[OPE-L:83] Re: Marx's Goals

Gilbert Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Wed, 20 Sep 1995 17:03:18 -0700

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One problem apropos the recent exchange on Marx's "law" of value (or
any attempt on the part of our group to proceed in our analytical
project using this "law" as a foundation) is that no such law has been
established by Marx, at least not if one takes a social "law" to be other
than a) an assumption b) a strict tautology or c) an empirical
regularity (such as that connecting sunspots and stock prices, say).
Neither the argument from exchange conditions nor the argument from
production conditions (in the commodity fetishism section,
amplified in Marx's letter to Kugelmann of 11 July 1868) in Chapter
1, Volume I of Capital succeeds in establishing the basis for a
lawlike regularity connecting values and prices.

N. B.: As far as I can tell no valid part of Marx's historical
materialist critique of capitalism depends on the operation of the
"law" as Marx describes it in various passages throughout Capital and
the Grundrisse, so the above remarks should not be taken as
nihilistic with respect to our project. [In particular, the valid
aspects of Marxian theories of capitalist exploitation, capitalist accumulation,
and the tendentially falling rate of profit do not depend on the law of value for
their expression, and indeed in the first and third cases at least are mis-stated
to the extent they are presented on the basis of the assumption that prices are
proportional to values, a simplified version of the "law".]

I just thought since we've been discussing "paradoxes" in Capital, one might
want to go to the root. These comments also pertain to the proposals
that we follow Marx's "plans", as if we can simply take up where he
left off.

Now of course, we might want to agree as a group to take operation of
the "law" as a heuristic device, but we shouldn't
kid ourselves that we're doing anything more than that.

I offer the preceding comments in much the same spirit that minority
opinions are listed in the appendix of reports by Presidentially
appointed study commissions. I cheerfully expect the foregoing to be
dismissed as ill-informed or worse, but I couldn't justify letting
the discussion go by without lodging these observations.

In solidarity, Gil Skillman