answers ever given to these questions
were Marx's own. One other serious effort to answer these three
questions seems to me to have been William J Blake's in Elements of
Marxian Economic Theory and Its Criticism, 1939. I.I. Rubin simply
did not handle the third question well. Sweezy's textbook was
altogether superficial on these questions, but it did so much to make
the transformation problem the burning question.

For the economists it does nothing for the scientific reputation of
Marx to underline that two people who have at least understood Marx's
questions and his answers are William J Blake and Ranganayakamma.

It may be embarrassing company for those with scientistic pretensions
to keep. Note David Laibman's review of Ranganayakamma.

But the embarrassing thing is the economists' understanding of Marx.
There are a few exceptions of course. Very few.

Yours, Rakesh

>  I think I'm missing something.
>         michael
>Michael A. Lebowitz
>Professor Emeritus
>Economics Department
>Simon Fraser University
>Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
>Office Fax:   (604) 291-5944
>Home:   Phone (604) 689-9510

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