[OPE-L:7241] [OPE-L:766] Re: Blake Text

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 25 Mar 1999 20:33:10 -0500 (EST)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 25 Mar 1999 20:05:11 -0500 (EST)
From: Rakesh Bhandari <bhandari@phoenix.Princeton.EDU>
Subject: Re: [OPE-L:765] Re: Blake Text

Gil was right. I had quoted Carchedi arguing that the stability in exchange
ratios suggested that some third thing was holding them in a constant
relation, but in the paragraph just before the one under intensive
discussion, Marx writes: "Exchange value appearas first of all as the
quantitative relation, the proportion, in which use values of one kind
exchange for use values of another kind. This relation changes constantly
with time and place. Hence exchange value appears accidental and purely
relative, and consequently an intrinsic value, i.e., an exchange value that
is inseparably connected with the commodity, inherent in it, seems a
contradiction in terms. Let us consider the matter more closely." Capital
I, p. 126. Vintage.

Still I think that neither chance nor utility can explain whatever
stability there is in exchange ratios (e.g., the high relative value of
diamonds, to take Marx's ex) or even the changes in ratios over time. Yet
Marx's main concern here seems not to be a deductive proof of the
determination of value by labor time but the specification of that labor as
social, abstract,historically specific, (mis-) representable only in money,

There is no logical reason we must infer labor as a third shared thing that
renders possible the equivalence of two otherwise disparate things. But it
is a reasonable inference that can only be justified by the explanatory
power of the theory built on that inference. If the abstract labor theory
of value did not have explanatory power, then Marx's "derivation" would
have proven to be false, no matter how seemingly logical it was.

To give Marx's argument the form of a logical deduction encourages the
dismissal of empirical confirmation not only by its proponents but also its
critics, happy to give up on the theory if it does not move by perfect
logical necessity.

As for Blake, he was also a novelist. Married to another novelist,
Christina Stead. Good friends with Henryk Grossmann and Leo Huberman. Went
to visit the former in East Germany. Was not offered a job there. Relocated
to the UK because he was sure that rising prosperity in the US after
victory in WWII would turn former comrades conservative.

I have a real commitment to the book for two reasons. I am an autodidact
(as is obvious, no formal credentials at all in this business, though I do
my best to read what many OPE participants are writing and try to
understand the stimulating work to the best of my ability--this is one of
the most intellectually exciting group of scholars I have come across); at
any rate, I taught myself Marx through Blake who literally made me tremble
with excitement as I disovered the critique of political economy through

Second, I don't think there is any moving forward without having recovered
the greatest achievements of the past--II Rubin, Karl Korsch, Henryk
Grossmann, E A Preobrazhensky, William J Blake. In the US at least, it is
next to impossible to get the major works of these authors.

For example, Brenner's recent book puts the insufficiency of scrapping of
high cost capacity at the center of his theory without any mention of
Preobrazhensky's work on the matter. I am trying to familiarize myself with

Blake's textbook was eclipsed by Sweezy's. While Blake's textbook needed
to go through a few more editions, I find it quite superior on several

Yours, Rakesh