[OPE-L:8076] Re: philosophy and political economy

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Wed Nov 27 2002 - 10:52:39 EST

Cologne 27-Nov-2002

Rakesh Bhandari schrieb Tue, 26 Nov 2002 23:09:12 -0800:

> 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)?

The transformation problem presupposes a concept of value.

> 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.

Maybe it's not a communication with the dead, but a lively possibility of
association? Don't forget that there are exchangers (with desires and appetites)
behind products exchanged.

Did I accuse Marx of "quantitative fetishism"? Rather, I have been trying to show
up a confusion of disparate elements in Marx's thinking.

> 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 ).

Does this thralldom to the quantitative apply also to clyder@gn.apc.org's
reliance on "a growing body of empirical literature" or Paul Cockshott's
reference to "exceptionally strong empirical support" to bolster the law of

> 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
> post-Ricardian.

I agree that Marx is not a minor post-Ricardian, nor did I assert that.

>  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).

I agree. Marx understands "law of motion" in a different sense.

> 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
> value.

I agree, there is nothing theistic about Marx's law of value.
One can provide explanations of phenomena such as "crises and disturbances and
non-equilibrium" on the basis of a posited law of value, thus conforming with
Leibniz' "grand principle": Nothing is without reason. Alternatively, if the
nothing at the heart of the simple exchange relation is seen and recognized, then
the phenomena of "crises and disturbances and non-equilibrium" (would begin to)
appear in a new light for thinking. It would depend on arriving (es koemmt darauf
an) at another way of thinking.

> 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.

The (very apposite) example of the striving to reduce turnover time shows how the
dimension of value (in motion) takes hold of the dimension of time (the time of
practical everyday life) -- not conversely. This becomes clearer once the law of
value is disposed of. Such disposal does not at all dispose of magnitudes holus
bolus -- quite the contrary! -- but it places them in their proper, uncanny

> 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.

The effects of the law of value and the associated concept of SNLT, in my view,
are baleful because they obscure the view of the phenomenon of how the monetary
dimension itself constitutes a dimension of social magnitude _sui generis_.

I also regard Marx's thinking as superior to that of social science since he does
not rest content with definitions and empirical concepts but digs deeper into the
essence of social relations. Talk of essence in social science is a no-no. Even
more philosophical attempts in a neo-Kantian vein (e.g. Simmel's Philosophy of
Money) are rather flimsy.

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