[OPE-L:8105] Re: magnitude and givens in philosophy and political economy

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Tue Dec 03 2002 - 21:35:07 EST

I have been out of town for a week or so, and am trying to catch up on the
interesting discussion between Jerry, Michael E., Rakesh, Andy, and
others.  I will make a few brief comments, starting with a reply to Jerry
on the givens in Marx's theory. 

On Sun, 24 Nov 2002, gerald_a_levy wrote:

>       ======
> > In economics, under the powerful influence of the success of Newtonian
> > physics  in the 17th and 18th centuries (Newton's magnum opus
> > _Philosophiae naturalis  principia mathematica_ was published in 1686/87),
> > the 'holy grail' has been to  discover and found principles or axioms upon
> > which economic phenomena could be  put into a deductive order.
> > Candidates for such scientific theories have been  the labour theory of
> > value, marginal utility theory, equilibrium theory. They  all require some
> > sort of theory of prices. All these theories come to grief,  however,
> > precisely on the phenomenon of money itself since the monetary
> > quantities with which economic theory must work CANNOT BE SIMPLY
> > TAKEN FOR GRANTED if the theory is to be well-founded (emphasis
> > added, JL)
> Thus, in order to systematically comprehend the subject matter of
> capitalism,  monetary quantities can not be simply taken as being "given"?
> What do you think was the role of "givens" in Hegel's and Marx's social
> theories: i.e. what role did "givens" play within the systematic ordering of
> their presentations and thereby the reconstruction of the subject matter in
> thought?  *Background*: are you familiar with the perspective of  [OPE-L
> listmember]  Fred [Moseley] on the role of givens in Marx's _Capital_
> especially as it relates to magnitudes?
> > Re 2) The alternative to seeking a predictive social science is to regard
> > the  phenomena of association which constitute social relations
> > themselves and try to see (negatively) why and how they elude
> > prediction. This could lead  (positively) to an appreciation of what a
> > social relation between humans is _at all_.
> > (Max Weber's sociology, for instance, distinguishes between Erklaeren
> > und  Verstehen, explanation and understanding, but the understanding
> > he himself  practises does not amount to unearthing the deeper dimensions
> > of the phenomenon  of society. His sociology takes too much for granted.)
> Thus a deeper comprehension of the subject matter of capitalism is gained
> by *not* taking phenomena which can be expressed as magnitude as being
> given?   What is the Hegelian understanding on what should happen in a
> theoretical presentation _after_  an aspect of a phenomena is _assumed_ to
> be given?  That is, if we assume at one level of the presentation that
> something is given,  doesn't that impose a theoretical requirement  that we
> then have to _inquire_ at a subsequent stage in the analysis about the
> phenomena that we have assumed to be given?

I do not argue that Marx simply took constant capital and variable capital
as given, as quantities of money-capital, with no explanation.  Rather, I
have argued (at length on OPEL and in published work) that:

1.  Marx explained in Chapter 1 the nature of money - as the necessary
form of appearance of abstract labor.  Thereafter in the theory, any
quantity of money - including the money quantities of constant capital and
variable capital - represents a definite quantity of abstract labor.

2.  The precise quantities of constant capital and variable capital that
are advanced to purchase means of production and labor-power in the first
phase of the circulation of capital are taken as given, because these
quantities of money-capital are equal to the prices of production of the
means of production and the means of subsistence, and prices of production
cannot be explained until after the total amount of surplus-value has been

3.  The prices of production of the means of production and the means of
subsistence - and hence the quantities of constant capital and variable
capital - are eventually explained in Volume 3.   Therefore, Marx first
took C and V as given, and then later explained these magnitudes; in other
words, the initial presuppositions are later posited.

I would be happy to try to clarify further.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Dec 04 2002 - 00:00:01 EST