[OPE-L:5690] the puzzle of capitalism? (re VFT)

From: Gerald_A_Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@email.msn.com)
Date: Wed May 30 2001 - 09:27:20 EDT

Re Geert's [5681] and Ajit's [5688]:

To begin with, I think Ajit and others on the list
should take Geert up on his generous offer to provide
photocopies of _Value-Form and the State_ (VFS) at no cost. 

In his reply to Geert, Ajit used the analogy of 
chess strategies to describe why he was asking the
questions he has. 

Chess is a good game indeed, but it is not the
only game nor do I believe it is the kind of game
that Geert and Mike W (and Nicky, etc.) are
focusing on.  

This is not to say that one can't conceive of some
of the dynamics of capitalism in chess-theoretic
terms. Indeed, I think that Gil does something like
that with his game-theoretic take on capitalism. 
Similarly, the chess analogy might not be far off
when describing the perspective of the "social
structure of accumulation" (ssa) school (of which
Terry M is a member.)  Sraffa's graph on the relation 
between wages and the rate of profit might also be
extended to examining the distribution of income
between wages and profit  as a strategic adversarial
process akin to chess.  As I understand it, VFT
does not reject this chess-theoretic way of 
comprehending class struggle  -- on the contrary,
it forms a 'moment' (perhaps a better expression
here might be: "essential component") of their
analysis of capitalism.

I would describe _their_ game, though, as a
sophisticated type of jig-saw puzzle.  It begins
with the following condition: suppose there are 
hundreds or thousands of pieces of a puzzle called
"Capitalism."   The 'game', then, is: how do the
pieces fit together? 

There  are a lot of people who might object to this
game as an approach towards comprehending
"Capitalism."  Some might call it 'essentialist';
others, like Steve C (and other Althusserians),
might call it  'totalizing.'  And, of course, one
can object to the VFT game -- i.e. the method 
that they employ.  

For the moment, though, I want to take this analogy
of a puzzle a little further.  In your ordinary kind of
jig-saw puzzle you can begin with any piece and
try to then find adjoining pieces.  The VFT puzzle,
since it follows Hegelian rules, is more complicated
and sophisticated. To begin with, the first piece
of the puzzle that one picks up ("the starting point")
is crucially important. E.g. if one picks up the piece
called "population" rather than the piece called 
"commodities" then one's whole game goes in a
different direction which is in violation of the game's
goal of comprehending capitalism.  Then, the
sequence of the remaining parts of the puzzle must
follow a certain order, according to Hegel's Rules
of the Game.  This is a strange game, though, 
because not all of the pieces of the puzzle have to
be put together to call a successful end to the game. 
Rather, only those parts of the puzzle which are
essential and non-contingent to the subject matter
(Capitalism) have to be put together. This forms
the (my expression) 'core game'.  After one 
completes the 'core game', then one can go on to
play more concrete 'conjunctural games'  Some 
ideas for 'conjunctural games', from a VFT 
perspective, are given in _VFS_, pp. 299-301.

Yet, I can well understand Ajit's desire to play
chess. I guess that's just the traditional form in 
which 'debating games' take place. I wonder, 
though, whether this game (reminiscent of the
adversarial process in the courtroom where someone
is ultimately judged 'guilty' or 'not guilty') is the 
most constructive game for 'cross-paradigm'
discussions. In any event,  even if one wants to
play that game, then there are (just like chess)
'winning' and 'losing' moves.  E.g. would a good
attorney argue her case before the court before
she has had an opportunity to review all of the
relevant documents and evidence?  Thus, it seems
to me, that Ajit's game would improve once he has
had an opportunity to read _VFS_ (of course, other
publications like Tony S's book _The Logic of Marx's
Capital_ are useful as well.)   Doesn't this seem fair?
After all, would you want to have a debate with 
others on Sraffa or Althusser who admitted that 
they hadn't read their works? What's good for the
goose is good for the gander, right?

Apologies to our VFTers if I have over-simplified
their 'game' above.

In solidarity, Jerry

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