[OPE-L:7723] Re: Re: M-C-M' and the determination of S

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Sun Sep 29 2002 - 23:29:30 EDT

Jerry, thanks for your comments.  A few comments of my own in reply:

1.  My core interpretation of Marx's theory in Volume 1 is the
following: in any given period of time, *a certain amount of actual
surplus-value is produced in the real capitalist economy as a
whole*.  That is the magnitude that Marx's theory of surplus-value in
Volume 1 is about - actual and for the economy as a whole.  That is the
magnitude that Marx's concept of surplus-value refers to, or in intended
to represent.  That is the magnitude that I have tried to estimate from
the NIPAs in my prior empirical work - the actual total surplus-value, or
dM, produced in the US economy as a whole.  

Marx's theory of surplus-value in Volume 1 is not intended to explain the
surplus-value produced in individual firms, nor in individual
industries.  Nor, most relevant to the current discussion, is it intended
to explain a different hypothetical magnitude (i.e. not equal to the
actual surplus-value) that is instead proportional to the labor-time
required to produce surplus goods.  This is the specific contrast between
real and hypothetical magnitudes that I am emphasizing.  

Jerry (and others), do you agree or disagree with this core proposition?

2.  The numbers given in Marx's examples are certainly hypothetical.  But
they are intended to represent or illustrate the actual magnitudes of
money-capital in the real capitalist economy as a whole.  Because that is
what Marx's theory of surplus-value in Volume 1 is about.  

3.  Why do you consider the question of magnitudes to be a "secondary
question" in Marx's theory?  The primary question in Marx's theory, in my
view (as stated repeatedly), is the question of surplus-value, or
dM.  This is a quantitative question.  Indeed, Marx remarked that
surplus-value is "pure quantity" - i.e. all that matters about
surplus-value is its quantity or magnitude.  So I don't see how this can
be a "secondary question".  What do you think is the primary question?  

Thanks again for your comments.


On Sat, 28 Sep 2002, gerald_a_levy wrote:

> 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
> individuality
> and particularity -- in so doing he arguably constructed a "hypothetical".
> In
> 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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