[OPE-L:7720] Re: M-C-M' and the determination of S

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Sat Sep 28 2002 - 07:20:51 EDT

Re Fred's [7714]:

If I understand you correctly, I don't agree with your understanding
of "hypothetical" and "real" in Marx.  Nor do I think that it helps us
to comprehend in systematic fashion the character of the subject
matter of capitalism.

> 1.  I argue that the quantities of money-capital in Marx's theory of the
> circulation of capital in Volume 1 refer to (or are intended to
> represent) REAL, ACTUAL quantities of money-capital in circulation in the
> real capitalist economy.

Marx's subject matter, which he attempts to reconstruct in thought, is real
enough -- capitalism.  However, Marx's method of abstraction requires
that "real, actual" processes be (initially) stripped of their particularity
in  order to comprehend generality.  Thus, "real, actual" commodities are
specific, individual commodities.  Yet, to comprehend commodities
in general one does not have to comprehend the specific characteristics
of all commodities, e.g. the ripeness of an orange has an effect on its
use-value and exchange-value yet it is not crucial for comprehending the
character of commodities as a group.  This striping of the attributes of
actual subjects in effect converts, for purposes of comprehension, the
actual (the real starting point) into the hypothetical with the intent that
the hypotheticals are systematically enriched and deepened so that, at
the close of the presentation, the starting point is returned to but with a
full and  systematic comprehension of all of the necessary (non-
contingent) attributes of the subject.  So, yes, Marx's method is not
_merely_ an exercise in thought:  that would be idealistic. But, no,
his method does not preclude an analysis of hypotheticals, in contrast
to reals, -- rather his method necessarily _requires_ the construction of
hypotheticals. All of the above follows from Marx's description of
method in the _Grundrisse_.

Let us consider the matter further:  what is the "real capitalist economy"
that Marx is referring to in Volume 1?   "Real, actual" capitalist economies
are identified not be their generality but by their particularity.  Yet,
clearly  Marx did not want to construct a theory that only concerned one
social formation in one historical period.  To construct that more general
theory, he employed abstraction which  (initially) stripped away
and particularity -- in so doing he arguably constructed a "hypothetical".
any event, the sharp dividing line that you are drawing between "real/
actual" and "hypothetical" is not a good description of the distinctions and
method that Marx employed, IMHO.

To focus on the secondary question of magnitudes in Marx's theory,
whenever Marx gives C, V, S a magnitude with a number (e.g. in
unit of gold), those numbers are arbitrarily selected as numerical
illustrations and are thus *hypotheticals*.   It might take the form of
*assuming* _if_ c is a certain quantity (call it x) and v is a certain
quantity (call it y) _then_ s will = another quantity (call it z).  The
numbers given in the examples (x, y, and therefore z) can be
substituted with other numbers (let's say a, b, and d respectively).
That would not alter  Marx's point.  Of course, Marx does use
*actual, real* numbers in the *historical sections* of _Capital_,
but in the basic theory we are discussing  the numbers are arbitrarily
selected just like the rate of exchange is arbitrarily selected.  Even
where the magnitudes are held to be *representative* of real, actual
processes *the actual magnitudes themselves*  are hypothetical
illustrations.  E.g. in the formula in question, where a magnitude is given
for M in M-C-M'  that magnitude is _hypothetical_  *even though*
Marx thought that it was _descriptive_  of a real, actual process.
If the magnitude itself were actual and real then it would have been
*derived from empirical data* -- yet this was clearly not done (nor
was it required).   So, regardless of whether Gil agrees with you on
this point (which he seems to do in 7719), I think the contrast that you
are suggesting between 'hypotheticals' and 'reals' in Marx's theory
is erroneous.

Enough for now. What do others think?

In solidarity, Jerry

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