[OPE-L:2808] "basic concepts and method" & alterntive conceptions of the world market

glevy@pratt.ed (glevy@pratt.edu)
Wed, 7 Aug 1996 07:52:59 -0700 (PDT)

[ show plain text ]

Rakesh wrote in [OPE-L:2807]:

> So in order to fix our ideas about socially necessary labor, we must come
> to agreement on Marx's concepts of the value form and abstract labor, and
> while I do hope that we take up further the tasks of the analysis of the
> world market (I am terribly interested in Alan's analysis of superprofit
> for example), we have to come to some kind of agreement about Marx's basic
> concepts and method.

We surely must all recognize that there are different perspectives on
the list concerning such questions as abstract labor, individual prices
and value, prices of production, etc. I tend to doubt that those
perspectives will change fundamentally as a result of further discussion
since they all relate to different methodologies. On the other hand,
further discussion opens the possibility that we will continue to develop
our own perspectives and have a better comprehension of alternative

How then do we move forward to the discussion of other subjects such as
the world market which Rakesh mentions above? It seems to me that the
less fruitful road would be for us to concentrate on our interpretations
of Marx. A more fruitful focus, IMHO, would be on _capitalism_ rather
than _Capital_. *If* we can say that there are certain topics like the
world market that need greater theorization, then two possible roads might
be possible for the further development of perspectives on this issue:

(1) We could examine a specific "conjunctural" question (e.g. our varying
conceptions of "neoliberalism" -- see recent post by Fred on the Zapatista
conference) to see how our different understandings of "basic concepts and
method" yield alternative explanations of the topic studied. In doing so,
we could "test" our conceptions of that topic against historical and
empirical evidence.

(2) We could begin by locating a particular topic (in this case, the world
market) within the logical structure of capitalism and ask: (a) what
aspects of the theory need greater specification before we can examine
that subject? For instance, can we agree that the theorization of
capitalist crises, the state, and international trade need further
development for us to be able to extend the theory to the point where we
are able to systematically examine the world market? Of course, depending
on your interpretation of the adequacy of the theory, other subjects such
as landed property and wage-labor might require further theorization as
well.; (b) what are the specific aspects of the world market that need to
be theorized? [I trust we can agree that explanations given by general
equilibrium theory are not sufficicient for understanding world markets].

On methodological grounds, I think that the second method is preferable as
a starting point, although, there is much that could be gained by a
conjunctural analysis of a specific question (and the two tasks can not be
completely separated from each other). Perhaps there are better ways to
approach this question than the ones suggested above. Does anyone have any
better ideas?

In OPE-L Solidarity,