Sraffa 101

James Devine JDevine at
Mon Jun 26 11:09:30 MDT 1995

Jim Jaszewski wrote an ill-tempered little slam at pen-l because
no-one there responded to his piece "Sraffa 101." I don't think
pen-l deserves the insults, whatever its other problems may be.
I remember reading the piece and generally agreed with it. I
didn't have anything to say, so I didn't say anything. And I'm
(in)famous as an over-contributor to pen-l! He should slam the
Sraffians for not defending themselves, not the whole of pen-l.
In the interests of rational discussion, I wish that Jim would
restrain his language, in general.

He wrote:

>>'Enlighten' me on what these 'Sraffans' are about...

In the introduction to 'Ricardo, Marx, Sraffa', Ernest Mandel sez:

I. Rubin, the most brilliant of the Russian Marxist economists, answered
that if one does not start from the *social relations of production* that
underlie commodity production, one will fail to understand why value
analysis is needed.

In another passage, Mandel sez:

Langston sought to break free of a crippling constraint imposed on the
study of value-price transformation by von Bortkiewicz type models, as
generalized by later authors, if used to model a real capitalist economy:
namely that they abstract from economic movement in *time*.

        (above emphasis mine)

 What he is saying, is that the neo-Ricardians'/Sraffans/whatever
are, _RIGHT_ from the beginning of their analyses, making (at
least) TWO *cardinal* mistakes:

1) They are leaving human relations out of their equations and
fixating on 'the economy' as the end-all and be-all of the
matter, as if it were some kind of machine existing outside of,
and unnecessarily related to human activity (machina ex homo??

 This, in my opinion is 'positivist reductionism' (proper term?
:) at its best/worst..<<

My reply: I wouldn't call Sraffianism "reductionist." It's more
structuralist, in my book: it sees people -- i.e., the economy --
as results of the structure of the system of equations rather
than seeing the dialectic of people creating the economy and the
economy creating people. ("Reductionist" has a lot of meanings,
but the one that's used the most is "reducing everything to its
parts," as with methodological individualism.)

>> 2) Their analyses, in the best bourgeois manner, fixate on
some mythological 'equilibrium' of the economy and *totally*
ignore the *fundamental* fact of _change in time_.  Which is, of
course, one of the fundaments of DIALECTICS (not to mention

        Am I far off the mark??  <<


for socialism from below,

Jim Devine      jdevine at
Los Angeles, CA (the city of emphysema)

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