[OPE-L:2131] Science and Ideology

Alan Freeman (100042.617@compuserve.com)
Fri, 10 May 1996 00:45:14 -0700

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(1) thanks for OPE 2119 which, since it has numbers in it, make it much
easier for me to follow and present the argument. I hope I can come back
on this over the weekend.

(2) re 2120 there is obviously a fundamental disagreement:

>Is this procedure an internally consistent and valid interpretation of
>Marx's transformation or not?

This is entirely the wrong question to ask, and so long as one asks this
one remains in the terrain of scholastic ideology. The scientific question
is whether the theory is a correct portrayal of reality.

(1)Please explain why this is the wrong question to ask. Since this disagreement
is basic, it needs clarity. In particular please define scholastic ideology.

(2)Please also define 'portrays reality'.

(3)You seem to be defining a criterion for what is a *correct* theory.
But this isn't what is at issue. The question is whether the TSS view
is a theory at all. As far as I can make out, you deny this. This makes
for an extremely unequal (and probably heated) debate.

(3)The one claim *nobody* makes for v=va+l is that it portrays reality.

If it portrayed reality, there would be no need for transformation, no
need to worry about what happens when goods do not sell at values, no need
for most of the debate of the last century, and probably no need for OPE-L.

Indeed there would have been little need for Marx. Proudhon would have
said most of what was required with a little refinement from Ricardo.

Even the most ardent defenders of v=va+l only claim it portrays a 'simplified',
'idealised', 'logical' or 'historically prior' version of society, or the
'underlying essence' behind prices. If it explains reality, why invent a
mythical state of 'simple commodity production' to which this equation
really applies?

Engels's 1895 piece on the law of value [the only place where the phrase
'simple commodity production' is actually used in all the works of Marx
and Engels], this is completely explicit: since prices determined by
labour values are *not* directly observable in society, he is moved to
assert that prior to capitalism they *were* directly observable.

You and Allin have made the claim that values thus calculated are good
predictors of prices. I think this claim is an obstacle to realising
the real potential of this important body of empirical work.

You and workers such as Ochoa, Petrovic and Chilcote, working in the
tradition established by Anu, have suggested that vertically-integrated
labour embodied magnitudes (henceforth VILE magnitudes) are a good empirical
predictor of *aggregate* prices of the sectors defined by the classifications
adopted by I/O statisticians.

This tells us nothing about *unit* prices, which is what the debate
about values and prices is all about. I think it is an important finding
that VILE magnitudes are good predictors of disaggregated total output.

But the fact that the total output of steel in money correlates with the
total VILE in this output, in now way proves that the price per ton of
steel correlates with the VILE per ton.

In order for VILE per unit to correlate with price per unit, steel
would actually have to sell for its VILE. Society would have to actually
work like Engels' 'simple commodity production' with profits directly
proportional to hours worked in every sector, etc.

And it doesn't.

Otherwise we wouldn't be having this discussion.