Re: [OPE-L] Incoherence of the TSSI - consensus?

From: Ian Wright (wrighti@ACM.ORG)
Date: Sat Oct 27 2007 - 15:45:48 EDT

> But you're presuming that exploitation HAS a quantitative substance, and that it is useful to
> talk about that quantitative dimension. You're also assuming that value has some intrinsic
> "substance"--that it must be something more than the ratios at which goods may be
> exchanged for one other.

Sure but equally you are presuming that exploitation does not have a
quantitative substance, and that prices have no referent. Regardless
or who is right or wrong about this, we should acknowledge that this
is a significant substantive difference between the Marxist and
surplus schools. A lot follows from this fundamental difference.

(The surplus-school's denial of the LTV clearly derives from Sraffa's
critique of the logical possibility of any theory of economic value,
be it neoclassical, Austrian or Marxist. But Sraffa  fails to theorize
the role of the commodity money-capital and its relationship to the
definition of absolute value. The deep contradiction he wrestled with,
and which he but only partially resolved with his device of the
standard commodity, is a labour-cost accounting error inherited from
the classical economists, particularly Ricardo. Also the more I study
his critique of neoclassical capital theory the less I am convinced
that it is successful; e.g. I am persuaded by Bidard's analysis of the
logical coherence of the marginal productivity of capital, and have
followed the recent debates between Samuelson and Garegnani with
interest. It seems to me that Samuelson still engages in this debate
since he is clearly enjoying it.)

> I do not mean to say that capitalism isn't exploitative. It surely is. But that's a value
> judgment.

No it's a fact; or at least it is in the Marxist approach to the
issue. "Exploitation" is a description of a real process of
inequitable transfers of labour-time between classes under the guise
of apparently equitable monetary exchanges.

We can argue whether "exploitation" actually exists or not. But as
defined it is not a value judgment.

> Disagreements about what is just ought to hinge on ethical premises, not on differences
> about how the world objectively works--though of course it is not always easy to keep the
> two things separate.

Agreed it is not. Bhaskar's work has been much preoccupied in denying
the traditional demarcation of facts and values (e.g. "The Possibility
of Naturalism"). These are tricky topics no doubt. Engels critiqued
the approach of applying ethical premises not intimately linked to a
deep scientific understanding of economic causality in his "Socialism:
Utopian and Scientific".

In the Marxist approach since profit is unpaid labour time we can show
that a progressive element of bourgeois ideology, specifically the
"ethical premise" of the equality of man as exhibited by commodity
owners freely engaging in trade, is unfinished or incomplete, since
this premise is in fact contradicted by the wage payment system. To
uncover this contradiction requires a theory of value that gets beyond
the surface appearance of market exchange.

All this is compressed, and much more can of course be said, but it
seems to me a much richer and deeper critique of capitalism than what
could be provided by the surplus school given its denial that a
"quantity of capital" has an objective referent, and the associated
inability to say what capitalist profit *is*. So contrary to what you
initially intimated the LTV in my view "does a lot of theoretical
work" and cannot be cast aside without also abandoning many of Marx's
most important scientific advances.

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