thermodynamics

Julio Huato juliohuato at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 22 19:49:53 MDT 2003


Rakesh wrote:

>Julio and others,
>What do people think of Laibman's criticism of The Temporal Single System
>School of Freeman, Kliman, Carchedi and Ramos (I am referring to the
>controversy in the Research of Political Economy 1999 and 2000)?

I admit that I haven't duly studied that debate.  I only read some essays in
"Marx and Non-Equilibrium Economics."  So my comments only pertain to that
book.

As far as the main idea of the "single system" (as I understand it, viewing
the monetary aggregate categories as identical to aggregate value
categories), that is definitely the way I read Marx.  But I'd think
understanding that is only the beginning.  Marx does have "theories" in
Capital -- i.e., specific statements about the main tendencies of capitalist
societies: expansion of capitalist production at the expense of other modes
of production, increasing weight of relative surplus value production,
concentration and centralization of capital, long-run decay of the average
profit rate, cycles, etc.  Perhaps understandably, the essays don't get deep
into these theories.

As far as the critique of economic "equilibrium" by Freeman and Carchedi, I
don't find it effective.  IMO, it is not a critique of the misuse of
abstraction -- it seems to me instead a rejection of abstraction tout.
Looking at the limit cases (as Marx does in his treatment of "simple" and
"expanded" reproduction, etc.) is the most economical way to gain lots of
insight into a complex phenomenon.  It is admittedly one-sided, but nothing
precludes us from building upon it more concrete renditions.  Or what is the
alternative?  And it is simply not true that mathematical economics has an
"static" view of "equilibrium."

Regarding John E. Roemer (mentioned by Jim Craven in his note), I read
portions of his "Analytical Foundations of Marxian Economic Theory," and I
appreciate his modeling some pieces of Marx's work.  However, IMHO he
grossly misunderstands Marx's purpose and approach.  In his "Free to Loose,"
I'd even say that he outright distorts Marx.  I would have entirely accepted
his "Foundations" as an exercise in mathematical economics if he had
presented it as inspired by Marx; not as an exegesis of Marx's work.
Technically, it is a remarkable piece of work.  But, basically, as Roman
Rosdolsky warned, without the connection to Hegel, Marx's work is
unintelligible.

Yet some people in various Marxist traditions tend to ignore that Hegel's
Logic (or his inversion as "the Logic of Capital"), before being a
*prescription* about how to mentally capture the world the right way, it is
-- as Hegel points out in his Logic -- a *description* of the way people
actually does it, whether they are aware of it or not.  To that extent, it
is wrongheaded to think that the axiomatic approach used in mathematical
economics is to be entirely rejected, ignored, avoided, or nullified by
counterposing it to some alternative method.  That the axiomatic approach is
one-sided is a matter of course.  But then we have to show in detail, and on
the particular theoretical object itself, what side that is.

If I understand David Laibman correctly in his RRPE review of Keen's book, I
agree with him that there's no way around parsing mathematical economics,
carefully separating the seed from the chaff.  And I'd think that the
academic journals are a legitimate arena of the political struggle.  After
all, the economists back their claim to relevance (and to a significant
amount of public resources) upon the notion that they can help us all design
better ways to enhance welfare.  I'd say that Marxists have a reasonable
case to make about how to enhance social welfare under capitalism -- namely,
to get rid of it and build socialism.

Speaking in general, just because someone invokes classical Marxism or some
other Marxist doctrine doesn't mean that such invocation makes her/his work
adequate to the needs of the movement.  When people claim that they are
Marxists, I tend to cut them some slack.  They know what they mean by that.
Marx's work is so vast and multi-sided that it is admissible for people to
be Marxist in different ways.  As long as the references and citations are
accurate, I have little problem with that.  On the other hand, the claim of
being a communist is much stricter.  And the validity of such claim is
easier to establish, by simple observation.  A communist is someone
personally committed to and *directly involved with* the workers' struggle
in the day-to-day political, long-term, nitty-gritty sense.

Back to Roemer;   apparently Roemer, Cohen, Elster, Foley, and others have
cooperated in their work.  Either they themselves or others grouped them in
the so-called "Analytical Marxists."  I haven't read much from Elster.  I
have read Foley, Roemer, and Cohen though.  Perhaps Foley and Roemer have
some common approaches.  But IMO, except in a very general sense, Cohen
doesn't fit in that group.  Foley has criticized Cohen's book on historical
materialism (which I respect) in very strong terms.

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