Walking the walk: the IWGVT Rules

For reasons of historical interest, this post contains the report which Andrew and I made to the 1999 IWGVT conference. From then on the conferences gradually ceased contributing much of use to the theory of value; the effort of securing genuine engagement became too much of a burden. However, the papers from the conferences, all of which can be found on the IWGVT website, provide a reference for scholars.

The report does give a concept of the size and scope of the conferences and, crucially, contain the ‘IWGVT Rules’ – the pluralist guidelines which Andrew and myself had drawn up and which were approved by the IWGVT, as a basis to secure what Andy Denis was later to describe as ‘Assertive Pluralism’, playing a formative role in the growing heterodox economics movement.

IWGVT committee report (submitted by the co-organisers)

This year we’ve replaced our normal round-up session with a session for theoretical discussion, which means the normal chance for input from participants and information from the organisers is more restricted.

At the same time we’re welcoming a number of new participants who haven’t heard about us before.

Moreover, this is the first year we’ve functioned with a formal committee and although their work was mainly confined to reviewing papers, it was an important step in collectivising the IWGVT.

For all these reasons as co-organisers, we thought it would be useful to include a formal report of our activities and suggestions for future activities in the programme.

Participants will have a greatly increased chance for input, we hope, in the near future, through the establishment of a conference discussion list as a sublist of econ-value.

Because of the lack of time for discussion on this report, it was drafted by Alan Freeman, who takes responsibility for all the detail particulars and, of course, any errors.

The IWGVT in context

The IWGVT was formed in 1994 and this is our sixth conference. We started with fifteen papers and last year reached nearly fifty. It has been quite startling, and surprised and gratified us, to encounter such a growth of interest in value theory and in Marxism in a period of general reaction. Above all we want to draw attention to the outstanding participation and activity of participants from the third world despite growing and intolerable financial obstacles.

The IWGVT organisers have always found themselves in a dilemma which is no secret; in establishing the IWGVT we hoped we could pursue and develop a specific theoretical school of thought,  the Temporal Single System or TSS approach to Marx’s value theory, if possible in a dialogue with other currents that we felt had a relationship to this approach. However we found that in establishing a general forum where issues of Marx’s theory, and of  value theory in general, could be discussed, our conference filled a gap: it became a general discussion forum for value and Marxist theory and indeed, for non-Marxist (for example Austrian and Post-Keynesian) contributions on value. In consequence, we find ourselves a minority in our own conference.

The course that we took was to welcome this development, for two reasons. First, we had a responsibility to those who came to our conference; our commitment to pluralism meant that we felt a duty to ensure that this general forum was maintained, whether or not those taking part agreed with us. Second, we saw it as an unparalleled opportunity to promote something that has been missing for generations both in economics, and in Marxist writing, namely, a genuine engagement, a theoretical testing, encounter, and debate, between different currents.

This has always led to a crucial ambiguity in our relation to the conference which is still unresolved; in its majority, the participants do not support and are even uninterested in or actively hostile to the views of the organisers; but the organisers respect and maintain their responsibility to the participants.

We, for our part, have attempted to resolve this dichotomy by actively fighting for, and attempting to incorporate in the IWGVT’s working, practices which we felt would provide a general guarantee of pluralism; a level playing field in which anyone, no matter what their view or academic status, could participate as an equal and receive engagement and attention from all other currents present.

We set out not just to schedule sessions consisting of currents passing each other in the night, but to set up genuine debates and encounters. We set out this year for the first time a set of scholarship guidelines, with a function we think is unique in economics: to set ourselves squarely against the dominant suppressive practices in economics by asking the participants actively to respect and engage each other’s views. The function of these guidelines is not to select or reject papers but to lay down ground rules which ensured that the speakers, and the papers, would not deny a legitimate place to opposed points of view.

The reaction of participants has been mixed. Those who did not actively oppose the theoretical views of the organisers have respected and endorsed our approach. Among those who found themselves in strong opposition to these views the reaction has been more mixed. Some have greatly enriched our debates by taking part year on year and our thanks goes to them. Others have increasingly chosen to absent themselves from our discussions, in our view returning to an earlier tradition that we actively seek to overcome, of sidelining alternatives which they find unacceptable by ignoring them in debate and silencing them, or complying with their silencing, in the official institutions.

This leads to an increasing risk which the IWGVT needs to address; that Marxist debate will divide into the two camps of those pursuing new and creative alternatives, and promoting a pluralist approach to debate; and those defending older traditions, and tacitly or explicitly abstaining from debate with the alternatives, in the process marginalising and even suppressing their contribution. Recalling the disastrous outcome of the 1970s divide between the ‘surplus approach’ and its opponents, which sterilised debate for two decades to the great detriment of Marxist theory as a whole, we must recognise a responsibility to try and prevent this happening.

