Re: [OPE-L] Absolutes in Marxian Theory?

From: Ian Wright (wrighti@ACM.ORG)
Date: Sat Dec 31 2005 - 18:19:48 EST

Hi Jerry,

OK, thanks for your clarification. I'll take it that I got the wrong
end of the stick.

> You undoubtedly know that they were influential in establishing  the
> _Rethinking Marxism_  journal and planning RM conferences
> (as indeed have Steve and Antonio).

I did not know. I am not currently employed as an academic so I don't
follow these developments very closely. I was in all honesty only
responding to the ideas without any background knowledge of the

> > For example, the high end of the income distribution follows a
> > power-law.
> Do you really believe that is ABSOLUTELY true?  Income
> distribution (by definition?) is relative, not absolute. But I will
> consider arguments to the contrary.

Bhaskar uses the (ugly) term alethic truth to emphasise that knowledge
statements are historically contingent and subject to revision, yet
nonetheless may refer to real mechanisms or states-of-affairs
independent of thought. Ontological realism and epistemological
relativism. Postmodernists seem to embrace ontological relativism,
which I think is incoherent, and a step backwards. So for sake of
accuracy I too would shy away from using the term "absolute truth".

But do I believe that the high end of the income distribution follows
a power-law? Yes very much. It is possible that all the researchers
collected bad data, interpreted the numbers poorly, made mistakes,
used poor statistical techniques to fit curves, and presented
erroneous theoretical explanations for its manifestation. But being
critical doesn't equal scepticism, so I'm happy to take their word for
it, and use this knowledge to produce more knowledge.

Happy New Year to all ...!


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