Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Marxists in Wikipedia Edit Wars

You can see internal squabbles among Marxists in recent edit wars over Wikipedia entries on the Temporal Single System Interpretation of Marx's theory of value and on David Laibman. I find Alan Kliman neutral in his modifications of the TSSI entry, and I do not see why Laibman should not keep reference to the TSSI out of his entry. Apparently he feels that its inclusion will make the description of his work in economics unbalanced.

In the discussion on the TSSI, I find Kliman asserting that the Fundamental Theorem of Marxism is due to Okishio, not Morishima. Apparently, I get it wrong in my LTV FAQ.

I disagree with the TSSI. But I find TSSI advocates amusing, even when they mock views I find more congenial:
"We can discern at least the following variants

Variant 7b.I: philosophico-mystical

The determination of price by value takes place behind our backs. It is part of the internal workings of the capitalist system which are ever so mysterious and can only be understood by reciting das Kapital six times before breakfast and joining my group. There is no such thing as the transformation problem and it doesn't matter that the figures don't add up, but you wouldn't understand that because you are a bourgeois revisionist.

Variant 7b.II: pseudo-dialectical

The determination of prices take place as the Sraffians describe it, and the determination of values takes place as Marx describes it. This can only be understood by reciting das Kapital twelve times before breakfast and joining my study circle. It is true that the figures don't add up, but that is because capital is inherently contradictory, and you should learn to live with it. You can't understand this because you haven't read Hegel.

Variant 7b.III: fake materialist

As Marx explains, the forces of production determine everything. This as Plekhanov explains is the basis of historical materialism. What Marx meant by the determination of value by labour time was the determination of value by technology as you will realize if you read Sraffa and buy my newspaper. The figures do add up. You do not understand this because you are not a worker." - Alan Freeman (1996).
I earlier mentioned that I was reading Andrew Kliman's recent book. And I posted about one narrow point in the book. Some have complained about my use of numerical examples on this blog. Such examples may help those uncomfortable with math, but they may not make the reasoning as clear to others as the use of algebra would. When I began Kliman's book, I worried that his numerical examples would suffer from the same problem. I needn't have worried; his explanations are generally clear. I was impressed with Kliman's refutation of the Okishio theorem. I didn't think that was possible, and I couldn't see any mistakes in his refutation.

I do have some problems with Kliman's book. I am not at all sure that Kliman adequately addresses Veneziani's claim that the Monetary Expression of Labor Time (MELT) is not defined. In arguing that the TSSI is a reasonable interpretation of Marx's texts, Kliman concentrates on those parts in which Marx puts forth quantitative theories. I would like to see more about Theories of Surplus Value and other texts in which Marx engages previous developers of political economy. I find that Marx, while appreciative of Ricardo and Smith, tends to read his own distinctions - e.g., between value and prices of production - back into, for example, Ricardo. Yet I do not find Marx criticizing Ricardo for not having temporal dynamics in Ricardo's treatment of natural prices. I assume TSSI advocates do not think Ricardo had Marx's supposed TSSI theory. What do they have to say about Marx's treatment of Ricardo? As far as I am aware, this is a gap in the literature.

By the way, the positions that Sraffa and the Sraffians take on Marx's theory of value are not uniform. Of course, Steedman's 1977 work is a classic in this literature. But I draw more on Eatwell, who is more approving of Marx's theory. Bellofiore, who has seen Sraffa's unpublished notes, recently argues that Sraffa came to be more accepting of Marx's theory as his research evolved. Sraffa's use of the standard commodity seems to have taken him to a position much like the "New Interpretation" of Foley and Lipietz.