The background of the theoretical debate

In order to understand our successes and failures we think it essential to set our growth against a more general background.

The general period is one in which Marxist and heterodox theoretical research is under sharp attack.. URPE sessions at the ASSA were recently cut by nearly 40%; almost no mainstream journal now carries material on value theory. Ironically, Fred Lee’s thorough and scholarly article on the anti-pluralistic effect of research selectivity in UK institutions, was itself rejected by numerous mainstream journals before being published in Capital and Class.

Mainstream economics has extended a vice-like grip over most of the official instruments of economic ideology. The great bulk of European and US departments are now resolutely mainstream and either directly neoliberal, or intolerant of any major departure from it. In Latin America this same trend is accompanied by a growing direct intervention of US academia through the direct establishment of privately-funded business schools. It is almost impossible for a Latin American researcher to publish in an official US journal without the direct patronage of a US institution, an indictment of the US liberal academic hierarchy.

The extraordinary success of mainstream dogma is reflected most strikingly in the fact that its views are accepted as ‘truth’ even by its opponents. The most extraordinary feature of the past ten years’ debate on globalisation, is that almost no-one, including the most radical opposition, considered it possible that globalisation might fail, and might fail moreover not through being opposed from without, but because it was incapable of maintaining itself from within. Similarly but less pervasively, it is almost universally accepted in debates on welfare and social funding that they must be cut because the money isn’t there to pay for them; almost no-one points out that money is only a social institution, and that its shortage is the outcome of political decisions and priorities, not divinely-ordained constraints of the market. Such ideological domination is the hallmark of a truly hegemonic ideology. When even political opponents believe that their ruler speaks the truth, ninety percent of the battle of domination has already been won.

At the same time, however, the ‘opposition’ cannot absolve itself of responsibility for the generally suppressive atmosphere in economics. Heterodox journals themselves are increasingly indifferent to material on value theory, or sectarian and selective in their approach to what is carried. CJE carries virtually nothing on value theory that is not acceptable to the reigning surplus approach doctrine. Capital and Class recently rejected a proposal for a special issue on value theory; RRPE has refused three anti-physicalist articles in five years in violation of its commitment to a broad inclusive definition of radical political economy, and risks failing to honour its declared right of appeal, its formal guarantee of pluralism.

Moreover this only continues what we see as a long-standing tradition of dogmatism and suppression in Marxist circles to the point where Marxist economists themselves have become the principal standard-bearers of the ideological assault on Marx. One of the hallmarks of the TSS approach is that we have systematically pointed out that Marx is no longer assessed or presented in his own terms, but in terms of an interpretation of Marx which we call dualist and simultaneist; this is the approach pioneered by Bortkiewicz and converted into a standard dogma by the work of Sweezy, Morishima, Seton on others who refined Bortkiewicz’s explicitly Walrasian interpretation of Marx and converted it into a doctrine.

This is moreover the platform on which the refutation of Marx rests. Writer upon writer repeats without proof the neoliberal doctrine that Marx’s own theory is false or contradictory, based only on the attribution of this ruling interpretation and the wilful failure to recognise alternative interpretations.

Above all as a consequence of the intervention of the surplus approach school, this doctrine has acquired a status parallel to that of neoliberalism in economics as a whole: it is portrayed by its advocates not just as one particular reading of Marx but as the only possible reading. This is evidenced not just in the systematic failure of the literature to refer to the alternatives, by the use of abusive and nonscholarly terminology to refer to Marx’s own views, but in the fact that these alternatives, and attempts to research and identify Marx’s own views in terms that respect his actual writings, are actively suppressed in those journals and institutions which lay claim to present Marxist research.

However, this general atmosphere is contradictory to a strong growth in support for heterodox economic theory in general, and for the alternative interpretations of Marx in particular. Post-Keynesian and evolutionary economics is undergoing a strong revival. Many sessions at the EEA this year are a response to the ASSA’s suppression of heterodox currents. In Europe EAEPE (the European Association for Evolutionary Political Economy) has grown to over a thousand members in less than ten years. Brasil has seen the growth of the SEP conference, and a parallel growth of heoterodox activity in Mexico, together with a strong continuity or revival of Marxist research in Latin American countries from Costa Rica to Argentina, testifies to a lively and growing anti-neoliberal tradition. Turkey, and the Iranian diaspora, and we are confident, a parallel growth in many marginalised or third world countries, also indicate a general revival of theoretical interest in non-mainstream theory. The world growth of ICARE (International Confederation for the Reform of Economics) also testifies to the breadth of this movement. The IWGVT’s own growth and the growth of its information list (now with over 150 members) also testifies to the growth not only of specifically Marxist theory, but of currents within it that are increasingly restive about the limits, dogmatism, and evident theoretical weaknesses of the standard approaches to Marx.

