[OPE-L:1400] Re: Pythagorean number-worship

riccardo bellofior (bellofio@cisi.unito.it)
Sun, 10 Mar 1996 01:09:45 -0800

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At 14:33 9-03-1996 -0800, glevy@acnet.pratt.edu wrote:

>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?

I was not saying that the internal critique is the only critique. I was
suggesting that one should take seriously the *other* theories' aims and
categories (as, BTW, we want the other to respect our theory) when making
that strange game which is 'scientific practice'. Otherwise, the risk is
that you say that another theory is inappropriate for analyzing a dynamic
capitalist economy (in *your* sense), when the other theory simply do not
interpret those words in the same manner. My strategy is neither to bother
for internal critiques of other theories nor to fill my paper of harsh
phrases against Neoricardians, or Walrasians, etc. I rather try to make an
openly personal 'translation' among different approaches, when it is
needed, trying to clear the different domains - and I am more eager to
recognize the coherence than the incoherence to my theoretical 'enemies'.
And from a methodological point of view I do not believe any reference to
'reality' is relevant in 'scientific' discussions. The confrontation with
other theories seems to me relevant in helping to understand what is
distinctive in one's own approach, in eliminating inconsistencies, etc.:
that is, in a process of self-criticism which is essential in furthering
one own way of representing and intervening in the 'world' (the one here
may be, of course, a collective). There *is* of course a relation between
discursive and extradiscursive elements in the process of gathering
knowledge: but it is internal to my chosen 'style' of scientific thought,
and I cannot impose it on others. Certainly it does not affect the
justification of theories. And all the discussions trying to rescue Marx
against charges of inconsistency, redundancy, etc. are in the
'justification' game.

One of my favourite references here (pgilosophy of science) is Ian
Hacking's "Representing and Intervening".

>(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.
Of course, because *we* cannot divorce science and revolution (see
Colletti, in From Rousseau to Lenin, or something like that, an old New
Left Review Books). However, I think that Marx criticized Ricardo (and
Smith) because of their inability to resolve the problems internal to their
approach(es), and showed how his (Marx's) methodological different grouds
were able to overcome those difficulties *breaking* with Classical
political economy. Now we know that the Ricardian problems in price theory
can be resolved in its own terms (though I do not think that this too
simple account is completely fair to the ambiguites in Ricardo: but
certainly Sraffa is a legitimate way, though not the only one, to read
Ricardo). Marx thought that Ricardo's price theory was in a blind alley: it
was not. To locate theories historically and in terms of classes is
legitimate, but not if you use it to resolve theoretical disputes saying
that your opponents is a vulgar economists! BTW, I doubt that Marx's idea
that after 1830 there are only vulgar economists is wrong.

Thoughts put down early in the morning. I fear that all of you may easilu
see that I am not completely awake ...


Riccardo Bellofiore e-mail: bellofio@cisi.unito.it
Department of Economics Tel: (39) -35- 277505 (direct)
University of Bergamo (39) -35- 277501 (dept.)
Piazza Rosate, 2 (39) -11- 5819619 (home)
I-24129 Bergamo Fax: (39) -35- 249975