[OPE-L:3241] RE: Marx's archiotronics and method

Gerald Lev (glevy@pratt.edu)
Wed, 2 Oct 1996 22:51:46 -0700 (PDT)

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Andrew wrote in [OPE-L:3239]:

> I also do not agree that there is no litmus test for interpretations. Why
> not? What makes you sure? And if there's no litmus test, then what good is
> offering "evidence"? If no possible change in the color of the litmus paper
> can be conclusive, then is it really evidence?

... this is silly. Marx never suggested a litmus test. I don't know of
anyone else who has proposed a litmus test. What could possibly constitute
a litmus test for evaluating different interpretations? Making "sense of
the whole"? Where the whole is many, many thousands of pages of writings,
*who* is to determine what the litmus test is and *who* is to judge
whether one interpretation passes the test? The *best* we can possibly do
is to advance textual and logical evidence in support of a particular
interpretation and in opposition to others.

Now, what I think is illegitimate is to begin by taking Marx's
quantitative identities and relations and proposing *them* as *the* litmus
test. Firstly, these quantitative "results" are not -- by any stretch --
the major focus or intent of Marx's work. Second: we can not legitimately
separate the method that Marx used from the "results". In that sense, a
discussion of Marx's logical method should take place *prior* to an
examination of the "results" -- since the "results" are meaningless if
they are not put in the context of what Marx was examining and how. Third:
the "results" *have* to be placed within the context of *where* they are
presented textually (and the relation of that part of the text to the

> The passage Jerry quoted seems to me neither to support the conclusion that
> the results of the immediate process of production are altered by the
> consideration of competition and multiple capitals, nor to have
> anything to do with "levels of abstraction." Rather, Marx is
> indicating that Vol. III he will develop the forms of appearance ---
> capital as it appears "on the surface of society" and as it appears in
> the thinking of capitalists --- out
> of the essential relations. And this is what I think he did.

Well ... if we can't agree on the meaning of one relatively simple and
straight-forward passage, then I guess we can throw all pretensions
about developing a "litmus test" out the window.

As for the passage itself, I don't think you really considered its import.
Did Marx say that in V3 he planned to do *just* what Andrew says in the
next to last sentence above? For the sake of brevity I will not reproduce
the passage here (it is in #3233).

Part of our discussion/dispute, it seems to me, has to do with the import
of the distinction between *capital in general* and *competition*. To
examine that issue, we could trace what Marx wrote regarding that
distinction in the succession of plans for _Capital_ (and in other places
as well). Or, as another way of introducing the subject, we could consider
Fred's article on "Capital in General and Marx's Logical Method: A
Response to Hinrich's Critique" in the Summer, 1995 issue of _Capital &

Also, we seem to differ regarding whether it is legitimate to move from
more complex and concrete categories to more simple and abstract
categories. I will say -- once again -- that in a discussion of the FRP,
we *can not* abstract from competition if we are to understand the dynamic
*process* that Marx is trying to describe and we *must* consider the r as
the general r *since Marx very explicitly stated that it was the "law of
the tendency for the GENERAL rate of profit to decline*" (emphasis added,
JL). Of course, all of this complicates the math. But, are we trying to
understand the process or the math? If we are trying to understand the
process, we can not let our desire to simplify the math get in the way of
understanding the process *in its complexity*.

Our discussion, I believe, also reinforces my belief that the major
disputes concern method and not math (except to the extent that certain
math models and methods embody certain methodological principles).

In Solidarity,