A strategy

The paper at this conference entitled ‘the Emperor’s Tailor’ by Alan Freeman tries to present a theoretical and materialist analysis of this general situation. Economics, it maintains, cannot be understood as a science but must be grasped as an essentially religious institution; it functions as a church of the market.

From this point of view, the functioning of economic institutions is not that of the promotion of knowledge or science, but of a workable and acceptable ideology which eliminates, a priori, the theoretical possibility of deducing that the market contains any element which can endogenously call it into question. The fundamental premise of this ideology is equilibrium; the prior supposition that the market functions. In each and every school of economic thinking, including Marxism itself, the equilibrium variant of theory is selected by these institutions in a complex social process which promotes the respectable and acceptable over the accurate and critical.

In consequence, it is impossible to approach the task of promoting scientific development in economics, as if the profession of economics were itself organised as a science. We find ourselves in the same position, to draw an analogy, as atheists facing sixteenth-century catholicism.

Two alternatives are therefore ruled out. The first is the notion of reforming economics. One may not change the inherent nature of an institution that has the social function of promoting an ideology, and convert it into a scientific institution. Science did provoke internal reforms of catholicism, and did promote dissident and critical currents within it – most recently liberation theology – but it could never convert the church itself into its opposite. The second is the notion, which informed much Marxist research after the 1960s, of creating a complete alternative – what we might term the ‘protestant’ option. To oppose a dogma with a dogma, is merely to create a mirror reflection of what one opposes, and the result has been that Marxism in economics operates as a church within a church, complete with its cardinals, novitiates, graduate schools and selection procedures.

This leads to a conundrum. It might appear that there is no effective means of opposing the institution of economics, since to try and reform it from within leads to the re-imposition of its ideological function, while to create a complete alternative from without leads to the creation of an equally religious and ideological alternative.

This dilemma constantly asserts itself within the ranks of those who oppose official doctrine and even in the life-choices of those who dedicate themselves to this task. There is always a trend, in every oppositional movement in economics, that emphasises the task of integrating into, taking on, and changing, existing institutions and thinkers; and there is always a trend which recoils against this and emphasises separate organisation. These two trends, the integrationist and the separatist or, as Gramsci put it, the hegemonic and corporatist, co-exist in a permanent dialectic with each other.

The resolution of this conflict lies in a recognition that economics is not an institution separate from the world. The world itself intervenes in economics, which in the financial crisis of 1998 met its sharpest political defeat in a quarter-century: as Suzanne de Brunhoff has put it, the first political defeat of neoliberalism. The blame for this crisis cannot be put on the shoulders of any group or institution distinct from, our outside, the market itself. Economics cannot blame the Russians, the oil exporters, or the state, any longer; its attempts to inculpate South-East Asian governments are largely seen as pathetic and inadequate. It is the market itself that failed in 1998, and this cannot but provoke both internal fissures within economics, and, as a result of political disanchantment and material deprivation, actual social movements that are no longer mystified or dominated by economic ideology.

The success of any alternative or heterodox current will depend on two functions that have to be combined. In the first instance, it has to demonstrate to all critical social movements that they do not need to accept the official doctrine of economics in order to understand the world they live in. It has to demonstrate that there are different economic theories, different political explanations, which explain the world we live in better, and above all that they can attain this understanding without recourse to the so-called experts. In particular, it has to challenge the legitimacy of portraying as Marx’s view an entire body of theory which Marx never held, an activity which does more damage to Marx than his openly-declared opponents, accompanied as it is by an endless litany of proofs that Marx was wrong. It has to exhibit what is now openly known and proven, that these proofs are themselves in error, and demonstrate that Marx’s own writings, contrary to the official teaching of the Marxist economists, offer a viable alternative account of our world. This is not to elevate Marx to the status of a special source of truth but simply to provide critical social movements with access to what he actually said, instead of what his opponents claim on his behalf. In a nutshell, we have to get the experts off the backs of the people.

