[OPE-L:4903] RE: Give us some NUMBERS, Fred! (was: rent and the working class)

From: Drewk (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Date: Wed Feb 14 2001 - 14:08:04 EST

Hi, Paul (Bullock),

Thanks for your very thoughtful reply (OPE-L 4895).

I didn't think Jerry had really put you up to it.  It was a joke.
I was just referring to the re-emergence of this issue after
having been harangued (yes, harangued) about it interminably a few
years back.

"Could you please give me the reference to the reference by 'the

_Capital_ III, Ch. 15, section II (Progress Pub. ed., p. 247):
"Two labourers, each working 12 hours daily, cannot produce the
same mass of surplus-value as 24 who work only 2 hours, even if
they could live on air and hence did not have to work for
themselves at all.  In this respect, then, ... intensifying the
degree of exploitation has certain insurmountable limits.  It may,
for this reason, well check the fall in the rate of profit, but
cannot prevent it altogether."

_Capital_ III, Ch. 24, near end (Progress Pub. ed., p. 398):  "To
produce the same rate of profit after the constant capital set in
motion by one labourer increases ten-fold, the surplus labour-time
would have to increase ten-fold, and soon the total labour-time,
and finally the entire 24 hours of a day, would not suffice, even
if wholly appropriated by capital."

"but please try to remember that Marx didn't really believe in the
man on the
moon who buys without selling,  reductio ad absurdum and a good
sense of
humour are fine in certain circumstances, but not as the basis for

I agree that Marx didn't really *believe* that workers could live
on air.  But it was not a joke, nor a mere figure of speech.  It
is a *limiting case* that he used to deduce -- twice -- that "the
degree of exploitation has certain insurmountable limits.  It may,
for this reason, well check the fall in the rate of profit, but
cannot prevent it altogether."

Perhaps the problem is with the word "assumption."   An assumption
*may* be a representation of reality.  That is the role
assumptions play in models.  It isn't the role they play in the
above quotes.  In these quotes, Marx assumes workers live on air
in the sense of considering a limiting, hypothetical case in order
to examine its implications.  If that is done properly, it sheds
light on real-world cases.   So I disagree when you say the "live
on air" reference wasn't a hypothesis (or basis for a hypothesis).
Given that he deduced a conclusion, indeed a terribly important
conclusion, from this limiting case, it seems obvious to me that
it was a hypothesis (i.e., a hypothetical case).

"That 'Marxists' , as you say, continually build models of
'without including' an armaments sector' does not mean that such
sectors are
not essentally part of department IIb in Marx's own schema."

Actually, I think armaments and the whole of military spending are
faux frais of production and thus part of Dept. I.  I do not see
how one can think of them as private consumption.

"Capitalism - modern imperialism - is impossible
without  armaments, but Marx's schemas easily accomodate this

Sure.  But I think is it fine in *some* contexts to think of Dept.
I as producing just means of production (i.e., to set faux frais
to the side), even though capitalism would be impossible without
armaments.   Again, I don't think assumptions need to reflect
reality if the purpose isn't model-building.  (I think the
model-building methodology is terribly flawed in any case.)

"You end by saying    "In any case, I don't think it is good to
try to
constrain the free movement of thought by making it conform so
stringently to appearances".   This begs the whole question of
which is central to the discussions in Opel; when and how to
mediating categories so that appearances can be shown to be
by the basic social relations of production."

I don't understand this.  Rather than begging the question, I
thought I was addressing it directly.  I don't really understand
the rest, but I kind of doubt that it is an adequate description
of method.  It sounds like a description of synthetic method.  But
what about analysis?  I don't think it is a good idea to put
constraints on analytical inquiry.


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