[OPE-L:5560] William ofOckam'sRazor and Political Economy

From: Rakesh Narpat Bhandari (rakeshb@Stanford.EDU)
Date: Sun May 13 2001 - 12:46:41 EDT

re AJit's 5556

>For the sake of simplicity, let us stick to capitalism from now on and not any

Well this is not how Marx proceeded in the Grundrisse the 
methodological introduction to which I had basically quoted, but 
perhaps you did not notice. In his critique of Robinsonades Marx 
simply took as a starting point man's dependence on each other need, 
on association, on social labor. So Marx did specify a way in which 
it makes sense to speak in logical terms of social labor before we 
speak of how either it is distributed to various activities or its 
products are divvied up.

But let's get to the question which you think you is basic and straightforward.

>  So you say that total social labor is given prior to its distribution? Now,
>do we know what is the quantity of this *given* total social labor? 
>How do we go
>about knowing this information?

As you know Fred M, Edward Wolff, Shaikh and Tonak, Duncan F, Allin 
and Paul C and many other have made estimates of the number in the 
work force, the percentage which are laborers productive of value and 
the hours which have been logged by workers in general and productive 
labor in particular.

>What do you mean by "the capacity of the members of that society to labor"?
Converting energy to labor.

>Is it
>somekind of biological maximum that doctors can determine?

Probably they can make some estimate.

>How is this "capacity to
>labor" determined? Do we also take capitalists' capacity to labor in 
>determining the
>society's total labor?

We can make two estimates: one of the total workforce in which 
capitalists qua managers would be included and one in which only the 
workforce productive of value would be specified.

>>  >and how do you know how much of its quantity there is.
>>  A larger society, a healthier society, etc. would  have a greater
>>  quantity of labor time at its disposal.
>The question was "how do you know how much of its quantity there 
>is". Is it such a
>hard question to understand?

No we can look at the statistics; we can see how many people worked; 
we can estimate what percentage was productive of value; we can 
estimate how much labor time was unused from the statistics--and this 
would have to be added to the labor time at the disposal of a society.

>If somebody asked you how much of trousers do you own,
>do you generally answer that if I had more money i could own more? 
>Just look at the
>absurdity of the nature of your answer to the precise question. And this is my
>problem with the Marxist-Hegelian mumbo jumbo.

I don't think your question is precise by any stretch of the 
imagination. What do you mean by distribution?

By "distribution" are you referring to the distribution of product or 
distribution of income; or by distribution are you referring to the 
division of labor?

Obviously there would be no product to distribute if it was not 
produced first, so we could then make estimate of the labor time that 
had been spent in the production of the product. Obviously there 
could no social division of labor if there were not social labor to 
be divided up in the first place. So if you want to simply sum up the 
hours spent in the various activities which comprise the entire 
social division of labor, I don't see why you could not do so.

Though you seem not the least bothered by it,you reveal yet again 
your ignorance by referring to my reply as Marxist-Hegelian since 
neither did I use any Hegelian terminology nor did you make any 
precise analysis of the way in which my analysis is Hegelian in any 

It is also obvious that obscurantism does not only come in Hegelian 
form. Hegelian does not mean obscurantist.

If I suffer from obscurantism, it is not because I am Hegelian so you 
will need to specify more clearly the kind of obscurity from which 
you think I suffer, instead of using the same form of abuse for 
everything which you do not think makes sense.

>Forget about "any society" and just concentrate on capitalist society.

Why should I follow your order? Why is the methodological order worth 

>  So the
>relation of production is given.
>  Now, are you saying that the total quantity of
>abstract social labor is dependent upon how it is distributed to 
>various concrete
>production processes?

Well yes of course. It is Marx's theoretical argument that in a 
society in which the division of social labor is effected by or 
through the exchange value of things, some growing portion of the 
social labor time at its disposal will be wasted in the form of a 
surplus population.

>If so, then could you specify what kind of relationship is
>there between the distribution of social labor and its total quantity?

This is analyzed in the chapter on the general law of accumulation.

>  And of
>course, you must have noticed that your answer here seems to 
>contradict what you
>said above about social labor is given prior to its distribution, 
>but I'm not too
>much concerned about it at this moment.

No it does not contradict the answer which I gave. I said that it 
makes sense to speak of humanity's dependence on social labor--this 
is Marx's critique of robinsonades--before we speak of how that 
social labor is divided in an ongoing manner.

For reasons completely beyond me, you take this to be Marxist 
Hegelian mumbo jumbo, though again I am obviously only trying to 
rephrase Marx's famous letter to Feuerbach on value.

>>  >  In what way the total
>>  >quantity and its distribution are related to each other?
>>  There is a historically variable relation; while each society has to
>>  accomplish an ongoing division in (or distribution of) the social
>>  labor on which it depends--no natural law can be done away with--that
>>  division is effected in historically variable ways. Starting then
>>  with social labor, Marx reasons that in a society in which man's
>>  relations are primarily through things, the distribution of social
>>  labor obviously has to be effected through the exchange value of
>>  those things.
>Let's stick to capitalism. The question was "In what way the total
>quantity and its distribution are related to each other?" Your answer is "the
>distribution of social
>labor obviously has to be effected through the exchange value of 
>those things."
>Again an absurd answer to a simple question. The question is not about how the
>distribution of labor is effected. The question is that if you admit that
>distribution of labor affects its quantity,

The manner in which social labor is divided in bourgeois society can 
affect the length of the working day; it can affect proportion of the 
social labor which is actually expended, i.e. how much labor time is 
wasted in the form of surplus persons; it can affect the different 
kinds of processes into which that labor is divided; it can affect 
the proportion of time spent in each of these respective various 

>then you need to tell us what kind of
>relation exists between the two. How the distribution of labor is 
>effected is simply
>not the question.

Again I do not understand your question since you never specified in 
any sense what you meant by distribution. Are you asking me
a)about total social labor that is at a society's disposal or the 
total social labor time which is actually expended
b)by distribution of labor do you mean distribution of the products 
of social labor or distribution of social labor time to various 
concrete activities?

the argument which you are trying to set up with these questions is 
hardly evident either.

>What I'm trying to do is to prove to you, and to many others who follow the
>Marxist-Hegelian interpretation of the value problematic, that your 
>understanding of
>the value problematic is nothing but a jumble of confusion by making 
>you realize
>that this way of thinking makes you completely incapable of 
>answering very basic,
>straightforward, and simple questions. Cheers, ajit sinha

Your question is not well specified at all. In fact it is as badly 
specified as your embarrasingly overused phrases of abuse.


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