Re: [OPE-L] Lawrence Krader on objective and subjective value

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Mon Nov 12 2007 - 11:08:31 EST

>Dear Ajit,
>While Marx could be construed as putting forward a theory that
>explains why everyone sees things in a certain way while he alone
>does not, this would be an uncharitable interpretation. The idea
>seems to be more humdrum: Copernicus claimed a different standpoint
>(as, incidentally, did Kant in Philosophy) for explaining the
>apparent motion of the stars and planets which also offered an
>account of why they seemed to move as they do to people who had not
>adopted that standpoint but one that more immediately reflected their
>experience. Marx might only be saying that from the standpoint of
>seeing indefinitely enduring social systems as historically limited,
>he can provide an account of exploitation, etc, that is invisible to
>those who do not take their object of study as arising only in
>specific historical circumstances and depending for its reproduction
>on specific  and transient historical conditions.

Ian, I think this and your other recent post on Cartesian
subjectivity are very well put. Thanks. I think the rise of the
workers movement did provide Marx with a standpoint which I think you
are suggesting is epistemologically superior. I also think
dialectical thinking even in the form of Engels' principles allowed
him to theorize economic phenomena in a new way--value form as unity
of opposites and price of production as a reconciliation of
contradiction between law of value and law of profit, as two
examples. Or quantity to quality transitions in the transformation
from petty proprietor to captialist or in wage relatin from exchange
to appropriation. He was alerted to how process could result in the
negation of its own negation too of course. Most importantly though I
think Marx's dialectics were not only logical. Marx's genius depended
on the dialectical process that history had by the 1830s applied to
capitalist institutions, bringing out contradictions which no amount
of dialectical genius on the part of Smith or Ricardo could have


>More suspect, surely, would be Marx's gestures at some sort of
>historical inevitability of social change independent of individual
>>--- Ian Wright <wrighti@ACM.ORG> wrote:
>>>  > Jurriaan, I think you did not understand what I
>>>  was
>>>  > trying to say. Let's say I claim that "I always
>>>  lie".
>>>  > Now if this statement is true then I have
>>>  obviously
>>>  > contradicted myself, because I have apparently
>>>  made a
>>>  > statement which is not a lie. And if it is not
>>>  true
>>>  > then still I have contradicted myself because what
>>>  I
>>>  > stated is not true. This is the kind of problem
>>>  Marx's
>>>  > (or at least an interpretation of) historical
>>>  > materialism falls into. If historical materialism
>>>  is
>>>  > true then it cannot escape its own historicity and
>>>  if
>>>  > it claims to be universally true (as it does) then
>>>  its
>>>  > claim to universality stands in contradiction to
>>>  its
>>>  > own theoretical claim. One aspect of Marx's
>>>  writing is
>>>  > quite prophetic in nature. He seem to sit on a
>>>  hill
>>>  > top looking down at ordinary folks in the
>>>  > valley--commenting on how little they can see
>>>  given
>>>  > their circumstances etc. whereas he, of course,
>>>  sits
>>>  > on a previledged position from which the vision is
>>>  > much clearer and complete. Cheers, ajit sinha
>>>  I think you are choking on an a self-referential
>>>  feature of Marx's
>>>  Historical Materialism (HM) that he inherits from
>>>  his inversion of
>>>  Hegel. Both thinkers argue that human history is
>>>  intelligible and
>>>  law-governed. For Hegel, history is the
>>>  self-development of Spirit,
>>>  for Marx its the self-development of social labour.
>>>  Both Spirit and
>>>  social labour function in the role of invariants in
>>>  each respective
>>>  theory that ultimately explain social change through
>>>  time. Hegel
>>>  claims that the Spirit first becomes self-conscious
>>>  of itself in
>>>  Hegelian philosophy, whereas Marx argues that social
>>>  labour first
>>>  becomes self-conscious of its own historical role in
>>>  scientific
>>>  socialism (e.g., "philosophy must be realized in the
>>>  proletariat"). So
>>>  HM is a theory of history that explains the
>>>  necessity of its own
>>>  appearance at a certain stage of human development
>>>  (hence the
>>>  self-referential element). But of course it is not a
>>>  finished theory
>>>  (hence the historical contingency). Since science is
>>>  cumulative the
>>>  claims of HM are universal without entailing a
>>>  contradiction: if it is
>>>  a true theory of history then better and more
>>>  complete theories in the
>>>  future will retain its essential insights (c.f.
>>>  Newtonian mechanics as
>>>  a special-case of quantum mechanics at large
>>>  scales).
>>>  I think your invocation of the liar paradox does not
>>>  do justice to
>>>  this theoretical complexity. It's also a typically
>>>  "analytical"
>>>  objection that ignores how self-referential
>>>  paradoxes can get resolved
>>>  once time is introduced. Implement the liar paradox
>>>  in Prolog and
>>>  you'll get an infinite loop not a crash.
>>Ian, I'm not talking about the theory of history. I'm
>>talking about the critique of ideas based on the
>>master strategy of HM. To quote Rubin via Jurriaan:
>>In Das Kapital, as Isaac I. Rubin emphasized, Marx
>>indeed explicitly tries to explain why the categories
>>of value present themselves they way they do in human
>>consciousness generally, and in the consciousness of
>>businessmen and the political economists in
>>particular. Marx refers specifically for example to
>>the reifying effects of market relations, in terms of
>>"commodity fetishism", "the illusions of competition"
>>which invert the real concatenation of events, and the
>>"holy trinity" of value-creation. He notes also that
>>"In bourgeois societies the economic fictio juris
>>prevails, that every one, as a buyer, possesses an
>>encyclopedic knowledge of commodities." (note 5)
>>The question is: how could Marx penetrate through the
>>so-called "commodity fetishism" where other political
>>economists could not? Obviously they had some
>>limitation that Marx does not have. It is the question
>>of the vantage point that Marx claims for himself but
>>denies others to have. Cheers, ajit sinha
>>Do You Yahoo!?
>>Tired of spam?  Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around
>Associate Professor Ian Hunt,
>Dept  of Philosophy, School of Humanities,
>Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy,
>Flinders University of SA,
>Humanities Building,
>Bedford Park, SA, 5042,
>Ph: (08) 8201 2054 Fax: (08) 8201 2784

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