[OPE-L:5591] Re: explanatory power

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@lubs.leeds.ac.uk)
Date: Wed May 16 2001 - 09:28:43 EDT

Re Nicky, Geert and Jerry's recent posts:

1) At one point Geert stresses the importance of his disagreement 
with Fred's theory of surplus value, it's development through Vols 1 
to 3 of Capital. I certainly agree with Geert that such specific points 
of disagreement are far more important than any abstract 
methodolgical criteria....indeed Lakatos's stipulation of the criterion 
of being relatively 'progressive' stems precisely from his view that 
'hard core' assertions are 'metaphysical' hence 'untestable'. It is a 
short step to Fererabend's 'anything goes' from here.

2) Thanks to Geert for correcting my interpretation of Y=mL. I had a 
look at Geert's 1993 chapter in the collection edited by Fred. 
Geert, I think I get it now. Still, it does seem that the notation 'mL' 
can be misleading. This is because the notation suggests that 
there are two variables (m and L) in a multiplicative relation. 
Whereas, if I understand you correctly, there is only one variable 
(mL...or better, ml) having the single dimension of money. (Where 
*money* is the only measure of actual and capitalist abstract 
*labour*!). Have I got this wrong?

3)  Let me restate the quantitative 'problem' with value form theory. 
The problem is that the *magnitude* of 'value' is taken by VFT to be 
a magnitude of money (with the relation to abstract labour indicated 
above). Nowhere in VFT is this magnitude, whether for surplus 
value, wages, rent, profit or interest, or for more concrete prices, 
given any explanation. The meaning of 'explanation' is entirely clear 
in this case. It simply means an answer to the question, 'why are 
profits this magnitude, rather than another magnitude?' or 'why is 
surplus value not higher / lower?' Nicky, I don't think that this point 
need have anything to do with an adherence to analytical 

4) Imo, Nicky is on far stronger ground in criticising the cogency of 
the notion of socially necessary abstract labour time, at least as a 
putative 'explainer' of value magnitude. On this, two things: firstly it 
is a transhistorical law of society that labour is distrubuted in 
definite proportions across society. In stating this law, the referent 
of the term 'labour' must be, in full, socially necessary abstract 
labour! Note that, on my view, the peculiarity of the CMP is that 
abstract labour becomes a substance, it gains psuedo-
independence from concrete labour. In other words, it is the pseudo 
*separate* existence of abstract labour that distinguishes the 
CMP; not the mere existence of abstract labour. Secondly, there is 
an assumption running through the (R/W) VFT critique of 'abstract 
labour embodied' theories which I should like to contest. This 
assumption runs as follows: because price and congealed labour 
are mutually dependent upon one another, it follows that labour 
time does not tether price magnitude. Rather, at best, labour time 
and price magnitude co-determine one another (they are, at best, 
'on a par'). Not so, I think. Value (congealed abstract labour) 
requires a bodily form in order to exist, so value and price are 
indeed mutually dependent on one another. Yet, because price is 
the appearance form of value [I like Howard's stress on the 
distinction between 'form' and '*appearance* form'] price magnitude 
is tethered by abstract labour time magnitude. More generally, it is 
true that the CMP is an internally related totality AND it is true that 
labour time tethers price magnitude.

Note that point 4 clarifies my ambiguous previous post Y=mL. That 
post should have made clear the distinction between qualitative 
mutual determination (which I accept) and quantitative mutual 
determination (which I reject).

Many thanks,


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