File spoon-archives/marxism-thaxis.archive/marxism-thaxis_1996/96-10-29.043, message 13

Subject: M-TH: Re: HoPE article
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 1996 17:14:57 -0400 ()

To Andrew Kliman,
     Don't know if you are on this list or not, and if not, 
then I guess I must request that Jerry L., or whoever, 
please convey this request to you.
      What would be some good references on the TSS 
literature, please?  Not all of us have been privy to OPE-L 
Barkley Rosser
On Tue, 22 Oct 1996 14:10:08 -0400 (EDT) Gerald Levy 
<> wrote:

> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Tue, 22 Oct 1996 09:20:53 -0700 (PDT)
> From: andrew kliman <>
> Subject: [OPE-L:3503] RE: HOPE for and against Marx and Marxist economics?
> A reply to Jerry's ope-l 3502.
> I found the HOPE minisymposium, the Brewer lead piece in particular, chilling.
>  We find the real purpose of his essay disclosed at the end:  attempts to
> update and/or resuscitate Marx should be kept out of the history of economic
> thought journals.
> Taken in the *abstract*, I have some sympathy with his point, since he's right
> that a good deal of what currently passes for research on Marx's work is
> actually not that at all.  It is not research in the *history* of economic
> thought.  Rather, as he says, it is original work that expresses the authors'
> own insights and perspectives, with some quotes and arguments brought forth
> that attempt to situate it as a "development" of something Marx wrote.
> However --- and it is a huge however --- Marxist work is systematically
> excluded from most other refereed journals, so that, in this environment,
> Brewer's call serves to abet the neo-McCarthyite campaign to suppress Marxist
> ideas and root Marxism out of academia.  What is Brewer doing to ensure that
> other refereed journals begin to accept the work he is trying to keep out of
> the history of thought journals?  He mentions nothing in this regard.  Indeed,
> he totally ignores the consequences his proposal would have for freedom of
> inquiry and expression.   In the immortal words of Tom Lehrer:  "Once the
> rockets go up/Who cares where they come down/That's not my department/Says
> Werner von Braun."
> Moreover --- and it is a huge moreover --- Brewer seems to have no difficulty
> accepting a lot of other research, purportedly on Marx, which the history of
> economic thought journals also regularly publish, which also bears only a
> tangential relation to what Marx wrote.  First, there is a lot of simply bad
> work published.  Second, it has become an accepted practice to rely on
> secondary literature (replete with inaccuracies and myths) instead of Marx's
> own work when writing a paper on Marx.  Even a virulent anti-Marxist like
> Thomas Sowell has complained about this.  For instance, the myth that Marx
> assumed --- where?, in what context? to what effect? --- and needed to assume
> equal rates of surplus-value runs rampant.  Most importantly, however, the
> "methodology" of "rational reconstruction" is widely accepted as legitimate,
> especially among neoclassical historians of economic thought.  According to
> this "methodology," what an author (e.g., Marx) actually wrote and "meant" is
> irrelevant, and the need accurately to represent the author's own views is
> generally dismissed sneeringly.  Instead, the author's work is "reconstructed"
> in light of the concepts and concerns of "modern" theory, judged by the degree
> to which it aids in the alleged "progress" of economic theory, and looted for
> the "insights" (if any) it has for "modern" theory.   This "methodology" is
> intellectual imperialism (a topic on which Brewer is expert):  the top dogs of
> the moment proclaim themselves to be the most advanced, and all others are
> ranked invidiously by how closely they conformed to or anticipated the
> now-reigning ideologies.
> Now notice how much this "rational reconstruction" stuff has in common with
> the work Brewer wishes to exclude.  In both cases, the authors' concerns, not
> Marx's concerns, are central to the work.  Parts of Marx's work are held to be
> useful tools or made into useful tools for developing the authors' own theory.
>  Other parts are ignored or rejected, in both cases,  if they fail to be
> "useful."  Marx's work is not discussed in and for itself.  Little attempt is
> made accurately to represent and understand what he wrote and meant; all the
> emphasis is on theoretical "progress."
> Therefore, were Brewer consistently to apply his criterion of what should be
> excluded from history of thought journals, he'd have to try to exclude much,
> much more than he wishes to exclude --- most of it coming from non- and
> anti-Marx authors.  Again, I fully agree with him that a lot of what passes
> for research on Marx's work, for work in the *history* of economic thought, is
> something else entirely, and shows little concern to understand the original.
> But the problem extends far beyond the attempts of some post-Marx Marxists to
> invoke Marx's name in order to put a "stamp of authenticity" on their own
> notions.
> What I found even more chilling was Brewer's implicit argument (he did
> everything but draw the conclusion) that work which *is* actually about Marx
> should not be published in the history of economic thought journals, except if
> it confines itself to reporting new historiographic findings.  Basically,
> Brewer argues that Marx had to be taken seriously as long as the "USSR" was
> around, but its collapse removes that justification, and there is no other
> justification for taking his work seriously.  He claims, rightly, I think,
> that the original aspects of _Capital_ were not within the main stream of
> development of economic thought and have therefore had little impact.  He also
> argues that, even in its own terms, Marx's critique of political economy was a
> major failure.  To make his point, he largely falls back on the century of
> charges that Marx's value theory and law of the falling rate of profit are
> internally incoherent.  These two topics constitute the majority of the part
> of Brewer's essay devoted to assessing Marx's views and arguments.   He
> argues, again very rightly I think, that if these two pillars fall, not much
> is left.
> But do they fall?  It is noteworthy that he makes *no* mention of the temporal
> single-system (TSS) interpretation, research in which has invalidated all of
> the charges he repeats concerning the internal inconsistency of the
> "quantitative" aspect of Marx's value theory and law of the falling rate of
> profit.
> Nor do any of the other contributors mention the findings of TSS research.
> Most of them challenge to some degree one or more of Brewer's major theses,
> but I think they (individually and collectively) could have put forth a
> somewhat stronger case had they referred to TSS research.  At minimum, they
> could have noted that Marx's work is not *necessarily* incoherent --- it all
> depends on how one interprets it.  Because no one did so, and because of the
> strength of Brewer's point that little of _Capital_ remains unscathed if
> Marx's value and profit rate theories fail --- which no one really challenged
> --- it seems to me that Brewer won the debate on the merits of Marx's work
> hands-down.
> Of course, a few of those who defended Marx against Brewer's arguments were
> people who have been among the most vociferous critics of Marx's work, so
> their "defenses" were necessarily partial and somewhat reluctant.  The best
> counter-arguments were made, I think, by those who challenged the methodology
> of Brewer's case, particularly his positivist and progressivist notions of
> economic thought and its process of development.  But again, no one really
> countered his claims that Marx's work was a failure in its own terms.  It is a
> shame that no proponent of the TSS interpretation was invited to participate
> in the minisymposium.
> Andrew Kliman
> P.S.   Jerry, if you'd like to forward this post to Hans Despain and/or the
> list to which he posted his message, I have no objection.
>      --- from list ---

Rosser Jr, John Barkley

     --- from list ---


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