[OPE-L] Any which way but Marx's

Alan Freeman (a.freeman@greenwich.ac.uk)
Sun, 01 Feb 1998 19:13:25 +0000

Juriaan writes:

"You can arrange you accounts any way you like. Marx doesn't offer any
solution to the accounting problem"

I'm sorry, but I don't think you can't put those two statements next to
each other and expect a civilised discussion, no matter how many scholars
supply the authority. If 'Marx doesn't offer a solution to the accounting
problem', then the accounts can be arranged in any way *except* the way I

My original proposal was:

"there is now a substantive consensus about the re-construction of many
Marxian quantities from NIPA data, notwithstanding the disagreements about
the use of input-output statistics and the transformation of monetary
magnitudes into labour magnitudes.

"This leads me to make a suggestion. I think it should be possible to
establish some kind of broad collaboration whose purpose is to produce
'authoritative' transformations of NIPA data according to principles that
form a consensus among a large number of researchers working with Marx's

If Marx doesn't offer any solution to the accounting problem, then this is
a ridiculous fantasy and should be scrapped. Since I started the discussion
to get some reasoned responses to this proposal, even simple courtesy
dictates a more careful choice of words.

There is a subtle but vital distinction between disagreeing with
someone, and ruling that what they seek to do is impossible. It is very
easy, because of habits that have become the norm, to slip into modes of
expression that exclude what someone seeks to do, when what was intended
was merely to disagree with them. In case my tone has led you to think that
I am accusing you of malicious intent, I want to make it clear that this
isn't my point at all: I respect the seriousness of your aims and the
attention you give to the question. However I cannot accept the way you
choose to express it.

This is because the words you use, and the way you set out the terms of
your enquiry, have a side-effect that you didn't intend, namely, if we
accept your words as they stand, then we must conclude that it is useless
to subject Marx's theories to the test of evidence and fact, because he did
not specify how this should be done; moreover, if it is true as you
asserted earlier that it has 'emerged from the debate' that Marx is
inconsistent, then there can be no way to do the accounts without
departing from his analysis. Otherwise he wouldn't be inconsistent, would

In which case, I certainly can't 'arrange the accounts any way I like'
since you have already determined that the very idea of arranging them
as Marx suggests is impossible.