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

From: Ian Hunt (ian.hunt@FLINDERS.EDU.AU)
Date: Mon Nov 12 2007 - 18:17:01 EST

Dear Rakesh,
I do not want to go so far as to say that Marx's standpoint is
"epistemologically superior", if that is taken to mean something like
he stood on a higher hill from which he could see further than
others. I mean only that  in dealing with social systems we deal with
an entity that has to be considered from the standpoint of its
ongoing features: thus Rawls, for example, poses the question of
justice for future generations by drawing attention to this feature
of a social system's basic structure (Rawls also makes the point that
asking what features a system should have from the standpoint of
participants in the original position behind a veil of ignorance is
equivalent to asking what features it should have as an indefinitely
continuing system) It is therefore easy to assume that a social
system is indefinitely self-reproducing. Marx's insight is a
theoretical one: social systems are only conditionally ongoing and
through their own development can  undermine those conditions.
Resistance struggles against a system of domination, of course, raise
the question of whether that system can last. So I agree that the
rise of the working class movement prompted the theoretical shift
that Marx proposed. However, many others who responded to the rise of
the working class movement did not take the same theoretical step. So
it was not as though Marx enjoyed a kind of epistemologically
privileged vantage point. He just proposed a new theoretical

>>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

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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