[OPE-L:1424] 1Re: Re: Pythagorean number-worship

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Mon, 11 Mar 1996 04:54:15 -0800

[ show plain text ]

Responding to Riccardo and Mike L. [1408]:

Riccardo wrote in [OPE-L:1415]:

> The problem is that the split between
> political economy and vulgar economy has produced disasters in Marxism. I
> do not say we should not use it in the future. I say that *now* it is an
> hindrance to our need to catch up with the *enemies*. Each of our
> statements must hold up without any reference to the vulgar/political
> economy dichotomy: that dichotomy may at best be a consequence of our
> analysis (it was not so for Marx?).

I certainly agree that "name calling" (e.g. "vulgar economist",
"revisionist", "fake leftist") can be a problem among Marxists to the
extent that it is an *alternative* and *substitute* for critique.
When a consequence of analysis (a result) it is certainly more
justified than as a pre-condition and starting point of "analysis." To
be sure, the language used by some Marxists is frequently filled with
instances of "loaded terminology" and intellectual guilt by association.
Does this mean that we should stop using designations like "bourgeois
economist" or "vulgar economist"? I'm not convinced. If it is a result
and not merely a pre-supposition of analysis, those terms may still have
contemporary uses.

> ... it was not a criticism of Walras, but sounds not far from a notion of
> *critique* a' la Marx,which compells to include the strengths of the
> opponents' theory in one own's positive theoretical endeavours.

Marx's legacy here is not that clear. Concepts in Quesnay, Smith, Ricardo
(among others) were incorporated and developed further by Marx in the
course of critique. Concepts by others, from Malthus and Say for
instance, were rejected and surpassed in the course of critique (and, as
we know, Marx was not fond of saying kind words about those two). Are
marginalists more like Malthus than Ricardo (I think so) and does that
mean that we should deal with them differently than Sraffians (I think so).

> And I doubt you can talk with an apologist of capitalism while you are
> trying to destroy it.

Do you talk *to* apologists or do you talk *about* apologists to
*others*? If the designation "apologist" is a legitimate result of
analysis, what can one say *to* an apologist? That is, the very condition
of believing that someone else is an apologist means that further
dialogue with that person is hopeless.

> BTW: don't you think that Walras and Wicksell were, in their own way,
> socialists? And that there is some truth in the Austrians charge that
> general equilibrium theory is the theory of a planned economy?

It is certainly true that the original marginalists were a motley crew.
The theory, though, becomes developed and rigidified as it develops and
assumes (something close to) hegemony among economists. Intellectually,
what bound the early marginalists together most was methodology and their
understanding of value (interestingly, the same topics that
intellectually have most frequently divided Marxist economists).

> It is not a
> chance that, as Alan reminded us, there are points of contact between
> Walras and Sraffa and the 20th century marxists: the crossroads is in the
> German-Russian debate of the late 19th century, early 20th century on
> planning.

Points of contact? To be sure. How we engage in our "contact" with those
others is what is at issue, it would seem.

To Mike L (responding to #1408): I didn't say that you were someone who
is an example of one who is not doing mathematical work or who is opposed
to the use of math in political economy. I said that your *book* was an
example of a *subject* that was treated in a non-formal and
non-mathematical manner. Since you are a proponent of the use of calculus
for certain topics in political economy, let me ask you the following
question: do you think that the theories presented in your book *can* be
formalized in mathematical terms?

In OPE-L Solidarity,