[OPE] Reply to Bendien on equilibrium and disequilibrium theory with reference to capitalism

From: GERALD LEVY <gerald_a_levy@msn.com>
Date: Sat Sep 19 2009 - 08:22:14 EDT

> You don't get away by changing the subject so easily. After all, your
> Marxism is purportedly the continuation of the thought of Marx and Engels.
The subject wasn't what ---- wrote. The subject is how we conceive of equilibrium
and disequilibrium in the context of a theory of a particular subject matter
- in this case, capitalism. My perspective does not claim to "continue" the work
of ----. Rather, it is _inspired_ and _informed_ by the writings of ---- _and
many others_ just as the writings of ---- were inspired and informed by the writings
of others.

> Now if Marx and Engels in fact literally and substantively argued something
> quite different from what Marxists claim, then what are we to think of their
> so-called "Marxism"? Well, actually, I am prepared to do a deal. You leave
> Marx & Engels to me, and you can have your concoction of "Marxism". I'll
> work on the kinds of problems that Marx and Engels were concerned with, and
> you can put red paint on your liberal face and protest about the war if you
> like. Of course I am aware that the deal will not be struck between us,
> because you would not concede that intellectual territory and couldn't,
> because you want to be able to freely discuss your interpretation of Marx &
> Engels - and why should I deny you that right? You have however a propensity
> for implicitly or explicitly telling me how to behave on the ground that
> your own behaviour is correct,
For instance, I object to insulting and absurd expressions like "red paint on your
liberal face". Here you mimic the very worst features historically of Marxist
we can be sure that if someone else on the list referred to you having a
"liberal face", you would get in a huff and puff about it. But, you have
no problem using such a dismissive expression towards others and _that_ is what
I object to and will call you out for if you do it with me or anyone else on
the list.
> and therefore insinuating, that you can say
> anything you like and get away with it - such as appealing to Marx when it
> suits, and abandoning Marx when it suits - because you do so correctly, but
> what I am concerned with here is just the content of what you argue and you
> do not resolve things simply by displacing the issue to matters of form and
> formality. Actually, the question of equilibrium can be discussed without
> any reference to Marx and Engels, because the scientific questions are
> simply:
> (1) What exactly is being equilibrated
> (2) What does the equilibrium consist of
> (3) Does an equilibrium really exist, can it really exist, or is it a
> theoretical fiction
> (4) How is, or can, the equilibrium be brought about, how is it accomplished
> (5) How can we know that we have an equilibrium, what evidence is there for
> that
> We could discuss this without any textual reference to Marx and Engels, just
> considering equilibrium theory and the realities to which it refers.

OK. I will reply to 1-4 now.
1. This is an improperly posed question because of the word "is". It should
read instead "what exactly _can be_ equilibrated?" The _context_ here
has to be specified. The context is a theory of capitalism. More specifically,
an _abstract and stylized representation of capitalism_. Not, at least
initially, actual capitalism. For instance, an understanding
of actual capitalist economies requires that one understand international trade
and the role of the state. But, it is legitimate (and necessary, I think)
to present a theory in which there is a closed model before you open it up
and to abstract from the state with the understanding that that topic has
to be analyzed as the theory is explained more deeply and fully.
2. It depends, more specifically, on what you are looking at. For instance, one
could attempt to explain what would be an equilibrium condition under simple
and expanded reproduction. In specifying this, one is making no claim that
there "is" equilibrium - only that if the following condition held and continued
to hold then it would represent an equilibrium of sorts. [NB: I purposely used the
expression "of sorts". This is because I want to distinguish between the meaning
of equilibrium in different realms. Thus, for instance, the meaning of equilibrium is
different for social theory than it is in physics or chemistry.]
3. a. No.
   b. Maybe - temporarily. I.e. it is an abstract and formal possibility which
      may or may not occur.
   c. (see reply to b) 'Theoretical fiction' is an expression which assumes that theory
      is fiction. It is not a "fiction" it is a possibility at a certain level of
       _abstraction_. Fiction writing and the presentation of an abstract theory
      of capitalism are not identical.
4. In the above context by investment in certain proportions of c and V and a certain
reinvestment of s in c and V. However, to repeat: this is one stage in a larger
theory. Thus, the process has to be considered at other levels of abstraction as
well. For instance, how does class struggle disrupt this latent and abstract
possibility? What effect does competition have on the process? Etc. One has to ask,
especially, what assumptions were made and then to interrogate what happens if one does not
make those assumptions.
5. a. Rather than answer that question directly, I'll ask the reverse. How do we know
that we have disequilibrium? That question can only be answered with reference
to equilibrium itself. And THAT was what we were discussing before you went on
to write on all sorts of other matters. Insofar as the above context is concerned, we
can say that there 'is' equilibrium if the equilibrium condition is met. If not,
then there 'is' disequilibrium.
   b. whether there is "evidence" that there "is" equilibrium has to be considered in a
more concrete context. One can not pass directly from a concept presented at a
very abstract level to looking for empirical evidence without first presenting
the theory less abstractly. For instance, if you were to look for "evidence"
for or against this, you'd have to consider a capitalist reality in which there are
states, trade, competition, class struggle, etc.
In solidarity, Jerry
ope mailing list
Received on Sat Sep 19 08:29:33 2009

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