[OPE-L:2218] Re: schismatics

Alan Freeman (100042.617@compuserve.com)
Wed, 15 May 1996 00:53:17 -0700

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Re Paul's 2209

This is an attempt at a basis for some kind of working relation for
discussions. I think there is progress. But reading back over the
the last six months I am surprised by how much the gap between us
has widened. It is not what I expected given our common views on
the equalisation of the profit rate.

Paul writes, of assessing the relation of TSS to Marx:

"It is 100 0ogmatics, a terrain onto which I entered under
protests because Andrew repeatedly demanded that I did so,
apparently regarding any other approach as avoiding the question."

If I understand rightly you are saying that you are completely
indifferent to whether a theory is compatible or not compatible
with Marx or any other writer, and the only useful question to ask
of a theory is what relation it has to empirical data. Looking back
I can gain insight into your approach by reading your contributions
in this light. I acknowledge you have put forward such a view, if I
understand it correctly, from very early on.

But your Capital and Class article is entitled 'Testing Marx'.

This is a disputable claim, which is why it gets disputed. I don't
think you are testing Marx. I think you are testing Cockshott,
Cottrill and Michaelson.

There is nothing wrong with this and I have no reason to belittle
or ignore what is, I genuinely believe, a very interesting and
worthwhile line of investigation. The problems arise when you call
it 'the' labour theory of value, or 'the standard' labour theory of
value, and most especially 'Marx's' labour theory of value.

I suggest that by asserting your claim to Marx's tradition, you
have already made a dogmatic assertion. You cannot simultaneously
label as dogmatism any challenge to this claim. I think this single
point is the source of most of the heat. A lot of progress would
result if it were removed.

I have a proposal: the theory you are investigating should be given
a neutral name of your own choice: my suggestion is 'vertically-
integrated labour values'. This will avoid any contention about
Marx's views, or any suggestion that you are claiming authority
other than empirical merit. We can then discuss it on exactly the
basis that you propose: its empirical merit, divorced from all
relation to any questions of textual interpretation.

It will also place your views on an equal basis with those of
everyone else on OPE, none of whom define their theory as 'Marx's
value theory' to the exclusion of all other interpretations of
Marx's value theory.

My second point is more complex. I think it is coherent to reject
any organised study of the writings of others, including Marx, and
to argue that the only question we can ask of a theory is whether
it is empirically valid. I think this is wrong, for the reasons
given in #2161 which presents a reasoned and undogmatic alternative
to your view. But I think if you wish to pursue your approach I
wouldn't wish to prevent it.

However, in this case, is it not a trifle foolhardy to intervene in
so many *other* discussions where you *do* comment on what Marx
actually said? This is what I find most puzzling and why I did not,
until I reread your contributions in the light of what you say
above, properly understand your approach. Even having read them, I
still find that a lot of what you say does not square with the
argument that any discussion of Marx's own views is irrelevant.

Thus in OPE 137, 167, 203, 229, 290, 323, 350, 364, 365, 382, 384,
385, 393, 394, 424, 573, 718, 760, 949, 1031, 1035, 1051, 1096,
1116, 1125, 1132, 1140, 1182, 1193, 1198, 1237, 1470, 1577, 1750,
1760, 1769, 1878, 1944, 1951, 1952, 1973, 1975, 2100, and 2110 you
felt drawn either to comment on Marx's views, sometimes extensively
and often negatively, or to cite Marx as authority.

This is quite a lot of comment if your point of view is that any
discussion around Marx's texts is 100 0ogmatism, and quite a lot
of use of Marx for support, if citation of Marx for support is
scholastic ideology. And I didn't get the overall impression that
the remarks in these posts were made under protest.

Personally I think the evidence of these contributions is that it
is not in fact possible to discuss value theory without discussing
(and assessing) what Marx said.

I think there are then two options. Option 1 is that, if you don't
want to be drawn into discussions about what Marx says, it might be
prudent not to make statements about what Marx says.

Option 2 (because it is not my wish to stop anyone making any
statements) is to accept:

(a)no single current has authority to represent itself as 'the'
labour theory;

(b)if assertions are made about "Marx's theory" there needs to be
discussion around what the poor man was actually trying to say;

(c)This discussion requires some rules so that we can amicably
assess, in cases of dispute, what this was.

If you reject discussions about what Marx says as dogmatics, it is
your right, but I think you will greatly confuse people if you then
pass comment on what Marx says.

Otherwise, it just looks as if you are saying that passing comments
on Marx is science, but challenging comments on Marx is dogmatism.