chaion lee (conlee@chonnam.chonnam.ac.kr)
Sun, 10 Dec 1995 06:20:20 -0800

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In response to Fred Moseley [677], [678], [679],

Thank you for your highly sincere reply.

1. "Empty abstraction" appears in Grundrisse Introduction, on page 100.
But not exactly the same word.
"The population is an abstraction if I leave out, for example, the classes
of which it is composed. These classes in turn are an empty phrase if I
am not familiar with the elements on which they rest. E.g. wage labor,
capital, etc."
It is argued in the above that both the population and the classes are
empty abstractions. There can be many other abstractions, many other
assumptions to start from. But unless they are filtered through *an
analytical method* in advance, they all might end in an empty abstraction.
But, in your criterion, it needs to be chosen according to its explanatory
power. If then, you would have to compare their explanatory powers one
by one in their applications. It would cost a lot of tedious labor to start
from population, then to start again from classes, next from money, from
the commodity, etc. and then compare their relative advantages in each
case. It must be a sort of trial-and-error method. But the trial-and-
error method cannot be a genuine method since a method, if it is to
deserve the name, must explain to us how to save the trouble of the trial
and errors. In order to find out a right starting-point from the very
outset, he recommended us the analytical method instead of such trial and
errors. The method is shown in the very first chapter of Capital. The
analytical method, which start from the concrete to the abstract, has been
used only in theology, art, metaphysics, etc. As against this, the
synthetic method has been applied in modern sciences from the 18th
century. Marx used both in his economics. One is very useful *in part*
even in the scientific areas where neither microscopes nor chemical
reagents are of assistance, where the power of abstraction is required,
such as the quantum physics, astronomy, vivisection, etc. like in the
mystery story.

2. The path from the labor-value to the capitalist world is in a synthetic
(not an analytical) method. By unfolding the development of the intrinsic
contradiction of the commodity between use-value and value, he derived
the categories of money, capital, absolute and relative surplus value,
concentration, centralization, circuit of capital, commercial capital,
money-dealing capital, banking capital, etc. The unfolding process of one
category after another has been proceeded by reference to embryology,
phylogenesis and the reality of *capitalism* as its subject is the
capitalism. This reference is, however, by no means an assumption of
capitalism or a presupposition of capitalism, nor a presupposition of an
embryology, a phylogenesis, etc. The reference is only for the direction
of the unfolding. The result is not from without but only from within
the development of the intrinsic contradiction itself.
To explain a triangle as a prerequisite for the explanation of a pyramid
cannot imply by any means that a triangle of the pyramid was assumed
in the very beginning. Of course the subject of the analysis of a triangle
was the pyramid, but the triangle was a general one. The commodity
was also a general commodity, not a specific commodity of the capitalist

3. Your two presuppositions are unnecessary in my view. Your first
presupposition that the product in capitalism is a commodity is not
prerequisite for the derivation of LVT. LVT may apply best to the
capitalism. But it can, and should apply to any sort of commodity
production. The LVT is a closed, self-contained, ossified world of
capitalism. But it rather gives us the future and the past of the
Your second presupposition of the exchange of equivalents is also
unnecessary for the derivation of LVT. It may be necessary for the
derivation of the origin of surplus-value. But it is not necessary for the
derivation of abstract labour as the substance of value. Once it is known
that abstract labor is the substance of value, then we can derive the
origin of surplus-value even without the presupposition of the exchange of
equivalents. The equation form of exchange which Marx presented before
deriving the abstract labor as the substance of value, I argue, is not
assuming the exchange of equivalents. It simply assumes the commodity
exchange world. On this I could explain more in detail on the next
occasion if necessary.

4. Your presupposition is different from my incubation in this. The
reasoning process from the presupposition to the result is somewhat
mechanic. So, in the presupposition, the logical result must have been
concealed beforehand. In the logical proof of the Pythagorean theorem,
for instance, the result was presupposed in the pregiven assumptions.
By contrast, however, in my incubation, the result is not concealed in the
starting-point. The categories of capital, money, absolute and relative
production of surplus-values, concentration, centralization, etc. are not
concealed in the very concepts of value and use-value. The unfolding
process of the development of the contradiction between value and
use-value exhibits those categories, however. The guiding light for such
a unfolding process was the reference to the reality of capitalism.

Thanks again.

Chai-on Lee