[OPE-L:3160] Re: "orthodox" Marxism

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Fri, 27 Sep 1996 05:50:04 -0700 (PDT)

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Makoto wrote in [OPE-L:3158]:

> Although Uno certainly always intended to follow what Marx intended to
> achieve in political economy, he was often accused as reformist by
> 'orthodox' Marxists in Japan. Many of 'orthodox' Marxists were related with
> JCP or its direct supporters. I assume that P.Sweezy's self-definition as an
> independent socialist signifies a position similarly trying to keep a
> distance from the Soviet 'orthodoxy'. <snip>

Thank you for the clarification. Makoto goes go to write:

> For instance I feel it unfair when my (or Uno's) theory of labour-shortage
> type of crisis theory is called neo-Ricardian.

(1) I strongly agree. Indeed, one could say that the *only* thing that the
two groups of theories have in common is a *similar* (but *not* the same)
theory of crisis. If one was going to isolate one aspect of the
"Neo-Ricardian" (more later) theory as defining, wouldn't it be the
rejection of [labor theory of] value theory in favor of calculating value
and price directly from physical quantities? Yet, this perspective runs
counter -- in most fundamental ways -- to the theories advanced by Uno
and Makoto. So, why did some make this analogy? I think the answer is
quite simple. It was a way of *dismissing* the falling rate of profit
caused by labor-power shortage theory of crisis theory through a kind of
"guilt by association" reasoning rather than critically coming to terms
with and reasonably evaluating that theory.

(2) But wait a minute ... how did the expression "Neo-Ricardian" begin?
Wasn't that designation *imposed upon* that school by critics rather than
being self-selected? Isn't their chosen designation "surplus approach"
(as I believe Alan pointed out on OPE-L many moons ago)? Of course,
Steedman et al. were not without guilt as well since they sometimes
referred to other theoretical perspectives as "obscuricist" (and who
would possibly describe *oneself* as an obscuricist?).

(3) In recent decades the falling rate of profit caused by rising organic
composition of capital theory has been referred to as "orthodox"? But,
has it always [since Marx] been viewed as "orthodox"? No. In the
"orthodoxy" of the Second International either disproportionality and/or
underconsumptionist theories of crisis were viewed as "orthodox" by the
leading theoreticians of German and Austrian Social Democracy, including
Kautsky, Hilferding, Luxemburg, etc.. What about the Third International?
The "orthodox" theoreticians, including Lenin, Trotsky, Bukharin,
Preobrazhensky, Varga, etc., also generally accepted either
disproportionality and/or underconsumptionist theories of crisis. On that
last point see Richard B. Day's _The 'Crisis' and the 'Crash'_ (London,
NLB, 1981). After the passing of the Bolsheviks, the "orthodox" [Soviet]
perspective on crisis highlighted the "anarchy of capitalist production"
and the multi-causal "contradictions of capitalism." So, what theory is
viewed as "orthodox" varies alongside changes in who is understood to be
"orthodox" (or dominant).

(4) Quite frankly, I don't think that the falling rate of profit caused by
labor-power shortage theory of crisis as presented by Uno and some other
Japanese Marxists (including Makoto) has been given a fair hearing outside
of Japan. This is the case despite the fact that at least one major work
by Uno has been translated into English and published and a few relevant
works by Makoto are available in English. It is the case despite the
influence of the Uno-School in some other countries, e.g. Canada. At some
point, when Makoto and others have the time, I'd like to see *us* (on
OPE-L) have that discussion. It should be a discussion which
not only refers to what Marx wrote but also confronts directly and
honestly the perspectives of the Uno-School. Last month, Fred presented a
presentation of his perspective of the falling rate of profit and its
political implications (and Massimo, no doubt, will respond in due
course). Perhaps, if Makoto and others have time, that could be a way of
introducing this topic for discussion.

> A failure of Soviet
> Marxism was its belief that it represented only one way of formulating
> scientific theories by exluding all the other Marxists works as more or less
> reformist. In the field of social science this attitude proved stelile and
> not correct.
> Let us try not to use unclear wording just 'orthodox', especially in the
> current world after the fall of Soviet orthodoxy, but try to use more
> accurate chracterization of mutual works!

I agree and hope others would agree as well.

In OPE-L Solidarity,


PS to Simon: Thanks for the explanation in #3159 for why the "Archive"
section of *Capital and Class* was discontinued. Also: welcome back to the