Re: [OPE-L] the point of a dynamic model?

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Sat Mar 24 2007 - 08:10:10 EDT

> Logically of course it is not impossible to formalise such a thing, if we
> can specify and formalise the combination of trends which would cause a
> variable to have the opposite effect of what it previously had, i.e. a
> change in configuration. As a rule, if we are able to think it, we can
> formalise it at least in principle - but the formalisation might be
> enormously longer that a thought we can easily express in ordinary
> language.
> Mandel himself remarked (in Socialist Register) that the number of
> permutations which a chessgame permits is larger than all the stars in the
> universe; the human brain is nevertheless capable of winning a chessgame,
> even against a computer at times.

Hi Jurriaan:

I can see why Mandel struggled with this issue.  It is one of the strengths,
I think, of _Late Capitalism_ that he did _not_ attempt such formalizations.

In any event, how would you model -- without making heroic and
illegitimate assumptions --  a subject in which both tendencies and the
their counter-tendencies are a reflection of the same process?

> The basic problem, I suggest, that lies at the root of this whole
> controversy concerns the purpose/role of theory or models. The purpose of
> theory is to make sense of the facts of experience and orient experience,
> and the simpler they are, the better. By the time we make theory and
> models
> extraordinarily nuanced to make sense of experience, then we are defeating
> the purpose and we ought to be looking at the very conditions under which
> the theory and the models themselves are formed. Something can be
> overtheorised, to the extent that the fine distinctions have no real
> purchase anymore on reality, and a far simpler explanation is possible
> that
> satisfies all the conditions of a good explanation.

Something can also be over-simplified.  The extent to which the theory is
simple or complex  should be in relation to the extent to which the subject
matter is inherently simple or complex.  Over-simplification, rather than
over-complexity, has been a traditional failing of both economic models and
economic theory.

I think that many, if not most,  of the formal Marxian models are, just
(if that!) more complex than Walrasian theory.  Hence, they also must be
subjected to the same sort of critique to which general equilibrium theory
was subjected.  Nothing could be simpler than to create a logically
model; very few tasks are more complex than constructing a theory which
is both logically consistent and capable of comprehending the dynamics of
capitalism.  It is the nature of the subject matter itself that determines
the level of complexity of the theory.

In solidarity, Jerry

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