Dobb, Robinson & Benetti

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Thu Jun 29 22:14:17 MDT 1995

I agree with Jim's remarks about waht else to read and how to read
Capital. I also thing, though Jim will disagree, that when you finish
working through the value stuff, if you do, you will find that your first
passes, without it, the historical-materialist account of capitalism as
opposed to the value-theoretic one, is all that you need. (Indeed I hold
the perverse view that Capital is an exatejnded argument that it's all
that you get, too, but that's a long story.) You can do all the Marxist
economics you need without the LTV.

BTW Jim's criticisms of the Sraffaians are havinga  static and equilibrium
model is beside the point. Sraffa started from there not to model
capitalism but to critique neoclassical economics, so he granted the
equilibrium point for the sake of argument and then showed taht most
versions of neoclassical economics fail anyway, a point now widely
conceded. The Walrasian model is the only sort that escapes Sraffa's
atatck. The anti Marxian-value theoretical stuff falls out by the
way--Sraffa certainly did NOT write The Production of Commodities as an
attack on Marx.

Incidentally a number of people have said on this list that Sraffa is the
main source of atatcks on Marxian value theory. He's certainly one of the
best known, mainly thanls to Ian Steedman, But there'a a lot od other
stuff too, unfortunately most of it rather technical, e.g. Paul Samuelson
has two brilliant and provocative papers, one from 57 and the other from
71; there's Morishima's reconstructiona nd critique in Marxian
Economics--very imporatnt and utrterly nonSraffian, and lots of other
stuff. It';s very ably surveyed in the sectioon on Value and Exploition on
Howard and King's History of Marxian Economics, vol. 2--you can also look
at the relevant parts of their The political Economy of Marx and vol. 1 of
the History. They are favoravle to Sraffa but acknowledge the limiattions
in hisapproach and do a good job of summarizing a wide ranbge of non-S

--Justin Schwartz

On Thu, 29 Jun 1995, James Devine wrote:

> Steve Keen's references on Marx's law of value are all of the
> anti-value Sraffian sort. (Hi, Steve!) On this, I'd recommend
> Ernest Mandel and Alan Freeman's book, MARX, RICARDO, SRAFFA.
> Unfortunately, no-one has ever translated that book into
> commonsense language that someone who isn't already mired in the
> literature can understand. Its main point is that the Sraffian
> critique of Marx is negated by the fact that its restricted to an
> ideal and timeless equilibrium economy that could never exist.
> Mandel's earlier stuff, like his MARXIAN ECONOMIC THEORY (see
> also Sweezy's THEORY OF CAPITALIST DEVELOPMENT) are hardly up to
> date, but give good "common sense" discussions. Luckily, they are
> not caught up in the academic language that can drive people to
> distraction. Harry Braverman's LABOR AND MONOPOLY CAPITAL is also
> a good place to start.
> Anyone who is just starting with Marxian economics should avoid
> the theory of value like the plague. Most of the discussion is
> either sterile math or equally sterile Hegelian lingo. The best
> place to start might be Marx's CAPITAL volume I. (For ease of
> reading, it might be best to skip chapters 2 and 3, plus section
> 3 of chapter 1, leaving these until later.) It helps if you start
> with the view that CAPITAL is not an economics book in the usual
> sense of the word. Its concern is not price theory, just as the
> point of value in Marx is not to calculate prices. Rather, it is
> a political, sociological, and economic. I also think that it's
> best to read CAPITAL with a bunch of people, in a discussion
> group, with at least one who's read it before.
> for socialism from below,
> Jim Devine      jdevine at
> Los Angeles, CA (the city of smog and smut)
>      --- from list marxism at ---

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