[OPE-L:2679] surplus-value and relative prices

Fred Moseley (fmoseley@laneta.apc.org)
Thu, 18 Jul 1996 18:11:47 -0700 (PDT)

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This is a response to Allin's (2649). Allin, welcome back.

I had argued:

[T]he disagreement between Paul and me raises a very big and
important methodological issue - whether Marx's theory is based on:

(1) "methodolgical individualism," or, one could say, subjective
individualism, in which conclusions are derived from the actions of
individuals ( i.e. the logical method of neoclassical economics), or

(2) "methodological holism,", or objective holism, in which conclusions are
derived from the objective characteristics of the capitalist economy as a

Allin responded:

Personally, I don't think this is a very useful dichotomy in the
context of the present discussion. Paul is not espousing methodological
or subjective individualism. The point is although structural tendencies
are of great importance, a "structural tendency" that lacks any sort
of causal mechanism is an idealist abstraction; and in this context
the causal mechanism must involve the behavior of individual capitalists.
Their motivations and calculations must somehow be appropriate to the
realization of the tendency in question. (To this extent, I think
that Roemer, Elster et al are quite correct, though I certainly do not
subscribe to all of their positions.)

My reply:

Paul may not be explicitly expousing methodological individualism, but it
seems to me that that is what he is implicitly espousing. He is arguing
that the conflict over the length of the working day and the tendency toward
technological change MUST BE DERIVED from an analysis of the actions of
individual capitalists and CANNOT BE DERIVED from an analysis of the
objective characteristics of capitalism. It seems to me that this is
methodological individualism. If I am wrong, please explain more.

I also argued in my previous post that Marx DID provide a causal mechanism
to explain the actions of individual capitalists. That causal mechanism is
competition, which forces individual capitalists to act according to the
objective laws or the structural tendencies of capitalism. But these
objective laws are not derived from competition or from the actions of
individual capitalists. Allin did not respond to this part of my argument.