[OPE-L:8054] Re: Re: (Change the world!) magnitude and givens in philosophy and political economy

From: Tony Tinker (TonyTinker@msn.com)
Date: Mon Nov 25 2002 - 11:53:13 EST

Please excuse me if I am resurrecting issues that you have settled in prior
exchanges (on measurement, quantification of labor, etc), but we shouldn't
underestimate the versatility of "the commodity", as the Marx's choice of a
starting point for analysis.  It is surely the case that the manifestation
of labor in market prices does play an important (historical) role in the
actual, dynamic development of capitalism (and is therefore an important
part of the picture).  But other, qualitative aspects  (love, family,
housework, spiritual conditions) are also vital to the reproduction of labor
power, and therefore cannot be excluded from the analysis.

Diane Elsen has a couple of essays in a book that she edited, e.g,  "The
Value Theory of Labour", Elson, Diane (editor) VALUE: THE REPRESENTATION OF
LABOUR IN CAPITALISM (London: CSE Books, 1979). that provides an 'analytic'
ordering of qualitative and quantitative aspects of labor, that attempts to
delineate four sets of conditions under which each is dominant.   Now
"dominance" (of so qualitative aspects) does not exclude other aspects --
they are still necessary.

Sadly,  the subsequent  "mature" Diane Elsen became a fan of market
socialism.   The 'young' Elsen is far superior.


Tony Tinker
Professor and Editor
Critical Perspectives on Accounting
The Accounting Forum
Baruch College: CUNY Box B12-225
17 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Email: TonyTinker@msn.com
Tel: 646 312 3175
Fax: 646 312 3161
Critical Conference Site: http://zicklin.baruch.cuny.edu/critical/
----- Original Message -----
From: "gerald_a_levy" <gerald_a_levy@msn.com>
To: <ope-l@galaxy.csuchico.edu>
Sent: Monday, November 25, 2002 8:45 AM
Subject: [OPE-L:8051] Re: (Change the world!) magnitude and givens in
philosophy and political economy

> Re Michael E's [8046]:
> I'll pass over your reference to "sociation" and _Value-Form and the
> now but would like to return at a later date to the controversial issue of
> whether sociation (and hence dissociation and association) should form the
> starting point for a systematic dialectical reconstruction of capitalism
> thought (as Mike  and Geert contend in _VFS_) or whether the starting
> should remain the commodity (as in Marx).  I will note only that within
> _VFS_ the sociation/dissociation/association dialectic is crucial for the
> later comprehension of the state-form.
> Instead, I want to further discuss -- and connect -- the following
> of your post.
> >  It is still taken for granted today, in 2002, in the mainstream
> > social sciences that if it ain't measurable, it don't exist.
> > With respect to a theory of capitalist society, thinking aims at saying
> >  what  capitalist society _is_. This is the form of question posed by
> > philosophy since  its beginnings, the famous Socratic question _ti
> > estin...;_ "what is...?". What  something is is the question as to its
> > essence. Marx starts with an analysis of  commodity exchange in
> > order to gain a first, preliminary, but all-decisive  answer to this
> > question. He starts with a familiar phenomenon of sociation,
> > namely, the exchange of goods between people. The practice of
> > exchange sociates > (or, to use a more familiar word, associates)
> > humans with one another. So the  question is: What is going on when
> > people sociate through the exchange of  commodity goods?
> Yet,  this constituted part of  Marx's *critique* of the philosophers:
> philosophers have only *interpreted* the world, in various ways: the
> however, is to *change* it" (of course, the celebrated and oft-quoted 11th
> Thesis from the "Theses on Feuerbach.")  So, clearly Marx identified his
> task as something more than just understanding 'what is'.
> One could even argue, though, that a *consistent* application of the 11th
> Thesis  -- wherein one interrogates its meaning rather than taking it as a
> 'given' --  would lead to a rejection of  Descartes' Rule 14.4.  How so?
> Let me explain:
> While it is the case that capital attempts to subordinate all aspects of
> social life to its imperative and thereby attempts to commodidify all
> social relations and hence express those relations quantitatively as
> magnitude, this can never be entirely successful or complete.  Indeed,
> it only expresses one side of a dynamic: namely, how capital attempts
> to re-mold all  aspects of human relations in its own image.  That
> side of the dynamic is not only expressed everyday in the marketplace
> (e.g. with the attempted commodification of love) but in mainstream
> (bourgeois) thought as well (e.g. "Human capital", a la Gary Becker,
> theory).
> Yet, the perspective that beings can only be comprehended in
> terms of magnitude is one-sided and hence false.  There are many
> *essential* aspects of social relations that *can not* be expressed as
> magnitude.   In fact,  I would assert that a systematic comprehension
> of  *CLASSES* and  *THE STATE* can not be developed merely
> through an examination of magnitude.  Indeed,  *ONE CAN NOT
> THE WORLD IN TERMS OF MAGNITUDE*.   Hence,  a rejection
> of Descartes  Rule 14.4  is a REVOLUTIONARY IMPERATIVE.
> Before you arrived (in the Spring, 2002) we had a discussion on-list that
> was stimulated by the publication of John Holloway's book _Change
> the World_.   While the three of us (John H, yourself and I) have a
> number of theoretical and political disagreements (which, no doubt,
> will unfold in due course) I think we all agree that we can not understand
> _or_ change the world if we conceive of  social relations only as
> quantitative relations which can be expressed as magnitude.  E.g. in that
> discussion, John highlighted the connection between LOVE AND
> STRUGGLE.   How can we, for instance, conceive of class subjectivity,
> consciousness, sisterhood, and comradeship only as magnitude?  Of
> course, it can't be done -- indeed, it is absurd.  Moreover, the working
> class and the revolutionary movement can not be conceived adequately
> in terms of magnitude.  It  is  thus part of the process of  the unfolding
> of an emancipation movement that revolutionaries come to conceive
> of themselves as more than just  numbers.
> I look forward to further discussion.
> In solidarity, Jerry

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