[OPE-L] Truncating Marx

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Mon Sep 10 2007 - 17:03:32 EDT

David Laibman wrote:

"But Bortkiewicz was a crotchety anti-Marx writer who thought he had stuck
it to Marx.  The TSS-ers take this much too seriously."

As far as I am aware, von Bortkiewicz did not really aim to show Marx's
theory was wrong, but to use mathematical insight to understand and reveal
the implications of the theory more rigorously, making it more consistent,
and solving logical problems it raised (not just with regard to the
transformation problem). Thus, Paul Sweezy called Bortkiewicz's modelling
the "final vindication of the labor theory of value" as Kliman notes in his
book (p. 46).

My understanding is that what the TSSI school battles with, is the idea held
by many economists that von Bortkiewicz exposed a fatal flaw in Marx's
theory, in fact rendering the theory incoherent, with the implication that
it should be rejected. Marx failed to transform inputs because it was
logically impossible to do so. The idea then is, that with just two basic
propositions (input and output prices can differ, and values and prices are
determined interdependently) everything falls into place and that the theory
can then be made completely consistent (although I agree with some of the
arguments, I think that cannot be true, but I would need to prepare a whole
book to explain systematically my own interpretation of the theory itself
and its criticism, which I simply don't have the time for to do now - I am
not even a professional economist - as already I mentioned, I don't think
"all profits are due to surplus labour", but that's just for starters).

David argues that "If everything is changing, nothing can be theorized" but
surely that is not true. We cannot even recognize any change, without
constants - if "you cannot step into the same river twice" that doesn't mean
that there is an infinite number of different rivers, for example (other
than in a new age fantasy). It is quite possible to theorise a process of
change, in terms of constants and variables. David is on stronger ground
when he argues that you cannot understand disequilibrium or non-equilibrium
without reference to equilibrium. But there is - heavily truncating, sorry
to say - yet at least another possible position, admittedly difficult to
accept for an economist: the dispute about equilibrium or non-equilibrium in
Marx's theory is really a "non-problem", i.e. it exists only if we abstract
from the object of study some essential characteristics that make it what it
is. In that case, setting up a debate between equilibrium and
non-equilibrium economics is barking up the wrong tree.


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