[OPE-L:2186] Re: Re: [OPE-L:2141]Thermodynamics

From: Michael J Williams (michael@williamsmj.screaming.net)
Date: Mon Jan 17 2000 - 10:27:20 EST

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----- Original Message -----
From: clyder <wpc@dcs.gla.ac.uk>
To: Michael J Williams <mike.williams@dmu.ac.uk>
Sent: Monday, January 17, 2000 2:27 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L:2180] Re: [OPE-L:2141]Thermodynamics

> The point is not whether there may be some structure imposed by

With all due respect, that is my point.

> It is whether we have any reason to believe that the sort of structure
> that Steedman imposes on his models to meet his intentions -
> discrediting embodied labour theories - is the same structure
> that the intentions of autonomous agents would impose on a
> capitalist economy.

It is not my purpose to support Steedman's specific critique of
embodied-labour theories, since this is, as you have pointed out, is
internal to that approach. Value-form theory has its own justification, that
is independent of Steedman's critique, and indeed is not subject to it.

I assume your reference to Steedman's intentions is ironical - since if not
then I am really talking past you, as Nicola suggests.

My immediate concern is what the arguments are that support the assumption
that intentional structure can be ignored - i.e., not merely abstracted from
to facilitate statistical mechanical modelling, but presumed not to effect
the results of that modelling when it is interpreted so as to tell us
something about real capitalist economies?

> 2. The intention of each firm is to obtain the highest profit for itself.
> Each firm wants above average profits. These intentions can not
> all be realised, there are winners and losers, some firms and industries
> earn above average profits and some below. We know that this is
> in fact what happens. A recourse to intentions of the participants
> can not justify Steedmans assumptions ( shared by the whole pre
> F&M literature), as just earning average profit is not the assumed
> intention.

A. I don't disagree with these behavioural assumptions, nor that these
intentions are typically not achieved.
B. I do not need to justify Steedman's assumptions - but they are, as you
point out, shared by the literature that he was criticising.
C. I'm not convinced (by the by) that the assumption that firms seek
adequate profits will undermine the internal structure of either embodied
labour Marxist models or, for that matter, neo-classical models.
>The most parsimonious assumption
> here is that each product will take as inputs a collection of
> other inputs randomly drawn
> from the total population of commodities.

It is certainly parsimonious - but does it survive concretisation of the
model. In your terms, 'is it in fact what happens'? Put another way:
justify 'parsimony' as an overriding criterion of theory choice.

> The argument is not that there is no structure, it is just that
> a) there is no evidence for the sort of structure assumed by
> Steedman

I am not defending the existence of the sort of structure assumed by

> b) the onus is on whoever assumes a particular sort of structure
> to have good arguments for it.

The arguments that the capitalist economy has a certain sort of structure
are presented in the value form literature. How 'good' they are, I leave to
the judgement of those that have read them. These do, of course, support the
Steedman approach, since VFT eschews any embodied labour approach to value

comradely greetings.

Dr Michael Williams
Economics and Social Sciences
De Montfort University
Milton Keynes
fax: 0870 133 1147
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