[OPE-L:5750] Re: the infinite quantity of logically plausible social theories theorem (IQLPSTT)

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@lubs.leeds.ac.uk)
Date: Sat Jun 02 2001 - 15:41:10 EDT

On 2 Jun 2001, at 9:17, Gerald_A_Levy wrote:

> * _even if_  Marx's theory of value (and/or variations 
>   thereof) are shown to be logically coherent and 
>   consistent, what does that tell us? In other words: 
>   so what?

Imo, the gist of Marx's (correct) answer runs as follows:

There is a 'logical contradiction' between the abstract law of value 
and the concrete manifestation of that law: The *abstract* law is 
one of determination by labour, but profit equalisation ensures that 
labour times and prices are not proportional at the level of the 

CRUCIALLY, the logical contradiction means there can never be a 
'logically coherent' and true theory of value by the standards of 
'analytical logic'.

Ricardo is to be congratulated for making the contradiction as stark 
as possible, and for refusing to abandon the law. His lack of a 
dialectical logic left him floundering at how to deal with the 
contradiction however, he simply tried to play down the concrete 
contradiction of the law of value, instead of facing up to the 
implications of the contradiction.  

According to Marx, the solution is not to abandon the law, but to 
develop it. This development flows from a grasp of the *nature* of 
the labour that is the substance of value (it is *non-sensuous*, 
hence it must develop an appearance form). In terms of the OPEL 
debate, this view means that the various people who, in many 
different ways, abandon the 'LTV' (from VFT to Steve K):

1) have good reason - there is a contradiction - but nevertheless 

2) do not have a grasp of *what exchange value measures*; ie. do 
not know *what value is*. This leads, whatever 'theory' is favoured, 
to a problem of struggling to fathom what this highly abstract 
theory / model (for example, a Sraffian model) actually implies for 
concrete reality. Many false ('simplifying') assumptions are made 
and it is difficult to relax them whilst simultaneously retaining a 
grasp of the systematic determination of value, surplus value, etc. 
(this statement holds for VFT given the quantitative problems that it 
seems to have) 

Imo, the work of Ben Fine and others, shows what difference a 
grasp of value makes to concrete work. Fine has worked on many, 
many concrete issues, always stressing his debt to the LTV, and 
achieved novel, insightful results. 

Re the notion of 'infinite logically plausible theories': What do you 
mean by 'logically plausible'? This is a very curious phrase.

Re discussing more concrete things: What you say is fair enough 
but I think the reason that abstract issues (eg TP) are discussed is 
because they have massive implications for more concrete work. 
For example, I think the fundamental reason that Fine has a novel 
theory of various concrete things is because of his novel take on 
value (hence on the TRPF and the TP).

Best wishes,


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