In the second instance, it has to intervene militantly in the crisis of economics itself. On behalf of any movement or current that questions official doctrine, whether it be debt-enslavement fundamentalism, structural adjustment suicide, or free-trade piracy, it has to call to account the theories of all doctrinaires, whether Nobel Prizewinners that cannot even keep their own companies afloat, or Marxists who refuse to read Marx, challenging above all their claim to scientificity by demonstrating two things: first of all their theoretical bankruptcy, and secondly their failure to consider the alternatives. This means that however far its feet are planted outside the halls of economics, the head and shoulders of any specifically theoretical movement must be firmly wedged in their doors; it needs constantly to demand their engagement, to demand responses from them, not because this will convert economics into a science, but because it will demonstrate to the public just how far it is from a science.

There is a second reason for such an engagement with the mainstream, both mainstream economics and mainstream Marxism.

No theoretical current attains perfection through contemplation. Good theory emerges from debate. Scientific practice does not consist in proceeding direct from observation to truth; it consists in rigorously examining and testing all alternative accounts. This applies every bit as much to radical and critical theory, and if anything, more. If, therefore, radical theory is incapable of engaging and proving itself superior to the mainstream, it will itself wither and die. It is the task of any radical current to revive the tradition which Marx termed the Critique of Political Economy. It is not enough to explain ‘reality’; mainstream economics is a part of the reality that we have to explain. Reality includes the ideas through which it imposes itself on the brains of the conscious, even when these ideas are themselves an inadequate or ideological representation of reality. Ideas are a part of the material world and we cannot understand the material world, unless we also understand the origin of these ideas.

We have to update Marx’s project of the systematic dissection of economic theory itself; to show not just what money and value are, but how these categories appear in the doctrines of the economists.

The critique of political economy: cornerstone of theoretical debate

For this reason we believe that the objectively necessary function of the IWGVT is in fact the critique of political economy. From this general orientation all its existing functions flow, and others besides:

  • Systematic attention to fundamental principle and fundamental theory and above all the category of value. Economics today operates almost without categories; to the extent that it possesses them, it refuses to criticise them but applies them blindly and without attention either to their internal contradictions or their evident empirical inadequacies. The success of neo-liberal economics as an ideology lies in the fact that its opponents accept, without question, the categories which it hands to them. They accept that when the economists speak of output, of inflation, of profit, of productivity, that there is no alternative way to conceive or measure what these magnitudes are or consist of. There are alternative ways of conceiving these magnitudes which are not only empirically more accurate, but theoretically superior: the ‘facts’ are otherwise than the way the economists present them. These alternatives must be made available to the general public.
  • An active insistence on the study of Marx’s work, and moreover, Marx’s work in its own right and not through the eyes and pens of his interpreters. This is so first and foremost because Marx’s critique of political economy is itself the most advanced work of this kind that the world knows. Many economists have undertaken ‘economics’; almost none, since Marx himself, have undertaken to explain where economics itself comes from.
  • A militant promotion of all work which throws light on Marx’s actual theory and its actual consequences. In particular, an insistence that genuine research into Marx’s economics – as opposed to ‘Marxist’ economics – must be subject to the empirical test of its ability to reproduce Marx’s own conclusions. In doing so a basic and deliberately-promulgated falsehood has to be challenged, namely, the notion that it is dogmatic or scholastic to investigate what Marx actually said. The true dogma is the idea that the economists can arrogate to themselves the right to decree without challenge what Marx’s ideas were. In insisting that Marx must speak for himself, we are not erecting Marx as a standard of truth; we are challenging the dogmatic claim that economics itself is the only source of truth.
  • A systematic engagement with, and critique of, all the fundamental issues which economics addresses. This includes not only those directly related to the theory of value such as the substance of value itself, the nature of abstract labour, the nature of money, the relation between price and value, the rate of profit and the determinants of crisis, the impact of technical change, the relation between stocks and flows of value, the quantification of value, and the dynamics of world capitalist development; it also includes those that arise out of all the debates going on in economics, as widely separated as the relation between paid and unpaid labour, the determinants of the prices of financial instruments, and the interaction between state and market.
  • A systematic promotion of investigations into the most fundamental, and unexplained features of actual world development, not least the stunning chasm between rich and poor nations, the regular repetition of crisis, and the worldwide growth of poverty; but with a specific objective, to make available the theoretical instruments that are adequate to understand these phenomena such as unequal exchange, surplus profit, value as such, rent, and exploitation. Above all it has to be insisted that the empirical failure of economics to account for these phenomena is not just a result of ‘incomplete models’ but of a completely inadequate set of theoretical categories, itself a consequences of the systematic suppression and wilful ignorance of Marx’s own work.

A balance sheet

A number of outcomes of the way that we organised this conference need to be registered as successful and a number that require us to introduce new elements into what we do.

