[OPE-L:361] Comments on OPE-L; follow-on from Alan

Steve.Keen@unsw.edu.au (Steve.Keen@unsw.edu.au)
Sun, 29 Oct 1995 11:16:23 -0800

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Jerry sent me a short personal message asking what I thought of
OPE-L to date. This long personal reply ended up being something
that I thought should also be posted to the list:

It's started off chasing its tail, to some extent, but there are
some interesting people there, all of whom have informed and
diverse viewpoints on marxism, and are academically oriented
rather than primarily activists. The Marxism list has ended
up being activist dominated, so academic discussion there has
dropped to a minimum, and quality exchanges (pardon elitism!)
are limited to those from Rakesh, Lisa, myself, and John Ernst
(the last of whom should be in OPE-L--ernst@pipeline.com--and
he and I are having an excellent discussion on the Grundrisse,
if you've not followed it).

So I think OPE-L may become a de-facto academic marxism list,
which on balance--compared to marxism having that function
within the mass of activist posts, or PEN-L (from which I
long ago de-subscribed) having it within other semi-academic
threads--may be a good thing. It is more focused.

I do take what I see as the gist of Alan's posts to heart--that
seeing it as a way of producing something, as I think was
suggested w.r.t. the HES conference, is an unlikely goal, unless
that something is an taxonomy of informed disagreement over
the interpretation of Marx. Alan recently posted an observation
to Mike, which he forwarded to me, that there are multiple
insights into Marxism which flare and are ignored, while the
remainder of the "discipline" goes on regardless. As someone
who is a purveyor of such a viewpoint, and as a commentator on
marxism, I see his point as very valid indeed. OPE-L may be
the place where such insights can be re-exposed to a
representative and yet wide cross-section of opinion on Marx.

This impression may differ from the objectives you initially
had when you formed OPE-L, which I think were similar to those
Marx had when undertaking Capital itself--to provide the
definitive analysis of capitalism "in time" for the coming
upheavals. I think we have to admit that our vision of Marx
himself, let alone our visions of capitalism itself, are
insufficiently cohesive for this to be feasible. So perhaps
identifying WHY our visions are so disparate is the best
"step forward" we can make.

In this light, I think OPE-L becoming an informed "reading
group" on Capital may be the best way to proceed, because in
so doing our reasons for divergence will become apparent. What
is then needed is a moderator who takes a taxonomic approach:
"OK, Gil's brought up a marginalist perspective on value theory
here, Steve has put forward a dialectic one, Paul's is
empirical, Alan's dynamic non-equilibrium... Let's explore each
of those in turn, starting with ... and being led by ...".

By so doing, we may properly document the many streams that
have flown from the one source of Marx, and maybe help others
to identify those streams that are most useful in the analysis
of capitalism--even if each of us is too wedded to his/her
own stream to, in the end, be persuaded to dip into any of
the others.

Such a process is, I hope, going to be far from linear. For
my own part, if this route is undertaken, I will raise my
interpretation--which as you know revolves around the
proposition that Marx's use of the concept of use-value was
a radical departure from that of Ricardo, while also being
diametrically different to the neoclassical concept of
utility--very early on in the reading of Chapter 1. To
develop my thread, I will take the group back through _The
Contribution_, to the Grundrisse, and quite possibly through
Theories of Surplus Value as well.

Having done that, I will probably go quiet for quite some
distance until money is discussed, where my interpretation will
lead to an interjection that takes us to TSV III and Capital III.
Then I'll disappear again until Chapter 6, where I'll make
load noises about page one of the chapter, before piping down
again. Chapters 7&8 will lead to several inputs, at least 2 of
which will direct us towards the Grundrisse again.

And so on. I'm sure others have some vision of how there
contributions will pan out, and some of those--Gil's, I'm
sure--will take us forward in time to various critical
contributions, as well as back in Talmudic time.

Such a program will take a very long time to finish, and it
will have to be conducted at a leisurely pace, with plenty
of time being left for "blowouts" when, for example, one
page of Capital leads us to read 40 of the Grundrisse. But
I think it will be a worthwhile exercise, given (a) the
disparate state of Marxism today, and the extent to which
even people in a group like ourselves have "blindspots"
about some of those analyses; (b) the calibre of the
people on OPE-L (no chance of inane interventions such as
that recently by Jim Miller on Marxism).

Whew! That's a long reply to a short question; and maybe you'd
better forward it to OPE-L as a post. What do you think?