Re: [OPE-L] What is most important in Marx's theory?

Date: Sun Mar 11 2007 - 17:11:47 EDT

---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
Date: Sun, 11 Mar 2007 20:47:39 +0100
From: Riccardo Bellofiore <>
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] What is most important in Marx's theory?

>At 8:36 -0800 11-03-2007, Rakesh Bhandari wrote:
>>Riccardo wrote:
>>>production processes. The point however is that
>>>the 'exploitation' has to do with something
>>>which is absolutely peculiar with capitalism.
>>>Remember that we are not talking here of
>>>concrete labour but of abstract labour, since it
>>>is abstract labour which is the substance of
>>But how do you prove that there is exploitation under capitalism at
>>all? I understand that for Marx abstract labor, labor time understood
>>as a fraction of social labor time, is the substance of value. But I
>>simply don't see your point. And I don't understand in this passage
>>below the work the underlining of capitalist does in establishing the
>>fact of exploitation.

I can only refer you back to my prior mail, and my writings. The
point however refers to this: abstract labour is only a capitalist
notion. Useful labour, it is not. Useful labour in capitalism is
concrete labour, that is a part of capital, indistinguishable from
it. It does not produce ANYTHING, if not as a part of capital.
Abstract labour is concrete labour seen as surplus money producing
labour. It must be extracted from "labour power" of free subject (a
ONLY capitalist notion) AFTER the labour market, extracting living
labour from workers. All this is very specific. No work, no value
and surplus value. Before capitalism you could have said: well,
technology is stationary, so more output more effort. Not so in
capitalism, which is quite "dynamic", so there is no reason to
attribute the surplus to workers. Actually, the surplus as such, as
a use value dymension, is due to capital, not to labour!

>>>I am not implying any pejorative. Fundamentalism
>>>does not seem to me pejorative. Just the
>>>affirmation that what is in the text can be
>>>shown to be true. Now, THE text does not exist.
>>>The text are many texts, and the same text is
>>>often contradictory. Now, when  you show this,
>>>the answer usually is: quotes. When quotes are
>>>inconsistent, then the general thrust of the
>>>argument according to the interpreter iks called
>>>to decide which interpretation is to be chosen
>>>(but there is no 'outside' to make this choice).
>>I have made an argument that the best way to make sense of Marx's
>>talk of double divergence is to understand to him have recognized an
>>inverse transformation problem. Scott Gordon and Samuelson have not
>>ruled out this may be the way to understand the problem, so it's been
>>there in the literature but for the most part ignored in the
>>available summaries of the debate.

I havde to think about this.

>>>Rakesh, this is trivial. Sraffians are much more
>>>complex (and divided), as Marxians are. The
>>>criticism Ajit did in a very brief post to Fred
>>>some days ago I did several times to him.  As
>>>most Marxists he just seem to stop at chapter 2,
>>>btw missin g important paragraphs! Freeman and
>>>TSSI simply invet their own Sraffa, doing with
>>>Sraffa and Sraffians what they would justly see
>>>as inventions if done to Marx, i.e, purely and
>>>simple invent an author of their own
>>>construction. And you repeat the vulgata against
>>>Sraffians. I have written several times against
>>>Sraffians, but this requires a thorough
>>>knowledge of what is criticized.
>>The Sraffian sympathizers have had more than ten years on this list
>>to show that they have something important to contribute to the
>>completion of Marx's critique of political economy. Dobb, Meek,
>>Roncaglia, Steedman, Steve Keen and many others have all had ample
>>opportunity to show the indispensability of the Sraffian theory as
>>more than an immanent critique of a now discarded version of neo
>>classical theory. I just don't see that there is anything there.

This list is not the world. One has to go to the publications. I
have read some of them, and your strictures do not apply. Sraffians
are a lot different amongst them: or do you think that Marxians are
not? I repeat: what is said of Sraffa is 90% of the time, pure
invention. Let's say, the same for the Sraffians, 80%.

>>>>>The transformation problem is an anti scientific attack dressed up as a
>>>>>scientific attack; the labor theory of value runs against some common
>>>>>appearances, and is politically dangerous. These are not scientific
>>>>>grounds for rejecting it, so a scientistic criticism had to be invented.
>>>>>That's the intellectual sociology of the transformation problem,
plain and
>>>>>simple. That's this is what bourgeois economics has banked on is
>>>No, I just pointed not to the usual
>>>transformation problem, but to a difficulty in
>>>some positions, here Fred's. For me the
>>>transformatoion problem does NOT exist. You know
>>>me and you should know that for me the game is
>>>domne in Vol. I. For me THE problems in Marx
>>>are: WHY the new value exhibits ONLY labour
>>>time? and which kind of MONEY does this entail?
>>Certainly not Marx's problem which was given that the new value  is
>>obviously only labor time how was it obtained on the assumption that
>>all exchanges have been at value.

