Re: [OPE-L] Albritton

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Sat Mar 25 2006 - 12:01:57 EST

At 05:47 25/03/2006, Jerry cited Rob Althusser's critique of Chris Arthur:
>In order to have a
>coherent theory of capital's inner logic, we must assume that
>labour power has been securely commodified. The reason Arthur
>has a problem with this is that he wrongly thinks that such an
>assumption must deny all subjectivity to workers, and because
>he thinks that the class struggle that is so present in
>history must for some reason be diminished if it is not also
>given a central position in systematic dialectics. This latter
>concern, I believe, stems from inadequate attention to
>articulating the relations between systematic and historical
>dialectics as distinct levels of analysis....

and he asked:

> >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
>Do others on the list recognize this as a critique that could be extended
>to others?  How can/should it be answered?

         Yes, this is familiar. Rob and I went out it in the History
of Economic Ideas following his review of my book there in 2003; the
subsequent exchange was in 2004.
         You answer it by recognising explicitly that Rob's starting
point is not CAPITAL at all but the Uno-Sekine amalgam of
neo-classical economics and eclecticism, 'the pure theory'. In my
response to his review, I cited Sekine's description of "this liberal
utopia, in which the existing resources are optimally allocated for
the production of all use-values" where workers "enjoy a historically
feasible standard of living in a state close to full employment", and
I noted that nothing in the 'pure theory' (purified of what, you may
ask) would make a neoclassical economist uneasy--- as long as the
term 'positive non-wage income' were to be substituted for
'exploitation'. I concluded (HEI, XII, 2, 2004):

>There is no dispute between Albritton and me as to what needs to be
>explained. Rather, we differ on whether Marx's attempt to explain
>historical movement logically and theoretically should be scuttled
>in favour of the Uno-Sekine-Albritton combination of a general
>equilibrium model and eclecticism under the rubric of stages theory.
>Whereas I retain Marx's focus on revealing 'the economic law of
>motion of modern society' and his dialectical understanding of
>'every historically developed form as being in a fluid state' (Marx,
>1977: 92, 103), Sekine's 'dialectic of capital' stresses that
>'capitalism possesses a consistent system of logic' and that it only
>'ceases to exist when external conditions become sufficiently
>unfavourable to the operation of its logic, as they did after the
>War of 1914' (Sekine, 1984: 96). Here, as elsewhere, Albritton's
>position is quite clear: he accepts Sekine's 'dialectic of capital'
>as superior to Marx's Capital and, indeed, perfect; accordingly, he
>proposes that 'Marxian Political Economy can revive itself by
>creatively developing levels of analysis and by integrating aspects
>of poststructuralist theories of subjectivity.'
>             The enormous gap between the two perspectives on the
> link between theory and history in Marx becomes manifestly clear in
> Albritton's response to my proposal that latent within Marx's
> political economy of the working class, the alternative logic
> within capitalism, one can see the elements of the society of free
> and associated producers, communist society. Characteristically,
> rather than examining my evidence and reasoning, Albritton declares
> this to be 'theory as wish-fulfillment and not a theory as rigorous
> analysis of capitalism' and proceeds to erupt in Althusserian
> outrage over 'humanism' and 'essentialism'. There's no surprise
> here--- the Uno-Sekine conception of pure capitalism at its very
> core rejects any suggestion that capitalism contains the seeds of
> its own destruction; its purpose is to present capitalism 'as if it
> were a self-perpetuating entity' (Uno, 1980: 125).
>             In the Uno-Sekine view, pure capitalism is a solid
> crystal, an organism that is not constantly engaged in a process of
> change (Marx, 1977: 93).


Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at
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Departamento 601
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
Caracas, Venezuela
(58-212) 573-4111
fax: (58-212) 573-7724

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