[OPE-L:7495] [OPE-L:1032] Re: Marx's concept of prices of production

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Mon, 7 Jun 1999 09:25:39 -0400 (EDT)

Re Fred's [OPE-L:1029] and Paul C's [OPE-L:1031]:

Fred wrote:

>1. Marx's "faulty logic" in his theory of prices of production is
> probably still the most common reason given by economists (and others)
> for rejecting Marx's theory.

This claim has often been made on this list before. Yet, I find it
extremely problematic. I daresay that most economists have not a clue
about charges relating to Marx's alleged inconsistency (indeed, most
graduate schools de-emphasize not only Marx but history of economic
thought in general).

To the extent that most economics instructors mention Marx in the
classroom (generally in passing and in a derogatory sense), they would
tend to make the following charges:

1) i.e. we live in a "classless" (!) society.

2) the working class isn't exploited and "entrepreneurial ability"
deserves recognition and reward.

3) Marx's "predictions" (sic) haven't been realized in the manner

4) Capitalism has shown itself very resilient and adaptable to change.

5) "Communism" (sic) has been shown to be a failure.

I.e. the most frequent charge made against Marx is that due to changes in
the world since his day, he is *no longer relevant*.

Indeed, even if the charges of internal inconsistency were shown to
everyone's satisfaction to be invalid (i.e. logically false), we would
*still* hear the above charges.

>equalize is seldom if ever given as a reason for rejecting Marx's theory.
>If it could be demonstrated that Marx's logic is not faulty, then I think
>this could ultimately have an impact on the way Marx is regarded within
>the economics profession. I think the theoretical battle within the
>economics profession, which is also a battle for the minds and hearts of
>students, is important.

See above.

Paul wrote:

> I think you are right about the economics profession never questioning
> the equalisation of the rate of profit. But does this not reveal something
> about the nature of the problematic within which the economics profession
> has been working?
> It shows that certain things literally could not be questioned, they were
> held as a-priori axioms. If my impressions are right, this has been
> the general view since Ricardo.
> But this process of holding certain truths to be self evident, without
> checking if they actually hold says something about the unscientific
> method used in economics.

What would be some examples of Marx's "axioms"?

I think that the axiomatic method among Marxists was only adopted by
mathematical political economists following Marx.

> That rates of profit equalise is a hypothesis, when one makes it a
> suplementary axiom in a logical development, then one can apply
> a logical method to it. The question is whether this axiom is justified.

And this has to be a question, doesn't it? I.e. how can we simply make
these assumptions without interrogating whether they are logically and
empirically valid?

Fred wrote:

> To each his own
> concerns. There are many worthwhile things that need to be done.

This might be a "politically correct" type of thing to say, but isn't it
relativism? Of course, it would be very oppressive if we all went around
telling each other what we should investigate and what we shouldn't, but
I still think that it is worthwhile and necessary to periodically discuss
what we view are the most important things that need to be done during any
period. Otherwise, it would be too easy for our research agenda to become
completely divorced from current struggles.

In solidarity, Jerry