Obviously? We have read a different author ... 8-)
>>I agree that the question of what kind of money is entailed is an
>>interesting and very important one; we can be sure that it is not the
>>standard commodity.

I think we ALL agree, including Sraffa and Sraffians!

>>>Once the two (which in Matrx, and in me, are
>>>linked, are resolved, no transformation PROBLEM,
>>>just several transformation procedures. The
>>>problem in Fred, who is much, much better than
>>>TSSI, is just that in his simultaneous
>>>determination he can say that the rate of profit
>>>is given before prices (also in Sraffa!), just
>>>because he ASSUME that the MELT is given ex
>>>ante. But how, if the MELT is actuallly defined
>>>ex post, with market prices?
>>There are several questions here. How is the MELT defined by Marx in
>>the course of his theoretical investigation? How is the MELT defined
>>with commodity money? Should we assume that the exchange value of
>>gold allows no more than the average rate of profit to the gold
>>sector; if so, then how is absolute rent paid, as Michele Naples
>>asked  long ago; if money is simply fiat money, then how is the MELT
>>defined? But these questions have nothing to do with the standard
>>commodity, and they do not prove that the value of gold can be
>>ascertained through the static formalism of simultaneous equations.

Indeed. They have to do with the grounding of the LTV, though.
That's my point, in my recent writings (last ten years) at least.

>>>Then, you must
>>>believe in gravitation, but that is not enough.
>>>If one sticks to Marx, he actually has the MELT
>>>given ex ante but, first because he has
>>>COMMODITY money, second because its value is
>>>fixed by BARTER at the points of inflow, so that
>>>expected money prices are already labour time
>>>equivalents before final exchange.
>>>Then the
>>>question: do we have to believe in commodity
>>>money, and in this peculiar way of determining
>>>the 'value of money'. Then Fred at a certain
>>>point said no, and developed for todays
>>>capitalism the insight of Max about the MELT
>>>with Fiat state money. But this is done in a
>>>situation in which money is NOT fully
>>Right but as I pointed out Fred has not provided a theory of the
>>determinants of the quantity of money in circulation.

Thus we agree.

>>>I repeat: fully. At this point, I
>>>hve not very much to discuss with Fred because
>>>we are talking about different theoretical
>>>objects. For me capitalism is a monetary economy
>>>with money as capital first and foremost
>>>represented by bank finance fully endogenous.
>>>This happens because I am not committed to
>>>develop Marxian theory along internal lines: I
>>>am interested in developing Marxian theory
>>>taking into account political economy after
>>>Marx. And the political economy after Marx teach
>>>us that money is endogenous, just as Ricardo
>>>taught that labour 'contained' was better than
>>>labour 'commanded' as a theory if prices.
>>The idea endogeneity of money is only a continuation of Marx's
>>critique of the quantity theory of money. I do not see the great
>>breakthrough here, perhaps you could explain.

Exactly. That's why I find Fred's perspective not acceptable from my
(Marxian) point of view. We seem to agree again.

If one skips commodity money, then the link between value and labour
through money is broken, so exploitation seems to collapse. It must
be reinstated. I do that: with a different argument grounding the
LTV (an argument which IS in Marx, ch. 7) and with a development of
his endogenous money theory (one of the sides of his theory of
money). Simply, I do not say this IS Marx as it is. It is a
development of Marx wikthin HIS LTV.

>>>Btw, your reference to the sociology of the
>>>transformation problem implies that there is a
>>>truth that those bastards of economic professors
>>>had to build their career simply inventing
>>>problems. Are you joking?
>>I don't understand your point.

Well, then you don't have read Kliman lately ... 8-)

>>The important figure is not really
>>Sraffa anyway but Samuelson who used Sraffa's theory of value to beat
>>down the Marxists and assert the respectability of his liberal

neoclassical Keynesianism
>>with which humane technocrats would look over and guide
>>the capitalists towards the goal of full employment.

and the Sraffians won against him in 1966. A good move in the
opposite cvamp, from Paul!

