RE: SV: [OPE] Sraffa's and others' writing style

From: Gary Mongiovi <>
Date: Tue Dec 08 2009 - 13:24:35 EST

Ian, I don't think your remark is pedantic. Yes, of course, he, Sraffa, decided in the end not to broach a topic which he may not have sorted out to his own satisfaction. And like all of us he was limited by his background & training. But I doubt the sticking point was his own technical limitations. He could have learned the tools that were available at the time to analyze dynamic problems--just as he learned the mathematics he needed to address the value theoretic problems he discusses in the book. He had colleagues at his disposal at Cambridge--not just the mathematicians Besicovich, Ramsey and Watson, but physicists as well--who could have assisted with questions about stability etc.
Were I a betting man, however, I'd wager the reason he didn't pursue work in that direction was that he didn't think it would bear fruit. I used the term Wittgensteinian deliberately, to suggest that he may have regarded dynamic problems as fundamentally messy, as contingent on human behavior & accidental circumstances in a way that the narrower issues discussed in PoC are not: we would need to use the tools of the historian, the political scientist, the anthropologist, the psychologist and the sociologist to address those dynamic issues adequately.
I am agnostic on whether formal dynamic models can tell us a great deal about real-world economic & social processes. No doubt they can tell us some genuinely useful things. No doubt they cannot tells us as much as we would like them to tell us. I only want to suggest--and I repeat that this is highly speculative--that Sraffa may have had been skeptical that much could be got from such models.
That said, he appears to have had in mind a subsequent work to PoC, that would take up accumulation.
-----Original Message-----
From: on behalf of Ian Wright
Sent: Tue 12/8/2009 12:27 PM
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
Subject: Re: SV: [OPE] Sraffa's and others' writing style

> I agree that Sraffa was not aiming to call the classical notion of gravitation into question. In Production of
> Commmodities he scrupulously avoided saying anything at all about gravitation, I suspect out of a
> Wittgensteinian desire to stick to issues about which one could speak with absolute precision.
        Shouldn't that be "about which *he* could speak with absolute precision"?
        Sorry to be pedantic, just want to point out that Sraffa only operated
        at the foothills of linear algebra and therefore his ability to speak
        precisely (in the way that he wanted) was restricted by his particular
        training (or lack of it).
        ope mailing list

ope mailing list
Received on Tue Dec 8 13:26:27 2009

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Thu Dec 31 2009 - 00:00:02 EST