Re: [OPE-L] the long and the short of it

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Thu Sep 14 2006 - 09:26:37 EDT


Let's begin with a memory refresher.  You previously asked me
a direct question:

> By the
> way, how do you know that "Well, if the subject is
> capitalism, then-- for instance -- money is an
> essential aspect of that subject"?

to which I  gave a direct answer:

> The central and essential importance of money to the
> subject of  capitalism is evident from the fact that
> products tend to be produced as commodities in that
> mode of production.

You now offer the following:

> So according to you, most of the greatest economists
> of all times,

Your original question and my answer were not framed
with reference to what you call "the greatest economists
of all times".

Please be responsive and don't muddy the discussion.

The point I was making -- as I went on to write in my
post -- is that commodities and money are necessarily
linked.  If it is self-evident that commodity production is
essential to capitalism; it is also self-evident that money
is essential for that mode of production (more later).

You asked:

> Does this essence of your subject dance around in the
> street or you have used some method of analysis to
> discover it?

and I replied:

> Well, yes, to the extent that commodities and money
> are necessarily linked, it can dance in the street.  No
> need to "discover" its immediate importance -- every
> child  in  a capitalist society comes to understand on
> some level the essential role of money.

To which you now reply:

> Observe yourself how you are dancing around now! You
> had called money to be "essential", now you say "no
> need to discover its immediate importance". Is
> "Immediate importance" equivalent to being
> "essenctial"? Again, notice yourself how quickly you
> have contradicted yourself. Earlier you had said, "it
> [i.e. I did] conflates topics associated
> with an understanding of capitalism in general and
> topics which are associated with conjunctural analyses
> of specific social formations." Does your money above
> dance in the street of capitalism in general or some
> contingent capitalist formation? You have moved from
> your claim to an abstract object of knowledge to a
> claim to an observation of a contingent impirical
> fact--this observation apparently turns out to be your
> "method" for determinig the so-called "essence" and
> you don't seem to be aware of it. By the way, If I
> were you I'll not believe in whatever children seem to
> know--most of what they know is crap!

Well, I'll leave that last assertion for child psychologists
to dispute or verify.

Turning (again) to the issue at hand:  is money 'essential' for
capitalism and 'how do you know that'?

This is related in my view to how can one justify the claim
that commodities are essential to capitalism.    Theory can
and should, where possible, begin with a concrete material
reality rather than a deduction.    How does Marx, for instance,
justify his starting point of the commodity?  He simply says:
"The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of
production prevails appears as an 'immense collection of
commodities'; the individual commodity appears as its
elementary form.  Our investigation therefore begins with
the analysis of the commodity".  In other words,  the essential
role of commodities to capitalism is taken to be -- at first -- a
*given* which can be readily observed in the reality of
modern society.  OF COURSE, that's not the end of the story.
Quite the contrary, it's the _beginning_ of the story.  In the same
way,  the essential importance of money to capitalism can
be taken as a given.  I.e. it is a self-evident proposition which
everyone in capitalist society can observe as an empirical fact
which does not (immediately) require supporting logical rationalization
or historical or empirical study; this self-evident proposition --
the essential role of commodities and money -- is then systematically
considered and explicated.    The purpose of that explication, though, is
not to "prove" a self-evident reality of capitalism.  Rather, it is
to interrogate how the character of commodities and money, to
a large degree, shapes the character of capitalism.

In the same way, it is OBVIOUS that capital and capitalists are
ESSENTIAL for the operation of CAPITALism.  Again, the recognition
of this reality does not mean that what might be considered to be a
"given" is not interrogated: quite the contrary, what is taken as given
must be explored.

To deny that commodities, money, and capital (and I could list other
characteristics) are essential to capitalism is to deny the reality
of capitalism.  Such a stubborn denial -- in the name of
anti-essentialism --  prevents an understanding of the subject.  That
was the meaning of my  reference to dogs' fleas and sparrows' chips.  If
you can't say that money is more essential to capitalism than fleas and
chirps then I doubt you will be able to say anything of meaning about
capitalism.   To deny that money is essential for capitalism is  _worse_
than being a 'flat-earther' since _everyone_ in capitalist society
comprehends  the _reality_ that money is essential for the operation of
such a society whereas the fact that the Earth is not flat is not
self-evident  and had to be discovered.

In solidarity, Jerry

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