[OPE-L:5170] Re: RE: Give us some NUMBERS, Fred! (was: rent and the working class)

From: paul bullock (paulbullock@ebms-ltd.in2home.co.uk)
Date: Thu Mar 15 2001 - 04:00:25 EST


I am not sure if you will receive this but I think you need to reflect on the difference between the model building you think is so flawed, yet wish to use, and the method Marx uses which is not the formal model type that refers to 'limiting conditions', as you put it.  In any case if your 'model' (I shall call it the 'thin air' model) was closed the air would be used up -  end of story. If it was open it begs the question of what allows the metabolic processes of the workers to 'process' the air. ... and we are back with reality.

In the quotes you use Marx is refering to the limits to the intensification of labour, he might have as easily said,   labourers who are being worked to death cannot, finally, compensate for a fall in the number of labourers. 

As I said I suspect that Marx is allowing himself licence in the quotes you use,  since apart from your quotes we could cite '....TSV I,  1969, 1 p402 : ..."...neither the circulation of my blood nor my breathing in themselves make me any the richer; on the contrary, they both presuppose a costly assimilation of food; if that were not necessary, there would be no poor devils about."

The issue I responded to was your use of speculative model building, should we nor be attempting to use Marx's own method?

Bets wishes

Paul Bullock

-----Original Message-----
From: Drewk <Andrew_Kliman@msn.com>
To: ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
Date: 14 February 2001 19:01
Subject: [OPE-L:4903] RE: Give us some NUMBERS, Fred! (was: rent and the working class)

>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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