[OPE-L:4596] Ted's EEA paper, Part I

andrew klima (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Fri, 28 Mar 1997 20:15:47 -0800 (PST)

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Ted has had some technical difficulties, so he has asked me to post his paper
for the upcoming IWGVT sessions at the EEA to this list. Comments will be
most appreciated.

Andrew Kliman

* * * * * * * * *

Attitudes to Marx's Marxism and Hegel's Attitudes to Objectivity
in Recent Debates on Value Theory

Ted McGlone
St. Joseph's College
Patchogue, N.Y. 11772
March 1997

When I was a graduate student at the University of Utah back in the mid 1980s,
I was preparing for my field exams in political economy. I passed my first 3
exams but when it came to the fourth I didn't pass. My examiner had asked me
the one question I wanted to avoid, he wanted me to take three hours to
explain in full the history of the transformation problem. I had not prepared
myself to write for three hours on the transformation problem. Well, I was
offerred the opportunity to retake the exam after a period of study.

I virtually memorized Marx's chapter nine in volume III and Bortkiewicz's
objections to Marx's method. It was also during this time that Andrew Kliman
was studying with Hans Ehrbar and Marc Glick. We discussed what we were
learning. I raised an issue that bothered me: why did almost everyone insist
from Bortkiewicz on down to today that input prices had to equal output
prices, what was the importance of that? Andrew tried to explain and defend
the idea but he soon thought that he couldn't really do that.

So we came to the idea that maybe input prices didn't have to equal output
prices in order to answer Bortkiewicz's charge that Marx had made an error by
not transforming inputs and outputs simultaneously in a simple model of
reproduction. After some hard thinking, Andrew recalled Marx's reproduction
schema from volume II and in one of our long animated phone calls to eachother
we experimented with the idea of extending the transformation across two
periods in a simple reproduction model.
Our way of thinking about the solution was different than Anwar Shaikh's from
the beginning because we wanted to show that every period of the illustration
of the transformation of values into prices of production satisfied the
conditions of simple reproduction and the aggregate equalities held across
periods. Shaikh wanted to show the last period of an iteration converging to
the Bortkiewicz, stationary price solution. We also realized that we had a
single rate of profit that held for the entire period and that this was a
production rate of profit. Piece by piece we began to realize that we had
discovered an interpretation of Marx's transformation that made sense of his
text in a way that the received wisdom, "Marx made an error in failing to
transform the inputs from values to prices of production simulataneously with
the outputs" clearly did not.

I don't mean to sound arrogant in saying this, but we knew that we had done
something very daring and important when we realized how the temporality of
inputs and outputs were beginning to illuminate Marx's ideas in a totally new
and coherent sense. I moved to NYC to teach and finish my dissertation and
Andrew stayed at the University of Utah to finish his dissertation but he kept
working at the ideas with great concentration and continued to work out how
our new interpretation of the transformation illuminated the falling rate of
profit debate.

Later our joint work and Andrew's work on the falling rate of profit were
published. We began to find others around the world who had independently
come to the same or similar insights. As we presented our work we naturally
opened ourselves up for criticism and so we responded and thus developed our
thinking further.

What became apparent, however, after a period of time, in which we continued
to respond and demonstrate the coherence of our interpretation was that there
was a resistance to the temporatl single system approach (TSS) that went
beyond the immediate technical discussion. For example some would say, "You
believe you have a direct line to Marx" or imply that we meant to say that
Marx couldn't possibly make a mistake.

Far from an attitude of faith being our fundamental attitude, what has
characterized our development has been the process of seeking proof for our
interpretation in argument. Our original development began with re-examining
what others took on faith, i.e., the idea that Marx had made an error in
failing to simultaneously transform the inputs with the outputs. The more we
looked at the argument, the clearer it became that the terms of the
Bortkiewiczian transformation problems were not posed on Marx's ground. When
we worked out an interpretation that made sense of Marx's text with the
sequentialism of Marx that Bortkiewicz rejected, it became clear to us that
some resistance to TSS had its roots in resistance to Marx's Marxism as a
concept. Marx's transformation was consistent when time was in the equations,
so why was there such strong opposition to proving this?

