[OPE-L:1503] Re: Math, numbers and a quiz

Michael A. Lebowitz (mlebowit@sfu.ca)
Thu, 14 Mar 1996 16:54:50 -0800

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In message Thu, 14 Mar 1996 08:17:01 -0800,
S.Mohun@qmw.ac.uk (S.Mohun) writes:

> Another quiz. Cosider the following:
> 'Despite Marx's firm grasp of algebra, he was never at ease in reckoning
> with figures, i.e. in commercial calculations, even though there is a
> thick sheaf of notebooks in which he worked through all the various kinds
> of commercial calculation in several examples. But knowledge of the proper
> rules of calculation is not at all the same thing as exercise in the
> everyday practical calculations of the trader, and in his turnover
> calculations Marx became confused, with the result that, apart from being
> incomplete, they contain many errors and contradictions.'
> Who wrote it?
> Where?
> Was he or she correct?
> Does this have any bearing on the numerical example versus algebraic model
> issue?
> Simon

Enough of these people who trash Marx and say he made mistakes! This
particular person is a well-known distorter of Marx!
The writer was, of course, Fred Engels; and the passage appears in Vol.
II, Ch. 15 (Penguin/Vintage,p.359). I've always felt that Fred was wrong on
this (and it's not the only case): the point he was making about "this
tiresome calculation business" was that Marx was led "to ascribe an
undeserved significance to what in my opinion is in fact a matter of little
importance. I refer to what he calls the 'setting-free' of money capital."
My sense is that Marx was right to see significance in the effect of changes
in turnover-time upon the extent of cash flows. Given Fred's position, it is
ironic that he wrote the chapter in Vol III, Ch. 4--"The Effect of turnover
on the rate of profit" (for which Marx left only the title--- although he
also left the Grundrisse discussion, which unfortunately fred did not read).
As for Simon's last question, I don't know. What do you think--- and
what's your view on question 3?
in solidarity,
Michael A. Lebowitz
Economics Department, Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6
Office: (604) 291-4669; Office fax: (604) 291-5944
Home: (604) 255-0382
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e-mail: mlebowit@sfu.ca