Re: [OPE-L] abstraction and surprise

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Wed Nov 30 2005 - 10:52:04 EST

michael a. lebowitz wrote:

> This may be overly simplistic, but begin with the commodity. Now,
> after thinking about the commodity, we could introduce now as a
> closer approximation to the world-- money, thereby allowing us to
> consider non-barter transactions, the possibility of postponing
> purchases after sales, etc. And, similarly, capital....
>          This process of successive approximation is precisely what
> dialectical logic and Marx rejects. His point is that as soon as we
> proceed to interrogate the commodity, we discover that LATENT within
> it is the concept of money. We are driven logically to the category
> of money, and thus we understand the inner relationship between
> commodity and money (and can never lose sight of it).

All that is latent within the exchange relation is that a scalar
is conserved in the process of exchange.

This is a precondition for the possibility of money, but money is
not latent within the exchange relation. To assume this is to
sneak in particular hypotheses about history. Money would be
impossible unless there was a conserved scalar in the exchange
relation, but this does not mean that this is enough to
bring money into existence. To derive its actual existence
from the commodity is to make specific though hidden hypotheses
about the nature of the state and its role in the creation of
money. It involves abstracting from other non equivalence preserving
economic relations that occur simulaneously with commodity exchange.

>          What drives this process forward in Marx? Something similar
> to the process of successive approximation in that it is the defect
> in the theory relative to the real world that demands logical
> progress. However, dialectical logic requires that, rather than
> dropping new categories from the sky (in what could be an arbitrary
> and idiosyncratic manner), the body of theory must be shown to be
> defective, one-sided, demanding its Other (which cannot be an
> arbitrary addition). Thus, we construct a logical seamless web.

The problem is that there may be more than one 'Other' as you put
it that could be hypothesised.

To derive money from commodity exchange is to project the
system of generalised free commodity exchange onto history
without taking into account that there also existed coercion
in the form of taxation. One could as readily deduce money
from the needs of tax gathering.

This is just what I mean by the dialectics acting as a sleight
of hand allowing hidden hypotheses to be introduced without

Paul Cockshott
Dept Computing Science
University of Glasgow

0141 330 3125

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