[OPE-L:5253] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: one commodity models and illustrations

From: howard engelskirchen (lhengels@igc.org)
Date: Sat Mar 24 2001 - 11:59:30 EST

Duncan --

Actually simple reproduction shows how Marx typically abstracts not away
*from* the real, in the fashion common to model construction, but *to* its
real mechanisms.  Thus in the Introduction to Part VII of Bk I, after first
making explicit his assumptions, Marx observes, "we, therefore, assume no
more than what actually takes place."  And in section 1 of Ch. 20 of Bk II
he repeats this specifically in regards to simple reproduction:  "However,
as far as accumulation does take place, simple reproduction is always a
part of it, and can therefore be studied by itself, and is an actual factor
of accumulation."  (Later, section 4, he adds, "the most important part.")
In the Introduction to Part VII he makes clear why abstraction is necessary
to reach features of the real like simple reproduction:  "An exact analysis
of the process, therefore, demands that we should, for a time, disregard
all phenomena that hide the play of its inner mechanisms."  It is not that
the inner mechanism is an abstraction from reality, a model useful to
exposing a problem; instead it is a real connection obscured by phenomenal
forms of surface appearance.

Also, it is only derivatively about supply and demand.  Instead, simple
reproduction shows capitalist production as a continuous social *process*
that must take place if social life is to continue in this form.  Thus in
Ch. 23 of Bk I "the guise of capitalist" only attaches to persons if they
are able to continually convert capital invested into surplus value.
Similarly, simple reproduction first makes clear, because the process of
production is continuous, that the class of direct producers taken as a
whole produces the labor fund.  It shows also that after a brief period a
capitalist's capital, however it originated, is made up entirely of
accumulated surplus value.  Finally, and most importantly, simple
reproduction shows that capitalist production continually reproduces its
sine qua non in a way that can no longer be seen as accident; it
continually reproduces its starting point -- the separation of the worker
from the means of labor -- as result.  In other words, simple reproduction
shows that capitalist production produces above all the capital relation.
Not a word about supply and demand.  Even in section 1 of Ch. 20 of Bk II
Marx explains that the real issue exposed is how the replacement of capital
consumed in production and its interconnection with consumption must be an
articulation of the relative proportions of the value-components of the
total social product with their use value.  Supply and demand would follow.



I think simple reproduction is not really an example of model construction
in the senAt 11:45 PM 3/23/01 +0100, you wrote:
>Models are far from the whole content of a theory, and this is 
>particularly true for Marx. They still play an indispensable role in 
>linking theoretical concepts to reality in Marx's work. For example, 
>Marx's discussion of simple reproduction is a model intended to 
>clarify certain issues about the balance of demand and supply. It's 
>not a good representation of concrete capitalist reality for several 
>reasons, including the fact that real capitalist societies always 
>accumulate, and that accumulation always involves changes in the 
>composition of capital, the scale of production and so forth. My 
>point was certainly not that we should restrict Marxist theoretical 
>practice to model-construction, but that when we do model 
>construction we should do it critically and parsimoniously.
>>Duncan writes --
>>>In general, models always abstract from critical features of reality.
>>>The important question is whether the model has enough detail to
>>>throw light on the problem it's aimed at. For example, it is very
>>>difficult to deal with the relation between c and v in empirical
>>>studies of most modern economies because the data is not available at
>>>the flow level to measure c. But I don't think that means Marxist
>>>economics should just give up on those economies.
>>Is this assimilation of Marx's methods to a methodologically indifferent
>>sense of model building correct?  Abstraction is always *from*, but more
>>importantly for Marx, abstraction is overwhelmingly *to* critical features
>>of reality.  This is not true of social science generally.  For example,
>>when we abstract to producers who produce independently for private
>>exchange or to the separation of workers from the means of production, we
>>abstract *to* the most critical features of value and capital respectively.
>>  Similarly value, for example, doesn't abstract from reality to suppose
>>that in perfect competition the price of a product is homogeneous; instead
>>it tends to generate that result.  So it's not enough, for Marx's
>>abstraction, that it has enough detail to shed light on the problem.  For
>>Marx, the question is whether the abstraction reaches and identifies those
>>(simpler) aspects of reality essential for understanding how a thing tends
>>to behave. 
>Duncan K. Foley
>Leo Model Professor
>Department of Economics
>Graduate Faculty
>New School University
>65 Fifth Avenue
>New York, NY 10003
>messages: (212)-229-5717
>fax: (212)-229-5724
>e-mail: foleyd@cepa.newschool.edu
>alternate: foleyd@newschool.edu
>alternate: dkf@ultinet.net
>webpage: http://cepa.newschool.edu/~foleyd

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