Re: [OPE-L] Incoherence of the TSSI - consensus

From: Anders Ekeland (anders.ekeland@ONLINE.NO)
Date: Sun Oct 21 2007 - 13:37:40 EDT

Hi Jerry,

I cannot go into the history from 1995 onwards. But if the short
story is that K&F demanded response, got some response and there was
nothing more challenging in it than that, why do people still engage
with K&F (TSSI)?

In your original message you asked if there was consensus on that
Kliman and Freeman leave something to be desired (being an
"understated conclusion"...)

a) In their use of logic

b) their reporting of the views of those with whom they disagree

c) and in the elaboration of their own fundamental categories

Whatever happened on, off-OPE-L and off-off-OPE-L I am still of the
opinion that K&F are no worse than their opponents on points a,b,c.

My impression is that K&F are very serious Marxist economist, very
engaged political activists on the left ("bright") side, whatever
their errors we should treat them with respect. If they are
sectarian, let us respond to that with arguments, be more tolerant
than they are.

So if K&F has nothing to contribute substantially - just leave them
alone, but you - Jerry - ask for a vote on a,b and c which in my
opinion can do no good and potentially create a climate where - as
Jurriaan pointed out, it will be harder to admit that K&F has a valid
point or two. It will be a less open and generous climate for
discussing their - or similar views - like mine.

Just to mention one thing: I think Kliman in his last book is quite
correct in pointing out that the "invariants" are fundamental in Marx
project, for understanding the relationship between labour time and
money, the numerous transformations going on when the (never
realized) uniform rates of profit are being formed - only to be
disrupted by the same mechanisms that contribute to their formation.
This means that any type of Bortkiewicz like correction is to
undermine the whole Marxian project. Which might of course be correct
to do - due to the "inconsistencies" (input prices <> output prices)
etc. But this must be stated clearly not shuffled under the carpet as
a minor issue, a "red herring" etc.

Or to put it another way - if Laibman is correct in that any "normal"
iteration will end up in the static solution - then "Bortkiewicz et
al." was right and Marx(ism) was wrong, which leads to either a
"technical" value theory (Sraffa, Steedman) or a marginalist one, but
this is for sure different value theories than what  labour unions
(and most people) spontaneously hold - and it was to give a
scientific, rigorous presentation of this "pre-scientific" theory of
the labour movements intuition of "just wages" that was Marx
political/ethical/moral starting point.

... I must stop here and force my self to work with less interesting things ...


At 19:57 20.10.2007, you wrote:
> > We do not need a consensus condemning Kliman and Freeman, if they
> > were that hopeles then we could just leave them alone. The point is -
> > as Jerry's post proves - they are stimulating discussion and should
> > get some credit for that even if one disagrees on major or minor points.
>Hi Anders:
>I was half expecting you to reply and am happy that you did.
>As for your suggestion that K & F have stimulated discussion, for which
>they should receive credit, I have a different take on that question based
>on a different rememberance of the circumstances that led to the
>over-abundance of discussion (in various forums, in print, in person at
>conferences, and online) on the TSSI.
>Here's the way I remember what happened.
>Various advocates of what became known as the TSSI wrote papers on Marx
>and were then disgruntled by what appeared to them to be the lack of
>responses to those papers.  Freeman and Kliman then founded the
>International Working Group on Value Theory (IWGVT) as a forum not merely
>to discuss value theory in general, but _their_  perspectives in
>particular.  Those who presented papers at the IWGVT were confronted
>(sometimes bullied) by the organizers who asked them for responses to the
>TSSI.  In many cases this worked: i.e. presenters were "guilt tripped"
>and/or harassed into writing papers on the TSSI to satisfy this demand and
>in appreciation of the efforts of the conference organizers to secure a
>venue for the discussion of value theory. (These mini-conferences later
>degenerated and disappeared, but that's another -- albeit, related --
>Back when OPE-L was founded in the Fall of 1995 they again claimed that
>their perspectives were being ignored.  They suggested -- without putting
>forward a shred of evidence -- that their perspectives were being
>"suppressed" by Marxian economists and journals.  You can go to our
>archives to see how others responded. Basically, everyone else from _all_
>perspectives said that they _also_ were waiting for responses to what they
>had written. In other words, what Freeman and Kliman claimed was
>"suppression" was experienced -- not as suppression, but as the norm -- by
>everyone else.
>So, basically what happened -- the way I remember it -- was that K & F
>cried and protested about how their perspectives were being ignored and it
>was *that* which led to the large amount of articles written since about
>the TSSI. In other words, the response was _not_ caused by a belief that
>_in any way_ the TSSI "contribution" was somehow intrinsically important.
>Basically, people just felt sorry for them and wrote critiques so that
>they wouldn't continue to cry about how their perspectives were ignored.
>Yet, how else could all of that time and intellectual energy have been
>spent?  What _other_  stimulating and pressing questions could have been
>discussed without this extended engagement with this small TSSI grouping?
>Frankly, I think the period from the early 1990's to the current period
>will be remembered in the history of Marxian thought as
>At a crucial time in world history, it will be remembered that Marxian
>economists wasted a huge amount of their time discussing insignificant
>Marxological questions which were divorced from understanding the way
>capitalism actually works and struggles against that system.
>It wasn't exactly a complete waste of time, but there were far better ways
>for Marxists to spend their time.  Do Freeman and Kliman deserve "credit"
>for that?  Well, in a way.  "Credit" or "blame" - it's the same thing.
>Have they been "stimulating"?  Their form of "stimulation" we can do
>without, imo -- just as we can do without tick bites as a form of
>In solidarity, Jerry
>PS: I wasn't proposing a "vote", Anders.  It just seems to me that after
>12-15 years of debating these topics, people should begin to state clearly
>what just about all of us agree on.  And then move on.

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