[OPE] Equilibrium

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Thu Jul 16 2009 - 09:34:13 EDT

In order to talk meaningfully about equilibrium, you must be able to specify
what is being equilibrated, and I think Paul Cockshott does not do this.

I think Paul Cockshott takes the easy way out and starts talking about a
stochastic relationship between the rate of profit and the supply of labour
and so forth. But scientifically speaking I think it still does not make
sense, because he doesn't even know what he is measuring. A mathematical
statistician is apt to say: just give me some data, so that I can analyse
the distributions. But a research statistician asks, "What is this data?
What are they measurements of, and do they really measure that?".

Paul Cockshott thinks it is quite unproblematic to just take a bunch of
price data and then compute all sorts of things, I don't know, the labour
content of output, the rate of profit and so on, but in the real world of
science this is all far more problematic than he makes out.

My own preferred approach is scientific: before I start making all sorts of
wild assertions on the strength of some data, or some hypothetical model, I
carefully and methodically verify the conceptual issues which a research
statistician is concerned with, as mentioned.

The model tells you that if you make certain assumptions, then certain
determinate implications logically follow, i.e. some conditions are ruled
out, some conditions must apply, some conditions are unlikely, likely or
more likely than others. But to understand what the model means, you have to
consider both the qualitative concepts and categorical assumptions used as
well as their quantitative and logical implications. In order to compute, I
need to count, but in order to count I need to group counting-units
according to a categorisation. But the model itself cannot validate or prove
the catergorisation, because it assumes that categorisation; it can only
show what its logical or quantitative implications are. It does not resolve
the question of where I get the categorisations from.

Paul Cockshott gives me no reason at this stage to revise my opinion as put
previously. He just says, well this is a "stochastic equilibrium" I am
talking about, or a "dynamic equilbrium", but, he has no answer to the
question "what are these numbers, and what do they represent?", "what am I
equilibrating?", "why this equilibrium condition?". He seems to believe that
price data are unproblematic, and that mathematical reasoning can substitute
for causal social theory. This is not true in my opinion.

He is still working from price data, and he still assumes, that otherwise
random patterns of price fluctuation converge on a market equilibrium or a
"system equilibrium", the proof of which is supposed to be, that
observationally certain relevant price distributions stay relatively
constant. But the system is assumed, and it remains well within bourgeois
ideology according to which market forces converge on equilibrium. Even so,
I feel he is unable to formalise and explain the equilibrium conditions, and
what exactly is being equilibrated. I think that like many Marxists he
operates with a rather primitive understanding of what prices are.

I think a very good argument can be made for thinking there is much less
randomness and arbitrariness in price movements than the mathematicians
claim there is, once you have a good causal theory of what is behind the
price movements. But I will never arrive at that theory simply by means of a
probabilistic empiricism.

In brief I think we are dealing with a purely abstract reasoning which
presupposes all kinds of assumptions which are not spelled out. Maybe they
are spelled out in some other text? I don't belong to the school which
believes that we should assume what we must prove. For almost any
distribution that stays constant, I can rework the data and revise the
methodology in order to show that the distribution changes; you don't have
to be Andrew Kliman to do this. It is just the same as with the Ochoa
indirect labour methodology, as I previously indicated on OPE-L.

Paul Cockshott style appears to me analogous to Machover & Farjoun - their
book was in reality, scientifically, a sort of creative conceptual chaos,
and the "laws" they diagnose in the chaos are largely spurious - they may be
mathematical wizards, and they make some valid points about the
transformation problem, but they are in other respects theoretically
incoherent. They seem "scientific" because they toss around a bunch of
equations and numbers which look very clever, but if you actually go a bit
further and unpack what it really means, it is rather vague supposition or
indeed lazy thinking.


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