[OPE-L:5541] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: William of Ockam'sRazor and Political Economy

From: Ajit Sinha (ajitsinha@lbsnaa.ernet.in)
Date: Fri May 11 2001 - 01:18:03 EDT

howard engelskirchen wrote:

> Rakesh,
> Re your 5532
> My understanding is not that the inversion referred to in the passage from
> Marx gives us, insofar as it characterizes value, an illogical and absurd
> mystical interconnection.  There are two possibilities here:
>   a.    the abstractly general is a property of the concrete and sensuous real
> -- an example might be whiteness as a property of horses, swans, hats, etc.
>   b.    the concrete and sensuous real is a form of appearance of the
> abstractly general.
> There is nothing peculiar about one thing being a form of appearance for
> another.  The error is to treat sometihng that we arrive at by purely
> mental effort as if it were to generate the particulars abstracted from.
> If value is purely conceptual, then we do have an illogical mystical
> connection.  But if it is sometihng real, a causal ensemble, then, if it is
> also non-empirical, we will have to study it through its form of
> appearance.


I have been away from ope-l for a long time because of too much of all kinds of
other works, and have come back because yesterday Paul C. invited me to contribute
my two cents to this on going debate. Of course, i don't know the details of what
has gone on before but from what I see it seems the debate is hovering around the
Hegelian interpretation of value and value-form. So let me make my intervention

The first thing we have to establish is what is this "real" but "non-empirical"
thing called "value"? There are two ways of approaching this elusive thing "value"
by taking Marx's writings as a guide. One way is to see it in terms of social
division of labor, i.e. somehow value refers to the division of total social labor
into various different sectors, and exchange-value or the prices of production is
the form the value takes. The other way is to approach it as a representation of
technology of production, which is the underlying determinant of exchange value or
prices of production.

Now, for the first approach, which would be the predominant interpretation of the
first chapter of *Capital*, to be acceptable one will need to establish some kind
of relationship between the social division of labor and the prices of production,
and nobody has succeeded in doing so to the best of my knowledge. Just stating
that this "real" but "non-empirical" entity appears in the form of exchange value
or prices of production does not cut the ice--i.e. it has no knowledge content.
Secondly, this approach must explain how does it take the total social labor as
*given* that is supposedly distributed.

Of course, the second approach is the approach that Marx takes predominantly in
the rest of *Capital*. But as Sraffa's work has shown, the quantity of capital
cannot be determined by simply taking the labor content of the means of
production. The basic problem with labor theory of value is that its conception of
profit is incorrect. Profit is accrued as compound interest rate and not simple
interest rate. The labor theory of value takes the simple interest rate of
calculating profit, which is simply incorrect. Cheers, ajit sinha

> That is why we have two separate questions presented.  First,
> what is the nature of what we refer to, ie what kind of thing is it and
> what does it tend to do?  Second, what are the forms of its representation?
>  Thus Aristotle could not make sense of value because he could conceive of
> no referent that houses or beds or money could be the form of appearance
> of.  An alternative error would be to treat the form of appearance as if it
> were actually, or possessed the powers of, the referent.
> As for the third peculiarity, while I don't think there is anything to
> suggest the text is about gold producing labor as such, I get the point --
> it is the equivalent form that is at issue.  That is, it's not that the
> inversion doesn't apply to the third peculiarity -- ie it is possible to
> think of private labor as a form of expression for social labor -- it is
> rather that Marx is saying something different:  because private labor in
> the equivalent form is a form of expression for social labor it serves as a
> general claim on the labor of others, ie it becomes directly exchangeable
> with other commodities.  As such, it is directly social in form.
> Thanks,
> Howard

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