[OPE-L:91] Re: Laws and Levels of Abstraction

jones/bhandari (djones@uclink.berkeley.edu)
Thu, 21 Sep 1995 00:04:26 -0700

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>To the extent that it is valid to speak of laws in p.e., we might add that:
>-- laws are socially and historically specific (rather than natural or

can't laws be historically specific and still work themselves out with iron
necessity, be absolute for that mode of production? I do not defend this
possibility here, not yet, not now. But I do note that the historicity and
the absoluteness of a law are not the same thing.
>-- laws are conditional and are modified at other levels of abstraction.
>For instance, we would (I think) all agree that the "general law of
>capitalist accumulation" can not be understood to be a statement about
>what actually does happen (because of both its level of abstraction and,
>of course, we know that it *has not* manifested itself in the manner
>suggested in Ch. 25, V1).

Isn't Marx's basic understanding of his laws that the conquest by capital
of all other modes of production would itself be a law-like necessity, the
completion of which would then allow his laws to manifest themselves with
iron-like necessity? That is to say, Marx had to abstract from the
contamination of capital by other modes of production; this is the
essential reason why his laws are conditional.

Yet this does not turn Marxian laws into thought experiments. Marx also
attempts to show that given that capital can rely and expand ferociously on
its own internal 'resources'--namely, the exploitable labor-power which it
generates through the creation of the industrial reserve army of labor--the
world-historic conquest of capitalism is not hypothetical but a real

Thanks to Jerry for the always clear and well-articulated analysis and
questions; in this post the topic was skilled labor.