[OPE-L:1084] Re: Definitions and Tautologies

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Fri, 16 Feb 1996 11:44:48 -0800

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Andrew here, responding to Gil (1044), which is a response to my 1028,

Gil's response has changed the subject. I had said that unless Marx is
shown to have been logically inconsistent, e.g., in the value/production
price transformation, then interpretations must be judged by how well
they make sense of the whole--my jigsaw puzzle parable. Gil responded
that the TSS interpretation "necessarily" leaves out pieces of the puzzle;
i.e., it contradicts Marx's definition of a commodity's value as the
labor-time required for its production (or the labor it contains), AND
he (Gil) challenged me to show that this wasn't the case. The
implication of this challenge was therefore that, if I did show the
TSS interpretation of value does not contradict Marx on this score, the
pieces of the puzzle are not hiding under the rug, the TSS interpretation
is thus superior interpretation of Marx's value theory precisely because
it does make sense of the whole, replicating Marx's theoretical conclusions
again and again, whereas other interpretations cannot.

Notice that I'm not just claiming this. The discussion between Gil and I
reached the point where he himself suggested that this conclusion would
be correct--if only I could show that the TSS interpretation of commodity
value is not "necessarily" inconsistent with Marx.

I DID SO in ope-l 1044. Thus we are back to the conclusion of my jigsaw
puzzle parable: the results speak for themselves. If those whose
interpretation of the instructions makes them unable to solve the
puzzle complain that they find a contrary interpretation, on the basis
of which others have solved the puzzle, to be implausible--and now I'll
add sophistical and unnatural--it doesn't matter in the least. I don't
care that the instructions to Ricardo's or Morishima's or Roemer's
puzzle stipulate that pieces must be interlocked. Using ALL the pieces
of Marx's puzzle, the TSS interpretation has been able to replicate the
picture on the cover of the box by interpreting p. 265 of Vol. III
(Vintage) and several similar passages differently; along with which
goes a different understanding of labor-time needed for production.

Now note well: Gil DOES NOT, DOES NOT, dispute the fact that I have
indeed shown what he asked me to show.

What he says is that I show the consistency of the TSS interpretation of
commodity value to Marx's definition by assuming what must be proved.
Excuse me. I didn't know I had been challenged to "prove" anything
other than the logical possibility that the TSS interpretation is
compatible with statements that value is determined by labor-time
required for production or labor-time contained.

Of course, Gil is right about another point: if I must begin from HIS
interpretation of these statements, according to which prices cannot
affect the labor-time needed for the commodities' production or the
labor-time contained in them, then I cannot arrive at the opposite
conclusion. Sure. But this is wholly irrelevant, and had nothing
to do with Gil's original challenge. I had stipulated clear criteria
according to which my interpretation of Marx would be falsified. Gil
thought he could indeed falsify my interpretation. He did not.
My challenge to Gil and everyone else on the list is for *you* to now
specify the conditions under which you'd accept the superiority of the
TSS interpretation *as an interpretation of Marx's own value theory*.
Thus far, I haven't seen any such criteria proposed. Gil is claiming
that he can show Ch. 5 of Vol. I is wrong. I haven't followed all the
nuances of this debate, and so cannot answer this at the moment, but
it is a completely DIFFERENT issue. I'm asking for criteria to judge
the relative adequacy of different interpretations *as interpretations.*

Do I have to keep going on and on about this? Haven't I made myself

Gil says I assume what I need to prove. Ironically, he shows this only
by assuming what *he* needs to prove. He invokes Morishima to tell us
that the labor-time needed for a commodity's production is "straight-
forward and unambigous"--i.e., determined by technological coefficients
only. But is Morishima Marx? If, but only if, one accepts Morishima's
view, then input prices cannot have an affect on values. Gil's whole
demonstration is, to use one of his favorite words, tautological.

Gil misunderstood some of my subsequent remarks in ope-l 1044. Of course
he's trying to understand Marx. My point was that one will not succeed
in doing so if one does the following: translate Marx's statement A
as X and his statement B as Y, and then claim he contradicted himself
because X and Y are incompatible. This point was not directed at Gil
specifically. Almost all the objections to the TSS interpretation on
this list have employed some variant of this method. This is INVARIABLY
the method used to "prove" the "internal inconsistency" of Marx's value
theory. The amazing thing is that anyone buys it. All this method
shows is that X and Y are incompatible, not that Marx's actual statements
A and B are. So I'd like Gil to comment on this methodological point,
if he can, now that he understands I wasn't trying to say that he didn't
want to understand Marx.

So of course I don't think the determination of logical fallacy depends on
what class one is in. Rather the above method of refutation is flawed,
obviously flawed, and those like Bortkiewicz who started it had
an antagonistic intent. Again and again people have adopted this method,
including some Marxists, and many more have accepted it, including many
Marxists. At the root of it all--not in the sense of every individual
who accepts or adopts this method--but at the root of this type of Marx-
critique itself is a desire to hide one's disagreements with Marx. The
other side has EVERYTHING to lose if it has to say "our arguments
support the interests of existing society, we like this society (or
we're paid to do this), and so we disagree with Marx" or even "things
look different from our class perspective than they do from Marx's."
How much more convenient to "prove" Marx was "internally inconsistent"
via the above sleight of hand. And how much more convenient for those
who wish to claim the mantle of Marx while diverging from his views to
use his "errors" as an excuse to avoid acknowledging their theoretical
differences from him.

Andrew Kliman