[OPE-L:7724] Re: Postscript: M,C, V and S are abstractions, too

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Sun Sep 29 2002 - 23:40:41 EDT

On Sat, 28 Sep 2002 gskillman@wesleyan.edu wrote:

> Hi Fred, As usual, a related point came to me on my drive home.  

You will soon need a tape recorder to record your thoughts on your drives

> 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, 

Gil, I argue that M, C, and V (and I would add most importantly S) are
defined in terms of quantities of money-capital in circulation in the real
capitalist economy as a whole, and therefore are in principle
observable.  In a very rough way, these monetary variables refer to the
quantities of money-capital on the accounting books of capitalist
enterprises (a point which Duncan Foley has emphasized in his work).  
In a theoretically more rigorous way, these moneatary variables can be
estimated by judicial use of the monetary quantities in the US NIPAs 
(as I and Shaikh and others have attempted to do).  

It seems to me that you, like so many others, are defining these variables
in terms of labor-values (even M?).  I would agree that quantities of
socially-necessary labor-time are not in principle observable.  But M, C,
V, and S refer to quantities of money-capital, which are observable.

> 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.

By "calculate" and "construct" here, do you mean estimate or theoretically


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