From: Jurriaan Bendien <jurriaanbendien@online.nl>

Date: Wed Feb 09 2011 - 08:22:05 EST

Date: Wed Feb 09 2011 - 08:22:05 EST

Dave,

Either an entity is a theoretical entity (it exists only in theory) or it is

a really existing entity. If we can deduce and reliably predict some

empirical consequences when we ASSUME the entity really exists, then we have

provided some "empirical corroboration" for the hypothesis that it DOES

exist. That is a very reasonable and acceptable scientific procedure.

What is not reasonable (an empiricist fallacy) is the idea that, if an

assumption turns out to be a good predictor, that "therefore" the assumption

is true. Because we have no proof that it is true, and if it is true, why it

is true - it's just that if it was true, it would explain a lot; which is

why we prefer the assumption. Point is, the reason WHY the predictor is a

good predictor may actually be different from what we think.

I go along with Ian insofar as, in my opinion, his modelling gets a lot

closer to Marx's own theory than previous attempts, but I have never seen

any scientific proof that Marx's prices of production are a "centre of

gravity", and there is no such proof yet. There are only a whole lot of

models based on counterfactuals, and because they are based on

counterfactuals (for example, no fixed capital, no technical change,

constant demand, fixed labour costs, a whacky concept of price-relations

etc.) the results are not conclusive. At best you can prove that if you

adopt a certain set of assumptions, then this has certain logical and

quantitative consequences.

The problem with Ian's text "in my humble opinion" is that he provides a

super-abstract story without sufficiently defining his concepts. There is an

"attractor point" in the "system" but it is even unclear what the "system"

itself is - essentially, it is a system of prices, but that system of prices

does not even exist other than as a theoretical entity. When we begin to

spell out in detail what it means, the story turns out to be a lot more

problematic.

What the empiricist Marxists typically do is that they confuse a causal

relationship with a statistical correlation. When they have discovered a

seemingly robust correlation between selected variables, they think that

they have proved the causal relationship, but in fact they have proved no

such thing. They assume something in order to prove an assumption, but in

fact they assume what they have to prove. It is just that if you wrap things

into a a complex mass of mathematical verbiage, it is not immediately clear

what is going on.

Ian Wright condescendingly accuses me of "ritual references to Marx" perhaps

because he considers himself just so much more advanced and rigorous in his

splendidly superabstract mathematical world. But in my experience this is

rather misplaced, since (a) I am merely taking a different approach to the

same sort of problem, and (b) the "rigor" of the mathematical procedure is

just a lot more dubious, when you spell out what the categories, concepts

and counting units actually mean, and what is actually being assumed. The

"rigor" exists only because many facets have been abstracted away from,

disregarded.

What I am saying is, (1) let's reconstruct Marx's concept of production

prices and his theory of capitalist competition as he actually wrote it,

without filtering this theory through a Ricardian, Sraffian or neoclassical

paradigm (2) let's have a look at how things work out in the real world, and

take that as an explanandum. I make this suggestion, because so far Marxist

research has mostly failed, both as regards (1) and as regards (2).

In truth Marxists have failed miserably in completing the theoretical

project of Das Kapital, but how could it be otherwise, if they cannot even

agree at the most elementary level about how this project should be

understood, and keep filtering it through alien theories, such as Smithian,

Ricardian, Sraffian, Bhaskarian, Negriite etc.? Fred Moseley's or David

Harvey's "literal Marxism" has much to recommend itself in this respect,

except that they still mix up Marx's idea with Ricardian and Smithian

economics anyway. That shows you how difficult the interpretation is, and

why the "ritual" of verifying what Marx's view actually was is actually not

a bad idea.

Jurriaan

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Received on Wed Feb 9 08:23:21 2011

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