ABSTRACT

Marx’s critique of Ricardo’s On the Principles o f Political Economy and Taxation (3rd edition, 1821)1 is an especially controversial subject about which much has been written in the history of political economy. Several different positions on the degree and nature of the critical-intellectual filiation between Marx and Ricardo are evident in the literature. Some writers have been most concerned to dissociate Ricardo from Marx’s revela­ tions about the conflict-and crisis-ridden nature of capitalism. 2 Others have been concerned to dissociate Marx from Ricardo’s bourgeois political economy by arguing that his critique represents a distinct rupture in the evolutionary progress of the history of political economy. In the work of this group, Marx becomes an ‘aRicardian’ whose critique of political economy and capitalism is independent of any intellectual filiations with Ricardo or anybody else. 3

At the other extreme, some historians of political economy have claimed that Marx’s Ricardian heritage is beyond doubt. 4 For this group, Ricardo and Marx are situated in a direct line of Classical evolution in political economy that runs at least from the Physiocrats and Adam Smith in the eighteenth century to the work of Piero Sraffa (and in ‘dynamics’ especially, to Michal Kalecki, Wassily Leontief and Adolph Lowe) in more recent years. 5 It will be one of my objectives in the present study to provide the detailed textual-exegetical evidence required for a proper assess-

ment of Marx’s situation in this Classical-Ricardian heritage. In the case of at least one historian of political economy,

though, Alfred Marshall’s claim to lineage with Ricardo has been restaked and even extended to involve an implicit link with the general equilibrium world attributed to Leon Walras. And the Ricardo-Marx filiation has been preserved by a simultaneous endeavour to situate Marx in this world, too. 6 This view has met with much opposition despite the erudition of its presentation. 7

With respect to the nature and status of Marx’s critique of the Principles, few detailed studies have been undertaken. The main two that have been published take a strongly critical stance against Marx’s position. 8 It will be one of my objectives, also, to attempt a more empathetic and relativistic interpretation of the critique than those available at present. It is my view that Marx’s critique of the Principles can be comprehended only by recog­ nising two dimensions of its situation: first, within the confines of the analytical preconceptions and standards of the era; and secondly, within the evolving methodology, premises and sub­ stance of Marx’s total critique of capitalism. Given this delimiting situation, my objective is to explicate the actual bases on which Marx drew his critical conclusions about Ricardo’s work.