The deadline and call process

First, it was in our view enormously successful to introduce the two requirements of an early deadline (November 1st) and a request for complete papers. This meant, with some exceptions that I’ll mention, that first off it was possible to undertake a review process and, second, there was much more time for the contributions to conference to be read and assessed.

Second, however, we were set back by the way we introduced the idea of proposals for complete sessions. In practice, we’ve found, no-one organises complete sessions except the organisers. We then found that authors who would otherwise have submitted papers on time, submitted them late because they were waiting on us to organise the sessions. In turn, we then inevitably found, it was hard to get these papers through the review process quickly and, inevitably also perhaps, disputes arose.

In consequence though the vast bulk of papers were in on time we (I in particular) found ourselves again bogged down in a morass of last-minute correspondence that seriously impacted the organisation of the discussion itself.

For the next conference we think we should bite the bullet and establish a final deadline, for complete papers, that is implemented; we suggest November 1st.

There is a case for a procedure to set up panels but it should be much more tightly controlled. My proposal is a deadline for panel proposals of August 1st with the following proviso: the call should clearly state that in the event the papers for a panel are not received by the due deadline, the panel proposal is null and void.

The discussion process

Such a early deadline, if we implement it, should allow us to incorporate into the conference a proper process of discussion and engagement. We originally required all participants to serve as discussants. Because of the late arrival of the papers mentioned above, we were not able to organise the discussants in time to meet this goal. Next time, we should; moreover this should be clearly incorporated into the call. This is easily done; in parallel with the review process we should ask participants to identify the papers for which they are willing to serve as discussants. Of course, in cases where papers directly engage each other, this would be overridden.

A second point concerns external discussants; discussants that are not participants. It is a very welcome development that this has begun to happen and we should encourage it. It means for example that people who are unable to meet the November 1st deadline for their own papers can nevertheless participate in the discussion, on a basis that seems to me a good one; by engaging with contributions already made. We should go out of our way to solicit external discussants next time around.

The most important difficulty, however, is that a November 1st deadline will tend to interfere with an important creative function of a conference, namely that it can incorporate and give a platform to material that is still in the process of being worked up.

This is almost inevitable; it has the character of a mechanical constraint. With the administrative resources at our disposal, we can’t do anything else if we are to both review the papers and circulate them in time.

However I do think it should be possible to arrange complete sessions. My view is that the mechanism for this should be placed entirely in the hands of the IWGVT committee, with an early deadline for completion, say June; if by June a proposed complete session has not materialised, all potential participants should be informed of this so no confusion arise.

Proposal for a new discussion list

For that reason I want to propose a different mechanism for developing the IWGVT discussion that could potentially very seriously develop its role, particularly in relation to people that need an input, but can’t always attend. This mechanism would be to open up a discussion list as a sublist of econ-value. The list is in fact in place, though no-one is on it, and if this proposal is agreed, the membership of econ-value could be invited to join and the discussion could commence forthwith.

This list could then be a forum where, first, participants can exchange views about previously-presented papers and, second, non-participants can join in. It would also be a forum, however, where material in progress can be presented, and worked up, all the year around.

To some extent we have already begun, in skeleton form, the incorporation of ‘guest’ contributions by opening the guest section on the website. This could also continue with opening of the website to contributions regardless of whether they are intended for conference.

The review process

This was the first year we introduced a review process. Its purpose is thoroughly described in the call for papers at the end of this report and the scholarship guidelines are also printed there.

Tremendous thanks are due to the conference committee who processed some 35 papers in under four weeks. The process was in my opinion very successful and several participants specifically thanked us for the input.

In two cases authors disagreed with the reviewers’ proposed changes, and this highlights the fact that we must open a discussion with participants about the review process; the process is novel and needs discussion. A second weakness it highlights is that we don’t have an appeal procedure. This is essential and should be formally instituted. Proposals are included in the draft call for papers.


For some years now, the idea of launching a new journal has been under discussion among IWGVT members. The dilemma is twofold. First, a journal requires a considerable commitment in time and effort. The conference is already a strain. But second, and I increasingly feel this is an important issue, it distracts from what I feel is a vital part of what the IWGVT has to do, namely, it has to fight with the official journals for the right of excluded material to be included in them.

This applies not only to explicitly TSS material but also, and specifically, to material from outside the USA or the ‘Northern countries’. A growing and important role of the IWGVT is that it provides a focus and a forum for participants from Latin America and at times South-East Asia; there is good reason to think this could extend to the Middle East, and it would be an important objective to reach other non-Northern countries.