  • Riccaro Bellofiore (2007). "Sraffa after Marx: An Open Issue" New School seminar, (22 Feb)
  • John Eatwell (1975). "Mr. Sraffa's Standard Commodity and the Rate of Exploitation", Quarterly Journal of Economics, V. 89, N. 4 (Nov): 543-555
  • Duncan K. Foley (1986). Understanding Capital: Marx's Economic Theory, Harvard University Press.
  • Alan Freeman (1996). "The Psychopathology of Walrasian Marxism", in Marx and Non-Equilibrium Economics (Ed. by Alan Freeman and Guglielmo), Edward Elgar
  • Alan Kliman (2007). Reclaiming Marx's "Capital": A Refutation of the Myth of Inconsistency, Lexington Books
  • Alain Lipietz (1982). "The So-Called 'Transformation Problem' Revisited", Journal of Economic Theory, V. 26, N. 1 (Feb): 59-88
  • Ian Steedman (1977). Marx After Sraffa, NLB
  • Roberto Veneziani (2004). "The Temporal Single-System Interpretation of Marx's Economics: A Critical Evaluation", Metroeconomica, V. 55, N. 1: 96-114
  • Roberto Veneziani (2005). "Dynamics, Disequilibrium, and Marxian Economics: A Formal Analysis of Temporal Single-System Marxism", Review of Radical Political Economics, V. 37, N. 4 (Fall): 517-529


Anonymous said...

Have they nothing better to do? I know that the anarchist pages are a non-stop battle between anarchists and "anarcho"-capitalists, but at least that is a battle between enemies.

Surely Marxists would be better off concentrating on getting the basics sorted and correcting the errors inflicted by their opponents?

And I do notice that while there are criticism links for most left-wing entries, there are far fewer for right-wing ones. The Austrian economist pages would suggest that no one has criticised their ideology, for example.

The reason for that is, I think, that the right-"libertarians" and such like do not have much of a life. This means they can spend time genuflecting before their ideological heroes and editing anything they do not like, even if it is true.

From what I can tell, Wikipedia is a god-send for anyone who has lots of time on their hands and who are happy quote any old rubbish as long as it says what they like.


YouNotSneaky! said...

Have they nothing better to do?

Ummm, take a look at the history of the Marxist movement since its inception. This IS what they do. Split and argue which faction has the "true" interpretation of the faith and which one really knows "what Marx really meant" (as if it was impossible for Marx to have been wrong about anything). Then after they split, they split again. Talk about not having a life.

It'd be amusing to watch, except, you know, the historical record of actually existing Marxism.

As far as "liberterian" wikipages - you're just wrong. For example, the Criticism section in the article on Marginalism used to be longer than the substantive part of it (and hopelessly confused).

Anonymous said...

"It'd be amusing to watch, except, you know, the historical record of actually existing Marxism."

What is "actually existing Marxism"?

Robert Vienneau said...

One can see that bloggers, too, get ignorant harassment. I doubt Radek believes Marginalism is a right-wing entry.

Anyways, I wrote the first entry on Austrian economics. I deliberately tried to make it sympathetic to Austrians.

I do wish Kliman would not get in these brouhahas.

Londoner said...

The editing of David Laibman's page by Andrew Kliman was inexcusible. Do you think he has the right to make it look as if Laibman's whole life was basically about the TSSI? What about Kliman's editing of the section on Laibman's musical interests? What about his editing the entry so that it wouldn't show that Laibman "earned" (but only "received") his PhD? Is there any radical in the world who has been more PETTY and VINDICTIVE than Andrew Kliman? If so I hope to never meet her or him.

Kliman's edit on the TSSI is, simply, TSSI propaganda. See the discussion page for examples.

Alan Freeman, Mike Posner, and "Anne Jaclard" (Andrew Kliman's wife) are all Andrew Kliman's MEATPUPPETS. Kliman, in effect, admitted this. It's a sad day when an economist for the City of London has been reduced to being a MEATPUPPET. Do you think Ken Livingstone approved of this fraud? I think it's a shameful activity for a person who is employed to serve the citizens of London. Shame on you, Alan Freeman!

Are you on the side of "the antichrist" and his meatpuppets or the side of pluralism in economics?

