[OPE-L:7721] Postscript: M,C, V and S are abstractions, too

From: gskillman@wesleyan.edu
Date: Sat Sep 28 2002 - 10:01:06 EDT

Hi Fred, As usual, a related point came to me on my drive home.  
You wrote
> I think this interpretation is in keeping with Marx's general
> philosophical method of what Ilyenkov calls "materialist dialectics" ,
> according to which Marx's theory is based on "real" or
> "concrete" abstractions, rather than purely logical or mental
> abstractions.  The concepts in Marx's theory, including the key concepts
> of capital and the circulation of capital, are abstracted from the real
> capitalist economy, and therefore refer to actual phenomena in the real
> capitalist economy.  They are not purely theoretical concepts that have
> been invented out of our heads.

Let's grant that one's theory of capitalism should be grounded as
concretely as possible in "actual phenomena in the real capitalist economy."
As Marx recognizes in K.I Ch. I, that would mean starting with the 
"immense collection of commodities" that constitutes capitalist wealth,
along with their respective prices.  

The *aggregate" concepts denoted by M, C, and V, on the other hand, are
"purely...mental abstractions" that therefore "have been invented out of our 
heads"--you can't see them or touch them, and they don't immediately bear on 
the details of any commodity transaction, but if you think you have a good
theoretical reason for doing so, you could perform the purely mental
operation of calculating these aggregates by constructing them from their 
concrete foundations in capitalist reality--that is, from sums of money 
given by purchases of commodities at their respective prices. Indeed, if 
we are to uphold Ilyenkov's methodological precepts, we must *necessarily*
proceed in this way.  So rather than merely positing C and V as pure 
abstractions, it would seem more in keeping with materialist dialectics
to construct them explicitly from prices and quantities--since this must be
done in practice in any case if one is to actually calculate these magnitudes
for a real capitalist economy.


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