[OPE-L:4202] Re: profit rate determination

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 13 Feb 1997 07:05:17 -0800 (PST)

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Ale R wrote in [OPE-L:4200]:

> > Note also that my question in #4192 concerned understanding
> > "actual capitalist economies" rather than interpreting Marx.
> I do not understand this separation.

I agree that there can not be a complete separation. However,
given Andrew K's comments in #4191 which I excerpted and his
often-stated insistence that he was addressing interpretive questions in
Marx, such a distinction became necessary for us to move forward to
questions other than just interpretive questions.

> IN MY CASE, I read and interpret
> Marx in order to understand "actual capitalist economies" as well as
> the historical process of development of capitalism. I want to
> know what are Marx's real insights about this. The problem is
> that Marx's work has been commented by a lot of people saying that it
> is wrong.

Is that "the" problem? I don't think so. I think it -- attacks on Marx
*and* the defensive agenda followed by Marxists in the last century to
defend Marx -- is _one_ problem. Whereas Marx's agenda in writing
political economy was to systematically investigate and discover the
"economic law of motion of modern society", the agenda of the Marxists
has shifted to systematically investigating and re-discovering Marx and
defending his works. These are two very different agendas -- although,
they are related.

> Let us suppose that I want to understand the present levels
> of unemployment in several countries. What are Marx's insights about
> this? Well, for example, the Law of Accumulation and the LFTRP.

What insights related to understanding unemployment are _not_
fully-developed? For instance, how does the state affect unemployment?
In looking at differences in unemployment experienced by different
regions and nations, what is the role of the state, foreign trade, and
the world market and crises? What is the role of working-class struggles
in terms of class composition, recomposition, and decomposition re
unemployment? We can gleam insights from Marx based not only on what he
wrote about systematically, but also what he did _not_.

> But
> we have "modern interpreters" as Tugan (and his follower Okishio) who
> say that the LFTRP is false because an increasing material
> productivity would imply an increasing rate of profit. They even
> "demonstrate" this using a math supposedely more developed than that
> of Marx.

.. and when Marxists employ the same methodology and use the same math
as the Marx-critics, they shift the terrain itself away from Marx to
other methodologies. When, for instance, we follow the Ricardian
identification of value with exchange-value and, thereby, concentrate
exclusively on the quantitative determination of value, we depart from

> So, to know if Marx's insight is valuable in understanding
> "actual capitalism", I need firstly to contrast what modern
> interpreters have been saying about this. This implies to study
> Marx's work that is mainly a draft.

I read that last sentence as saying that Marx's work _is_ mainly a draft.
Is that a correct reading?

> So, it is necessary *to precise*
> and *to clarify* what are Marx's insights in order to understand
> actual capitalism. It is clear that the "interpretation work" is
> heavy (and sometimes seems "hairsplitting" as Andrew K. said) because
> 1) its draft nature 2) the work of the precedent interpreters who,
> IMHO, in many cases, have been "misinterpreters".

Yet, some others on this list have repeatedly asserted that Marx's drafts
are "complete". This has a very important consequence both in terms of
how one reads Marx and develops a research agenda of one's own. Since if
we think that Marx drafts are "complete" and correct, then the *only*
important question becomes establishing that "fact." This, IMHO, is the
basis for a very limited research agenda.

> In my personal case, the work of understanding actual capitalism is
> not so easy because in these countries it is very difficult to
> have means of research. "Economics" is a kind of religion
> (neoliberalism) that you have to "share" in order to find jobs. This
> means that it is *absolutely impossible* to find funding to develop
> independent empirical ("concrete") research.

In some other countries, it is much easier to obtain funding for
empirical research than it is for theoretical development. There is also,
as you suggest, an ideological role in terms of which economists from
what theoretical perspectives get funding and jobs.

> But, I want to say that
> my interest for Marx in the last years arose from my personal
> experience in Argentina during the hyperinflations of the 80s (an
> "actual capitalism"). Although I studied Marx in the University, it
> was that violent experience, as well as the present hegemony of the
> crudest neoliberalism in Latinamerica, what stimulated me to study
> Marx again. In itself I do not love "hairsplitting work".

How did the study of Marx help you to more concretely comprehend the
hyperinflation in Argentina? How does it help you to understand

In solidarity, Jerry