Anonymous said...

Ummm, take a look at the history of the Marxist movement since its inception. This IS what they do.

I know, that is what they tend to do. The infighting is infamous. But, really, you would think that people so keen on presenting themselves as scientific socialists would spend some time trying to learn from history. They seem intent on proving Marx right (on history repeating itself...).

As for "Marginalism", I would not class that as right-"libertarian" although they do use it a lot. It is, unfortunately, the standard economic analysis these days -- regardless of its inconsistencies.

I was more thinking about the entries on von Mises, Milton Friedman and so forth. Compare the "criticism" sections (if they exist) to the ones on, say, Marx or anarchism.


Robert Vienneau said...

I read Londoner's comment. I'm still trying to be amused.

I'm aware that Kliman has a history that would lead some to read everything he says in the most hostile manner. And I am aware that, for example, Alan Freeman would see things in a perspective like Kliman's. I don't think charges of fraud are apropos here, and I don't see how the Mayor of London enters into it.

Kliman falls into several categories, one being that of an academic economist. I think that for any behavior by Kliman, I can find some (mainstream) economist whose pettiness and dishonesty is more extreme and has been no impediment to his career.

I thought I was clear in my original post that I have no problem with Laibman's entry not mentioning the TSSI. I like some of Laibman's work that has nothing to do with the TSSI.

Nothing in the TSSI "talk" page leads me to modify my view that Laibman is trying to be fair. I can see why one might want to preface the statement "These allegations, however, were not accompanied by supporting evidence" with some such clause as, "According to Kliman's recent book".

Iain, I think Radek ("YouNotSneaky") engages in harassment whenever Marx is mentioned without some sort of obligatory denunciation. I think Kliman is mistaken in thinking that those who engage in such behavior care about the transformation problem. If Radek wants to prove to be a counterexample, I hope he doesn't review the transformation problem before responding.

Robert Vienneau said...

I meant "Kliman is trying to be fair".

YouNotSneaky! said...

Actually I was only answering the original, perhaps, rhetorical question:

Have they nothing better to do?

It's not nice to impugn my motives (!), next thing you know I'll be accused of having "false conciousness". I believe there's'a plenty references to Marx I didn't peep up on, on this blog and elsewhere.

YouNotSneaky! said...

Anyways. One shouldn't go making assertions without looking at actual data. Anecdotes and personal impressions can be misleading. I did the leg work:

I took seven economic entries which could be roughly classified as "right wing" (better yet, liberterian) and "leftwing". Then I did a word count for the article as a whole and for its criticism section and then took the ratio. Three of the articles - socialism, capitalism and liberterianism - had their own seperate criticism articles, so there I took the ratio of the criticism article to the original. I excluded all the end notes, see also etc. Here's what you get:

First # is total Article length, then the length of criticism section, then the ratio

Neoclassical Economics 2794 1074 0.384395132
Marxian economics 1907 520
Austrian economics 2331 66
Monetarism 2849 564
Keynsianism 4952 612

Socialism has a separate article "Criticisms of Socialism"
4175 4433

Capitalism has a separate article "Criticisms of Capitalism"
6257 7439

Both these -isms have are POV tagged but the CoC has cooler graphics
Liberterian Socialism (POVed)
5726 336

Liberterianism (also has own criticism article) 5575 4448

"Right wing" articles: 19806 13591
"Left wing" articles:
16760 5901

So yeah, the Austrian economics article has barely any criticism, but that's probably because nobody but Austrians care about Austrians. "Liberterian" Socialism is almost as bad though someone cared enough to slap a POV tag on it.

Outside of the broad articles on the -isms with their own spin offs, neoclassical economics has the longest criticism section relative to its length. Almost 40% of the article is devoted to criticizing the topic. One type of cynic could quip that this reflects that there's a lot to criticise (but then that means the Austrians are right!). Another could say that it's a manifestation of insecurity. I'd say it just reflects that it's the mainstream so it gets more attention.

