More on “Value and Crisis: Bichler & Nitzan versus Marx”

July 24, 2011 by  

Filed under Economic Crisis

The beginning of Andrew Kliman’s “Value and Crisis: Bichler & Nitzan versus Marx” was published here, along with a note which indicated that the remainder would soon follow. Bichler and Nitzan’s quick response to the first part resulted in certain problems that made this impossible, but we are pleased to be able to carry the full text of “Value and Crisis” below, together with the full text of Kliman’s response to Bichler and Nitzan’s rejoinder. They were first published in issue #4 of the Journal of Critical Globalisation Studies, a special issue on “Crisis.” (For the differently-paginated versions of the papers published in the journal, click here.)

PDF of “Value and Crisis: Bichler & Nitzan versus Marx,” by Andrew Kliman

“This paper has shown that Bichler and Nitzan have not provided us with good reasons to accept that belief in capitalism’s eternality is crucial to its continued existence, or that capitalists do normally believe that the system is eternal, or that they have come to fear its demise. The paper has also sketched out an alternative approach to questions of economic crisis and the future of capitalism rooted in Marx’s value theory, in the course of defending that theory against their charges that it is logically unsound and that the development of capitalism since Marx’s death has undermined his logic. By showing that none of Bichler and Nitzan’s charges holds water, it has eliminated their main justifications for their claim that their “capital as power” theory is needed as an alternative to Marx’s theory.

“Charges that his value theory is logically unsound serve to disqualify it at the starting gate, depriving it of the opportunity to demonstrate its explanatory power empirically. In contrast, my response to Bichler and Nitzan’s work, while quite critical, has not tried to disqualify their theory at the starting gate, on a priori logical grounds, irrespective of empirical evidence. They are entitled to their theory. Marx is also entitled to his.”

PDF of “Marx, Systemic Fear, and Capitalists’ Convictions: A reply to Bichler and Nitzan,” by Andrew Kliman

“My paper … demonstrated, painstakingly and point by point, that none of [Bichler and Nitzan's] specific charges holds water. Their rejoinder … does not refute, or even try to refute, any of these demonstrations. They have proved unable to defend the charges they leveled against Marx’s value theory.”


The following interesting comment on Bichler & Nitzan’s response to the beginning of “Value and Crisis,” by Peter Fay, first appeared on the “lbo-talk” e-mail list, on February 24:


[lbo-talk] Reflections on crisis, fear and behavioural Marxism

Peter Fay

Very interesting defense by the author of the paper that was presented to Harvard Law and Kennedy schools.

Kliman’s criticism <>of the author’s hypothesis is truly devastating. One wonders how such a hypothesis based on obviously erroneous evidence could ever get published, let alone presented to Harvard Law and Business schools… no, scratch that.

Let’s just say it couldn’t possibly have been peer reviewed prior to publication… no, scratch that also. One could say, though, that the empirical evidence for the hypothesis was, well, shockingly absent.

The apologia of their error by the authors is somewhat laughable, comparing their errors in their investigations to those of Pythagoras, Kepler and yes, even Einstein. I’m not sure Einstein would have presented “evidence” without examining the data first. Likewise, not to be outdone by those giants of science, the authors create their own words – “creorder” (‘creates the order’) and terms “capitalist mode of power” (‘capitalist mode of production’) – which I assume is a necessary prerequisite to being invited to Harvard.

After a long-winded effort to patch together some revised semblance of a hypothesis, they then turn their sites on the real enemy: Marxism, all Marxists and most importantly, Marx’s labor theory of value. They state,

“At the analytical heart of these specialized endeavours [to defend Marx] stand the experts on Marx’s labour theory of value and surplus value. Most Marxists are unfamiliar with the intricacies of this theory, and most ‘productive labourers’, however defined, would probably find it impossible to understand – that is, assuming they even tried.”

This is a curious statement from a professor – that he believes workers would find the labor theory of value impossible to understand, or even that they would try. My experience, and that of most others that I know, is the opposite: workers the world over are drawn to this explanation of labor and value by Marx, and quite naturally understand what they have intuitively experienced their whole lives on the shop floor. On the other hand, it is true that professors or other intellectuals may have a harder time understanding such a concept.

Next, “Marx wrote somewhere that value is revealed by price (or vice versa), and Kliman insists that reiterating this claim not only renders it true, but also cures Marxism of many of the chronic illness that have weakened it for years.” Again, this is a strange statement from someone who knows Marxism well enough to attack it for a living. I don’t believe Marx anywhere wrote that value is “revealed by price”, but everywhere that the reverse relationship is true, for example,

“Price, like relative value in general, expresses the value of a commodity” which in no way implies that price “reveals” value.

Finally, we read that, “[Marxists] offer no serious challenge, let alone an alternative, to the current capitalist mode of power.”

If Marxism offers no serious challenge to capitalism, why is capital, 140 years later, still so obsessed by Marx’s Capital? Why is it still paying people to spend their lives trying to discredit Marxism? One wonders whether in 140 years future generations will be spending their hours debating instead of Marx, the finer points of those titans who discovered “creorder”, and “capitalist mode of power”.



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