[OPE-L:2196] Re: Depreciation for Paul

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Tue, 14 May 1996 02:33:59 -0700

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>A question to Paul C (ope-l 2132):
>What's your ("scientific") criterion for the correspondence of a value
> theory to Marx's? If the correpondence of the interpretation's
>predictions/implications to Marx's isn't at least one important
> criterion, why not?

Questions as to who is the most correct interpreter of the works
of a past master have no place in science. Their proper place is
in discipleship and schismatics. Science does not accord
authority to individuals, it judges theories by their ability
to explain the world.

>Would you at least agree that we have refuted the "proofs" of the
> internal inconsistency of Marx's transformation and law of the FRP?
> I.e., that under our interpretation, there is no inconsistency?

No, because what you have done is discarded the concept of value as
labour embodied and replaced it by price. In so doing you have ended up with
a considerably weaker theory. The orginal labour theory of value related
one set of phenomena - prices - to an apparently distinct set of phenomena,
the labour times required to make things, and asserted that the latter caused
the former. What you have asserted is that prices at time t-1, along
with the rate of profit, determine prices at time t. Under the assumptions
of an equal rate of profit, this is internally consistent, but:

a) it is not a coherent causal theory, because no dynamic mechanism is
advanced by which the historic cost rate of profit is to be equalised.

b) it is a relatively weak theory, operating at the level of appearances

c) it forces you to reject, much of marx's published writings on
value in the first part of capital and in Wages Prices and Profit,
where he is quite unequivocal in defining value in terms of embodied labour.

>It seems to me that Paul is using "scientific" in a rather unusual way.
> It doesn't refer to method, the need to demonstrate results, etc.,
> but to the topic of concern--external reality instead of Marx's theory
> itself.
It is pretty generally the case that science concerns itself with
external reality.

>And if critics of the TSS interpretation don't have an ideological
> ax to grind, then why are the acknowledgements of its success in
> refuting the Bortkiewicz (transformation), Okishio/Roemer (FRP), and
> Steedman/Morishima (joint production) "prrofs" of Marx's inconsistency
> so slow and grudging in coming? E.g., David Laibman, and to a lesser
> extent Allin, almost skip over whether the Kliman-McGlone refutation
> of Bortkiewicz's "proof" of Marx's error is successful, in their
> critiques to our interpretation (to critique our interpretation is
> *not* the same as showing that it fails to refute Bortkiewicz, unless
> the critique includes a demonstration of our failure. To date, no
> one's critique has done so.)
>Why do critics of the TSS interpretation alsways seem to want to change
> the subject, rather than discuss the internal (in)consistency issue
> head-on? As Alan has noted, we take your issues seriously, but many
> (not all) critics of the TSS interpretation fail to take this one of
> ours seriously. And it isn't only an issue of ours. Objectively,
>this has been THE central focus of debates of Marx's critique of
> political economy for exactly one century.

The maths of Steedman etc are internally consistent. One can subject
their work to a critique only if one shows that the assumption that they
make about the world are false, or that the predictions they make
are not born out in practice, or that there are hidden contradictions
in them.

For instance, one can show that Steadmans negative surplus value arise
because his examples are unstable with joint producers operating below
the production possibility frontier. This is an effective critique since
it attacks one of his assumptions about profit maximisation.

One can show empirically that the posited deviations between prices of
production and value are very small as Shaik et al have done.

One can argue as Farjoun and Machover have done that their assumptions
of an equal rate of profit are invalid, and that once one drops this
assumption, their conclusions fall.

Against these critiques, I find yours weak, since it is concerned not
with showing the empirical falsity of Steedman etc, but with defending
Marx's reputation for consistency. You form a weak interpretation of
Marx's theory under which you claim that he is consistent, but that does
not demonstrate the empirical falsity of Sraffa and his followers.
Paul Cockshott