[OPE-L:3367] Re: Reply to first part of Gil in [3365]

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Date: Sun May 28 2000 - 16:42:12 EDT

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Paul Z. writes:

>Gil, doesn't Marx's statement
> "the formation of capital must be possible even though the price and
>value of a commodity be the same, for it cannot be explained by referring
>to any divergence between price and value"
>precisely close for him your "question of whether price-value disparities
>might be a *necessary* condition for the existence of surplus value".

Strictly speaking, the second clause of Marx's statement says that
price-value divergence is not a *sufficient* condition for the existence of
surplus value. It doesn't say anything one way or another about the
possibility that price-value divergence is a *necessary* condition for
surplus value, and thus can't really provide logical support for the former
clause. Illustration with a logically parallel claim: replace the latter
clause with "it [the evolution of human life]
cannot be explained by the existence of oxygen in the earth's atmosphere."
That claim is obviously true: just knowing the oxygen content of the
earth's atmosphere can't explain the evolution of human life, and indeed
one could imagine a process of natural selection that doesn't culminate in
homo sapiens (a collision with a comet that wipes out human ancestors but
not bugs, for example) despite the continued existence of oxygen in the
atmosphere. But now try adding the parallel first clause and see if the
sentence makes any sense: "the evolution of human life must be possible
even though there exists no oxygen in the earth's atmosphere, since it
cannot be explained by the existence of oxygen in the atmosphere." Doesn't

Or perhaps a better example, let's take two conditions whose relation we
don't know about one way or the other; what would we know as a result of a
statement parallel to Marx's? Say: "A must be possible even though not B,
because B does not ensure (or imply, or account for) A". Suppose A and B
are geographical locations. The latter clause says that B does not reside
strictly within A's boundaries. But it leaves us entirely in the dark
about the possibility that A resides strictly within B's boundaries.
Therefore the second clause can't provide a valid basis for the first
clause, since it *could* be that not having B precludes having A, contrary
to the first clause's assertion.

>In other words, he wants to establish the formation of capital WITHOUT
>price/value divergence; he refuses to permit price/value divergence to
>establish the formation of value.

I agree with both statements here: establishing the formation of capital
without price/value divergence is clearly what Marx *wants* to do, and just
as clearly he refuses to permit price/value divergence to establish the
*formation* of value. I would add that he embodied this refusal in his
*definition* of surplus value as "valorization" of value rather than mere
redistribution of existing value. But Marx insists at the end of Ch. 5
that this is much more than just a matter of what he "wants" to do; he
asserts that the arguments in the chapter *imply* that the formation of
capital must be explained without price/value divergence. But that doesn't
follow, precisely because the argument in question concerns only sufficient
conditions, not necessary conditions. Thus, with respect to your latter
point, even though it's true by definition that price/value divergence
can't account for value *formation* (the condition I've labelled VC),
Marx's argument tells us nothing one way or the other about the connection
between price/value divergence and capitalist *appropriation* of a portion
of the newly formed value (condition VA). So Marx's argument is incomplete
relative to his own explicitly stated grounds.

> If so, I don't understand that you have
>proven the "invalidity of this part of Marx's argument"; you rather seem
>to have changed the question.

Does it still seem that way?


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