Duncan K. Foley (dkf2@columbia.edu)
Mon, 14 Jul 1997 00:33:43 -0700 (PDT)

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A couple of comments on Jerry's OPE-L:5330:

1) the function of the list

As far as I'm concerned, the list functions like a coffee-house, where one
can have serious and informed conversations with people interested in stuff
that most people just aren't that interested in. I sense that some
participants take intervening as a much weightier decision than just
commenting on a conversation, which I think is too bad, and this might
explain the rather uneven distribution of participation in the list. Maybe
there just isn't a need for the other two lists.

2) On the archives. I'm not opposed to opening the archives, as long as
some kind of ground rules are in place about how they will be used and the
spirit in which they will be cited. What worries me is that in the course
of discussions on the list I may take positions for the sake of argument,
or because I don't understand a point very well that I don't particularly
want to have to defend if they are cited out of context. Two ideas:

a) Jerry or somebody else should edit a book from the archives, with the
opportunity for the quoted participants to clarify their postings.

b) the archives should be opened to scholars on the condition that the
names of the posters not be cited directly, but only the list and the group
of posters involved in the discussion. This may be a crazy idea, but the
citations would look like:

1996: OPE-L Thread "Procedural Questions". Jerry, Duncan, Andrew, Ajit...

3) I sense that a lot of the posting energy on the list has come from
people who have a backlog of issues that they haven't felt dealt with
adequately in the journal literature and in conferences (like my concerns
about the theory of money, for example.) As we've ventilated some of these
points, we've reached a point where some real thought is called for, and
this slows things down, and may even move some of the debates out of the
list and into journal papers. I don't think this is a bad thing.

The focus of our discussions has largely been on points of disagreement.
This has revealed an interesting but rather depressing range of views on
the most fundamental questions of theory, which makes it appear almost
impossible to discuss more concrete questions until these fundamental
points have been cleared up. There is no prospect that we are going to
reach consensus on these points (such as the labor theory of value, the
transformation problem, price dynamics, competition, etc.) in the near

Jerry has tried without much success to provoke discussions about immediate
conjunctural issues (the restructuring of world capital, international
trade, the European Union and NAFTA, etc.) I think the difficulty here is
that we really don't have much new to say about these subjects, because we
are stuck back in old debates about fundamental concepts, and because we
are shy about striking out on our own in political economy beyond the
sphere in which Marx and Classical Marxism have shown the way. I think we
should try, though.


Duncan K. Foley
Department of Economics
Barnard College
New York, NY 10027
fax: (212)-854-8947
e-mail: dkf2@columbia.edu