>>The Keynesian
>>vision is as stale as the tempest in the teacup in the Cambridges
>>forty years ago. It's just not interesting or important; it's time to
>>let it go.  It may not have much of a life anywhere other than this

Indeed, I so much agree that I am not very much interested in the
transformation "problem", which is very secondary.

>>The focus on labor time, the distribution of the gains from rising
>>labor productivity, the reorganization of the labor process on a
>>global scale to maintain profitability, the rising speed of the
>>circulation of capital, the dynamic effects of declining unit values,
>>the overaccumulation of capital and its effects on international
>>peace--these are interesting questions to many people looking at the
>>modern world.

You wil not believe, but Sraffians would agree! And the same Sraffa.
Instead, we have to show what is gained by employing the LTV in
analyzing those topics.

>>Marx's resurgence is announced all the time to non
>>academic audiences. This is not true of Bortkiewicz and Sraffa.

Marx resurgence is announced as a phrophet of globalisation. Sraffa
disliked Bortkiewicz (he called him an idiot). Sraffa didn't wanted
to criticize Marx.

>>>Freeman presented a
>>>paper with this thesis in London a couple of
>>>years ago, saying that Bortkiewics, Sweezy and
>>>Sraffa invented the problem for academic
>>Sraffa certainly wanted distance from what he wrongly took to be the
>>rigid aspects of Marx's wage theory and gave us the illusion that the
>>wage is paid out of this year's net product.

No. He says, part is subsistence (not in the net product), and part
is a share of output. For mathematical reasons, he didn't made
explicit the former. His criticism of the wage as subsistence (on
which I partially disagree) is VERY SIMILAR to the New

>>But of course that may
>>not be what he is saying because after all the person looking for
>>gnomic power said very little about what he was describing.

gnomic power?

>>Bortkiewicz certainly wanted to put Marx in his place. Sweezy
>>disavowed the attack on the labor theory of value that he opened the
>>door for.

Exactly. But my point was the incredibility of saying that the three
put forward their afrgument for ACADAMIC respectabilty. This is
stupid. It means that one does not take seriously them, and that one
does not their lives. That was my (minor) point.
>>>This seems to know nothing of
>>>their life, and of their work too.
>>Sraffa was a Stalinist  and don, and allowed Gramsci to read a lot of
>>books but then saw profit in Japan after Hiroshima.   Bortkiewicz was
>>a pioneering theorist of statistics. What's the point?

Sraffa was not an academic, and never wanted to. Stalinist: do you
know the years are you talking about? The point is to take them
seriouslsy and strictly avoid easy writing as
>  >>The transformation problem is an anti scientific attack dressed up as a
>  >>scientific attack; the labor theory of value runs against some common
>  >>appearances, and is politically dangerous. These are not scientific
>  >>grounds for rejecting it, so a scientistic criticism had to be invented.
>  >>That's the intellectual sociology of the transformation problem,
plain and
>  >>simple. That's this is what bourgeois economics has banked on is
>>>Whereas most
>>>of today's defenders of LTV are academic
>>>professors. I very much prefer a discussion
>>>about different arguments, with NOBODY
>>>pretending to have the FINAL word with the TRUE
>>>interpretation just to be TESTED to see if that
>>>theory is also RIGHT. Btw, this has been
>>>destroyed by XXth century epistemology.
>>Yes we live in a world of judgements as Jeremy Ravetz has eloquently
>>argued. We can still judge better or worse, fruitful or unfruitful in
>>the sense of theorizing a dynamic system rather than getting the ear
>>of Solow or Samuleson.

You repeat the same error of Solow or Samuelson. Sraffa's thinking
is independent of the static/dynamic dichotomy (btw, I think you
mean "stationary" versus qualitative capitalist development.

>>>>>Marx towers above these putatively most excellent findings of 20th
>>>>>economic science.
>>>Marx towers because his PROBLEMS were much ahead
>>>of economic theory, including Marxists's. He had
>>>the two problems I said (grounding of new value
>>>referring to living labour,
>>This misreads Marx in my judgement.

OK, we agree to disagree here. But without this, NO Marx.

>>>essentiality of
>>>money in the value dimension).
>>Yes this is a problem.
>>>These problems
>>>are NOT understood by today's orthodox. So Marx
>>>towers over Marxists. No surprise he didn't
>>>succeeded fully. Research is a succession of
>>>errors, in which the new generation should build
>>>on the knowledge also of the limits of the
>>>inherited theory.
>>>>>And for goodness sake what unfinished business is accomplished by
>>>>>exercise in counting equations and unknowns, treatment of the wage as if
>>>>>it were a part of this year's net product (this any Marxist should
know is
>>>>>simply wrong), inherently static and money-less formalism which can have
>>>>>nothing to teach us about tendencies, profits or anything in the actual
>>>>>capitalist world?

