Re: [OPE-L] [JERRY] Disagreement or dismissal? [was:commodities/

Michael Williams (Michael@MWILLIAM.U-NET.COM)
Mon, 2 Feb 1998 00:27:28 +0000

I think I know what Alan is trying to get at with these repeated
harangues, but at a key fulcrum of this particular message lies an
illegitimate inference that seems to legitimate Alan's attempted
move from 'the TSS account of Marx is suppressed', to anybody 'who
moots the possibility of an inconsistency in Marx is thereby
suppressing Marx's work':

Alan wrote:
> If, however, I say you are inconsistent, I have ruled out the need to
> discuss your ideas because it is impossible for you to be right. There is
> no point in going further: my logic has already established that no matter
> what the evidence, your views can't be true.

This just doesn't follow. In my own modest corpus of work, I am sure
there are many inconsistencies: I may have developed my position, I
may not have noticed all the implications of some argument I made, I
may have made a mistake, etc.. In which case, if anyone pays any
attention to my work when I'm pushing up the daisies, I would be only
too happy if someone transcended such inconsistencies in some
coherent way, in using my work as a component of developments of it
or from it. Note that *I am not claiming that there are any specific
inconsistencies in Marx's work* (although it would be really odd if
there were not). And in particular (the only issue which I suspect is
really at the back of Alan's rants), *I do not think that Marx's
treatment of what has come to be called the 'transformation problem'
contains the inconsistencies that have been most famously claimed
against it.*

> If someone dislikes Marx's definitions, then there is nothing to stop them
> proceeding with their own; but this must be mutual. Those who like Marx's
> definitions need the same rights.

What's all this 'likes/dislikes' rhubarb? Someone may have trouble
with bits Marx's work (those who think in terms of 'definitions' are,
imo, going to find the going very sticky) and seek to clarify what it
means, how it can be developed, etc.. without giving comfort to the
forces of anti-Marxism.

> The problem arises because those who disagree with Marx, which they have
> every right to do, systematically cross over a narrow line from merely
> defending their own rights, into suppressing the rights of others: they
> seek to justify their disagreement by proving that they had no choice.

TSS may have been 'suppressed' (by US 'radical economics'
gatekeepers?), but that doesn't mean that all those mooting possible
problems in bits of Marx's work are trying to suppress TSS, any other
interpretation of Marx, nor Marx himself

> But if they really have no choice (because Marx was inconsistent, didn't
> give us enough guidance, 'missed out' relevant information etc.) then
> another choice has been ruled out: the choice of agreeing with Marx.

So all of these kinds of issues can be raised without views being
suppressed, intentionally or as any necessary unintended consequence.

> This is a syllogism too far. In defending the right to disagree, it
> overrules the right to agree. Against a relative positive ('Marx has a
> reasonable point of view, though there are others') it asserts an absolute
> negative ('Marx's view is so unreasonable that *only* the other views
> can be considered')

So, Alan, your own syllogism seems to have an excluded middle -
necessary for a dialectic development, no doubt, but that's not what
you're attempting here.

> I have studiously avoided ruling anything out or stating that any view
> is impossible. On the contrary I made it abundantly clear that many
> different constructions of the accounts are possible. I even proposed a
> simple etiquette to facilitate collaboration among people whose
> constructions differ. All I assert is that *among* these constructions,
> Marx's is also possible.

What you have (no doubt unintentionally ...) ruled out as
unacceptable to you is the raising of the possibility that Marx may,
on occasion, indeed have been inconsistent, incoherent, etc. You
certainly seem to rule out the possibility that some Marxists may
prefer to focus really hard on what the conceptual, empirical and
ontological import of some line of argument is, putting, pro temps,
Husserlian brackets around exactly what Marx might have written or
intended on some relevant matter.
> I have no problem with dislike; against dismissal I will fight to the end
> of my days.

Something about high horses springs to mind here ...

Keep up the good work Alan - but let your substantive arguments do
the work, and stop lecturing us (please!)

Comradely greetings,
"Books are Weapons"
Dr Michael Williams
Department of Economics Home:
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences 26 Glenwood Avenue
De Montfort University Southampton
Milton Keynes SO16 3QA
tel:+1908 834876 tel/fax: +1703 768641
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