[OPE-L:1178] Last Vast Blast, Alas

Gilbert Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Wed, 21 Feb 1996 12:16:03 -0800

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I've just finished going over Alan's nearly article length treatise,
and my mind boggles at the effort he must have put into this, for
which I thank him. I hope at some point to address the issues he
raises concerning the connection between total price and total value,
and the definition of value. These are legitimate and interesting
questions in their own right.

However, there is an important issue that's entirely separate from
the above, and needs to be made clear up front: the substantive
arguments pursued by Alan are necessarily and virtually completely irrelevant
to my critique of Marx's chapter 5 argument. That is, I could grant
every single argument he makes except for the inaccurate representations
of my own argument, and inferences he draws from such
misrepresentations, and my original critique would stand unscathed.
Perhaps the most obvious shorthand indication of this is that Alan's
posts revolve around numerical examples, and his "restrictive rules" refer to
numbers, and my argument does not depend in any way on numbers.

In particular, contrary to Alan's suggestion , my argument does not depend
in any way on the assumption that new value can be created in exchange.
As I've said repeatedly, it is *necessarily* the case that this can't occur,
since value is defined in terms of socially necesary labor time expended in
production, and exchange isn't production.

[I do argue that Alan repeats Marx's fallacy of division in discussing
capitalist appropriation of excess value via redistribution, but this is a
separate issue, and anyway Alan has ignored this.]

Furthermore, I made all of this clear in my post OPE-L 1056, so we
are going back over ground I've already covered.

To restate the central points, already established in my original
"laying down the cards" posts and supplemented by OPE-L 970 and OPE-L
1056, among others:

1) Marx's conclusion at the end of Ch. 5, to the effect that "the
transformation of money into capital" has to be explained on the
basis of "the exchange of [value] equivalents", simply does not
follow from the arguments given in the body of the chapter, to the
effect that surplus value cannot be accounted for on the basis of
simple circulation taken alone. For example, these arguments are
logically consistent with (but do not dictate) the claim that the
transformation of money into capital must be accounted for on the
basis of "something...in the background which is not visible in the
circulation itself." [As indeed was necessarily the case for
proto-industrial merchant's capital.]

Nothing Alan has written disputes my point that the chapter's conclusion
does not follow from the arguments given in the Chapter.

2) Consequently, Marx's exclusive focus in the remainder of Volume I on
the purchase and subsumption of the commodity labor power as the
basis for capitalist exploitation **cannot be justified** on the
basis of the arguments given in Chapter 5. This is true *whether or
not* Marx presumed in Volume I that the capitalist mode of production
prevailed. The issue is whether the purchase and subsumption of
labor power is **analytically central** to the account of capitalist
exploitation given that workers are "free in the double sense", as opposed to
being "accidental" or an "incidental disturbance." The arguments in Chapter 5
cannot be taken to establish this point; thus, if the purchase and subsumption
of labor power *is* analytically central to this account, as I'm willing
to agree it is [subject to an important caveat] this must be
established on some other grounds.

3) Correspondingly, Marx's conclusion in Ch. 5 is pernicious in that
it logically implies, and manifestly has led many Marxists to
believe, that capitalist exploitation as Marx defines the term
*requires* the purchase and subsumption of labor power, since the
circuit of capital associated with the latter is the only one which
can satisfy the requirement of exchange at equivalents. But this is
manifestly not the case, as Marx's repeatedly affirmed historical
analysis of usurer's and merchant's capital extended to small
producers demonstrates.

4) When one reads Marx's historical analysis of capitalist
exploitation in Volume III, reinforced by parallel arguments in the
Resultate, the Grundrisse, the Economic Manuscript of 1861-1863, and
even Volumes I (historical portions) and II of Capital, one discovers
that Marx's exclusive focus on the purchase and subsumption of labor
power as the basis for capitalist exploitation once workers become
"free in the double sense" can [only] be justified on what I've termed
"historical-strategic" grounds which are essentially independent of
Marx's value analysis.

5) As shown in my post 1056, the foregoing criticism is sustained even if one
accepts Alan's amendment to my original post that Marx in Ch. 5 is talking
solely about price-value conditions in simple commodity circulation.

6) As argued in the same post, the argument in no way depends on
whether total prices = total values or not.

7) Contrary to Alan's representation, my argument in no way depends
on which expression for value is adopted. The only case which could
apply is if Marx is held to assume that individual prices *must* equal
respective individual values, which would only solve the problem by fiat,
and anyway we all agree that Marx doesn't assume this.

In what follows, I go through Allan's "Last Vast Blast" posts and
refer to various ways in which he has misrepresented my argument. I
enjoyed the posts a lot, by the way, especially the anecdotes.

[Fast forward...]

> To test the hypothesis that circulation can create new
> surplus value,

This is irrelevant. I do not claim that circulation can create new
value, and indeed have argued explicitly and repeatedly to the
contrary. My critique does not depend in any way on this claim. I
have, however, pointed out a fallacy of division committed by Marx
which Alan repeats. This is however a strictly secondary issue.

[Fast forward to LVB2]

>...a *nominal* increase in prices cannot raise value. I repeat that
if this is denied--if Gil wants to maintain that value can be created
by raising the price of every good by the same proportion, and doing
absolutely *nothing* else--"

See above. How can Alan attribute any such position to me, given my
repeated explicit remarks to the contrary?

[Fast forward to LVB3]

>For our part money is primary and relative prices are secondary.
> But for Gil, relative prices are primary and money is secondary.

> I don't expect Gil to accept this, but that's my take on it.

I don't accept it, simply because this question is irrelevant to my

[Fast forward to LVB5]

>If the value appropriated by each class is measured by the values of
>the goods it *consumes*, then this recirculation transfers value from
>one class to another. Or in Gil's terms, exploitation takes place
>outside of production.

This misstates what I've argued in a fundamental way.

I do not argue that exploitation takes place outside of production.
Indeed, in my OPE posts as well as the copy of my upcoming S&S
article that Alan has a copy of, I state explicitly that capitalist
exploitationas Marx understands the term in his historical analysis
requires production. My point is that it doesn't require the
*capitalist* mode of production, and Marx's historical analysis
explicitly confirms this.

>If, this fact is 'exploitation' then we surrender: yes, circulation
>can transfer value from one class to another....The great bulk of the
>issues at dispute with Gil, I strongly suspect, boil down to this

No, this is absolutely false, as indicated above. The only place
this issue has entered our discussion is when Alan argued the
opposite of the first sentence above, at which time I pointed out
that in so doing he was repeating a fallacy of division committed by
Marx. But this is a strictly secondary issue.

Oops, I see that there is a large concentration of references to me
in the remainder of LVB5. I'll have to reply directly to it. Well,
this post is long enough already.

In solidarity, Gil