[OPE-L:3368] double standards, double standards, double standards

andrew kliman (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Fri, 11 Oct 1996 21:14:15 -0700 (PDT)

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A response to Jerry's ope-l 3345 and 3365.

Well, Jerry seems to have a double standard. He seems not to want to apply
his earlier arguments consistently. Although the *exact same* arguments he
used to claim that v (variable capital) must always be represented as > 0 can
be used *equally well* to claim that R (the cost of repressing the working
class, in the direct process of production and outside it) must always be
represented as > 0, Jerry for some reason doesn't want to torment people into
doing so in this particular case. There's also a gaping contradiction between
his methodological prescriptions concerning one-sector models and what he now
says concerning R = 0.

Here are Jerry's own words, with the appropriate substitutions made:

Ope-l 3067, Sept. 20, 1996: "you seem to be suggesting that ... [variable]
capital need[s] to .... be positive since [it is] "always present in
capitalism." Yet, [cost of repression] = 0 is *never* present in capitalism.
Why can't you just forget once and for all that [R] = 0 assumption? ....
Let's instead develop models where constant circulating capital > 0, constant
fixed capital > 0, and [repression costs] > 0."

Ope-l 3070, Sept. 21, 1996: "let me state now that I object to the [R]=0
assumption regardless of whether Andrew *or anyone else* makes that assumption
(except in the special case where [R]=0 is employed to critique a theory that
likewise uses that assumption). ...

'I reject the proposition that [repression costs] can be equal to 0. Th[is is]
*not even [a] formal abstract possibilit[y]* (e.g. as the equilibrium
condition is in V2 for simple reproduction). The *only* possibility for
[repression costs] to equal 0 is for the
capital form and capitalism itself to be transcended. Yet, if we are to agree
that the subject of _Capital_ is capitalism, this is illegitimate. This does
not mean, of course, that capital can not attempt to and succeed in reducing
[repression costs] *close to* 0. Yet, to vacate [repression costs] from the
analysis entirely requires us to *fundamentally* depart from
both Marx's analysis and the analysis of capitalism itself. ...

"NB: I am not objecting to assumptions based on the criteria of whether they
are "realistic" or not. Marx, and other theorists, of necessity employ certain
"unrealistic" assumptions for certain purposes. For instance, "simple
reproduction" is clearly "unrealistic", yet I do not object to Marx's analysis
of that subject given the purpose at hand. *However*, if one is to assume
[R]=o, one can also assume that capital=0, wage labor=0, and capitalism is

Ope-l 3079, Sept. 21, 1996: "If [R] = 0 then either workers are working for
capital [voluntarily] or [capital is '[repressing] on air.' Is there *any*
reason to make this supposition? In either case, the categories of both
capital and wage-labor are no longer required to analyze capitalist social
relations. ...

"Furthermore, if we are to assume that [R] = 0, this requires us to move
analytically from the more complex and concrete to the more simple and
abstract since the [R] = 0 assumption essentially requires us to *negate* the
capital form. Yet how can the capital form be negated without *transcending*
the capital form? ...

"... what is your definition of the accumulation of capital? Is accumulation
possible or even conceivable if [R] = 0? ...

"When [R] = 0, s/v becomes reduced to the simple identity of [0]/0. How is
this a meaningful statement (or "instructive", to use Allin's phrase in
#3077)? ...

"Simple reproduction and a uniform profit rate, for example, are *abstract
formal possibilities*. That is quite separate from the [R] = 0 assumption
which is *theoretically* inconceivable if we are discussing capitalism."

Ope-l 3093, Sept. 23, 1996 [speaking for Karl Marx]: "I believe that Comrade
[Levy] expresses ... exactly why I feel that the
[R] = 0 assumption is not accurate as an interpretation of my work _Das
Kapital_, i.e. it 'conceal(s) the specific character of the capital-relation,
namely the fact that variable capital is exchanged for living labor-power...'
[from which labor must be subsequently extracted by costly repressive means]."

Ope-l 3105, Sept. 24, 1996: "READ AGAIN the very quote that you cited today
[sic] in reference to 'formulas for the rate of surplus value.' That passage
AND MANY, MANY, MANY others indicate that the [R] = 0 assumption IS TOTALLY
INCONSISTENT with Marx's theory."

