[OPE-L:8069] Re: Re: philosophy and political economy

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Wed Nov 27 2002 - 02:09:12 EST

re 8065.

Michael E wrote:

>I think that Marx, in his Critique of Political Economy; is wanting to place
>his bets (at least) two ways. He wants to ground a law of value with SNLT as
>its quantitatively determining causal factor (in some sense or other), but
>at the same time, his phenomenology is richer, in that it deals with the
>simple everyday phenomena of commodity exchange, etc. He emulates the
>Cartesian/Newtonian casting in expounding a law of value, but there is more
>to his analysis of value than this (viz. the value-form).

So variation in capital structure becomes the third body for Marx's 
theory of the transformation from prices to values (I interpret the 
transformation problem in inverse terms, but that's another point)?

At any rate, Michael, I don't understand this charge of  quantitative 
fetishism as Marx after all disclosed how our relations of living 
social labor are and can only be mediated through purely quantitative 
relations among inanimate things (the necromancy of the commodity 
world) as a result of historically specific class relations. As Tony 
T's comment suggests, Marx probed the roots and meanings of this 
thralldom to the quantitative, i.e., prices (see Korsch's chapter on 
commodity fetishism ). It was Ricardo who was happy to ground the 
exchange relation "in SNLT as its quantitatively determining factor." 
Marx's dialectic only accepts this starting point--the Ricardian law 
of labor value-- to demonstrate both its failure in its own terms (as 
a result of the forced abstractions by which Ricardo responded to 
Malthus) and (in quasi Kantian fasion) the (socio-historic) limits of 
its validity (see Gideon Freudenthal). Marx is not a minor 

  If Heidegger rejected the scientistic attempt to reduce 
understanding to the mathematical exact sciences or more generally 
those claims that endeavor for universality through purely formal 
languages (e.g., Heidegger's rejection of Carnap's critique of H's 
conception of nothingness because it could not be translated into the 
putatively universal language of the propositional calculus), Marx's 
laws of motions are not written in the language of number or do not 
at times resemble an exact mathematical science for the purpose of 
achieving universality across cultures and time, i.e., timeless 
validity (see Korsch on historical specificity).

  Marx, unlike a Newton of economics (Ricardo?), explicitly argued 
against universalizing the application of the law of value to each 
capitalist commodity (see Farjoun and Machover?) or over all modes of 
production (see John Weeks, Moishe Postone); the Marxian law of value 
also does not explain  a  celestial order in the world of commodities 
but crises and disturbances and non equilibrium (see Grossmann, 
Mattick Sr, Freeman and Carchedi, eds. who all argue against Dobb's 
and Sweezy's misinterpretation of Marx's law of value as a law of 
economic equilibrium). There is nothing theistic about Marx's law of 

Yet because Marx also disclosed how the fate of capital rests on a 
quantitative increase in value, he did indeed have to devise 
conceptual tools by which to understand its circulation 
quantitatively ( Grossmann and Lapides but see Lebowitz). But this 
quantitative dimension to his laws of motion is a great strength of 
Marx's critique of capital. For example, Marx was the first to 
discover how much the reduction in turnover time contributed to the 
increase in value (Grossmann again; Allin wrote an important note on 
turnover time for this list many months ago); and any attempt at a 
phenomenology of time would be seriously impoverished without 
accounting for the experential changes wrought by attempts to reduce 
turnover or circulation time. There is no contradiction between 
Marx's quantitative theorizing and his phenomenology, as I think you 
are implying.

In short,  I must say that I remain confused why exactly  you believe 
that the Cartesian or Newtonian model of the mathematical exact 
sciences (as their founders interpreted them or as others received 
them or as Marx understood them?) and their timelessly and 
universally valid laws of motion (but see Ronald Giere) had a baleful 
influence on Marx's conception of social  science.

Yours, Rakesh

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