RE: [OPE] Mistaking Mathematical Beauty for Economic Truth

Date: Sun Sep 13 2009 - 07:56:12 EDT

> Marx wrote somewhere that he thought mathematics held the promise of
> "determining the main laws of capitalist crisis". He devoted himself
> to a close study of the calculus. Formal modeling is potentially a
> powerful tool for real understanding, and one of the weaknesses of
> Marxist economics is, in my view, a lack of mathematics.
Hi Ian:
Note the qualified character of the statement. For example, he
limits his statement to the possibility of determining laws, i.e.
long-run tendencies. Also, he limits his statement to "main" laws.
And, of course, he limits his statement to capitalist crises which
means that all of the social relations characteristic of capitalism
and all of the variables that lead to crises would have to be
included. It's for that reason that I think it's likely that he didn't
pursue this further: while he was knowledgeable about and fascinated
by calculus, he must have grasped the limitations of it in modeling
the complexities of capitalist tendencies and their interaction.
It would be hard for you, imo, to support the last claim since so
much of the focus of Marxian economics since the 1970s has been on
quantitative theory. Rather than the problem being the lack of math,
it's more the misuse of math, imo (and, of course, the focus on
hermeneutics and Marx to the exclusion of most other topics.
In solidarity, Jerry_______________________________________________
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Received on Sun Sep 13 07:58:03 2009

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