Posts Tagged ‘neo-Ricardianism’

The Fifth Transom

Friday, 2 February 2024

On 19 January, I received an expected desk-rejection of my paper on Sraffa from the journal to which I'd submitted it a day or two earlier. The editor wrote that he'd enjoyed looking at the paper but that it were not the style of work that the journal published. I don't feel slighted by the lack of an explanation, but I'm more unhappy with something that might be mistaken for an explanation that doesn't actually explain anything.

(My paper on indecision was more than once rejected without explanation for the rejection, but with meta-explanation that providing an explanation would delay my submitting to some other journal.)

Upon receiving the rejection, I looked for another journal. What otherwise might have seemed the best choice required a €100 submission fee, not refunded in the event of a desk-rejection. I instead chose a different journal, in part because it is headquartered in Italy, where I expect more attention is paid to Sraffa even by mainstream economists.

The submission process was stalled by a failure of the software used by the journal's publisher, and a weekend had to pass before that failure was corrected. In the early morning of 23 January, I completed the process. Since then, the reported status of the paper has stood at Submitted to Journal. That report is supposed to change when the paper is assigned to a specific editor.

Once more, a desk-rejection is highly likely. Most papers that are sent to reviewers are rejected by the reviewers. Most papers that are not rejected are returned to the authors for revision. Most papers returned for revision are accepted after revision, but not always.

Over the Transom Again

Thursday, 18 January 2024

I've submitted my paper on Sraffa to yet another journal. Fortunately, this latest journal wanted the initial submission to be in PDF, and wants accepted papers in LAΤΕΧ.

I expect a rejection from this journal, simply because they receive an enormous number of submissions, and will probably decide that their readers would rather not digest a thorough examination of a heterodox theory to which few of them ascribe any credibility, which examination reaches conclusions that, over all, will not surprise them. But I'll hope for an editor to think otherwise.

Another Bounce-back

Sunday, 14 January 2024

As anticipated, my submission to a second journal of my paper on Sraffa received a desk-rejection, in the morning of 8 January. The editor at the second journal, like that at the first, suggested submitting to a journal on the history of economic thought.

I decided to go ahead to do just that, but found that my first choice amongst such journals both wanted the article to be submitted in the format of Microsoft Word, and was somewhat particular about the appearance of formulæ. I do not have any recent versions of MS Word running on any computer, and the computers on which I have old versions installed are old devices, tucked-away, and of course I wouldn't in any case want to reënter the whole article from the keyboard. So I wrestled with going from LAΤΕΧ (by way of LyX) to DOCX by various means, with the formulæ repeatedly trashed in the process. I stepped-away from the problem a few times, rather than become over-stressed.

Finally, early this morning, I had a version that I thought were good enough to submit. I stepped-away again until to-night, and then effected a submission.

A few problems threaten this submission. First, the journal normally wants articles of 11,000 words or fewer, whereäs this article is about 12,665. Second, as may be inferred from their insistence upon the format of Microsoft Word, this journal leans away from mathematic presentation. Third, historians might — rather reasonably — see the article as better placed in a journal of theory than of history; I do not, for example, much discuss the position of Sraffa's book in historic context.

If the paper is rejected in whole or in part on that last basis, then of course I will make a note of such objection in any subsequent submission to a journal of economic theory.

As to how I effected the conversion, I used LyX to export a file in ODT format, then used LibreOffice Writer to do extensive clean-up and export to DOCX, then reïmported the DOCX file into LibreOffice Writer, and effected a second extensive clean-up, the results of which I later submitted.

Bounce-back

Thursday, 4 January 2024

In keeping with my expectations, albeït not with my hopes, during this morning I received a desk-rejection from the first journal to which I submitted my paper on Sraffa. The editor wrote

I read your paper with interest. I appreciate the ambition and breadth of the work as well as the care you put in writing the paper in an accessible and engaging way. However, the contribution is more appropriate for a journal that specializes in the history of economic thought, rather than for a journal that focuses on modern contributions to economic theory.

Two conceptions of modernity seem to be confused here. If the editor were to say that Sraffa's work were not at or near the cutting edge, then I would completely agree with the editor. On the other hand, only if the applicability of that work were without living controversy would discussion properly be restricted to history-of-thought, yet Sraffa's work is at-or-near the center of thought for academically active schools.

Mind you that something could reasonably be treated as within the scope of history-of-thought without being restricted to that scope, so I may indeed submit the paper to a journal on the history of economic thought. But, before taking that route, this evening I submitted the paper to a different journal of economic theory. Yes, I do expect another rejection, and probably another desk-rejection. Still, I gambled on a hope of acceptance.

If-and-when I submit to a journal of history of economic thought, I face some threat of my paper being rejected as too mathematic for the readership. (One reason that I have not submitted the paper to The Cambridge Journal of Economics is that their guidelines for authors suggest that they would reject the paper with the excuse that the exposition relies too heavily upon mathematics.)

Before receiving the rejection, I had effected some minor revisions to the paper. I corrected a typographic error, replaced adjectival -ical with -ic wherever the latter would do, and removed most of my expletive uses of it and of there.

