[OPE-L:2747] Hegelian syllogism

From: Alejandro Ramos (aramos@btl.net)
Date: Thu Apr 06 2000 - 11:58:59 EDT

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thanks for your stimulating questions.

>(i) according to you, when time enters as an essential category in Capital?
>I would argue that this does not happen in the first chapters. Is it not
>the beginning of Capital an analysis of a 'point in time' (what we can
>argue looking at the final exchange on the commodity market)? Of course the
>commodities exchanged are commodities produced, but this is not the focus
>of the analysis when Marx analyses the dialectics of commodity and money

In my understanding of Capital, "time" enters in scene from the very

Firstly, it's put as a general condition, or perhaps "background", of the
whole analysis. In the Preface to the 1st edition Marx says that the
"ultimate aim of this work is to reveal the economic law of motion of the
modern society" (Penguin, I, p. 92). I think it's difficult to think of a
"law of motion" out of time. At the end of the same Preface, he says that
"within the ruling classes themselves, the foreboding is emerging that *the
present society is no solid crystal [nice methaphor!], but an organism
capable of change, and constantly engages in a process of change." (p. 93,
my emphasis). So, Marx's general vision of capitalism is not that of a
"solid crystal" but a "changing organism". This general approach is very
different e.g. to general equilibrium in which it's attemped a description
of society as a "solid crystal", and in which "time enters later", in
general without relevant consequences. I would say that this "organism
capable of change" is necessarily "embedded in time" and this makes an
important methodological difference regarding the solid-crystal approaches.
As this is a point emphasized by the author from the very beginning, I
think we should be careful in tracing down its real consequences along the
whole work: the purpose of the work is to understand "the law of motion",
the *processes of change* in capitalism.

Secondly, right on p. 1 of Ch. 1, when Marx is explaining what is a
use-value, he says that the "discovery of [the ways in which the things are
useful] and hence of the manifold uses of things is the work of history."
(p. 125). So, this suggests a conception of use value as a historical
--then time marked-- aspect of the commodity. IMO, this should discourage
approaches in which use value becomes a metaphysical, ahistorical,
atemporal thing, always equal to itself, as our old friend "corn" and its

Thirdly, when Marx steps into the concept of exchange value he writes:
"Exchange value appear first of all as the quantitative relation, the
proportion in which use-values of one kind exchange for use-values of
another kind. *This relation changes constantly with time and place*." (p.
126, my emphasis) So, when Marx is analysing exchange value, he seems to
be have in mind a *process* in which there are real changes continuously.
In his analysis, exchange value undergoes a constant *change* in *time* and
*place*. It's on the basis of this "dynamic" setting that the "derivation
of value" is done, not a supposely "tranquil", identically self-reproducing
world, nicely describe by a set of simultaneous equations.

Fourthly, and perhaps more central, when Marx analysis the *magnitude of
value*, he says that this magnitude is measured "by means of the quantity
of the value forming substance, the labour, contained in the article. This
quantity is measured by its *duration*, and the labour-time is itself
measured on the particular scale of hours, days, etc." (p. 129, my
emphasis). Here we are before one of the most important categories of what
perhaps you call the "dialectic of commodity" and we see that the very
nature of this category is the "duration" and its scale is "hours", "days",
etc., i.e. "time". In other words, I'd say that when developing a central
category of the commodity analysis, Marx "assumes" the existence of
temporal processes, both, the exchange and the production process, These
are processes which necessarily spans over time, having starting and ending
points. Moreover, what *determines* the magnitude of value is a process
developed in time. And, in the most general terms, it's also a process
which involves continuous *changes* in both, use-values and exchange
values. So, by using your own words, I'd say that Marx "focus" on time when
analysing the magnitude of value and this is right Chapter 1. How could we
say here that time is not an "essential category", and think that it enters
"later", after Ch. 3?

Fifthly, regarding Chapter 2, it's called "The *process* of exchange". I
find difficult to imagine an atemporal process.

Sixthly, on Chapter 3, we meet the famous "C-M-C" (p. 200-9) which is
described by Marx as a succession of temporal processes, made up from 2
"metamorphoses". We have also the famous (Italian!!) "salto mortale" of the
commodity. Again, it's difficult for me to think of a "metamorphosis" or a
"salto mortale" as atemporal concepts. A "metamorphosis" is the *change* of
one thing that becomes another, a change which evidently takes time.

>(ii) according to you, if we assume that the prices of the output are the
>same as the prices of the input, this cancels the processual nature of the
>cycle of capital? And if so, why? I would say that time i essential even if
>there are no 'dated' magnitudes in the models we construct from Marx. E.g.:
>circuit models very often have no time subscripts, but they are surely 'in
>time', talking about a succession of phases within a given period: this
>would remain even if the prices of the input are evaluated as equal to the
>prices of the output.

I have no problem in *assuming* that input prices = output prices but now I
consider that results we can obtain from this are quite poor. The point in
"introducing time" or, better, in taking what is a general condition of the
analysis explicitly into account, is not to describe an economy which is
eternally equal to itself through time. I think Marx's methodological point
in the Preface is that the scientific task consists in discovering the
"motion" or the "change" in a given phenomenon. We can attach a clock to a
"solid crystal" and confirm for our satisfaction that it's equal to itself

From t = alfa to t = omega. But this would be only a "formal" way of
"introducing time", in which the substance of the matter, i.e. *change*, is

I certainly disagree with methodological procedures, quite usual in Maxian
Economics, in which it's attempted to derive general conclusions on the
basis of very poor and restricted assumptions like input prices = output
prices. For example, Steedman's famous "redundancy" of value derives only
of such an assumption or, more generally, of his representation of
capitalism as a "solid crystal", probably with a Swiss clock attached to it!

>(iii) have you read Hicks on time and economics? Don't you think it may be
>relevant for the topic under discussion?

Let's say that I've "browsed" "Capital and Time". Sure, it'd be relevant
for this topic. I browsed it when I was trying to make a research project
on the "Austrian" readings of Marx, in particular the work of Weizsaecker
and Wolfstetter, incredible interesting authors. Unfortunately, this takes
time... and perhaps good friends who also want to take part in such

I see you don't have so much time but, in any case, I'd appreaciate any



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