[OPE-L] Truncating Marx

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@TISCALI.NL)
Date: Fri Sep 07 2007 - 14:53:51 EDT


Okay I will say something as a layman, but I don't want to belabour this
issue endlessly - as Fred says, best to stick to the substantive issues, and
I as layman am not an expert on the transformation problem literature
anyhow - but really I don't think it is primarily about dogmatism, but about

"Orthodoxy" is derived from the Greek ortho ("right", "correct") and doxa
("thought", "teaching", "glorification"), i.e. it refers to the correct
worship or doctrinal observance of religion, or of other intellectual
activity shared by organizations and movements, as determined by some
overseeing body. Clearly there is no orthodoxy possible without an epistemic
authority of some sort. If however Marx is taken as the final authority, the
problem is, that he made errors also, and that there are ambiguities and
inconsistencies in what he wrote, giving rise to different and rival
interpretations - including "authorities on the authority".

The point is that if a la Andrew Kliman you make "misrepresentation of Marx"
by alleged authorities your main subject of controversy, then you ought to
at least represent well what the other interpretations are. If people object
that you don't in fact do that, you have a problem, and the suspicion arises
that you are just offering another partisan interpretation. In that case,
you are better off admitting it's a partisan interpretation, and showing why
that interpretation could be more plausible than others. But you cannot do
that, if in fact the other interpretations aren't even represented

It is not possible I think to prove that with the aid of two propositions
all quantitative problems in Marx's value theory are resolved, not in the
least because Marx drafted manuscripts he did not prepare for publication,
which contain ambiguities and use the term "value" in several related but
different senses. To obtain a fully consistent value theory, you have to go
beyond what Marx said, one way or another. It may be scary, but I think it
is true...

Some of Andrew Kliman's arguments in his book are perfectly valid and
welltaken, I can't fault those, it's just I don't find his style palatable
and I find his his motivation often questionable. I would disagree with
David Laibman on some important points too (I haven't written all this up
yet because I have to let things percolate first), but at least you can have
an amicable dialogue with him, listen, and learn something you hadn't
thought of before, without all sorts of stupid polemics, allegations and
accusations. Laibman I think realises a genuine Marxian orthodoxy, if there
is one, has to do with fidelity to the intentions (goals) that Marx had, not
necessarily any particular theorem he proposed.

Andrew Kliman clearly wants to "expose and discredit" other people
polemically under the guise of "neutrality" and "objective scholarly
impartiality", and then additionally put the onus on other people to prove
that the allegations he made himself are false. But the onus is on the
accuser, and he doesn't get away with it. When he gets a counter-attack, he
starts to talk reputation and standards, screams about "libel" and censors
out other people, but that just shows you how silly this game is.

The real task as far as I can see is not to "accuse", but to "prove", or at
any rate show why one interpretation is better than another, or explain why,
if you are committed to proposition  X, you are therefore also committed to
proposition Y, or cannot be committed to proposition Z. But you obviously
prove nothing, if you are just labelling people, or censor out their ideas.

Many neo-Ricardian scholars are good socialists or libertarians, just as
interested as anybody else in human emancipation, and I think this reality
should not be overlooked, whatever might be the differences about
theoretical questions. Piero Sraffa was friends with Antonio Gramsci, and in
one slender volume - without "accusing" anybody - Sraffa proved there are
holes in the marginalist theory of capital. That was an achievement.

The relationship between politics and abstract theory is often not simple
and straightforward, regardless of what sectarians may cook up with their
world schematism. If e.g. Karl Marx or Rosa Luxemburg were great
revolutionaries, this does not mean ipso facto that everything they wrote or
did is true or correct. Their politics or intentions might have been
laudable, but their theories incorrect in some respects, or vice versa. Many
great politicians have been lousy theoreticians and vice versa, and not
infrequently contradictions appear between theory and practice, which is a
very human predicament since nobody's perfect. If you are a "humanist", then
you acknowledge that fairly, I think, and try to learn something from it,
i.e. you learn something about the limits of the validity of an idea, and
how it can be overextended to the point where it is simply wrong. It is
neither humanist nor scientific to deify Marx, and pretend he cannot be
wrong. Scientific statements are fallible statements which could be wrong,
and for which you can specify the limits of their application (the
conditions under which they will hold).


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun Sep 30 2007 - 00:00:05 EDT