[OPE-L:4714] Re: Re: Notes from a "class enemy"

From: Gil Skillman (gskillman@MAIL.WESLEYAN.EDU)
Date: Sun Dec 17 2000 - 17:19:46 EST

>Gil, haven't you compared value theorists to ancient astronomers, 
>something like Cassinis who refuse out of bad faith to see the light 
>of the Roemers? Do you think I drew first blood?

[I like that line about Cassinis and Roemers]  I didn't realize that we
were in the business of drawing blood here, Rakesh.  If you'll read the
post in which I made this comparison (OPE-L 4242), you'll find that I
wasn't characterizing value theorists, but asking a question:  wouldn't it
be a theoretical advance, in something like the same sense that moving from
the Ptolemaic to the Copernican cosmology was an advance, if all of Marx's
substantive claims about the nature and basis of capitalist exploitation
could be established without the labor theory of value?  Gil

>>  What your
>>comments make absolutely clear, Rakesh, is that after all this time you
>>don't have the first clue about what I'm arguing or its ultimate point.
>Gil, do you think this is my fault? Do you think I am alone here?
>>Hint 2, and more immediately to the point:  despite your confident
>>representation to Andrew of the "crux of [my] argument", which you know to
>>be "manifestly spurious" and "groundless", it doesn't seem to have sunk in
>>that I'm arguing a *dilemma*, of which you've only engaged one horn.  I
>>signalled this initially when I posed the original round of questions in
>>"either-or" form (see post 4625):  is Marx's Ch. 5 rejection of
>>redistribution as a basis for surplus value an aspect of his *definition*,
>>or an *inference* from a previously given definition?  You first indicated
>>the latter, but upon subsequent argument it turns out you really meant the
>>former, at which point I introduced the other horn of the dilemma (see the
>>last two full paragraphs of post 4689).  Which you've ignored.
>Gil, you don't seem to deny that in your merchant capital example, 
>the sum of values in circulation does not increase though the 
>merchants have made a profit. You call this an increase in surplus 
>value in the aggregate. I do not. It's not what Marx means by an 
>increase in surplus value in the aggregate. Marx is not denying that 
>money can be made by merchants (M-C-M'), but he is saying that the 
>pure commercial circuit of capital will not increase the sum of 
>values in circulation.  There is no surplus value in the aggregate in 
>this case.
>>   I still don't know your answer to my second original question.
>>And on the first one, as late as post 4703 [see the last exchange in the
>>post], you're still answering a different question than I ask. Now, why is
>>that?  If I were in the mood to match you ad hominem for ad hominem, I
>>might speculate that you're afraid to commit yourself because then you
>>might have to accept that that understanding turns out to be logically
>>incoherent.  Better to stay vague and maintain deniability.
>How am I being vague? As you pushed me to clarify what I meant by 
>aggregate, I said that an increase in surplus value means that the 
>value, as monetarily expressed, at t + 1 must in the aggregate be 
>greater than the value, as monetarily expressed, at t0. You are 
>saying that merchants can profit even if the sum of value stays the 
>same in circulation. Marx does *not* deny the possibility. But he 
>already indicates here that there is a new basis of merchant or 
>commercial profit in a fully developed capitalist society. Do you 
>understand Marx's theory of commercial profit, how it fits into his 
>system as a whole? Where have you written about Marx theorizes the 
>relations between the industrial, commercial or merchant and interest 
>bearing circuits?
>>Take the present stage of the argument as an illustration.  I asked you
>>repeatedly if you thought Marx's Ch. 5 argument followed simply from his
>>definition of surplus value as the positive difference between M' and M,
>>subject to your caveat that surplus value was an "aggregate category," and
>>you indicated that it did.  I spelled out carefully what I understood you
>>to mean by the latter phrase (see post 4369 and subsequently), and you
>>voiced absolutely no objection to this reading, and added nothing to it.
>So what? When you revealed to me in the course of further discussions 
>what you meant by aggregate, I then clarified my difference.
>>And you mentioned nothing whatsoever about conditions on the circuit of
>>commodity exchange as part of the definition of surplus value (which makes
>>sense; neither does Marx, anywhere in Volume I , part 2).  But *after* I
>>point out that this interpretation implies that the ch. 5 argument commits
>>a fallacy of division, then your story changes.
>No it did not. It is always what I meant by aggregate surplus value.
>>But I went with your revision, and introduced the other horn of the dilemma
>>in response to your ex post revision.  This horn, I think, leads to some
>>powerful implications about the logical status of Marx's Ch. 5 argument.
>>Now, we might both have learned something from a frank and open-minded
>>discussion of the full logical consequences of alternative interpretations
>>of Marx's definition of surplus value. And it might *just possibly* turn
>>out that, although Marx's specific analytical structure must be
>>reconceived, his fundamental critique of capitalism can be grounded even
>>more surely and--my ultimate point--generally.
>Well, I feel confident that it is not just me who does not understand 
>your ultimate point.
>>  Your class duty is to deny and demonize ( the
>>Holocaust, indeed.
>I am not demonizing. You have simply  not responded to my point about 
>how Marx's analysis of the derivativeness of mercant and banking 
>capital does lay a solid foundation to combat anti semitism. I think 
>this is a very precious achievement of Marxian theory (see how 
>Neumann made use of it), and I see you covering it over in 
>obfuscation and refusal to understand on Marx's own terms how he sees 
>the relations among the different forms of the circuit of capital 
>(industrial, merchant and interest bearing). So I don't think what 
>you are doing is a mere logic game; there are disturbing consequences 
>to your war on Marx's theory of the modern primacy of the industrial 
>circuit of capital out of which is produced actual surplus value from 
>which modern commercial profit and interest are derived.
>>P. S.  Oh--hint 3, concerning your response to the "crux" of my argument in
>>your reply to Andrew (post 4707)--yes, I know what Marx wrote about
>>merchant capital in Ch. 5.  Believe it or not, I've actually read the
>>chapter once or twice, thought about each passage in it, and actually have
>>a critique of this particular passage  [presented more than once on OPE-L,
>>by the way, so you might at least have done me the courtesy of addressing
>>the critique instead of simply re-reciting the passage as if that somehow
>>settled the issue].  That's all addressed in the other horn of the dilemma.
>Then give me the OPE number in which you engaged this passage where 
>Marx clearly considers the possibility you claim he ignored.

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