[OPE-L:4597] Ted's EEA Paper, Part II

andrew klima (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Fri, 28 Mar 1997 20:16:01 -0800 (PST)

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The other issue I wish to take up here is the idea of Marx's "error,"
"inconsistency," or "obscurity." When Andrew, I and others subjected it to
examinination, we discovered that there was not a solid ground for accepting
the argument that Marx made an error. Yet, others continue to take the
object, the error, as an object of faith and continue to debate value theory
in a Sraffian framework without examining the objectivity of their belief, the
assumption of an original error. The history of this research project is the
attatching of ever more intricate predicates to an empty object, Marx's error,
which was a particular, simultaneist, underconsumptionist representation of
Marx's value theory. After all, value for Sraffians as well as Samuelson is
actually redundant. The labor theory of value collapses.

The second attitude may describe those who turned to empirical studies of
vertically integrated labor coefficients in order to demonstrate the existence
of value in the real world of experience. Some of these empiricists want to
leave the battle over the general interpretation of value behind as empty
abstractions based on textual scholasticism but it must be pointed out that
they still work with a concept of value. The issue is, what is the content of
the concept of value that they work with? Was it Marx's, or is it another
variant? Theoretic differences over the categories employed in empiric
studies cannot be avoided as objectivity requires that we examine the thought
categories as well as the empiric research.

The Kantian moment of the second attitude may be represented by "abstract
labor" theorists and to some extent the New Interpretation. These theorists
recognize the deficits of a soley empiricist attitude and so turn to a
critical examination of the categories through which we interpret what appears
as value. Like the empirical attitude, critical thinking about our categories
present a conceptual advance. Yet, a critical, systematic development of
categories will fail to demonstrate the objectivity of Marx's concept of value
if it cannot demonstrate quantitatively how Marx transforms value into price.
Verbally describing a concept is insufficient in this quantitative arena, the
numbers must come out right and the issue of simultaneous vs temporal method
cannot be avoided.

Finally, the third attitude of objectivity may be the most relevant to the
current state of debates in value theory. The third attitude both
particularizes and personalizes the theoretical disputes in value theory such
that each one has an insight that s/he likes and that is then designated as
"Marxist" and as universal as anyone else's representation. Method, as rooted
in an organized body of doctrine, takes a back seat to the development of the
individual's particular interest and particular criterion. In place of a
comparison of differing interpretations with Marx's body of ideas as a whole,
we get the tendency to let each theorist substitute their own project as

The motivation and form of this "Third Attitude" research project may develop
through some process like the following imagined sequence: Marx can't be
right about everything, no one is; he made errors; there are some ideas that
I like in Marx; I can refer to Marx selectively as it suits my insight; I'll
develop my own model and signify my distance as well as closeness to Marx by
calling my view "Marxist." In short, the form of this relation to Marx is
like "having your cake and eating it too." (Marx is in error, I'm right,
therefore I represent Marx's ideas.)

Marx according to this attitude is the universal object, and each one claims
to be doing what Marx failed to work out, or left incomplete. Each is
correcting poor Marx. Yet the object, Marx's Marxism, as a body of ideas in
need of clarification and restatement, gets left out and becomes an mere
indeterminate thing-in-itself, a projection screen for our own revelations.

It's great to have our own insights, to do empirical research on that basis,
but let's not jump to conclusions without proof that these concepts are
re-statements of Marx's doctrine without continuing to establish some way to
be responsible for working out differences in interpetation. Many of our
insights may be different than Marx's and also be worth developing. Is it too
much to ask that researchers differentiate what is their own concept and what
is Marx's?

Theory and practice, like subjectivity and objectivity, are integrally related
in dialectic method. What is important, at this historic juncture, I think,
is that we continue to move forward, after the collapse of major state
capitalist regimes which presented themselves to the world as a concretization
of Marxism, to determine anew what is Marxism now that we don't have that
incubus of oppressive state powers calling themselves "Communist" or "Marxist"
weighing us down. To continue to hold to the dogmatic faith that Marx made an
error in not transforming inputs simultaneously with outputs is retrogressive
and is holding back forward movement and the development of a new attitude
towards Marx's ideas. Given what is at stake in this debate, the coherence of
Marx's Marxism, we must continue to examine whether simultaneism or
temporality is the concept that best recreates the arguments of Marx and not
allow the theoretical debate to be sidetracked in assertions of faith, the
conflation of empirical research with theoretical debate, or the degeneration
of research and debate into everyone doing his or her own thing.

There is another issue which I cannot make a full argument for here that needs
to be raised. It also relates to the Third Attitude. This is the tendency to
view Marx as doing "economics" and creating a new political economy. Marx's
philosophy at all times was directed to the critique and transcendence of
capitalism. The total humanist vision of freedom that is Marxism cannot be
grounded in economics and it may be that the attempt to solve problems within
the context of economics as a discipline, even with TSS methodology, truncates
that vision. This too is the Third Attitude in that it separates the
universal, as the revelation of personal faith, from the particular which
immediate intuition grasps. In other words, both economics and philosophy
become private enclaves.

As the Marxist-Humanist philosopher Raya Dunayevskaya has observed, Marx can't
solve our problems for us, we must re-create the dialectic anew, concretely
and universally. But, if we take shortcuts, and allow Marx body of ideas to
be treated as an abstract identity, an empty thing in itself, without concrete
self-determination of the ideas intrinsic to his texts, we lose the richest
foundation revolutionaries have for articulation of a vision of the future
that points a way out of our present stifling, retrogressive reality.

I will end by quoting something that Marx wrote in Pre-Capitalist Formations
(1857) that articulates his vision of humanity's future in the present as the
"absolute movement of becoming." Notice too how Marx's concept of "wealth"
and "human power" below imparts a sense of the integrality of both
subjectivity and objectivity, the "totality," moving forward "as new
beginning" in Marx's dialectic method.

"....When the narrow bourgeois form has been peeled away, what is wealth, if
not the universality of needs, capacities, enjoyments, productive powers,
etc., of individuals, produced in universal exchange? What, if not the full
development of human control over the forces of nature--those of his own
nature as well as those of so-called "nature"? What, if not the absolute
elaboration of his creative dispositions, without any preconditions other than
antecedent historical evolution which makes the totality of this
evolution--i.e. the evolution of all human powers as such, unmeasured by any
previously established yardstick--an end in itself? What is this, if not a
situation where man does not reproduce himself in any determined form, but
produces his totality? Where he does not seek to remain something formed by
the past, but is in the absolute movement of becoming?"