[OPE-L:1180] Re: LVB6:What's in a definition?

Gilbert Skillman (gskillman@mail.wesleyan.edu)
Wed, 21 Feb 1996 13:07:11 -0800

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I'm continuing to wend my way through Alan's fascinating "Last Vast
Blast" mega-post, with the sole object of showing that his arguments
in no way address my Ch. 5 critique, despite advertisements to the
contrary. This post is quite short.

[Fast forward...]

Alan writes:

> Gil often writes as if it is possible to trace backwards,
> through an automatic process, from the conclusions an author
> draws and the arguments s/he uses, to the assumptions s/he must
> have made. I think this is more problematic than he may have
> realised.

I may do this somewhere--I don't know--but this is quite clearly
irrelevant to my criticism of Marx's ch. 5 argument. There we only
deal with premises that Marx makes quite explicitly, and conclusions
he draws from these premises quite explicitly. But as I've argued
and Alan has never denied, Marx's conclusion at the end of Ch. 5, to
the effect that the transformation of money into capital must be
explained on the basis of price-value equivalence, simply does not
follow from Marx's premises, and thus cannot support Marx's
subsequent exclusive focus on the purchase and subsumption of labor
power as the basis for capitalist exploitation.

> One can always establish by some sort of textual analysis the
> assumptions an author *says* s/he made. This doesn't get you
> far unless your only aim is to destroy them.

My aim is manifestly not to destroy Marx. Indeed, as established in
my response to Alan's previous post, his approach requires him to
discard more of Marx's analysis than I would suggest--and invalidly,
as well.

[Fast forward]

> So the status of 'total value = total price' is clearly quite
> important.

Not to my critique of Marx's Ch. 5 argument.

> The only way you can actually show a postulate is not redundant -
> that is, independent - is to demonstrate a system which does
> without it. And I think that is what Gil should concentrate on.

With regard to my support of Marx's own historical-strategic account,
I have. But even if I hadn't, the fact remains that Marx's
conclusions at the end of Ch. 5 are invalid, and thus can't support
his subsequent Vol. I focus on the purchase and subsumption of labor

> *But* this proof of independence is not achieved until that system
> has been subjected to all the usual tests; consistency, generality,
> noncircularity, match with reality, and so on. *Until* that has been
> done, there is no basis for a claim it is arbitrary and such
> arguments actually lead up a blind alley.
> Until we have seen the whole of Gil's system and are sure it works,
> there is no basis for accepting his criticisms of an alternative
> system which definitely does work. This is yet another reason why,
> in my view, *starting* from the 'errors' in Marx is a no-hoper and
> indeed positively dangerous.

My system is simply Marx's system of historical-strategic analysis,
with some details thrown in based on the hindsight provided by over a
hundred years of theoretical development.

However, let there be no doubt: in order to see the significance of
Marx's historical-strategic argument, one must reject the invalidly
derived conclusions at the end of Vol. I, Ch. 5.

> Is 'total values equals total prices' an axiom or a theorem?
> ============================================================

This is interesting in its own right but totally irrelevant to my critique of
Marx's Ch. 5 argument.

In solidarity, Gil