Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON
LECTURE ONE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d__In2PQS60
LECTURE TWO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al7O2puvdDA

ALSO AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ONE THROUGH TEN ON IDEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE



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Sunday, October 6, 2013

TAKEN TO THE WOODSHED

The distinguished Berkeley economist and active blogger Brad De Long took me to task on his blog two days ago.   [I actually have De Long's blog bookmarked, but I discovered this while idly Googling myself at 5:30 this morning.]  Here is the beginning of his entry:

"Robert Paul Wolff on Paul Samuelson on Karl Marx: Thursday Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot-Bang-Query-Bang-Query Weblogging

Robert Paul Wolff:
Eventually, it became possible for the shallow and vulgar technicians of the neoclassical synthesis to dismiss Marx entirely as an economist, trivialising him, in Paul Samuelson’s famous jibe, as a “minor post-Ricardian” and an “autodidact.”
Anybody think that Robert Paul Wolff actually read Paul Samuelson's AEA Presidential Address, and set out to fairly summarize its view of Marx to his readers? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller?"

I think I get the Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot part [that, I assume, is a clever way of writing WTF, which, for those of you even more clueless than I, is modern shorthand for "what the fuck."]  But maybe somebody can help me out with Bang-Query-Bang-Query.

First things first.  De Long is dead right.  I had never  read the AEA address from which my quote came until this morning -- De Long reproduces it, or at least a lengthy segment of it, right after the above.  Indeed, the only extended thing I have ever read by Samuelson is his famous textbook, and that in whichever edition was current in 1954 when I was a traveling student in Oxford, England.  So, full points to De Long.  I promise not to snark at any more neo-classical icons without first checking my sources.

By the way, I did not start the snarking.  Here is Samuelson, near the end of the segment of the speech reproduced by De Long:  "So far I have been talking about Marx as an economist. And I have been doing my best, subject to truth, to find some merit in him. (You may recall Emerson's neighbor in Concord: when he died the minister tried to find something to say at the funeral eulogy and ended up with, "Well, he was good at laying fires.")"

Let him who is without sin, and all that.

De Long concludes his brief roasting of me with these words: 

"I find it ironic that everything RPW wrote about Marx's economics was anticipatorily refuted by Samuelson in the sentence:
he did not labor over a labor theory of value in order to give us moderns scope to use matrix theory on the "transformation" problem."
Well, that does not come close to representing accurately what I have to say about Marx, but I am not in the same league with Samuelson, so I cannot expect De Long to do due diligence on me in the way I should have done on Samuelson.

De Long's Wikipedia entry describes him as a neo-liberal, and lists Milton Friedman among others as influences on him.  I ought not to be too surprised that he casts a basilisk eye on Marx.

I am delighted and rather surprised that De Long said anything at all about what I have written on Marx [and why now, for heaven's sake?].  As they say in show business, so long as he spelled my name right.

 

10 comments:

Chris said...

This is really beating a dead horse. The transformation problem regarding Marxian value theory is no longer a problem. There is a reading of Marx that makes sense of the issue, without any logical inconsistency. It has been around since the 80s. It's the temporal single systems interpretation (TSSI).

If fellow Marxist are going to argue with neo-classicals about this issue, they should at least know about TSSI...

Chris said...

p.s. the reading has nothing to do with Richard Wolff or Resnick, as you thought it might.

David Auerbach said...

'Bang' is longhand for '!' (from teletype days, to which we owe the original ascii encoding of the alphabet and symbols used on PCs.)
'Query' is longhand for '?'
So,
WTF!?!?

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Thank you, David. Little by little I shall be brought up to speed.

Chris said...

Wolff I'm tempted to buy you Andrew Kliman's book, if you promise to read it :)

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Now, now, Chris, don't go spending your money, which you have much less of than I do. Once I figure out how to use this IPhjone, I'll see whether I can get hold of it.

J.R. said...

I only know of Brad De Long through his regular roasting at the hands of Paul Krugman and John Quiggin.

The world of blogs reminds me of intellectual discourse in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries--a lot of colorfully composed personal invective accompanied by a sizable helping of anonymity.

Magpie said...

My theory, for what it is worth, is that for some reason DeLong felt alluded by the "shallow and vulgar technicians of the neoclassical synthesis" remark.

I don't know why. After all, we all know there is nothing meretricious in DeLong's learned opinion.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Good lord. Far be it from me even to suggest that De Long was being referenced!

Magpie said...

Don't worry, Prof. if I had to guess, I'd say it was nothing you said.

Just that one cannot speak of economics, without speaking of DeLong (at least in DeLong's learned opinion).

In other words, his own ego could be making him a humongous target, I guess.