[OPE-L:8047] Re: Re: Re: Heisenberg, Marx and the uncertainty principle

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Mon Nov 25 2002 - 04:42:18 EST

In OPE-L 8042 Michael E argues that Marx's Newtonian conception of 
natural law undermined his ability to recognize the uncertainty 
inherent in the exchange relationship.

>But there is another reading of the sense of “economic law of motion of modern
>society” which is more pertinent to an economic science of society, and this
>reading concerns the concept of value that constitutes the 
>cornerstone of Marx’s
>entire _Critique of Political Economy_ in _Kapital_. The law of 
>labour value is
>not a law of historical development, but a quantitatively conceived 
>law that is
>said to underlie, directly or indirectly, the exchange relations of 
>in a capitalist economy, in a way precisely analogous to how the movement of a
>physical body obeys Newton’s second law of motion f = ma. This 
>quantitative law
>of value is supposed to be the fundamental principle through which 
>the movement
>of capital itself, on its various levels of abstraction right down to the
>concrete levels of the intertwining of individual capitals in reproducing a
>capitalist economy, is progressively theoretically graspable by means of
>conceptual mediation, just as the Newtonian laws of motion, with successive
>elaboration of the theory of mechanics, account for increasingly complex
>movements of natural bodies in particular circumstances resulting in 
>theories of
>hydrostatics, hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, and so on. When Marx 
>introduces this
>quantitative law of value, it is no accident that he refers 
>specifically to one
>of the laws discovered by Newton, namely, the law of gravity:
>"It requires completely developed commodity production before the scientific
>insight grows out of experience itself that the private labours which are
>performed independently of each other, but which depend all-round on 
>each other
>as naturally emerging members of the social division of labour, are 
>reduced to their socially proportional measure because, in the contingent and
>constantly fluctuating exchange relations of their products, the labour-time
>socially necessary for their production violently asserts itself as 
>a regulating
>law of nature, like the law of gravity, for instance, when a house 
>tumbles down
>over your head. The determination of the magnitude of value by labour-time is
>therefore a secret hidden beneath the phenomenal movements of the relative
>values of commodities. " (MEW23:89)

Isn't the law of value as a regulating law of nature conceived here 
in inherently statistical or probabilistic terms which in fact allow 
for uncertainty at the level of individual exchanges? Is Marx's 
metaphor of a law of nature Newtonian as the Marxian law of value 
applies to the whole of commodities, not to each particle or physical 
body?  With Marx's recognition of constant fluctuation and phenomenal 
movements, isn't there a better analogy in the laws of gases than in 
Newtonian laws (as I think Austro Marxist Max Adler argued)? As Marx 
wrote, hadn't there been important developments in the metaphor of a 
natural law since the 16th century during which the consolidation of 
absolutism may have inspired a conception of natural law by which 
each subject is strictly regulated?  Allin and Paul C have often 
referred to a probabilistic conception of the law of value by Farjoun 
and Machover.

For later discussion, I just want to note that I have read that the 
possible connections between Dilthey's verstehen method with its 
rejection of the ability of the social scientist to stand critically 
outside "an all embracing cultural system"  and fascist political 
ideology are explored by David E Cooper in terms of holism in 
Verstehen and Human Understanding, ed Anthony O Hear and by H.Hodges 
in terms of vitalism in the Parkinson volume on Lukacs.  Paul Mattick 
Jr's book on Social Knowledge which is focused on Weber and Winch 
rather than Dilthey is also important in this regard. The rejection 
of scientism or the role of the impassive spectator in the study of 
society and human affairs raises its own problems.

Yours, Rakesh

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