Post-Keynesian economics (rather than the bastard kind mentioned above) has no criticism section, or apparantly criticism, at all. Neither does "Heterodox economics".

Robert Vienneau said...

I often find Radek's comments quirky, even when (especially when?) I know what is being discussed.

He was not answering Iain's question. Kliman is explicit about interpretation of texts and claiming to know "what Marx really meant". He doesn't claim that Marx wasn't ever (empirically) wrong. It is even more silly to claim that those Marxists and others that Kliman contests think Marx was never wrong.

I suspect I was wrong to think "Watchdog" is a Marxist of any sort. To follow the edit war, you have to look in the history of user pages and, I suppose, Wikipedia administrative pages that I was not able to locate.

I guess that's enough for one comment.

Robert Vienneau said...

Radek didn't take my comment. I didn't see why anybody would classify "Marginalism" on a right-left spectrum. I don't see how an entry on "Capitalism" can be so classified, either. I think "Libertarianism" is synonymous with "Anarchism", so it must be left-wing. I can sort of see classifying "Keynesianism" and "Monetarism" on a left-right spectrum, but "Socialism" and "Austrianism" are more extreme.

So I don't see what Radek's data is supposed to show.

Anyways, as with the entry "Austrian Economics", I created the entry on "Post Keynesian Economics". I also wrote an earlier version of the entry on "Neoclassical Economics". I appreciate Radek's recent revert to Neoclassical Economics, I reverted his changes to the entry on the CCC.

Londoner said...

IF Kliman was trying to be fair, he wouldn't have recruited meatpuppets and would have respected Wikipedia policies. He wouldn't have used Wikipedia to take unprovoked cheap shots at David Laibman.

You wrote that you were "amused" by the actions of KLiman and Co. Did it ever occur to you that others were NOT amused by his escapades?

THE Londoner can't respect anyone like Alan Freeman who has such a long history of apologetics. He is someone who could have influenced Kliman for the better but instead he made excuses for his outrageous and malicious behavior. Freeman fits the word apologist to a tee.

HAD less people like yourself been "amused" by Kliman and confronted him over his behavior then I suspect that the current "broohaha" (as you called it) wouldn't be happening now.

Robert Vienneau said...

I guess Londoner is not an Elvis Costello fan. Even so, I think my comment about a "most hostile manner" shows that "it occur[ed] to me that others were NOT amused by [Kliman's] escapades."

Rakesh Bhandari said...

Freeman's jibe against pseudo dialectics seems to ridicule the idea of studying the inner contradictions of capitalism, meaning here something like "two demands, both necessary for the successful working of the same system, but mutually incompatible." (Andrew Collier) But general commodity production does have inner contradictions, at the most abtract level between social production and private appropriation.
Because the social relations of production are organized through commodity relations, prices must be governed by values for a society to achieve the proportional deployment of labor needed for its reproduction. But general commodity production is also capitalist or private production, the production
of commodities by means of wage labor for profit. This latter systemic feature motivates capitalists to search for the highest profit, leading tendentially to an averaging of the rate of profit. But the averaging of the rate of profit contradicts the law of value. Marx in fact emphasized this contradiction; he thought Ricardo had glossed it over. The question then becomes what is the consequence of this contradiction: it is of course the emergence of prices of production, which are modified values. Marx's derivation of the category of price of production is thus dialectical though this has not been argued in the same way as I have here; the point is that Marx's derivation of the category of the price of production results from studying the consequence of the mutually incompatible demands of one and the same system, and Freeman is wrong to mock dialectics.

Rakesh Bhandari
UC Berkeley

Magpie said...

I wish I had learned of these older posts before.

Some of them are really useful. And, as usual, the comments can be very helpful.

I am particularly in agreement with Iain (April 27, 2007 3:54AM) here:

"And I do notice that while there are criticism links for most left-wing entries, there are far fewer for right-wing ones."