[OPE-L:4292] Re: Steve on the worthlessness of labor as the source of surplus value

From: Rakesh Narpat Bhandari (rakeshb@Stanford.EDU)
Date: Thu Oct 26 2000 - 01:44:44 EDT

Re Alejandro's 4286:

>His arguments are essentially *historical* and thus derived from
>*observation*. Marx is not a Platonic thinker (as Walras, and contemporary
>economists are) but rather a kind of Aristotelian, concerned with the
>understanding of the "laws of motion" of real things.

Colletti argues for a comparison of Marx's critique of Hegel with 
Aristotle's of Plato. An aside:  Marx refers to the value substance 
as pupating in exchange which as I suggested to Andrew has been 
interpreted by many Marxists simply as the medium in which the value 
substance is conserved. So the question I have tried to raise is 
Marx's interest in the metaphors of developmental biology and natural 
metamorphoses of which Aristotle's conceptualisations dominated late 
into the modern period. The inspiration from biology should not only 
be in terms of population genetic models like Lotka Volterra which 
after all is a part of biology which resembles physics.

>Hence, the issue is that, given the features of this society ("private
>exchange"), the socially prevailing form of book-keeping is not worked out
>in terms of the real, observable expenditures of human labor power but in,
>at first sight, strange, weird, categories such as "prices" and "values",
>measured in something which everybody name as "money". In this society,
>individuals really think and *talk* about the things as if they have a
>seemingly *natural* and intrisic feature called, in general terms, "value",
>and they actually use "money" to measure this. Here, things are "valuable",
>individuals say. This is by no means a transhistorical feature, but
>something that appears in this specific human productive organism. In
>addition to this, it's easily verifiable that these "value/money" figures
>are the socially accepted and general way for accounting the things society
>produces and/or consumes in order to survive. There are no other figures
>socially available for this.

An excellent reading of Marx as, to draw again from Mattick Jr, the 
author of perhaps the best thick description ever written of 
bourgeois society.

>  Marx gives us a theory about what is behind this socially
>spread category, about what is the meaning of this *measuring practice* in
>which, regarding the  material reproduction, everybody is in fact involved.

Yes. Marx's analysis of the 3 peculiarities of the value form is just 
this:  an acute, brilliantly ironic analysis of the bizareness of the 
way we go about measuring and allocating our social labor time. It 
has to be understood as you suggest in the context of anthropological 
comparison. Not all societies have had such wierd practices.

>So, Marx "as an economist" is not pair of people such Walras and the like,
>who are model builders, concerned with ideal, *imaginary* theoretical
>entities whose properties have to be tested only logically or
>mathematically. Problems concerning such people are e.g.: The theoretical
>entity which, in my notation, I call "market", is it in equilibrium? Is
>this equilibrium stable? Or: Can I produce a model of capitalism with one
>premise less than other models presented by morally depreciated
>researchers? Or: The theoretical self-reproducing entity which in my
>notation I call "capitalism" (but, changing notation, can be a beehive), is
>it viable if its physical surplus product = 0? etc.

But of course this wierd discourse is also part and parcel of the 
critical anthropologist's investigation of the workings of this 
strange society.

Comradely, Rakesh

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