Sraffa 101

James Devine JDevine at lmumail.lmu.edu
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
reality...).

        Am I far off the mark??  <<

NO.

for socialism from below,

Jim Devine      jdevine at lmumail.lmu.edu
Los Angeles, CA (the city of emphysema)




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