Ope-l 3108, Sept. 24, 1996: "Marx did not believe that [capitalists could
costlessly extract labor from workers]. Therefore, any assumption that
[capitalists can costlessly extract labor from workers] is at odds with his
very clear statements to the contrary. ...

"An assumption that [R] = 0 is therefore illegitimate as it relates to an
interpretation of Marx. ...

"With this post, I anticipate that my contribution to the [R] = 0 discussion
will cease. I believe that I have already convinced just about all listmembers
of the import of the [R] = 0 assumption.

Ope-l 3117, Sept. 25, 1996: "What are the implications of assuming [R] = 0,
Massimo? To begin with, if [R] = 0, there is no wage labor or capital. If [R]
= 0, s/v =[0]/0. If [R] = 0 there can be no accumulation of capital. If [R] =
0 we no make
no meaningful statements about capitalism (since capitalism could not exist if
[R] = 0) or Marx (since Marx did *not* assume [R] = 0). ...

"The 'fuss' is about the relation of theory to the assumptions made in
mathematical models. The "fuss" is about formalizations that express
absurdities. If we assume absurdities, then all results that follow are
absurdities and have no relevance except in the special case of a critique of
an absurd "theory" where either [R] = 0 is assumed or where that "theory"
includes a claim for the [R] = 0 case."

Ope-l 3130, Sept. 25, 1996: "The issue was whether there is or can be
accumulation of capital where [R] = 0. ...

"Although this issue sounds trivial, it concerns the implications of
assumptions specified in models. The differences between [R] = 0 vs. [R] =
"approaching 0" may be very small quantitatively, but the [R] = 0 assumption
carries with it all kinds of ramifications which conflict with the ability of
the model to allow for any 'fundamental insights.'"

Ope-l 3179, Sept. 29, 1996: "Yes, yes ... I know: they're just *assumptions*.
Yet, assumptions have to be examined ... and sometimes the assumptions
specified can assume away the very problem(s) under discussion."

Ope-l 3255, Oct. 3, 1996: "We can't allow the desire for "pedagogically"
simple models to take precedence over developing theoretical models that are
inherently more complex but better mirror the subject under investigation."

hollering :) }.)

Ope-l 3295, Oct. 6, 1996: "I think it's high-time we went multi-sector [by
including a special armaments producing industry] (can anyone recommend a good
high-powered Windows statistical programme?)."

Ope-l 3314, Oct. 7, 1996: "Do you want your model -- oops, illustration -- to
say anything at all on a *theoretical* level about accumulation and the FRP?
If your answer is no, then the whole exercise is useless except possibly as a
critique of
Okishio. If your answer is yes, then you have to construct an illustration in
which accumulation is at least *theoretically* possible."

(In the same post, BTW, Jerry wrote: "If v = 0, then no rational capitalist
would introduce labor-saving
technical change at time t since labor is working for free. Even if we say
'very, very, very' small v, there would be little reason to introduce this
type of technical change since wages could be expected to be 'very, very,
very' low." Like Paul C, he has not yet retracted this statement, even though
I have shown it is false --- precisely because R > 0 --- and even though he
did reply to the post in which I showed it to be false.)

Ope-l 3329, Oct. 9, 1996:
"I. Consider a hypothetical capitalist economy in which [capital extracts
labor from workers by means of repression]. Now assume that [repression] = 0.

"II. Having done (I), stipulate that [v becomes v+s by means of capital's
bearing the costs of repression].
Now assume [R] = 0. Huh?

"III. Consider what would happen if wage-earners went on strike or did
other S's.

"A) what wage-earners? [without capital, there's no wage-labor; see (I)];

"B) would capitalists discipline workers by substituting dead labor
for living labor? Given the assumption of [R] = 0, workers would have
no possible reason to be wage-earners (why work for free, [as they would have
to, since no capitalist would hire them]?) and capitalists would have no
incentive to [hire] wage-earners
(what wage? what wage-earners? what discipline? what capital?
what capitalists?)."

Jerry, given your vociferous advocacy of models that "mirror the subject under
investigation," that don't "express absurdities," that are consistent with
Marx's theory, and that don't assume the theoretically impossible, "I am
amazed at the resistance that you have towards dropping [the R = 0]
assumption" (ope-l 3345).

As I noted earlier with respect to Paul C., it would have been simpler and
more to the point had you just acknowledged that you've been wrong and I've
been right.

Andrew Kliman