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

andrew kliman (Andrew_Kliman@CLASSIC.MSN.COM)
Sat, 7 Feb 98 22:50:55 UT

I thank Juriaan for his post:

From: on behalf of jurriaan bendien
Sent: Friday, February 06, 1998 5:53 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L]Re:Disagreement or dismissal?[was:commodities/services]

I had written (in reply to Jerry):

"How do you know whether there's more than one definition or, instead,
apparently different definitions are compatible or even are
interchangeable? And who bears the burden of proof? The one who claims that
the definitions are incompatible, or the one who disputes that claim?
Similarly, how do you know whether the definition is worded ambiguously or,
instead, you just don't understand it? And who bears the burden of proof?
The one who claims that the definition is ambiguous, or the one who disputes
that claim?"

Juriaan responds:

"Is Andrew in search or an arbiter, referee or authority ?"

No. I'm in search of Jerry's criteria for how things are known.

"It seems to me there is no general answer to the questions he asks, it
depends on the context and purpose of discussion."

Well, my general answer is that these things can be decided by evidence and
reasoning, in exactly the same way in which other things are known. Wouldn't
you agree? And if you do, wouldn't you agree that the burden of proof rests
on the one making the claim?

"Well, as far as the recent discussion about the definition of productive
labour is concerned, this was from memory given fresh life by Alan's cavalier
comment "if labour produces a commodity, it's productive, why worry about it
?". I then suggested a few "worries" which generated some discussion. Is
this objectionable to OPE-L ?"

I really didn't have that specific thread in mind, which I didn't follow
closely enough. But let me just say the following. At one point you wrote "I
think what emerges out of the debates about productive labour is that 1. Marx
himself wasn't really fully consistent in his definitions, ..."

You later commented on this as follows:

"I think it is manifestly clear from all the conscientious textual analysis
that has been done by many scholars that Marx has various notions about
whether and which kind of services are productive or unproductive labour - in
Capital Volume 1, 2 and 3, the Grundrisse and TSV, and that he doesn't present
a comprehensive, rigorous and generally applicable definition covering all
cases, which is what we are after for accounting purposes. Such a definition
must be extrapolated from his various remarks and arguments."

The second statement says something rather different from the first. In
particular, it says nothing about internal inconsistency.

Now, to bring this back to the more general points I was raising in my comment
on Jerry's post, what would actually be needed to prove the claim that Marx's
"definitions" were not "fully consistent"? In general, I think prior
scholarship (to which you allude) counts to some degree as evidence, but given
the potted history of "Marxian economics" and Marxology, I'm inclined to
discount it heavily. In any case, if one wishes to *prove* that the
definitions aren't fully consistent, isn't it necessary to prove that there
exists no possible interpretation according to which they are compatible? In
the absence of such proof, isn't it better simply to say that you have trouble
making the various "definitions" fit together in a way that is suitable for
accounting purposes? You do say that, I realize. But can you *leave* it at

"It occurs to me that beyond civility and intellectual honesty it is
impractical to make rules for what may be discussed and the way something is
to be discussed."

This list operates on the basis of civility. As I think is pretty clear, this
has proven to be unworkable and suppressive, in part because it conflicts with
intellectual honesty.

Civility is a biased criterion. It is conservative, in the sense that it
helps maintain the status quo. Those who suppress others ideas and those
whose ideas are suppressed must both be civil (and refrain from sleeping under
bridges and begging for bread). And no one needs to be civil to dead people
because they can't protest.

Moreover, civility turns the discussion into a discussion among egos (persons)
rather than a discussion of ideas.

Also, "civility" is very subjective. Basically, if one is *perceived* as
uncivil, one *is* uncivil.

For these and other reasons, I much prefer Alan's proposed criteria to the
current civility criterion. Juriaan says they are "impractical" but does not
tell us *why*. What's impractical about argument from evidence instead of
from authority. What's impractical about distinguishing one's interpretation
of what X said from what X actually said?

I think we should discuss the criteria SERIOUSLY. Then perhaps revise them a
bit, and then take a vote. If they pass, let's adopt them. (Because this
issue deals with the future only, unlike the archives issue, it seems to me
that it can be decided by majority vote, subject to approval by the

Andrew Kliman