Although expletive uses are grammatic and I've not seen them condemned in any book of style, after I first completed a draft of that paper I became uncomfortable with those uses. That discomfort is part of a prior trend of my becoming uncomfortable with expressions that facilitate conceptual illusions. Saying or writing it is X suggests that something is X; sometimes something is X, as when we say it is sad that you couldn't come, in which case the something is that you couldn't come. Even then, it is a forward reference, and forward references are generally very bad things. But sometimes the it is just a way of satisfying the grammatic need for a subject, as in it's raining. Saying or writing there is X or there are X suggests that X is-or-are at a specific location, but likewise is often just a way of satisfying the grammatic need for a subject.

Usually, one can easily do without these expletive uses, but I acknowledge that sometimes they actually produce more easily understood sentences. Indeed, I left two such uses in the paper because no alternative occurred to me that did not create ambiguity.

[Up-Date (2024:01/07):Alas, I have found more expletive uses in my paper. My search string was naïve, and missed cases with modal auxiliaries. I don't know when or even if I will eliminate those further cases.]

Reordering the Queue

Friday, 29 December 2023

Late last night, I finally got around to submitting to a journal a draft of my paper on Sraffa's Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities; Prelude to a Critique of Economic Theory [1960].

My attention was first directed to Production of Commodities in the mid-'80s. I did no more than to skim the work at the time, but I planned someday to critique it carefully, and developed an expectation that I would write my critique for academic publication. In the spring or summer of 2015, I finally took-up that task. I completed a working draft by 18 May 2016, then entitled The Begged Questions and Confusions in Mr. Sraffa's Theory of Price, and began providing copies to other economists.

I've made no profound changes to the paper in the time since, but I'd hoped to complete and have published my generalization of decision theory before publishing this paper on PoCbMoC. And editors and reviewers seem likely to treat my paper either as uninteresting or as anathematic; I've been unsure about to which journals I should submit it. But some dreadful lines of thought have been resurgent, and I have grown concerned that Sraffan thought — which epitomizes much left-wing thought about economics — may soon have accelerating popularity. So I've decided to seek now a respectable journal to publish my paper, with the title Mr. Sraffa's Theory of Price; A Thorough and Critical Examination.

I can expect that the article will be rejected by several journals before it finds acceptance. Editors who reject the article without sending it to peer-review may take a few weeks. Peer-review in each case is likely to take four or more months. So perhaps a couple of years will pass before the article is accepted, and then perhaps the better part of a year will follow before it is published.

Reänimation

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The extended quiescence of this 'blog has largely been an artefact of my limiting of various activities as I bore-down on critiquing Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities, a work of heterodox political economy by Piero Sraffa. The task has been thoroughly unpleasant, because there is so very much wrong with his work and because he writes in an obscure manner. At the same time, I have been dealing with depression intensified by personal circumstances. Had I allowed myself to step away from the project more than I did, I might never have finished it.

I have not, indeed, finished it; but, on Wednesday morning, I completed a first draft of the article. That draft is now in the hands of some of the other economists whom I know. (Naturally, I have since found things that I want to change, though none of these represent a major issue.) So I think that I will be back to writing more entries here.


One of the economists who has graciously said that he would take a look at the article (not-withstanding that it is monstrous in size!) asked me what motivated my writing of it.

Over many years, I have repeatedly been annoyed by encounters with those who draw upon PoCbMoC. More recently, I have been concerned by increased popular support for administrating economies (which support happens to be egalitarian or quasi-egalitarian); and this book is part of the infrastructure of the experts who defend such administration.

Further, at the time that I finally began actually working on this article, I felt stalled-out in my paper on the axiomata of qualitative probability. (That paper was and is a rat's nest, in which the basic propositions are not currently each perfectly orthogonal to all others.) In a sense, then, this article on Sraffa's book was intended as a break, though I quickly discovered that the task was going to be far more onerous than I had presumed.

Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities is the central text of neo-Ricardian economics, and a core text of post-Keynesian economics; it is also an important source for a variant form of Marxism that would abandon the labor theory of value. If I can get my article published in a reputable journal, that publication will eventually be the death of neo-Ricardianism and of the aforementioned variant of Marxism; I don't know enough about post-Keynesianism to know how well they might do without PoCbMoC. Some of my criticisms are relatively minor, but some of them strike at the heart of the work.

(It took rather a long time to develop my article, but reading it offers the impression a nearly continuous rain of blows, some dreadful.)

I say eventually because I wouldn't expect the present admirers to acknowledge how hard they'd been hit, but I'd expect a virtual end to the winning of converts. I don't know that I can find a journal to publish the article because

  • it is quite long;
  • the mainstream of economists are unfamiliar with PoCbMoC so that
    • editors and reviewers may think it insufficiently significant, and
    • those reviewers most likely to feel sufficiently competent to examine my article are admirers of Sraffa.

I intend never again to pore over a work, even as short as PoCbMoC, when it is discernibly crack-pot. As I told a friend, I have been doing my time on the cross here; let someone else go after other such thinkers. I am capable of original work of significance, and that is how I intend to spend my remaining time qua economist.


