[OPE-L:3000] Re: Okishio and mathematical Economics

Stephen Cullenberg (Stephen.Cullenberg@ucr.edu)
Tue, 10 Sep 1996 13:58:51 -0700 (PDT)

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Some even briefer responses to Bruce:

>Despite the fact that others may use the term differently, I don't think
>the notion of a center of gravity requires convergence, or even a
>"tendency" to convergence. As I understand the term in Marx, it simply
>involves movement "around" the center of gravity, with no necessity for any
>ultimate "movement to equalization." Equivalent exchange is the center of
>gravity for the fluctuations that occur in response to non-equivalence.
>Using the term in this sense, as opposed to a temporal sense ("long-run
>equilibrium") is the intent of the term "structural abstraction."

I would like to know what are the dynamics you see around the center of
gravity. What is doing the attracting from the non-equivalent exchange to
equivalent exchange? And, whatever it is, what is the rationale for this
movement? I don't think the issue here is whether there is an "actual" or
"ultimate" movement to equalization, but I do want to know what it is that
is the attractor, and why it in turn is attractive theoretically. In
another context, but with relevance here I believe, Sraffa in the 1920s
argued convincingly that stable demand and supply curves were a problematic
construct because any movement in price will shift both. What makes you
think a center of gravity has enough permanence to even strucutral sort out
the fluctuations you refer to?

>My instinct here is almost "What, me worry?" Sure, some uses of an ERP
>condition do rest on MI premises, but I can't accept, or even really
>understand, the grander claim that *all* uses of the concept are MI in some
>serious and worrisome way. I guess I just don't understand your concept of
>MI and why you want to use it in such an expansive fashion.

I am simply trying to point out (a) that the use of MI is not the same as
rationality and does involve, by its own construction, the project of
reducing complex phenonmena to social atoms, which in turn introduces a
homogeneity to the basic elements. I am using MI in the sense so well
explicated by Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin, among many others; and
(b) that ERP models are built on this MI foundation, whether recognized or
not, and if the homogeneity of social atoms (in this case profit-maximizing
firms) is rejected (which I think there is good reason to do so these
days), then the ERP result is not sustainable. Frankly, I still have no
idea how you justify your structural assumption without appeal to MI, and
at times it seems to me you are saying, well, OK, maybe I am, so be it.
That's fine, but I don't see firms in the world that come any where near
acting the way I am claiming the ERP result requires (ie, all firms
maximizing the same definition of profit over the same time horizon), and
that is why I would prefer to move beyond these ERP models.

>I believe I do understand the claim Okishio makes, and I agree that its
>"myopic nature" is probably part of what makes it attractive to those it
>attracts. My point was simply that firms do not *know* current prices of
>production (how could they, when all they have to observe and work with are
>current and past *market* prices--not at all the same thing).
Ok, you don't want to think of firms making technological choices based on
nonobservable prices of production, as is done in Okishio models, but you
will write out models with ERP conditions and analyze surplus value
(re)distributions, where the firms and sectors underlying such models are
nowhere to be found in actuality. I must be missing something.


Stephen Cullenberg office: (909) 787-5037, ext. 1573
Department of Economics fax: (909) 787-5685
University of California Stephen.Cullenberg@ucr.edu
Riverside, CA 92521