chaion lee (conlee@chonnam.chonnam.ac.kr)
Wed, 6 Dec 1995 06:15:38 -0800

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In reply to Fred (OPE-L:608).

Thank you for your reply. This is a rejoinder.

1. Yes, as you said, "the 'assumption'[LVT] is not made out of thin air,
but is instead based on a certain type of analysis of the commodity". An
assumption is usually pregiven, is not derived from a certain **explicit**
analysis as far as we know. In Marx's case, he derived it from the
analysis of the commodity. In other sciences, however, such an analysis
is not explicitly described but is hidden from behind. They start directly
from the assumption. Yet Marx deliberately demonstrated how he derived
the LVT. In that sense, the LVT is somewhat different from the usual
assumption. I am not sure yet what I should call it instead of the
assumption. But I dissent from calling it an assumption. Since it is not
an assumption, not a hypothesis, Marx argued against 'the necessity of
proving the concept of value' as you properly observed. Marx's analysis
of the commodity is different from the process of what we call "from the
abstract to the concrete". It proceeded from the concrete to the abstract
(from the commodity to the abstract labor). I agree with Steve in

2. If you assume explicitly from the very beginning the totality of
capitalism, you have to explain what we mean by capitalism before
analysing the commodity. To explain the capitalism, however, you have
to explain the concept of surplus value, which require in return the
analysis of the commodity. So, the commodity is not to be presupposed
to be a product of capitalism in the beginning. Otherwise, you are
putting the cart before the horse. Logical prerequisites dictate this.
It is necessary not to assume the capitalism in the analysis of the
commodity for that very reason and then explain the capitalism after the
concept of surplus value. Still, however, I argue, the capitalism was
incubated in the commodity. This does not mean that capitalism is
presupposed in the commodity but that the analysis of the commodity was
due to lead to the concept of capitalism. (the post I sent is missing at
the moment, I will send it to you separately the moment I found it out).

3. All right. Your understanding is exactly what other people usually so
far understood about the concepts of "the abstract" and "the concrete".
But I dissent from this. If you were right, then how would you explain
Marx's distinction between "empty abstraction" and "substantive
abstraction" in his Grundrisse Introduction? IMO, your concept of the
abstract is the very Marx's "empty abstraction".

4. Some misunderstanding of me is here. I did not say "abstract labor is
derived prior to value". I just said. Abstract labor is more abstract than
value, value is more abstract than the commodity. But, in Marx's
analysis, he derived at first the concept of value from the analysis of the
commodity, then did the concept of abstract labor from the analysis of the
value. This is exactly in the opposite order of the conventional one, from
the more abstract to the less abstract. So, I argue to discriminate the
procedure from the commodity to the abstract labor from that from the
value to the capitalist world. One I call an analytical method, the other I
call a synthetic method.

Thanks again

Chai-on Lee