[OPE-L:3111] RE: assumptions, assumptions, assumptions

andrew kliman (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Tue, 24 Sep 1996 09:00:40 -0700 (PDT)

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Jerry's ope-l 3105 subtly and, at certain points, not so subtly, changes the
subject in order to avoid my Hic Rhodus! Hic Salta!

The passage from Marx in question, again, is: "in order to produce the same
rate of profit, therefore, if the constant capital set in motion by a worker
increases ten-fold, the surplus-labour time would have to increase ten-fold as
well, and very soon the total labour-time, or even the FULL TWENTY-FOUR HOURS
OF THE DAY, would not be sufficient, even if it were ENTIRELY APPROPRIATED BY
CAPITAL" (Capital III, p. 523, Vintage; emphases mine).

Jerry's task: to show that this passage is compatible with his "claiming now
that Marx did not assume necessary labor or v = 0."

Jerry's response: "(1) As noted before, I did not break off the discussion a
few months back."

You certainly did not respond to my query to explain how this passage is
compatible with your claim that Marx never assumed v = 0. But maybe you have
done so now?


OK. Let's hear why not.

Jerry: "(a) The sentence before the one above says: "As was shown in Part
Three of this volume, the profit rate decreases in proportion to the growing
accumulation of capital and the accompanying rise in the productivity of
VARIABLE CAPITAL VIS-A-VIS CONSTANT" (emphasis added, JL). *Note well* that
Marx is *not* assuming v = 0, in fact, he says "the relative decrease of
variable capital" -- *relative decrease* can not BY ANY POSSIBLE STRETCH OF
THE IMAGINATION be interpreted to mean v = 0. Note also Marx's reference
here to the "accumulation of capital." Yet, the accumulation of capital as
defined by Marx *requires* that v > 0."

For the sake of argument, I'll accept all of this. As yet, it only tells us
that Marx was not assuming v = 0 in the *previous* sentence. But one can
write contiguous sentences in which one's assumptions change - I did so
yesterday - so the previous sentence by itself proves nothing. What about the
sentence in question?

Jerry: "So we have a clear choice: either we can accept the absurd v = 0
assumption or we must reject *all* of Marx's analysis of the capital form and
the accumulation of capital as erroneous."

What does it mean to "accept" v = 0? This is a red herring. Who has ever
argued that v = 0 is descriptively accurate or possible in capitalism?
Certainly not I. At issue is only (a) whether Marx ever assumed v = 0, and
(b) whether it is legitimate to assume v = 0 except to refute claims that
cover the v = 0 case.

It may or may not be true that Marx's analysis of the capital form and the
accumulation of capital are incompatible with v = 0 (I haven't thought about
this carefully enough to make a firm judgment). If it is, then all that means
is either that he didn't assume v = 0 in these analyses, or that the analyses
are self-contradictory. It doesn't mean he never assumed v = 0. For
instance, what about the sentence in question?

Jerry: "(b) Note also Marx's qualifiers in the above: "if ...would have to
...or ... if...."."

Yes. This is not an unusual way of phrasing an assumption. "If I am in the
presence of gravity, and if I drop a ball, then the ball will fall," is
equivalent in meaning to "Assume gravity. Then, if I drop a ball, the ball
will fall."

Jerry: "(c) Note also that this passage was intended to be part of a critique
of Price."

Yes. But the point at issue in analyzing *this passage* is whether Marx
assumed v = 0, not the conditions under which the v = 0 assumption is

Jerry: "(d) Marx two paragraph later ends Ch . 24 as follows: ""We know
however that in actual fact the preservation and thus also the reproduction of
the value of products of past labour is *only* the result of their contact
with living labour; and secondly, that the command that the products of past
labour exercise over living labour LASTS ONLY SO LONG AS THE CAPITAL RELATION,
THE SPECIFIC SOCIAL RELATION in which past labour confronts living labour
as independent and superior" (p. 524). Yet, we know that if v = 0 this
*negates* the capital relation and renders our analysis incapable of
expressing in thought "the specific social relation(s)" of capitalism."

Say I accept all this for the sake of argument. It only indicates at most
that Marx didn't assume v = 0 two paragraphs *later*. But again, did he do
so in the sentence in question?

In sum, only Jerry's (2)(b) and (2)(c) address the sentence in question, and
they do nothing to show that v = 0 is not being assumed in that sentence.

Jerry: "Andrew has produceed *nothing* by way of textual evidence that Marx
has assumed v = 0."

The full 24 hours of the day entirely appropriated by capital is "*nothing* by
way of textual evidence"? Are you serious?


Actually I have, several months ago, before Jerry declined to explain how the
passage in question doesn't mean Marx was assuming v = 0. In any case, this
again is a red herring. Who has ever claimed that Marx *everywhere* assumed v
= 0, or that *every* aspect of _Capital_ is compatible with the v = 0
assumption? Certainly not I.

Jerry: "READ AGAIN the very quote that you cited today in reference to
for the rate of surplus value." That passage AND MANY, MANY, MANY others
indicate that the v = 0 assumption IS TOTALLY INCONSISTENT with Marx's

Assuming for the sake of argument that it is totally inconsistent with Marx's
"theory," that doesn't mean he didn't make this assumption. For instance, he
made it in the sentence in question, and you've done nothing to show that he
didn't. Nor does it mean that he was being self-contradictory when he made
that assumption. It was an assumption, not a theoretical claim that this
assumption holds true in capitalism. You are presuming that _Capital_ is an
undifferentiated, homogeneous, wholly "theoretical" work. I think this
presumption is false.

Jerry: "Hic Rhodus! Hic Nonsense!"

This doesn't justify a reply.

I repeat my challenge. Explain how and why the sentence in question does not
assume v = 0. No red herrings, no diversions! No justice, no peace! Hic
Rhodus! Hic Salta!

Andrew Kliman