[OPE-L:5628] capitalism as quantitative?

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Sun May 20 2001 - 08:43:22 EDT

(was "Marx's theory as a quantitative theory")

Fred, Nicky, Geert, Mike W, Paul C and others:

I'm searching for some way for us to make some
headway towards dialogue and clarification. Here
are some thoughts:

This is a difficult issue to disentangle because the
larger issue, imo,  is not which interpretation of
Marx has the greater textual support but rather
how we understand the subject matter of
capitalism and the method that we use to reach
that goal. At the end of the day (or at the end
of the thread, in this case), there will still be
disagreement. In part, this is because imo the 
larger issue is how we set out the qualitative
and quantitative dimensions of the subject matter
when developing the systemic interconnections
of capitalism. 

Fred wants to address the "Marx question" (i.e.
what did Marx's theory say?), and Geert and
Nicky have replied to Fred's question(s). But,
when all is said and done, I don't think that
Fred's main question is Geert's and Nicky's and
Mike W's main question (or even Paul C's main

Perhaps a more fruitful line of inquiry would be
to trace back the two interpretations not to
Marx but to two (or three) different interpretations 
in the history of Marxism and then to identify the
methodological underpinnings of each

Would it be fair to say that the author which
most inspired the current generation of VFTers 
was I.I. Rubin?  {NB: this is not to say that Rubin 
put forward a VFT.}  In Rubin, don't you see
the strong *emphasis* on interpreting value
in a qualitative sense? This same emphasis was
suggested by some previous writers (e.g.
Hilferding in his reply to Bohm-Bawerk.)

Where, after Marx, does the *emphasis* on
interpreting value in a *quantitative* sense
begin?  von Bortkiewicz, perhaps? If not, with

Fred has argued that value has to be understood
as both qualitative and quantitative. Nicky
addressed that issue, as it related to Marx's 
theory, in 5625.  While there is a clear 
disagreement between these two interpretations,
although  Fred puts forward what Geert has 
called a  LET (labor embodied theory), there 
might imo be more of a similarity between the 
R/W VFT perspective and Fred's LET perspective 
on this issue than between Fred's LET perspective 
and some other LET perspectives. To wit:

I remember a former listmember who once wrote
(in November, 1995) that "capitalism is all
about quantitative relations."   That is the *other*
pole in this debate (which I took exception to at 
that time.)  This same position is consistent with 
the position of Kelvin, which Paul C quoted
approvingly in 5589, that theories which can not
measure what one is theorizing with numbers
are of a 'meager and unsatisfactory kind'.  These
positions, it would seem to me, would be rejected
by both VFT and Fred. Fred: am I right about

Perhaps a way of getting at the methodological
issues that lie at the base of this dispute would be
to ask: in what sense is it (or is it not) *necessary*
to theorize value under capitalism as, in part, a
magnitude?   Here I am not asking how such a
perspective would be desirable. Still less am I
asking what Marx's perspective was. Rather, 
from the perspective of developing the systemic
interconnections of capitalism is it necessary or,
because of the subject matter itself, is it 
unnecessary and unattainable and illusory?

Or, am I asking the wrong questions?

In solidarity, Jerry  

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