A confusion between what was Marx's Marxism and what was an interpretation
hindered our discussion of the issues. We sought to compare our
interpretation with Marx's texts and conclusions. As you can see from
Andrews' comparison, (Appendix 1), we have been able to reproduce all Marx's
major conclusions in value theory while other interpretations only reproduce
some of them. The point is not to say this is what Marx would say today or
that this was what was "in Marx's mind." The point is that we can compare
interpretations with Marx's text and body of ideas as a whole to see which
interpretation is better, as an interpretation. To look at different
interpretations in relation to the text they interpret is, for us, a type of

Although for relativists "objectivity" isn't a compelling idea, for us,
objectivity is a form of subjective development that arises through a
dialectic in which different ideas compete to restate what Marx's Marxism is
today. Our beginning principle was to understand what Marx had done first,
however, instead of rushing to make our own contribution. This is why we
think it is so important to compare what we think with Marx's own texts and
body of ideas as a whole.

We discovered that it was the simultaneist concept of what Marx was doing in
the transformation that makes Marx appear to have made an error but our
temporal single system concept demonstrated an inner consistency in Marx's
procedures and conclusions. Marx's text strongly supports the TSS
interpretation. The addition of time subscripts to value-price equations
renders Marx coherent in opposition to the tradition that finds Marx in error
because his method does not conform to a simultaneist reading.

If you want to make sense of Marx, to rethink Marxism, then wouldn't it be
exciting to carefully learn the TSS interpretation and its critique of the
simultaneist detour? But a resistance to "getting" TSS has emerged that goes
beyond technical disagreements. What is at the core of the disagreements is
our contrasting subjective attitudes to Marx as founder of a new philosophy of
"revolution in permanence,"--not only the technical debate. So the issue of
attitudes to objectivity, in the sense of attitudes to Marx's Marxism, has
emerged for me as I have participated in some of the discussions surrounding
value theory.

To clarify my own thinking about the course of these discussions, I have found
Hegel to be of much help, especially his chapters on various attitudes, or
positions of thought to objectivity. He wrote these as an introduction to the
smaller Encyclopedia Logic and the whole Encyclopedia of Philosophic Sciences
in 1827. They play a role much like the Phenomenology in that they are an
introduction to his system. He worked out these attitudes as a
characterization of the attitudes of thought that historically preceded the
dialectic proper, or the integrality of subject-object in dialectical

The attitudes to objectivity can be briefly characterized in the following
ways: the First Attitude is faith, the Second is divided into Empiricism and
Kantianism, and the Third is the retrogression into personal faith without
method. What follows is a summary of my reading of these Attitudes to

The first attitude has an immediate confidence that it can appropriate its
object through thinking. Common sense, science, as well as scholasticism
share in this attitude. However, it proceeds by attaching predicates to its
object without conceiving how the objective itself relates to its own
determinations. It does not know the antagonism of thought to its own self,
it is not an inwardized negative self-relation. It is simple confidence in
knowing immediately what is. But the process of attaching predicates to an
object is actually a game of definitions without comparing the definitions to
the concept of the object itself. It holds its determinations of the object
separately with an attitude of either/or. It lives in abstract identity as
its object doesn't contain predicates within itself and, thus, there is no
inherent negativity in the object. It's medium is universal generalizations,
mere abstractions.

Empiricism, frustrated with mere abstractions, tries to gain a firm hold of
the object, to be done with abstract generality. Empiricism holds that it is
an unspeakably important principle of experience that we must be in contact
with what we want to know. So Empiricism is an advance, but experience
deludes itself when it believes that it has escaped the conflict of thought
with itself in universal generalizations. Even empiricism must make use of
categories and it may do so quite unconsciously without examining the
conceptual assumptions with which it analyzes its object. Furthermore, in
taking the view that the object can be cut up and analyzed in isolation from
the whole, empiricism actually changes the object of study. For example, an
arm separated from a body and dissected is not a living arm. It has lost its
connection to the whole body and so the object of study, the body as a whole,
has altered.

