[OPE-L:7187] [OPE-L:705] Re: Re: Use and abuse of mathematics [OPE 574]

Andrew Kliman (Andrew_Kliman@email.msn.com)
Thu, 18 Mar 1999 22:49:53 -0500

A reply to OPE-L 701.

Gil writes: "... Andrew's interpretation took as *given* that
commodities have a thing called 'value',..."

No. I didn't take it as given. I take it as having been
demonstrated in the text under discussion. Because my paper is
intended to elucidate the text, I see no harm in referring to the
result in order to comprehend what precedes it.

Gil: "... and that some form of "equality" was established by

Again, no, a hundred times no. Not established by exchange. I'll
repeat this as many times as are necessary for this to sink in.

Gil: "But these are exactly the points I criticize Marx's argument
on. Therefore, whatever we may think about Marx's argument, the
bottom line is that *Andrew's* interpretation doesn't get around my

To the extent that your "critique" depends on the premise that Marx
is saying that the equality of commodities is established by
exchange, my interpretation suggests that you are attacking a straw

Gil: "Specifically, the words

'Therefore x boot-polish, y silk, z gold, etc., must, as
exchange-values, be mutually replaceable or of identical

do not, contrary to Marx's claim, support the inferences that

'the valid exchange-values of a particular commodity express
something equal', where 'equality' is interpreted to signify
'that a common element of identical magnitude exists in two
different things'."

Well, apparently you accept that these commodities are, in their
capacity as exchange-values, "of identical magnitude." How can they
be of identical magnitude and yet not express something equal?

Take another example, quite similar to one in the TSV. You measure
a table and find that alternative expressions of its length are 1
yard, 3 feet, 36 inches, etc. Are you not entitled to conclude that
1 yard, 3 feet, and 36 inches are mutually replaceable or of
identical magnitude, and *therefore* that these lengths express
something equal? Are you not entitled to conclude that a common
element of identical magnitude exists in all three measures?

Would you complain that I am begging the question, assuming what I
need first to prove, when I call them all "lengths"?

Gil: "... or that

'exchange-value cannot be anything other than the mode of
expression, the "form of appearance" of a content distinguishable
from it',

since no basis for positing such a 'content' has yet been given."

Would you deny that 1 yard, 3 feet, and 36 inches are alternative
modes of expression of a content distinguishable from each of

Gil: "let one of the traded-for bundles be a non-commodity,
like acres of unimproved land. Then any valid conclusion one draws
from the fact of exchange must hold for this bundle as well."

For the 101st time, I deny that any conclusion is being drawn from
the fact of exchange, and the contrary simply hasn't been

Gil: "Alternatively, if one *restricts* the field to commodities,
i.e. products of labor, as a pre-condition, then one need not talk
about exchange at all to conclude that all bundles have in common
the fact of being products of labor. The conclusion was assumed

Absolutely right. As others on this list have also pointed out,
all valid conclusions are implicit in the premises.

It is true that the commonality of commodities as labor-products is
pretty obvious. What is by no means obvious is that exchange-value
is merely a form of appearance of the "equality" of different
labors, or that the labor that they have in common has only a
phantom-like objectivity.

Andrew Kliman