[OPE-L:932] Re: Pure and Normal

Gilbert Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Fri, 2 Feb 1996 13:45:39 -0800

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Alan writes:
> I'm going to come back to this in another post because I think,
> in your critique of Marx, you have overlooked the fact that
> throughout Chapter 5 Marx is speaking of C-M-C or 'Simple
> Commodity Circulation'.

Not at all. What I have criticized is Marx's explicit claim that
investigation of "simple commodity circulation" yields conclusions
which are relevant to the "general formula of capital", M-C-M'. Marx
announces the intention to investigate this claim in the opening
paragraph: "What distinguishes [M-C-M'] from that of the simple
circulation of commodities is the inverted order of succession of the
two antithetical processes....How can this purely formal distinction
change the nature of these processes, as if by magic?"

He then goes on to point out that for two of the parties in the chain
of transactions corresponding to M-C-M', no such inversion is
evident; it looks just like what happens in C-M-C. On the strength
of this correspondence, Marx asserts that "the inversion of the order
of succession does not take us outside the sphere of simple
circulation of commodities..."

Thus, Marx claims that an analysis of "simple commodity circulation"
yields relevant implications for the general formula of capital, as
indicated by the title of the chapter. I have shown that this claim
is invalid, in an argument that depends not at all on whether Marx
examines M-C-M' explicitly in Chapter 5 or not.

On the other hand, suppose that my critique of Marx's chapter 5
argument of itself did somehow depend on denying that Marx's
exclusive focus is on C-M-C. Since it remains the case that capitalist
exploitation may exist without the capitalist mode of production, both
on the authority of Roemer's formal argument and Marx's oft-repeated
historical argument, and that such exploitation *necessarily*
involves the non-equivalence of prices and values, my conclusion
that Marx's chapter 5 argument (which insists, remember, that any
setting in which surplus value is appropriated is isomorphic to the
case of price-value equivalence) is invalid remains intact

So I don't think this line of counter-criticism will get Alan

Next, Alan says:

> However, to continue: for me decisive are the several places
> where Marx specifically denies that exchange at values happens
> in reality, as in Ch5:

I am not arguing that Marx believes commodities exchange at values
"in reality." I've NEVER argued that Marx believes this. [Indeed I
would be schizophrenic in arguing this, since in my written work on
this subject I refer to the last footnote in Ch. 5, where Marx
explicitly affirms the contrary.] Rather I've argued that Marx takes
the case of price-value equivalence to be the analytical case of
prime or central relevance. My statement of the core structure of
Marx's Ch. 5 argument in the last post makes this notion of
"analytical centrality" explicit.

> "but in reality processes do not take place in their pure form.
> Let us therefore assume an exchange of non-equivalents" (p262)
> Note the antithetical phrasing: 'in reality...pure'. That is,
> for Marx, the 'pure form' is *not* what actually happens.

Of course.

I must prepare for class. I'll come back to the remaining issues.