Rakesh, you are obsessed by Sraffa. I was talking in general. I
repeat: Sraffa didn't wanted to be an alternative to Marx, he chose
a specific analytic problem. A RICARDIAN problem. May be stupid. But
for 20 years Neoclassicals had to deal with it!

>>>Where did *I* said about this? Sraffa knew very
>>>well Marx, for a guy trained in the 20s-40s.
>>There were people who knew very much better their Marx outside of the
>>Anglo Italian orbit of Sraffa, Dobb and Meek.

The fact that I said that Sraffa knew well had to start a comparison
if there was somebody who knew more?

>>>  But
>>>his problem was RICARDIAN, and he knew that. The
>>>fact that you speak of *static* about Sraffa,
>>>however, jmust says all about your
>>>oincomprehension of Sraffa's basics.
>>Sraffa thrived on incomprehension of what he was doing.  An immanent
>>critique, an actual theory of manifested long term exchange ratios?

I don't think you are talking of Sraffa.

>>>>>If you could lay out for Fred and the rest of us, what new
developments in
>>>>>modern economics we should all be so impressed by, that would be great.
>>>Rakesh, I said this several times, and I repeat.
>>>ALL that I know about these things I have
>>>written ikn my works. Are you interested? Read
>>>my publications. It is difficult to me to write
>>>in English, and for sure I am NOT a fanatic
>>>email-list contributor. Take these interventions
>>>of mine as just an incursion, which is punctual
>>>and rare.
>>>>>Keynes, game theory, Sraffa, Schumpeter--does Marx really have something
>>>>>to learn from economists? I think not.
>>>Marx, you are right. He is dead. We, definitely.
>>>Remember, Marx learned even from vulgar
>>Really? What was it that he learned?

Well, there is a short book where you could go and check. The
Theories of Surplus Value. Let us put out a couple of names. Bailey.
Malthus. He always studied carefully, and avoided to say things
which were not the result of a deep study.
>>>>>Of course the story is different
>>>>>once we consider anthropology, history (especially of Asia and black
>>>>>slavery), sociological studies of institutions, and feminism.
>>>Granted. Also philosophy, psychoanalisis. And
>>>economics. Wicksell, Keynes, Schumpeter, Minsky,
>>>postkeynesians, but also Stiglits and
>>>neokeynesians. Even Arrow and Debreu, if one
>>>wants really criticize general equilibrium
>>>theory. WE should learn from political economy
>>>and vulgar economy OF OUR DAYS. For example, if
>>>we wants really to understand the novelties in
>>>economic policy.
>>>>>I understand that you think Marxists need Keynes' and Schumpeter's
>>>>>theories of credit money, so perhaps we should focus on that rather than
>>>>>these very tired criticisms of Marx's theory of value.
>>>No, I don't repeat the usual criticism. That can
>>>be said by somebody who sees in ANY  criticism
>>>about the LTV the tranformation  problem. S/HE
>>>is OBSESSED by these tired criticism (which,
>>>btw, was NOT shared by Sraffa). I put forward
>>>OTHER more fundamental criticisms. And Keynes
>>>and Schumpeter are relevant exactly for THIS.
>>>Value AND money. They are important for the
>>>money side. But they lack value: so they must be
>>>CRITICIZED by Marxians. As Marx did with Ricardo.
>>Right but the Sraffian framework

I was NOT defending the Sraffian framework. I just noted how
ridicolous and ignorant is the talk about Sraffa made by

>>as underlined by Paul Davidson will
>>not allow you to undertake these important investigations.

Did I said that???????? I spent my life OUTSIDE the Sraffian domain
exactly for that. Sometime, Rakesh, you go into a trip of your own
invention. If I criticize somebody because he does not know well
enough Walarsa, this does NOT make me arguing that Walras is needed
to reconstruct Masrx.

>>You just
>>can't have everything. Schumpeter and Sraffa and Marx, and be open to
>>everything. Choices have to be made.

No. Marx had Ricardo, Smith, and even some Bailey. In his own
redesigning. I can have MY Schumpeter, and Wicksell, and Sraffa, and
Keynes, and Kalecki, and Minsky. Simply because I adopt Marx's
method. Doing the critique of political economy, simply with 150
more political economy!!!!!


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