[OPE-L:5694] Quality-Quantity-Levels

From: Geert REUTEN (reuten@fee.uva.nl)
Date: Wed May 30 2001 - 15:37:03 EDT

Reply to Fred [5692] of 30 May.

I tried to clarify some issues by casting a discussion about levels of
abstraction in terms of linear logic (so doing an internal critique). Since
you did not take up the dialectical logic I keep on doing the internal
critique. The question is if one might use identical terminology (say Marx
in Vol I and Vol III) still mean something more complicated, simply because
the complications have been brought in.

Let me start with a simple parable.
We have a basket with apples and grapes. I say: "The entities is this
basket are fruits."  Next I add pears. I say: "The entities in this basket
are fruits."
These are two true "identical" (?) statements about different things.
Now we make wine of these, and have it ferment on the wood (vessel).. I say:
"The alcoholic content of this liquid is caused (determined) by
fermentation. [A=f(F)]"  Now suppose we have a second 'on the bottle"
fermentation (we know that this causes the alcohol % to increase). I say:
"The alcoholic content of this liquid is caused (determined) by
fermentation. [A=f(F)]"  Again these are two true "identical" (?)
statements about different things.

Now let these be analogous to the levels of abstraction of V-1 and V-3
(note this is 'merely a 'parable', dont take it literally). We might agree
that both at V1-level and at V3-level S=f(L). Still, like the fruits and
the wines there are more determinants involved at the later stage.

In my [5669] I amplified on dialectical logic, and only after that I tried:
> Nevertheless, Fred, for the sake of argument I could cast this in terms of
> linear logic so as to clarify -- hopefully -- where we disagree (so this is
> an internal critique). Let A be a factor of determination. S is what we
> want to explain. I assume for the sake of argument that we agree on the
> form/measure issues.
> We move from:
> (a)	S  = f(A1; A2)
> to the richer explanation:
> (b)	S = f(A1; A2; A3).
> (Say we move from Vol I to Vol III pt 2 or 3.)
> There are two possible interpretations of this. 
> My view is that S(a) is a different quantity from S(b).
> Your view seems to be that S(a)=S(b). If that is the case then the RHS of
> (a) must be an approximation. But if it is an approximation then you have
> no full determination. (In which case it is not clear what quantity you
> redistribute at V3 level.)

You replied:
"there is no new A3 when Marx moves from Vols. 1 and 2 to Vol. 3, i.e.
there are no new determinants of the magnitude of surplus-value .... Vol. 3
is mainly about the distribution of surplus-value (all but Part 3).  Marx's
theory of the distribution of surplus-value in Vol. 3 presents no new
determinants of the magnitude of surplus-value.  No new variables are added
to the RHS of equation (1).  The theory of the distribution of
surplus-value in Vol. 3 is no longer about the determination of the
magnitude of surplus-value."

Well this is your assertion, I would like to have arguments. Obviously
distribution plays a role. I would argue, however, that the the rate of
profit (Pt-1), the GRP (Pt-2), the change in OCC (Pt-3), etcetera, of V-3
all are new and very complex determinants of the production process. (See
my 5669.)
If V-1 is NOT an approximation (of course it is not my opinion that it is
an approximation -- I use a different frame -- but it might be a way out
for you), then you are forced to argue that its does not really matter for
capitalist production wether it is carried out under the aegis of the rate
of surplus-value or the rate of profit, a fortiori that it does not matter
whether OCC's are different or change. (But this -- I dont need to tell you
-- is precisely Marx's INTERNAL critique of Ricardo.)

You again:
<<Geert, you mention changes in the productivity of labor and changes in the
composition of capital as new determinants of the magnitude of
surplus-value in Vol. 3.  But the productivity of labor is not a new
determinant of the magnitude of surplus-value.  As just discussed, the
effect of the productivity of labor on the magnitude of surplus-value is
extensively analyzed in Vol. 1.  The effects of a change in the
composition of capital depends on the extent to which L is affected.  But
again, the productivity of labor and the composition of capital are
indirect determinants of surplus-value, not additional direct

Even if I would go along in the way you phrase this: so what? If the
alcohol % increases by adding sugar ("indirect"?) does it increase or not?
What do you mean by OCC (and I suppose the rate of profit) as an INDIRECT
determinant? That it does not matter? (Is that what the bosses tell, "well,
some of you have to go, for the remaining others the process is speeded up"
but this is merely indirect exploitation -- 'This is not our doing.'" ?)

You again:
<<Now to my textual evidence.  I have presented dozens of passages (in two
papers) in which Marx stated in one way or another that the total amount
of surplus-value is taken as given (as predetermined)  .... Geert dismisses
all this textual evidence by saying that he will continue to understand
these passages "at their level of abstraction".>>

I do not dismiss it, indeed I take it at their level of abstraction, like
in the parable above.

<<Do you think that Marx developed his theory of the distribution of
surplus-value further in Vol. 3 to a more concrete level of abstraction, at
which the total surplus-value is no longer taken as given, but is somehow
redetermined, such that all the passages I have presented no longer apply?.>>

"Redetermination" (further determination). Indeed. The passages do apply:
to the level they refer to. (Read all your quotes and you will see that my
reading can at least be upheld consistently.)

<< What is this lower level of abstraction?  At what point in Vol. 3 does
Marx move to this lower level of abstraction?  Why does the magnitude of
surplus-value change at this lower level of abstraction?  And what textual
evidence is there to support this

a) It is a movement to lower levels of abstraction all along from Vol. 1
b) Why does the magnitude change: as disussed -- new determinants.
("Change" is in fact not the right term. Here we definitely have to leave
the linear logic. I try nevertheless with a simple example: the '"move"
from the concept of "animal" to, e.g. "mamals" , "birds", "fishes" is not a
"change",  the second is a richer determination. It makes no sense, e.g.,
to stick a "number" to offspring of "the animal", wheras with pigeons we
can say they start breeding only when there are two eggs in the nest.)
c) Textual evidence: I can only give quotes that confirm my reading (in an
earlier post I set out why). See how very very often Marx uses the phrase:
" such and such WAS our point of departure, or set out so and so. NOW ...."
Of course in the Grundrisse Intro Marx speaks explicetly of the movement
from the abstract to the concrete (p. 101).
However, I am afraid that textual evidence (as set out in my earlier post)
will not convince the other. It is a paradigmatic difference so to speak
(the other view requires a Gestalt switch). If you dont make the switch you
will keep on interpreting texts in the other frame. I hope you try to
understand me like I try to understand you.

Finally, I think the more interesting point is what we do with this. Even
if you are now convinced (at last!) that my reading is correct, this may
not prevent you to adopt the other method in your analysis of current
capitalism. That is what I am interested in.

Geert Reuten


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