Economics is a pyramid, organised downwards from the US. The further one gets from Chicago, the harder it is to publish. One of our functions is to battle against this. To a degree one of our objectives can and should be to establish the legitimacy of material that is normally suppressed or passed over in the official journals. By providing a forum for its discussion and circulation we have taken the first step; A further step would be to encourage IWGVT members actively to put themselves forward as referees, editorial consultants, and so on, and to increasingly argue that the IWGVT review process provides guarantees of scholarly quality that the official journals should not ignore.

A journal of our own militates against this; it leads in a separatist direction that would detract from the function of battling against the suppressive function of the existing institutions. I am inclined at present against this option.

What we can, and should do, however, is enthusiastically encourage book and monograph production. We should endorse and support Ashgate’s very welcome and open approach to seek heterodox authors and recognise that there are other publishing houses now that increasingly seek to publish heterodox material (Elgar, Routledge, etc)

The IWGT, as well as finally producing its 1996 proceedings, should try to assemble collections of material from its archives to publish in book or monograph form.

Relations with other heterodox currents

The remaining issue to address is the relation of the IWGVT to the broader debate going on in both Marxist and non-Marxist circles, opened up by the crisis of economics.

This is one of the thorniest difficulties for the IWGVT. The fundamental problem is that the currents which we believe should be engaging the ideas that are coming up through the IWGVT, do not play by pluralistic rules. The perpetual tendency in economics, which itself is an effective mechanism of suppression, is for each current to discuss in its own ranks and abstain from debate with others.

The IWGVT has to intervene actively to overcome this fragmentation, precisely because it is a mechanism of suppression. It is not an acceptable response, to meet a request for debate and engagement between alternative views, with the argument that each view has an adequate place for discussion in its own ranks and an adequate forum for publication in its own journals. This is the model of competitive liberal capitalism, not scientific debate. Economic discussion is not a marketplace. Rival theories should not compete; they should engage. The institution of economics operates a Gresham’s law of selection that promotes the respectable and acceptable, precisely because this model of theoretical discussion is considered the norm.

The difficulty is a simple one: no-one can force someone to have a debate, who does not want to have a debate. The IWGVT is no different.

Nevertheless, the field of this changes, with the tendency, evident this year, for heterodox and Marxist authors to see the EEA as a place for debate. This is a change. There are seven or eight sessions at the EEA this year of direct relevance to IWGVT concerns, in some cases clashing with IWGVT sessions where a more collaborative approach could have led to a better structured debate.

My proposal is that the IWGVT should be willing, and should actively seek, collaborative or jointly-sponsored panels as well as its own. It already has such a relation, at least formally, with URPE. The basis for a collaborative panel would be that

  • deadlines and any review procedure would be agreed jointly, that is, the IWGVT can’t impose its own procedures on a collaboration.
  • distribution of papers would be the responsibility of the authors
  • We would seek formal procedures that guarantee pluralism; that is, panels should seek to represent and include all currents with a view on topics under discussion.

Alan Freeman

Andrew Kliman

And instructions for submission

Year 2000 Value Theory Mini-Conference

(This call is provisional and will be finalised immediately after the conference)

We invite you to the seventh “New Directions in Value/Price Theory” mini-conference, organized by the International Working Group on Value Theory (IWGVT), to be held as part of the Eastern Economic Association (EEA) conference. Papers relating to the IWGVT’s areas of interest are welcome and proposals for complete panels will be considered. A summary of our aims and history, our scholarship guidelines, and full instructions on paper submissions, is attached.

To encourage direct engagement between theoretical perspectives and in-depth examination of existing controversies, at the 2000 conference a number of innovations adopted at the 1999 conference will be maintained and extended:

Panelists will present completed papers only (except at roundtables), which will be circulated to panelists well before the conference to allow for comment and engagement.

To foster pluralistic and critical dialogue, papers will conform to IWGVT scholarship guidelines

  • A 15-minute norm for presentations will allow for more dialogue
  • Discussants will deliver prepared comments on papers in selected sessions
  • A reception will facilitate informal discussion and socializing

Proposals for complete sessions should be made by August 1st 1999. Abstracts of individual papers are welcome from May 1st onwards and we will respond with provisional indication of acceptance or rejection. However final acceptance is conditional on provision of a completed paper for which the deadline is November 1st. Acceptance of complete sessions is conditional on all papers being presented by this deadline. The final list of sessions will also depend on receipts of completed papers.

To contact us

For further information e-mail us at value.theory@greenwich.ac.uk , also the address for papers and proposals.  Our website also contains information and past papers and is at www.greenwich.ac.uk/~fa03/iwgvt.

What is the IWGVT?

