[OPE-L:925] Agreements and Disputes

Alan Freeman (100042.617@compuserve.com)
Fri, 2 Feb 1996 07:13:19 -0800

[ show plain text ]

What is disputed and what is agreed?

(Re OPE 877, OPE 879 (30/1) from Gil and OPE 917 (1/2) from

Hi Gil and Allin

Having read through Gil's most recent posts as carefully as I
can, I'm beginning to see his argument more clearly (and
surprise, surprise, I still disagree with it) but I think it
might be useful to clarify a few things in preparation for a
later, more extensive study of the 'historical-strategic'
account of capitalist exploitation.

Issues in the debate

There are two issues I think it would be useful to clarify soon:
one is Marx's use of the terms 'normal' and 'pure'.

The second is Gil's critique of Chapter 5.

I agree Allin's usage of the concept of 'average' is important
and I still differ from it; but for my part I feel no need to
resolve this difference before the principal matter in hand,

Question 1

Is there in Marx (Volume I) a derivation of *both* value *and*
surplus value which is independent of the assumption of price-
value equivalence?

Remark 1

If I understand Gil correctly, his contention is that there is
not, and because of the errors in Marx's value analysis, there
cannot be, such a derivation. Hence the need for an alternative
('historical-strategic') derivation of the category (and
presumably magnitude) of exploitation.

What I have been trying to do in the recent past, to clear the
way for this important discussion, is to establish exactly what
Marx's derivation is. For, the tradition of this century has
been to attribute other people's theories to Marx, find the
logical errors in these theories and then attribute the errors
to Marx. It would be a very retrograde step if the next
generation merely carried this method into the next century.

Remark 2

In the light of Allin's contribution I would like to reframe
Agreement 1 (OPE-L:884) in a more minimalist form which I hope
he will find acceptable. My aim in the debate will be to show
that this is adequate to establish that Marx propounds a
derivation of both value and surplus value independent of the
assumption of price-value equivalence. I also maintain this
agreement is incompatible with the 'standard' interpretation:

"value is the solution to the equation v = vA+L"

Allin writes

"If one is to talk of the equivalence of prices and values
in any substantive way, value must be _defined_
independently of price; and of course we find this -- value
is defined in terms of socially necessary labour-time.
Equivalence is clearly not "the basis of his definition of

I find this statement immensely positive.

I take it from the context that Allin agrees that Marx does in
fact do this. Hence

Agreement 1 version 2

Marx's derivation of the category of value and its magnitude is
independent of the assumption of price-value equivalence.

I adhere to a slightly stronger claim, because I also assert
that the assumption of price-value equivalence is specifically
rejected in Volume I; but assent to this 'strong' claim isn't
necessary to settle Question 1. On occasions I may mix up
agreement 1 with this stronger claim, but I'll try and avoid
this as far as I can.

What then seems to remain in dispute is whether there is a
basis, in Marx's value theory, for the category and magnitude
of surplus value. I shall show there is.

There is perhaps a subsidiary issue as to whether Marx actually
explains this basis in Volume 1. I shall show he does.

This adds further weight to (but is not the only argument for)
the view I have always expressed, that the starting point for
Gil's exposition of the historical-strategic account of
capitalist exploitation should not be a rejection of anything
to be found in Marx, but the real-world circumstances the
account is intended to explain.

Thus I am adducing two distinct reasons for this view:

it is in general unproductive to start the exposition of any
theory on the basis of the errors of another theory. The
starting point of a theory should be real life. This does not
rule out discovering a new theory through the critique of an
old theory but this is different from *explaining* a theory
through the critique of an old theory. Marx discovered (order
of enquiry) his theory via a critique of Hegel and classical
Political Economy but explained (order of presentation) the
theory starting neither from the errors of Hegel nor from the
errors of classical Political Economy, but from the commodity.

I argue that Gil's (and anyone else's) exposition should begin
from the features of reality he wants to explain and the
positive elements of existing theory he wishes to use; the
difficulties with existing theory should appear at the point
where they become an obstacle, not as the logical basis of the
theory. Out of negation comes only negation.

in any case, I think it can be shown that Gil's critique is
invalid and founded on a misreading of Marx.

And I shall try to show it.