Value Theory

Dr. George Snedeker snedeker at
Tue Mar 6 18:58:31 MST 2001

I would not deny that modern economics possesses insights into the nature of
capitalism. most of the Marxists I know read the writings of mainstream
economists. this is a very technical discourse for noneconomists. we don't
all have the patience of Marx.
----- Original Message -----
From: Julio Huato <juliohuato at>
To: <marxism at>
Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2001 8:35 PM
Subject: Re: Value Theory

> Dr. George Snedeker" <snedeker at> says:
> <Julio writes:   Now, I just say that its practical use to capital -- its
> huge social influence in general -- suggests that economics can provide
> insight into the workings of capitalism.
> it does not  follow that "practical use" and "social influence" means that
> it also provides scientific understanding into the workings of the CMP.
> ideas may have social influence as ideology, for example, without having
> scientific validity. they may also have a practical use. it all depends on
> what we mean by "practical use.">
> Julio:
> One doesn't follow from the other.  But they are not mutually exclusive
> either.  What are we talking about?  Astrology?  Tarot?  Vampirism?  No.
> We're talking about modern economics -- a discipline that claims to
> itself to the rigors of logic and empirical verification.  Can an
> ideological sham like this go on for 150 years plus without any insider
> providing a little reality check and/or without any outsider shaking the
> tree?  How is it possible that no scientific insight can come out of all
> this?  Shouldn't we suspect instead that the critics haven't worked hard
> smart enough to find the jewel hidden in the rubbish?
> Dr. George Snedeker" <snedeker at>:
> <we need to be less abstract. does contemporary economics show us how
> surplus value is produced? does it tell us anything about the crisis of
> overproduction? what does it tell us about the relations of production and
> their relation to the forces of production? Marx once suggested that the
> economists after Smith and Ricardo were little more than paid pries
> in the employ of capital. this did not mean that they did not have social
> influence.>
> Julio:
> Let's do that.  Why should contemporary economics show how surplus value
> produced?  Didn't Marx's critique of political economy already did that?
> Discovering the Mediterranean once is enough.  What we should show -- if
> are to dispense wholesale with it -- is that economics is incompatible
> the category of surplus value.
> Does it tell us anything about the link between forces of production and
> relations thereof?  Well, one summer weekend the reader may want to grab a
> bottle of wine and read Ronald Coase's articles on "transaction costs" and
> "theory of the firm."  It's not very mathematical.  Now, let me make an
> outrageous statement: No Marxist has ever posed the question of the link
> between what Marx called the "socialization" of production under
> and the character of ownership more clearly than this.  This is not an
> ideological muddling of the waters (the waters are pretty muddled in this
> issue anyway, which has barely been touched seriously since Marx) -- it is
> instead a clarification.  Of course, the "solutions" may not be complete.
> Marxist would probably have to do some work to extract the germ of
> scientific truth from the ideological shell... and also to turn it into
> jargon we philo-Marxists can understand.
> Or read Ken Arrow's book on Social Choice -- what's "Arrow's Impossibility
> Theorem" but a clear-cut mathematical formulation of the dialectics
> individual and collective interest.  Who in the Marxist camp has ever
> to prove him right or wrong?  Again, Arrow is not a Marxist, but why
> he be one?
> Does economics tell us anything about the crisis of overproduction?  Guess
> what, it does.  How could it not?  It's been involved in trying to avoid
> them in practice for so long.  Even if it has never "solved the unsolvable
> riddle" and we assume them all ideologically intoxicated, much has to have
> been learned.  There's a huge literature in "business cycles," looking at
> them from all angles, using the tools of statistical and historical
> description, techniques of inferential statistics, and modeling -- both,
> theoretical and simulation modeling.  But to find specifically where, we
> need first to question our comforting thought that just because the
> assumptions of modern economics don't conform to ours, everything in it is
> useless.
> Again, if Marx had proceeded on this premise, where would we be?  Look at
> the history of Marxist critical political economy after Marx's death.
> Except for Hilferding's and Bukharin's response to Bohm Bawerk and a few
> recent episodes, when has Marxist critical political economy bothered to
> engage fully with the questions posed by conventional economics and the
> answers they advance?  The mathematization of economics has made it just
> much easier for Marxists to stand at a distance.  There may certainly be
> many historical reasons for that, but let's not make virtue out of
> necessity.  Marx at least expressed his judgment of contemporary political
> economy after a gigantic study of what they had done.  It was his
> conclusion, not his premise.
> I know, it's going to be next to impossible for me to persuade anyone here
> that modern economics does provide important insights into the workings of
> capitalism.  The only thing I hope is to persuade someone in the list that
> it may.
> Julio
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