The IWGVT aims to promote pluralistic debate on concepts of value, seeking particularly—but not exclusively—to deepen the discussion of value concepts appropriate to dynamic analysis, and to end the unacceptable exclusion of the value theory of Karl Marx from existing debates.

The principal justification which economics offers for excluding its foremost critic is the proposition that, whatever the merits of his contribution on individual issues, his concept of value is invalid because it leads to internal inconsistencies. A growing body of independent research shows that this argument is no longer sustainable. We conclude that the discussion on value should re-open without the presupposition of any established standard, tradition or source of authority regarding either value or Marx.

The IWGVT defends no particular theory of value beyond arguing that the concept itself is indispensable. It does believe it is possible to assess the merits of contesting theories in debate. It seeks to create an atmosphere for this debate—which does not at present exist—such that all value theories, and all readings of value theorists, may discuss on an equal footing, referring in their support neither to the evidence of authority nor the conviction of doctrine but to reasoned and logical discussion based on textual evidence for readings and factual evidence for theories.

Six successive mini-conferences have provided a widespread, gratifying and international response to our initial appeal. The number of panels and panelists has grown steadily, as has participation from those outside the United States.

The IWGVT is beginning to be recognized as a forum for all those interested in the discussion of value, irrespective of theoretical orientation.

Instructions and deadlines

Proposals for papers or sessions are welcome at any time and we can give a provisional indication of acceptance or rejection if you need this to know whether to set aside the time to work on your paper, or if I is required to apply for finance. However final acceptance, given the way the conference is organised, must depend on further criteria spelled out below. The deadlines will have to be imposed strictly; our experience of the last conference is that once ‘slippage’ is accepted, it becomes impossible to comply with our primary undertaking to pre-circulate contributions.

Proposals for complete sessions: August 1st 1999

Deadline for papers and accompanying material: November 1, 1999
Notification of acceptance or requested revision: by December 1, 1999
Deadline for revised papers: January 1st, 2000
Assignment of discussants: by January 30th, 2000

Papers must be complete when submitted but may consists of drafts or work in progress. Authors are welcome to submit papers in their mother tongue. We have set an early deadline in order to allow participants to study others’ work in detail prior to the conference, and thereby permit a deeper level of engagement and dialogue. Completed papers need not be long papers, and, again, we strongly encourage papers which revisit contributions made at past mini-conferences or at other conferences.

The following must accompany the paper:

  • an abstract of 100 to 300 words;
  • paper title, name(s) and affiliation(s) as you want them to appear in the EEA conference program;
  • contact information—address, phone, fax, and e-mail;
  • mandatory submission fee (more information below);
  • any times at which you will be unable to present or serve as discussant.

Please note that, by submitting a paper, one thereby also agrees to act as a discussant. Serious, engaged discussion requires serious, well-prepared discussants. If you wish others to discuss your work, you must be willing to discuss theirs. Expertise in a particular area is one criterion we will use to assign discussants. Others are engagement, balance, and availability. Discussants should prepare to speak for five minutes. We will try to ensure that discussants comment on only one or two papers.

Where and how to send papers

Papers should be sent electronically to value.theory@greenwich.ac.uk

It is not our practice to reject submissions. However, papers must conform to the IWGVT Scholarship Guidelines, included below. These guidelines are not intended as a selection procedure but as a guarantee of the IWGVT’s pluralism. We ask that you study them carefully and use them as a guide when writing your paper. During November, the Mini-Conference Committee will review submissions. Those which conform to the guidelines will be accepted. In other cases, the Committee will request revisions. Revised papers received by January 1st  2000 will be accepted if they conform to the Scholarship guidelines. (In the event that revised papers are not accepted, submission fees will be refunded).

In cases where an author wishes to appeal against a requested mandatory change, the paper and reviewers’ comments will be circulated to the whole committee. To invoke this procedure, the organisers should be notified of the appeal request by January 1st so that the review procedure can be completed in time.

Submission fees

The IWGVT is run on a voluntary basis and its costs greatly exceed its income. Please note that, due to our limited financial resources, we now require that a submission fee accompany the submission of your paper. The submission fee is $20 and should be denominated in dollars and sent to Andrew Kliman. Larger sums will not, of course, be turned down. Please include the form attached below with your check.

This submission fee is separate from the registration fee. The registration fee is payable to the EEA, not to us. The EEA will bill you after it receives the IWGVT’s tentative program. Registration fees for the 1999 conference were $45 for EEA members, $95 for non-members, and we expect them to be about the same for the 2000 conference.

