[OPE-L:1398] Re: Pythagorean number-worship

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Sat, 9 Mar 1996 14:33:18 -0800

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Riccardo wrote in [OPE-L:1393]:

> When we criticize other approaches we should only, as theorists, criticize
> them on internal grounds, or maybe fight them on political grounds: we
> cannot impose on them our metaphysics, or 'justify' our conclusion through
> our metaphysics or thorugh our political views.

A couple of issues:

(1) Let's assume that we only criticize other theories on the basis of
their internal consistency. Are there not problems with such an approach?
Isn't it, for instance, conceivable that there are an infinite variety of
theoretical systems which are internally consistent to describe political
economy for *other* life forms, on *other* planets, in *other* solar
systems?If someone were to take a theoretical system appropriate for
life in the "Delta Quadrant" of the galaxy and then say that such a
system can be used to analyze political economy on our planet in our
time period, would we ONLY ask: is your model internally consistent? I
think NOT. I think we might say that SIMPLY because one has an
internally consistent model, that does NOT mean that model can be used
to explain a world that is radically different from the assumptions of
the model.

Furthermore, if we were *only* to look at the internal consistency of
general equilibrium theory, what would we say? Would we point to
re-switching and capital-reversing *or* would we also challenge that
theory on the basis that its assumptions and specifications are
inappropriate for analyzing a dynamic capitalist economy?


(2) Marx not only critically analyzed other theories of political economy
by examining their inconsistencies. He also challenged other theories on
methodological grounds and criticized other theories for their inability to
capture capitalist reality (discussed above). Marx *also* attempted to
locate those theories historically as representative of class
perspectives in different regions during different historical periods. Is
this also not appropriate as a component of critique? I think it is
essential unless we view political economy as a search for "truth" by
disinterested social scientists who are unaffected by their class interests
and social/historical environment.

However, I will agree that such a method of critique *if taken alone* can
be highly spurious.

In OPE-L Solidarity,