[OPE-L:8048] Re: Heisenberg, Marx and the uncertainty principle

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Mon Nov 25 2002 - 07:08:04 EST

Cologne 25-Nov-2002

Rakesh Bhandari schrieb  Mon, 25 Nov 2002 01:42:18 -0800:

> 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.
> >ME: 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
> >commodities
> >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
> >continually
> >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.


Why do you call it a "metaphor"? I prefer to call Marx's 'carrying over' an

If the law of value is interpreted in "statistical or probabilistic terms which in
fact allow
for uncertainty at the level of individual exchanges", does that represent any
deviation from Descartes' handbook on how scientific knowledge is to be attained,
or any deviation from how the natural sciences themselves in fact proceeded
historically in developing statistical and probabilistic methods to cope with more
and more complex phenomena? Are the "laws of gases" non-Newtonian or simply a
further development of Newtonian physics within the same paradigm? Isn't the
epistemic drive behind the development of probability theory in mathematics
precisely to quantitatively grasp the predictable regularity in what is empircally
given (literally: the data) despite variation in the individual instance?

What I am suggesting aims at questioning whether the phenomenon of commodity
exchange -- even in an aggregated state -- is graspable at all by a mathematical or
even quantitative law which would provide a ground for this phenomenon. (This does
not exclude in the least the possibility of finding regularities in commodity
exchange data by means of statistical and probabilistic methods. As Aristotle
already pointed out, the discovery of empirical regularities does not of itself
amount to knowledge, _epistaemae_.) Such questioning, it seems to me, is important
in order not to uncritically adopt the (highly successful) natural scientific
paradigm of the modern age and transfer it to social phenomena.

Does Leibniz' "grand principle" -- nihil est sine ratio, Nothing is without reason
-- apply to the elementary social phenomenon of exchange?

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