Re: [OPE-L] interpretations of capital and Marx

From: Pen-L Fred Moseley (fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU)
Date: Sat Mar 17 2007 - 22:35:46 EDT

Quoting ope-admin@RICARDO.ECN.WFU.EDU:

> ---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
> Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2007 16:20:09 +0100
> From: Riccardo Bellofiore <>
> Subject: Re: [OPE-L] interpretations of capital and Marx
>>> At 10:59 -0400 15-03-2007, Pen-L Fred Moseley wrote:
>>>>> This does not mean that Marx or Sraffa is necessarily “right”, but that
>>>>> when there is uncertainty in their writings, which can be interpreted
>>>>> in different ways, that priority be given to those interpretations that
>>>>> make the theory internally logically consistent.  To me this seems to
>>>>> be the most reasonable and the most "fair to the author" way to go.
>>> This is exactly Kliman's position, referring to
>>> Stigler's Principle of Textual Exegesis. Stigler
>>> used it to counter criticism that his
>>> interpretation was against textual evidence,
>>> according to other critics.
>> It is also a widely accepted principle (even with all its difficulties)
>> in the field of hermeneutics (the interpretation of texts).
> not true. it is very contested. and it goes
> against all the debate in epistemology in the
> XXth century. my advice is to read the entry
> Epistemology by Wal Suchting in Historical
> Materialism, and the work he cites.

I am talking about hermeneutics, not epistemology.  I am talking about
an interpretation of Marx’s theory, not an appraisal of the validity of
Marx’s theory (that is a separate question).

>>> There are many problems with this view.
>>> Just one. There is no outside "neutral"
>>> standpoint of evaluation to say which is better.
>>> Any interpretation is a logical whole, and it
>>> cannot overimpose itself to the author's true
>>> text rereading the quotes, or entire volumes
>>> (like Vol. I).
>> This principle does not require a "neutral observer".
>> If one (anyone) concludes that the textual evidence is a "toss-up"
>> between two interpretations, then it seems to me that a reasonable
>> and fair (to the author) rule to apply is whichever interpretation
>> makes the theory as a whole more internally logically consistent.
>> Which rule would you apply in this case?
> I told you. interpretation has to do with the
> texts, the true texts of the authors, checking
> then always the original language, and is given
> within a peculiar general understanding. and the
> "toss-up" situation may not be decided by the
> conflicting parties. thus, I deny that your
> interptretation makes Marx coherent: it makes
> vol. I the most incoherent book I have ever seen,
> and Marx the most strange author I would have
> ever seen.

This is quite a statement.  Volume 1 to me is very logically coherent,
amazingly so.  Why do you think that my interpretation of Volume 1 is
"the most incoherent book I have ever sees"?

> the game however is useless. as soon as we start
> talking of macro-monetary interpretation we are
> on the terrain of reconstruction, because macro
> was something alien to Marx.

I agree of course that “macro” is a modern term.  But it is related to
the quantitative dimension of Marx’s “capital in general”, and attempts
to express in modern terms the key quantitative premise of the prior
determination of the total surplus-value.  In my view, this is
interpretation, not reconstruction.


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