Kant gives a different explanation for the experience of universals than the
empiricist Hume. Kant separates out universals from particulars in sense and
perceptual experience. Kant changes the experiences of the object into
appearances that are determined by the objectivity of the categories
determined by the subjective a priori mind. The object loses its objectivity
and becomes the empty thing in itself, an unknowable other. Kant fails to
unify thought with experience although he has moved philosophy closer to doing
so and posed the inherent antagonism of thought with itself through his
exposition of the antinomies of reason.

After Kant's advance, showing the subjective constitution of objectivity, the
historic movement of philosophy was not forward, but backward to the
philosophy of Jacobi. Jacobi makes personal revelation the authority for
knowing the universal as object. The method of proof, of mediation, is
dispensed with in favor of immediate personal intuition. Whatever the fact is
that consciousness discovers in itself is raised to the level of a universal
for all. Because all method is based on mediation which establishes
conditions for the given, Jacobi sees all method as appropriate for the
finite. When it comes to the infinite, the absolute, issues of ultimate
universal concern, Jacobi declares all method inappropriate and substitutes
immediate intuition or belief.

Hegel becomes quite angry with Jacobi declaring that at least the earlier form
of faith, e.g., in the Catholic Church, had the authority of its body of
doctrine and history. Jacobi substitutes personal faith in the immediacy of
self-consciousness for one's relation to an organized body of doctrine. Hegel
states that his own doctrine of essence demonstrates the opposition of Jacobi,
a self-developing philosophy of immediacy and mediation. The issue of proof,
of mediation, of method, is what drives Hegel to single out Jacobi as an
attitude to objectivity which Hegel thinks marks a retrogression in thought
once the forward movement towards creating a new unity of thought and
experience in the historic development of thought is halted.

Hegel starts stressing the importance of taking responsibility for the
organization of thought's development rather than allowing thought and
experience, subject and object, to fall apart in indeterminacy. In the
Encyclopedia Logic Hegel begins to restate philosophy on the basis of his
concept of "becoming" in order to show the integrality of the subjective and
objective moments of the dialectic. Hegel's new concept of "absolute
negativity," especially in the Philosophy of Mind, extends what Kant and
others had worked out earlier. Hegel's Encyclopedia can be said to develop
the Idea of subjective-objective development as a demonstration of the method
of absolute negativity.

Now, what does this have to do with debates in Value theory?
As a whole, I see Hegel's attitudes tracing a process not unlike the
degeneration of a research project. Simultaneism appears to stress the
abstract identity of inputs and outputs and resists the difference that
temporality, a process of becoming, introduces. Today, simultaneism's
development appears to be culminating in an assertion that no one can know
what Marx really meant, there is no one right method to make sense of Marx,
and to allow various contradictory conceptions to coexist on the basis of
personal preference (See Foley's paper). Moreover, there seems to be a
tendency to separate theory and practice as a tactic to avoid moving forward
with current debates on temporality vs simultaneism in Value Theory. One
place where this can be seen is in the concluding paragraph of the Foley paper
for this conference where the final sentence reads:

"The release of scholarly energy into the empirical investigation of the
development of world capitalism need not wait on the resolution of every
knotty interpretive and theoretical issue in the labor theory of value."

With regard to another particular issue in value theory, I wonder if those who
claim that Marx defined value in chaper one of Capital and never developed it
further in relation to price are thinking in abstract identities like the
first attitude of faith. They take a definition, as a universal, but do not
show its particularization, price, emerging from within the concept of value.
Value and price are held sharply apart. In the dual system approach, we
either have price or value. Never mind that the commodity can be both and is
not completely identical to either term.