[OPE-L:3181] Orthodoxy

Alan Freeman (A.Freeman@greenwich.ac.uk)
Mon, 30 Sep 1996 00:01:06 -0700 (PDT)

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Dear all

I'd like to register a few responses to debate which will
probably only prove how insufficient is the time I have had to
read it.

As regards orthodoxy, my tuppenceworth is that I don't think
it is a good idea to define ourselves as orthodox or defend
the concept of orthodoxy; I think it is a concept destructive
of good science and good scholarship, though I'm sure many
people use it in good faith.

The critical question for me is this: if I write a statement
about economics which draws on Marx's ideas (or Ricardo's,
or Keynes', or anyone else's ideas), how can my reader judge
where the ideas really come from? The history of an idea is
every bit a part of the idea.

The notion of 'orthodoxy' implies that there should be some
other intermediary, between my reader and Marx, who decides
on the reader's behalf what Marx actually said. But that's what
the problem has been in the past.

I can understand the temptation to defend 'orthodoxy' against
the travesties of Marx's thought that have been published
in his name, and I sympathise with Fred for this reason. But
I can't think of the outcome of any previous battle to say
who is 'orthodox' that has been very productive.

I, together I think with Fred, wish the world to understand that
what Steedman, Sraffa, Roemer, Morishima, Brewer et tutti quanti
say about Marx, is not what Marx thought, and that the logical
errors they claim to have discovered in Marx, are in fact logical
errors in their own thinking.

I don't think it helps if we seem to be suggesting, even accidentally,
that someone else speaks for Marx better than they do. Better to say
that *no-one* can speak for Marx except Marx. This takes an axe to
the root of the thing. If the standard we manage to establish is that
no-one has the right to speak on behalf of another writer without
allowing the reader to judge for her or himself what the other writer
says, tnen I think we will make this whole gross farce much harder
to repeat.

Let Steedman speak for Steedman, Sraffa for Sraffa, Roemer
for Roemer, Morishima for Morishima, Okishio for Okishio,
Brewer for Brewer and moreover let Grossman speak for Grossman,
Rosdolsky for Rosdolsky, Trotsky for Trotsky and Mandel for Mandel.

And let Marx speak for Marx.

This is why I wholeheartedly support Andrew in re "Marx's Marxism",
which I think is often misunderstood on this list as if Andrew
were claiming to be some special authority on Marx.

Of course, I wouldn't be claiming to speak on Andrew's behalf,
merely in his defence. But the notion of "Marx's Marxism" for me
has always signified the very opposite of any special claim
to authority, namely, the radical idea that if we want to know
what Marx says, we should read him, and that if we want to assess
any claim to represent him it should done by comparing the claim
with what the old sod actually wrote.

People are of course quite free not to read Marx; but in that
case, they shouldn't make claims on his behalf. Is this not