[OPE-L:447] Re: #446 & # 445

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Tue, 7 Nov 1995 19:25:42 -0800

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I have a couple of short points that I want to respond to.

1) In #446, Andrew states (regarding Postone's conception of abstract labor):
" It does not easily lend itself to quantification. I'm not trying to
be a quant jock, but capitalism is all about quantitative relations, so
this problem is significant."

I think that the above statement by Andrew bends the stick too much in
relation to the quantitative dimensions of capitalism. While capitalism
certainly incorporates quantitative aspects, it is *not* "all about
quantitative relations." In explaining abstract labor, I think Marx also
was far more concerned with the qualitative meaning of that concept than
its quantitative expression. Not being familiar with Postone's work, I
can make no further comment on the relevance of Andrew's critique to that

2) Near the end of #445, Alan states:
"Marx is, I think, quite clear about this an polemicises with Ricardo for
not recognizing that 'commodities are already priced before they trade'.
But if this is in dispute it might be useful to return to the text of
Marx on this question."

I'm not going to take issue with what Marx wrote regarding *when*
commodities are priced. Instead, I will pose a couple of problems with
understanding how such a view can explain concrete price changes
(which was *not* Marx's concern when he criticized Ricardo as above).

Are commodities priced before they are traded? This is a question that
must be answered not only in the particular context that it arises in
Marx, but also in the more concrete context in which commodities are, in
fact, currently priced under contemporary capitalism.

In oligopolistic markets commodities are "priced" ex ante. However,
the ex ante price can not become the real price until it is validated by
exchange ex post. In other words, firms can make projections regarding
price, but they can not know ex ante what the price *will* be for the
commodities that they sell. Latent within any exchange is the
possibility that the price that has been projected will not be realized
in the manner anticipated.

Another example: consider retail sales of automobiles. While auto
manufacturers have a projected sticker price, we all know that this will
not necessarily be the price that the car is sold for. The salesperson
who works for the dealer doesn't know prior to exchange what the actual
price will be -- her/his projections can be higher or lower than what the
actual prices becomes. In this instance, the salesperson has a *range* at
which he/she might consider selling the car, but the actual price is
determined, in part, by haggling between the seller and the customer.

None of the foregoing should be interpreted to mean that "Marx got it
wrong" or that Alan's basic point re value and price is wrong. What it
does suggest, however, is that this is one of *so many* topics that need
to be addressed further when discussing the realities of contemporary

In OPE-L Solidarity,