[OPE-L:608] Re:

Fred Moseley (fmoseley@laneta.apc.org)
Thu, 30 Nov 1995 12:05:55 -0800

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Thanks to Chai-on Lee [OPE-L:584] for responding to my previous comments on
Chapter 1:

>1. Fred told "LTV is the assumption upon which the rest of Marx's theory
>is based". But I think this position of his is of an relativism. If LTV is a
>mere assumption, any alternative assumption, eg. the subjective value
>theory, too may claim to be equally true with the same right. Which one
>is to be taken simply would rest on your taste and interest.

How can the labor theory of value be anything other than an assumption? To
be sure, this assumption is made not out of thin air, but is instead based
on a certain type of analysis of the commodity. But this anlysis of the
commodity is itself based on certain methodological presuppositions (e.g. to
analyze capitalism in terms of its objective characteristics, rather than in
terms of the subjective choices of individuals), which are not
self-evidently true, and in fact have been disputed be many people. So in
what sense can Marx's derivation of the labor theory of value be a PROOF?

In my view, the choice between Marx's labor theory of value and the
neoclassical subjective theory of value should be based on the relative
EXPLANATORY POWER of the two theories. Marx said precisely this in his
famous letter to Kugelmann (11 July 1868, SC. 196):
The unfortunate fellow [a reviewer of Capital] does not see that, even
if there were no chapter on "value" in my book, the analysis of the
real relations which I give would contain the proof and demonstration
of the real value relations. All that palavar about the necessity of
proving the concept of value comes from complete ignorance of the
subject dealt with and of scientific method.
In other words, the "proof" of the labor theory of value is the explanations
it provides of important phenomena of capitalism: the necessity of money,
the origin of profit, technological change, conflict over the length of the
working day, conflict over the intensity of labor, periodic depressions,
etc. I would argue that the explanatory power of Marx's theory is greater
than the explanatory power of subjective value theory, and that is the
reason the former should be chosen over the latter.

>2. Fred said "Part 1 of Capital I is a necessary logical preliminary to the
>analysis of capital and surplus-value". It is true. But you said in [OPE
>516] "Marx assumed from the very beginning of Capital the totality of
>capitalism". This statement is contradictory to the above one. Assuming
>the totality of capitalism, did Marx develop the LVT and then analyze the
>capitalism on the assumption of the LVT? Is this in a circle?

I do not see how these two statements are contradictory. Marx assumed the
concrete existence of totality of capitalism from the very beginning of Capital,
i.e. the capitalist economy was the subject of his analysis. He began his
analysis of capitalism with its product - the commodity. From his analysis
of the commodity, he derived abstract labor as the common property of
commodities which explains their general equivalence. He then derived money
from abstract labor and capital from money. Marx assumed capitalism from
the beginning, but the theory began with one particular aspect of
capitalism, which is the commodity, not capital, because the commodity is a
logical prerequisite of capital. Hence the logical category of capital is
not yet derived in Chapter 1, but the commodity analyzed is assumed to be a
product of capitalism. I do not see how this is a contradiction.

> As I said earlier in [ope-l: ?], the concepts of money, capital, etc.
>are incubated **in latent, undeveloped forms** (thus incapable of serving
>as the premise) within the very primitive category of "the commodity".
>The logical sequence from the commodity to money, capital, etc. resembles
>the biological, embryology, ontogeny, etc. In the analysis of an egg,
>butterfly is of no use for a premise. But, in the egg, a butterfly is
>incubated. The path and the direction of the development of the egg
>towards the butterfly is predetermined by the incubated butterfly of the
>egg. Is "capital" incubated in the commodity? Yes, of course.

I am not sure what you mean here, but I might agree with you. "Capital is
incubated in the commodity" sounds very much like what I just said above.
Do you see it as different? Please send me your previous ope-l posts to
which you refer.

>3. Fred said, in ope-l 506, "Marx's logical method was to pick **one
>aspect of this totality** as the starting point of his analysis of
>He picked **the most abstract, universal aspect** of capitalism, the fact
>that its products are commodities". He identified the "one aspect of
>totality" with "the universal aspect of capitalism". But one aspect of
>totality is not universal but partial and one-sided by definition. It is not
>the abstract either. The starting point, the commodity, must be rather a
>concretum than the abstract.

I admit that I am unsure about the abstract/concrete terminology here. I
agree that the commodity is "concrete" in the sense that it is a given fact
that the product of capitalism is a commodity. Do you mean something else
by "concrete"?
But Marx's analysis of the commodity in Chapter 1 is not of an actual,
concrete (in this sense) commodity, but rather an analysis of what all
commodities have in common (their general equivalence). In this sense,
Marx's commodity in Chapter 1 is both abstract and universal. It is also
abstract in the sense that all other aspects of capitalism are not yet
incorporated into the analysis.

Maybe others better versed in Hegel can help us out in understanding the
concrete/abstract/universal nature of Marx's commodity in Chapter 1.

> What I mean by the abstract is different from others'. Most Marxists
>conceive it as a way of purification or simplification in modellings. I
>dissent from this. IMO, it implies the logical anteriority of concepts and
>categories rather than simplifying purification. This, I think, agrees with
>Marx's explanation of it in Grundrisse Introduction. Abstract labour is
>more abstract than value, value is more abstract than money, money is
>more abstract than capital. But Marx derived the abstract labour category
>from the analysis of the commodity, and not vise versa. Does this mean
>the commodity is logically anterior to the abstract labour? Not at all. I
>emphasize a distinction between the analytical method that proceeds from
>the concrete to the abstract and the synthetic method that does from the
>abstract to the concrete, which I explained in [ope-l:?].
I think that I agree with this too, in the sense that more concrete
categories are derived from more abstract categories. But I am not sure
that abstract labor is derived prior to value. It seems to me that Marx
first derived value as the common property of commodities which explains
their exchange-value, and then derived abstract labor as the substance of
value. I look forward to receiving your previous posts for further study of
your interpretation of this point.

Thanks again,

Fred Moseley