Wordprocessor formats

Papers should be formatted using Word, Word Perfect or RTF(rich text format). Exceptionally we will accept papers in other formats but cannot guarantee accurate reproduction. In particular, we cannot accept papers in either PostScript or Adobe PDF format because we need to reformat papers to a consistent standard for easier circulation. This is also easier if certain technical standards are adhered to, particularly in relation to style sheets and graphics. We hope to place a template on the web-site.

In exceptional cases where participants have no access to electronic mail, papers may be sent with an accompanying floppy disc to:

IWGVT conference
C/o Alan Freeman, School of Social Science
University of Greenwich
Avery Hill Road
London SE9 2HB

Distribution of Materials and Conference Information

An electronic list has been established to distribute information concerning the IWGVT and its conference activities, which serves also to distribute some of the materials by e-mail, on request. The volume of material is not large.

To join, send a message containing the words

join econ-value Your Name

to mailbase@mailbase.ac.uk (the words “Your Name” should be replaced by your actual name).

Materials from past EEA mini-conferences may be viewed on www.greenwich.ac.uk/~fa03/iwgvt . As the preparation of the conference advances we hope to keep this periodically updated.


To conduct discussions outside of conference periods, the IWGVT has established a new discussion list, which is a sublist of the econ-value list. To join, send a message with the words

join econ-value-discussion Your Name

to mailbase@mailbase.ac.uk

IWGVT Scholarship Guidelines


We are convinced that the de facto function of mainstream selection procedures is to exclude. Mainstream selection criteria are subjective and therefore discriminate against theories and arguments which the reviewers and editors hold in disfavor. Conversely, the following guidelines put forth some objective criteria to which, as we have learned and as we teach, good scholarship should conform.

It is common in academic discourse for proponents of one perspective to exclude, ignore, and deny legitimacy to opposing perspectives. Against this, the aim of the guidelines is to achieve a style of debate in which different perspectives engage with one another. We seek to foster a dialogue which is pluralist, because no interpretation of a theory, and no presentation of the facts, will be ruled out a priori, but also critical, because proponents of various perspectives will need to confront the alternatives.

Inform Readers of the Alternatives

An argument is not well-grounded unless the extant alternatives have been addressed. This means that all points of view are legitimate until proved otherwise. Engage and cite the views of others involved in debating the issues you are addressing, and treat them as equals acting in good faith. If you want other people to attend to what you are saying, then attend to what they are saying.

Don’t Deny Legitimacy to Alternative Views

The aim of debate is clarity, not demolition. Avoid turns of phrase such as ‘absurd’, ‘ridiculous’, or ‘impossible’ to deny the legitimacy of opposing views, or phrases like ‘as is widely known’ or ‘of course’ to prove your own views are undeniable.

Identify the conceptual basis of “facts”

Economic data are not undisputed facts of nature but the result of a theoretical interpretation which should be explicit. ‘The real output of the UK economy in 1994 was £570,722m’ is a false claim. ‘Output as measured by the UK NIPAs, deflated using the HMSO GDP deflator, was £570,722m’ specifies the conceptual framework that produced the claim, and lets the reader trace the assertion back to its source.

Distinguish Original Texts from Subsequent Interpretations

You must distinguish clearly between an original text and subsequent interpretation. John Maynard Keynes did not say that equilibrium in the goods and money markets is given by the intersection of the IS and LM curves. This is Hicks’ interpretation of Keynes. Karl Marx did not say that value is a vertically-integrated labour coefficient: this is the interpretation of Marx proposed by Linear Production Theory.

Argue from Evidence

Both statements about the world and interpretations of texts must be supported by empirical evidence, from the world or from the text, respectively. Appeals either to authority or to popular wisdom do not constitute evidence. Avoid Ad Hominem reasoning: don’t try to substantiate or refute an argument by reference to any characteristic of the person presenting it.

Distinguish Between Internal Inconsistency, Interpretive Difficulties, and Disagreement

If you justify your approach by asserting that opposing views are inconsistent, you are declaring they cannot possibly be right and you hence exclude them from discussion. If you have only demonstrated the inconsistency of your own reading of these views, then your proof is false because you have not exhausted the alternatives; but you have closed down the dialogue. If you want to say a view is inconsistent, provide evidence that it cannot be interpreted otherwise. Unless you can do this, instead say that you have difficulty making sense of the argument, or that you disagree with it, as the case may be.

Characterize Schools of Thought in the Preferred Manner

Do not use a characterisation for the purpose of dismissal. In debate, refer to other schools of thought by the name they prefer (for example, ‘surplus approach’ in preference to ‘neoricardian’) unless you are including them in a wider grouping with no recognised name. In the latter case, try to provide an accurate, descriptive term.