[OPE-L:243] how to proceed

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Wed, 11 Oct 1995 12:27:40 -0700

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I have been too afraid of responding to Jerry's query. Alan Freeman's trilogy
clarified for me why--the project as conceived is too overwhelmingly big.
I am afraid that the approach of listing every problem and concern becomes
what Hegel termed "bad infinity"--the kind of infinity people cannot handle
becuase it's like Everready ... it just keeps going ang going and going.
The infinity of a circle, e.g., differs; it is complete in itself.

So I definitely agree that the project needs to limit itself--in the particular sense of FOCUSING. Alan's post (Part I, esp.) is very important in this regard.
I also think Part III of his Post is brilliant (BTW, although some people have begun to this of us as Tweedledum and Tweedledumber, we don't always agree; although I certainly do in this case). I can't and won't try to summarize it, but
the importance of rethinking Marx's concept of value is definitely of
paramount importance. I agree with Alan that we can't blithely continue where
Marx left off as if his contribution has already been sufficiently and correct
ly internalized by us. And it is in this sense that a defense of Marx is needed, IMHO, i.e., not cheerleading for old conclusions, but a rediscovery and
critical engagement with the very basics concepts that a century-plus of
misinterpretation and revision has almost succeeded in distorting beyond
recognition into utter meaninglessness. For instance, one needs a concept
of value, as Alan notes, and its either Marx's OR Sweezy's (read Bortkiewicz)
OR someone else's. So to proceed without "interrogating" the concept of
value is perilous.

One empirical issue that is very important to me is the changed form of crisis. Maybe others might be interested as well. The present world economic slump,
now in its 3d decade, presents itself in very different ways than did the
crisis of the '30s. And this has major influence on capitalist ideology and
political-economic responses. Some--including Marxist economists--are even
led by the changed forms of appearance into thinking that there's no capitalist
crisis at all. While I "disagree," the real research question is: can we
indeed understand major economic phenomena as an appearance of crisis in a
mmanner that differs from the 1930s? What accounts for the differences, and
what are the "underlying" unities? ... I think to a large extent, it is the
1930s that were the exception. So we could think about the crisis of the
1870s, and the whole slump in the last one-third of the 19th century. And
we could think about how Marx discussed crises in an HISTORICAL context, i.e.,
in relatin to how things manifested themselves in his time, and what is
different now. (I happen to especially be interested in the problem that a
main crisis mechanism, falling prices, seems largely to have disappeared. Is
this due to the expansion of credit money? Does central bank policy play a
role? And if this mechanism is missing, has the debt crisis--of the State, as
well as of corporations and individuals--come to "replace" it? To what extent?
And similar questions arise.)

This is an important issue, I think. But it is my pet concern, and not necessarily everyone else's. So I'd be happy even if we concentrated on other things,
though, again, seriously and deeply on a FEW things.