[OPE-L:2186] Re: Debates

Michael Williams (100417.2625@compuserve.com)
Mon, 13 May 1996 15:44:42 -0700

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Jerry says/asks (in the context of why we each might feel that our work is

* Mike W. and Geert might think, for instance, that they view value as
something more than a "metaphor" (am I correct, Mike W?).

Again, constraints only allow an aphoristic response:

1. I do not feel that our work has been slighted : 'Value-form and the State:
...', was a difficult and (over-?) ambitious project, on which I have done
almost no work since (and, I think Geert has not done much.)

2. My subsequent work on the (largely) bourgeois philosophical critique of
orthodox economics (especially the inadequacy of the interpretation of its
formal modelling core) has tended to make me also see Marxist economic
'modelling' through a fairly jaundiced eye.

3. There is a clear sense in which all models are metaphors - the question is
are they 'good' or 'bad' ones - for the purpose of understanding (some element
of) how the rational madness of the bourgeois epoch reproduces itself.

4. Value, however, is not a metaphor - it is an abstract category intended to
characterise the form which social evaluation of human creative/productive
activity tendentially takes in the bourgeois epoch. In that sense it is an
attribute of labour - so how can the latter be the 'substance' or 'measure' of

5. I am expectantly agnostic about whether any quantitative relationship -
conceptual &/or empirical - can be established between the monetary
manifestation of value and some measure of labour times, and what that might
help us to understand if it could be.

6. As the above mentioned project (philsophical critique of orthodox modelling)
is coming to a head, my next major project is return to a the question of a
suitable method for a critical political economy based on the critical
re-insertion of dialectical reasoning into the Marxist critique of economics.
Once that gets under way, taking a more substantail part in OPE-L will become
less of a personal indulgence than it is now, given my other commitments.

7. The (mostly) watching brief I am keeping on the OPE-L debates on what are the
best models for Marxist economics will be of value to me as I try to locate the
different parameters and variables being proposed at their appropriate levels of

8. In this context, I would appreciate comments on the following speculative
proposal for deploying dialectics to conceptually 'discipline' our model
building, with a view to maintaining system wide hermeneutic coherence of
interpretation, in addition to formal logical coherence and congruence with the
object totality:
A. All variables in a model should be at the 'same' level of abstraction.
B. All parameters and exogenous variables should have been conceptually
'fixed' at a higher level of abstraction.
C. The conclusion of a model refers to, at best, a tendency (disposition,
propensity) determined at a specific level of abstraction (and 'axis'), and acts
as a 'constraint' on more concrete tendencies (etc) and events.
D That (a la Grundrisse, pp. 100-8) the empirical can only be grasped as
the concrete, that is as the articulation of many abstract tendencies (etc), as
well as contingent forces.

And all this is also offered as a 'hello, this is what I'm up to!' post. Am I

Comradely greetings,

Michael W.