[OPE-L:2181] Quiz answers/subjectivity

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Mon, 13 May 1996 10:18:28 -0700

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The passage I quoted reads:

" ... the basis of value is the fact that human beings relate to each
other's labor as equal, and general, and in this form social, labor.
This is an abstraction, like all human thought, and social relations
only exist among human beings to the extent that they think, and
possess this power of abstraction from sensuous individuality and

Now for the moment almost none of you have been waiting for:

Author: Karl Marx

When written: probably 1861 or 1862

From: Economic manuscript of 1861-63. The last paragraph of the
section on absolute surplus-value. It can be found in English in
the Collected Works, vol. 30, p. 232 (I changed "labour" to "labor"
so it would be less easy to identify; also I didn't indicate when
the word was in English in the original).

The EXTRA CREDIT question was: "According to the same author(s), same
passage, 'what distinguishes human social relations from relations
between animals'?

Answer: the above-mentioned "power of abstraction." (I least I can't
think of a different way of reading the passage that makes sense.)

Was the author a subjectivist value theorist? I'm surprised that no noe
said yes. The author says that the *basis of value* is a particular
way of thinking. So I'd answer yes. ... It seems, however, that
the terms "objectivist" and "subjectivist" in value theory may now be
technical jargon, more or less divorced from their general meanings.
The author is clearly not an Austrian or neoclassicist, does not see
pregiven preferences as the basis of value, does not see individual
predilictions as the basis of value, so maybe that's why people answered
the question in the negative. ... I think the problem is that of
Hilferding who, I think, was the one to introduce the objective/subjective
distinction. He never clearly defines what he means and muudles his way
through his critique of Boehm-Bawerk by conflating subjective,
psychological, and individualistic, three quite different things, in my
opinion. Of course, all this reflects the philosophically impoverished
and positivist mentality of 2d International Marxism, for which objective,
materialist, and social meant good, and subjective, idealist, and
individual meant bad.

Would you characterize the author(s) as (an idealist(s)? Materialist(s)?
Neither? I received the responses: historical materialist, transcen-
dental idealist, and neither. On the basis of this one passage, I'd
myself say neither, and on the basis of prior knowledge, I too would
say historical materialist. What the passage makes clear is that
"ontological materialist" isn't correct.

"Do you agree with the author(s)?" I'll let this one linger some more.

The clear winner of the quiz is ope-l owner, founder, organizer, and
moderator JERRY LEVY. He alone got the author right. (Of course,
Jerry thought it was from the "'early Marx'", so Althusserians, etc.
may protest that Jerry got the wrong person. But I think they'd have
a hard time explaining this passage, except by postdating the
"epistemological break" (oh, excuse me, they've already done so).

Jerry also noted that human beings are animals, and suggested that
animals such as dolphins possess "species-being" and consciousness.

Andrew Kliman