[OPE-L:8296] Re: Milios et al, "Karl Marx and the Classics"

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@buffalo.edu)
Date: Wed Jan 08 2003 - 19:50:21 EST


On i) below, I don't think we'll make much progress.  The citations are too 
indecisive to settle the issue and those who have Ricardian reading of Marx 
won't be bothered.

On ii), I think you miss my point.  Your co-authored book claims that Marx 
in the mid-1860s moved in some instances toward a Ricardian position but by 
the time of Volume 1 he moved back to his 1859 position.  What I was doing 
was challenging you to sustain your position by examining how Marx REVISED 
Volume 1 between 1867 and 1875.  I don't know the answer to my own question 
regarding value -- I was hoping you'd have explored that evidence (it's not 
in your book) as well as the Notes on Wagner which have a lot on value.

I myself am very much interested in the distinction between Ricardo and 
Marx -- that's why I got your book from inter-library loan.  I completely 
agree with you that Capital is about the capitalist mode of production (I 
thought I made that clear when I agreed that value only applies to this 
mode of production).

Your reply to iii) is conditional upon i) and ii).  If I were to become 
convinced of your position then of course the introduction of 'labor 
concept' would be less significant.  Recall that Marx considered the 
exchange value of labor power by far the most important exchange 
transaction in capitalism, yet you seem to claim that it could at best be 
measured in a distorted way through its monetary expression.  "Distortion" 
leaves A LOT OF ROOM for this and that and what not.

By the way, there are many OTHER new concepts in Marx, like productions of 
absolute and of relative surplus value, concepts which do not appear in 
Ricardo.  We don't have to go your route to demonstrate the distinction 
between Marx and Ricardo.  I wish your book at least had dealt with the 
significance, or lack thereof, of 'labor power' as a new concept.

On iv) and to the end, are you claiming people like myself to be 
individualist when you write: "behind the imperative of "measurability" of 
social relations one may find the ideology of individualism"?  If so, I 
reject the accusation.  First, I don't suggest the measurability of "social 
relations" but rather of "value" and "surplus value" (stopwatch or no 
stopwatch).  Second, I'm much influenced by Althusser and Luxemburg and I 
don't see how the charge is sustainable against them, particularly not 
against Luxemburg (if she is individualistic, then it is all over for 
Marxism).  Third, there are places all around Marx where he gives numerical 
examples of surplus value which clearly suggests that Marx himself is not 
opposing measurablility.  Now, of course, Marx himself may be less than the 
best Marxist from the point of view of your argumentation and that could be 
fair enough, except that you don't suggest the need to "correct" Marx for 
an adequate theoretical understanding of the capitalist mode of production 
(while Luxemburg did so suggest).

Cheers, Paul Z.

> i) "why didn't Marx, on the eighth page, call the reader's attention to
> his project [as you describe it] of 'theoretically recasting' of that
> supposedly Ricardian value?";
> ii) the CHANGES by Marx represented by the three editions of Vol. 1;
> My view is that Marx's CAPITAL does not present an analysis of
> different "models" of "themes" (first the "simple commodity production",
> then  the "capitalist commodity", etc.). It has a unique object of study,
> the  capitalist mode of production, which Marx approaches on different
> levels of  abstraction, i.e. in a process of gradual
> clarification-concretisation. In this  process, he always starts from a
> commonly accepted definition of the notions  under discussion. That is
> why he makes the Ricardian version of value as his  point of departure.
> However, he does not restrict himself to this initial  definition ... (A
> small example: In Ch. 1 of Vol. 1, in Sec. 4. “The Elementary  Form
> of value considered as a whole”, he writes: “When, at the
> beginning of  this chapter, we said, IN COMMON PARLANCE, that a commodity
> is both a use-value  and an exchange-value, we were, accurately speaking,
> wrong”. Or in respect to  use-value: After having accepted as a
> point of departure the common-sense idea  of a “useful
> thing”, he later clarified “that the product must be not only
> useful, but useful for others”, etc.). Only by taking into
> consideration his  whole analysis we may draw our conclusions. Besides, I
> do believe that he  called his readers' attention on this matter, as he
> repeatedly mentioned (even  in the very first page of Vol. 1, before
> having spoken about capital and  surplus value) that the products of
> labour become commodities in "those  societies in which the capitalist
> mode of production prevails". (More  emphatically, a few pages after,
> Marx stresses: "The value form of the product  of labour is the most
> abstract, but also the most general form of the bourgeois  mode of
> production", Vol. 1, p. 174).
> iii) "labor power" as a MAJOR new theoretical concept distinguishing Marx
> from Ricardo;
> I agree that this is indeed a major point of difference. However it is
> not THE  major point, as I have tried to show. Besides, one may
> implicitly find this  notion in Ricardo's (and Smith's) analysis: When
> the Classic economists claim  that the value of "labour" (the wage)
> equals the value of the worker's means of  subsistence, it is clear that
> they speak about something different from the  quantity of labour
> expended by the worker.
> iv) the fact of total working hours of workers compared to the time
> required to produce subsistence needs (a fact which you say cannot be
> described by 'values' even in the simplest of capitalist reproduction).
> I think that this shall not be regarded an analysis on the level of
> value, but  on a higher level of abstraction: that of labour and
> surplus-labour, which  characterises every mode of production, not only
> the CMP, as Marx warns his  readers. The analysis on this specific level
> of abstraction is necessary, in  order for the readers to comprehend that
> surplus value (which appears as  profit) signifies surplus labour.
> However, the tribute paid by the peasant  communities to the emperor of
> China or to the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire (eg.  the tenth of their
> wheat production, etc.) was also the product of surplus  labour.
> Paraphrasing your statement, I may say that indeed the total working
> hours of those peasants (the direct producers in the specific mode of
> production) were actually significantly more compared to the time
> required to  produce subsistence needs. This does not mean, however, that
> they produced  commodities or surplus value. To analyse capitalism we
> have to move further, to  the specific forms of appearance of surplus
> labour and surplus product.
>  Finally you stated:
>  "Taking your argument to the extreme, surplus value cannot be measured
> and so we don't even know if profit is associated with surplus value
> (Steedman or no Steedman) or the color of grapefruits. Surplus value
> becomes a mystery".
> No, I think that we know what surplus value is (the specifically
> capitalist  type of surplus labour, more exactly, the notion of a
> historically specific  social relation of exploitation which manifests
> itself as profit [not as  tribute, feudal compulsory labour, etc.]) which
> CAN BE MEASURED (empirically)  only on the level of its form of
> appearance (in monetary units).
> A last point concerning the "measurability" of surplus value: As we know
> from  Marxist theory (Lenin, Marx, ...) capitalism is not only a system
> of economic  exploitation but also of political suppression, that is of
> political power of  the capitalist class over the working classes of the
> society. How do  you "measure" political power and suppression? By the
> number of the army's  cannons, the policemen's guns or by the number of
> schools, churches and tv- channels? And if we cannot "measure" it, does
> that mean that it does not exist?  I am afraid that behind the imperative
> of "measurability" of social relations  one may find the ideology of
> individualism.
> Cheers,
> John Milios

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