Re: [OPE] Reply to Ian Wright on counterfactual equilibrium

From: Ian Wright <>
Date: Wed Sep 23 2009 - 16:52:43 EDT


Your response is quite rambling and unfocused. It requires a great
deal of patience to engage with you, and to be honest and slightly
selfish for a moment, I am not sure that I am getting much out of it.
So please excuse me if I don't follow up on everything you say.

>The question that remains is, "why should Marxists try to prove that capitalism can function harmoniously
>and equilibrate itself on the basis of the law of value?".

Would you rather we prove that it will fall apart of its own accord? I
don't understand.

Marxists, i.e. social scientists, should be concerned with
understanding social reality, irrespective of all other
considerations. To act effectively, and change our circumstances,
requires true ideas. Proving this or that based on pre-conceived ideas
is, quite simply, the road to hell.

I think it requires a certain kind of radical perversity not to
recognize, as an empirically established fact, that generalized
commodity exchange instantiates causal regularities that tend to
allocate social labor to different sectors of production to meet
effective demand. This recognition does not imply, in any way, that
capitalism is a "harmonious" system, or that it performs this
allocation in an equitable or efficient or democratic or
non-exploitative manner etc.

To be prosaic as possible, how do you explain that when you visit a
park on a sunny day only 1 ice-cream van turns up, and not 1000?

Sometimes what is obvious is, on deeper reflection, quite surprising
and in need of an explanation.

For example, consider Marx's deep explanation of the necessity of the
value-form, and therefore money. "Every child knows" that a society
able to reproduce itself over time must allocate its available labor
time. In generalized commodity production the private, autonomous
production units need to be integrated into a functioning whole. But
the integration is not performed in a conscious or planned manner.
Hence the necessity of the value-form: objects get stamped with
prices, the exchange of money against goods functions as a homeostatic
feedback mechanism, which integrates the private producers into a
social division of labor etc.

Does the law of value explain everything of interest about a
capitalist economy? Of course not.

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Received on Wed Sep 23 16:55:28 2009

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