This 'blog was begun as I left LiveJournal, appalled by its evolving policies under its second and then third owners. One might reasonably conceptualize this 'blog as a continuation of that which I had at LJ, and some of the entries of this 'blog are recyclings of entries from the earlier 'blog.

None-the-less, this 'blog has become very different from its predecessor. LiveJournal is a social-networking site; part of the reason that it has withered is that its users migrated to more successful social-networking sites. My present 'blog doesn't work that way. I have recurring readers, but there's nothing much like the Friends feed of LJ or of Facebook. There is no centralized connector of interests (as on LJ). I have regular readers, but they are likely to use an RSS aggregator (such as Flipboard) and less likely to comment (especially if they are using such an aggregator). I get far more irregular visitors, who are here by way of Google (or of some other search service), grabbing some information, and not so much as visiting any page here other than their entry pages.

So it doesn't feel appropriate to offer mundanities of the sort that I would relate to a neighbor or to a friend on the telephone. My public entries tend to be things that I imagine strangers would appreciate reading. The restricted entries (basically accessible to friends who followed me as I migrated from LJ) are almost entirely personal; but a reader is required to make a special effort to access them, so they are not about ordinary events; they are usually very personal.

With entries to this 'blog thus typically requiring more thought, there are generally fewer of them, and the 'blog becomes dormant when I cannot — or believe that I should not — give thought to those entries.

The State of My Paper on Sraffa

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Piero Sraffa's Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities has 96 sections and four appendices. I've critiqued most of the first 85 sections, though I have for now skipped a few that draw-out conclusions from methods that I have shown to be fatally flawed. Along the way, I've also dealt with three of the appendices, the remaining one of which is bibliographical.

The final 11 sections that I've not discussed nor yet carefully read are concerned with what economists call land (not only space but resources such as ore) and with the significance of switching in methods of production. That last part is the most noted contribution from Sraffa, and widely considered to have merit across various schools of thought, though it has also been asserted that the contribution is not as novel as some have claimed. I withhold judgment until I go through it carefully.

The material over which I have so far pored is of no marginal value. I have come to loathe each resumption of my effort. But Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities is the core text of the neo-Ricardians, a central text of the Post-Keynesians (who have a significant academic and political foot-print in the UK), and the point of departure for an important variant of Marxism. So I should steel myself and complete the task.

After I get a first draft of the actual analysis done, before I write the other parts of the paper, I will begin making copies of the version in-progress available to those who can read these entries. And, after I have a more fully reälized working version, I might unrestrict my entries about this project, though that publicizing might wait upon my finding a journal that agrees to publish it.

A Side-Paper on Sraffa

Friday, 7 August 2015

I've not been in the proper frame-of-mind to work upon the articles that previously occupied me, so I've instead been working on a paper that I'd been meaning to write for years. Its working title is The Begged Questions in Mr. Sraffa's Theory of Price.

Piero Sraffa is notable for a number of things. He was a formidable critic of Marshallian economic theory. He identified serious problems in the formulation of von Hayek's original presentation of capital theory, at a pivotal juncture during the struggle between the Austrian School and Lord Keynes. Sraffa later identified a significant error in the capital theory of the mainstream of American Keynesianism. He was a behind-the-scenes influence upon the thinking of various economists such as Joan Robinson, and of Wittgenstein. He edited the critical edition of the works of David Ricardo.

He also wrote a short book, Production of Commodities by Means of Commodities; Prelude to a Critique of Economic Theory, that attempted to restore the position of pre-marginalist, anti-subjectivist thinking on political economy. He and his close followers are known as neo-Ricardian because their work has so much of the flavor of Ricardo and of his followers.

Neo-Ricardian thinking heavily influences the so-called Post-Keynesians (one of many different flavors of economic thought that draw upon some interpretation of Keynes's work) and many Marxists look to Sraffa's work as a serious challenge or as a source for revision of Marxian economic theory.

Sraffa's book has been out-of-print in the United Kingdom and in the United States for many years; the most recent printing of which I know was in 1983. However, copies command a significant premium, and new, expensive books about his book or otherwise about Sraffa's economic theories come out fairly often. So, though the size of Sraffa's following doesn't seem to be much growing, it also doesn't seem to be much shrinking.

But, well, his theory of price determination doesn't simply go off the rails; it is never on them. For any decent economist, it would be easy to identify where Sraffa is begging essential questions, or otherwise making unacknowledged assumptions. In particular, he doesn't eliminate the subjective element from his theory of price; instead, he merely hides it, while making presumptions about it (and about production functions) that are bizarre.

Yet I don't think that I've encountered an article that has exposed these problems. The set of decent economists and the set of those who have published articles about Production of Commodities seem not to have intersected.

(I have encountered an article written by a general-equilibrium theorist, who writes like a general-equilibrium theorist. I'll eventually want to return to it to see whether, using the obscure symbolism of his people, he has in fact pointed to any of the essential problems of Sraffa's theory.)