[OPE-L:4318] Re: Steve on the worthlessness of labor as the source of surplus value

From: Steve Keen (s.keen@uws.edu.au)
Date: Fri Oct 27 2000 - 20:27:59 EDT

My use of "but" was erroneous, as I make clear I hope in a subsequent post
where I describe Marx's method as logico-historical.

I used the translation in Terry Carver's "Marx on method".

I can't comment on the finer nuances of German, since I can't read it.
However, I argue that I find the same logic in Capital, which was edited in
English by Marx--so I don't think translation problems are the source of my

At 09:21 PM 10/26/2000 -0600, you wrote:
>Re Steve 4289:
>>I take the point that you're more developing your ideas than engaging in
>>debate. And I agree that Marx was a historical thinker. But I argue he was
>>also a thinker who tried to put his historical thinking into a logical
>I don't see why you write "but" here. Having a historical subject of
>inquire doesn't imply at all that you don't use "logic"! Marx was not an
>"illogical" or "a-logical" writer, say a Surrealist poet. I have never read
>a passage by him as, for example: "Since commodity is the elementary form
>of wealth in capitalism, credit system reached its classical form in Rome
>at the epoch of Nero; world market, on the contrary, was developed only by
>Maya traders in VI century AD."
>Being an Aristotelian (the way I like to see him right now), Marx does *use
>logic*, but his logic is, as Aristotle's, literally a *tool* serving
>research, i.e. a "servant of Science", it's not an autonomous development
>of the mind, as it seems, has turned out in Economics today.
>It might happen that his relation with Hegel was precisely this: he was
>attemping to get logic back to his function of "mere" *tool* which perhaps
>had being lost in Hegel's hands. (Chris Arthur... Andrew Kliman, help...
>--rather than doing the reverse, which you rightly observe is the
>>way Walras et al behave.
>Glad you agree with this.
>>So, given those points of agreement and one qualification, how would you
>>interpret the following statements by Marx?:
>>"On the other hand, the obscurantist has overlooked that my analysis of the
>>commodity does not stop at the dual mode in which the commodity is
>>presented, [but] presses forward [so] that in the dual nature of the
>>commodity there is presented the twofold *character* of *labour*, whose
>>product it is: *useful* labour, i.e., the concrete modes of labour, which
>>create use values, and abstract *labour, labour as the expenditure of
>>labour-power*,... that *surplus value* itself is derived from a `specific'
>>*use-value of labour-power* which belongs to it exclusively etc etc., that
>>hence with me use value plays an important role completely different than
>>[it did]] in previous [political] economy" (comment on Wagner)
>>Does not the statement "that *surplus value* itself is derived from a
>>`specific' *use-value of labour-power*" imply that Marx was using a form of
>>logic--as well as a historical argument--to assert that labour is the
>>source of surplus value?
>All depends on how do you interpret "derive from" here. You take it from
>the quotation and put in your question. The original reads [only the part
>after the ...]:
>"... daB der Mehrwert selbst abgeleitet wird aus einen 'spezifischen' und
>ihr exklusiv zukommenden *Gebruschwert der Arbeitskraft* etc. etc.,..."
>The verb in question is then "ableiten (aus)". According to my
>German-English dictionary this word is used in two fields relevant here:
>Mathematics and Philology. In principle, it may be rendered as "derived
>from" or "deduced from". Note, however, that "Ableitung" is the word for
>"Etymology"; in Mathematics it's "derivation":, "differential",
>"deduction". So, one may read this as saying either
>a) "surplus value is *deduced from* a use value which is specific and
>belongs exclusively to labor power" -- meaning this a mathematical or
>logical deduction as e.g. 
>"From the fact that a = x/y and a+b = c it's *deduced* that c = (x+by)/y" 
>b) "surplus value *has its origin* in a use value which is specific and
>belongs exclusively to labor power" -- so, "derived from" has here the
>meaning "originate from" as for example the Spanish word "viril" *has its
>origin* in the Latin word "vir" (man). This is the "etymological" meaning.
>Translation a) refers to a formal logical deduction and I think it's the
>meaning you favor. The other translation refers to the description of a
>real process in which one thing is originated from another over a period of
>time --a process.
>I, of course, favor the second meaning because Marx is writing about this
>kind of "derivation", i.e. referring, as always, to a real, palpable,
>sensuous, process. Here, the specific meaning is that the real process of
>consumption of that use value belongin only to labor power *originates*
>surplus value; surplus value has its origin in the consumption of the
>labor-power's use value. I haven't checked it out but it seems to me that
>this is in line with Marx's presentation in Vol. I.
>Had the translator be aware of the use (I shoud say *abuse*) or the word
>"derivation" by economists who feel themselves mathematicians, s/he would
>have given a look to the part of Vol. I where Marx explains this process of
>"derivation" of surplus value and certainly had discovered that Marx is not
>"demonstrating more geometrico", but referring to a real process.
>What is the translation you're citing? I think there are 2 English
>translations of "Notes". I'd wish to check the Spanish translation but all
>this stuff is still evacuated for the hurricane season.
>BTW, the "obscurantist" at the beginning of your quotations is "vir
>obscurus" in Latin which probably means simply "dark man".
>>Then there are also his commentaries on Ricardo's inability to explain why
>>the price of labour should be such that capitalists can make a profit out
>>of it:
>>“Ricardo, by contrast, avoids this fallacy, but how? ‘The value of labour,
>>and the quantity of commodities which a specific quantity of labour can
>>buy, are not identical.’ Why not? ‘Because the worker’s product … is not =
>>to the worker’s pay.’ I.e. the identify does not exist, because a
>>difference exists… Value of labour is not identical with wages of labour.
>>Because they are different. Therefore they are not identical. This is a
>>strange logic. There is basically no reason for this other than it is not
>>so in practice.”
>>By accusing Ricardo of "strange logic", is he not asserting that he has a
>>logical basis for his proof?
>Again, Marx is not an "a-logical writer". This doesn't mean that he
>"proofs" arguments as today economists believe they proof theirs. (BTW,
>this explain Marx's comments in the famous letter to Kugelmann regarding
>the "proof" of value.)
>It's not odd for an Aristotelian to look for "logic errors" or "strange
>logic". Aristotle was also the first describing this.
>He then provides it:
>>“Labour capacity is not = to the living labour which it can do, = to the
>>quantity of labour which it can get done - this is its use-value. It is
>>equal to the quantity of labour by means of which it must itself be
>>produced. The product is thus in fact exchanged not for living labour, but
>>for objectified labour, labour objectified in labour capacity. Living
>>labour itself is a use-value possessed by the exchange value [,labour
>>capacity,] which the possessor of the product [,the capitalist,] has
>>acquired in trade”.
>>And there again we see the concepts of use-value and exchange-value in
>>conjunction with the solution to the mystery of the origin of
>>surplus-value. I see logic and historical analysis together, not a
>>preference for the latter over the former--and certainly not the former
>>being conducted at the level of a Walras.
>I also see "logic" and historical analysis. The matter is what "logic"?
>It's not a *derivation from concepts* as your wording may suggest ("we see
>the *concepts* of use-value and exchange-value in conjunction...") It's
>rather the logical understanding of a real, observed, temporally determined
>process, imo.
>Thanks for your post.
>Alejandro Ramos
Dr. Steve Keen
Senior Lecturer
Economics & Finance
University of Western Sydney Macarthur
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