[OPE-L:1765] Re: value-form theories

Subject: [OPE-L:1765] Re: value-form theories
From: Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Date: Mon Nov 29 1999 - 08:30:46 EST

Re Fred's [OPE-L:1762]:

I. Reuten-Williams on abstract labour and methodology

As we know, R-W understand abstract labour as follows:

         "Abstract labour (actually or ideal) is constituted only through
          the market, in terms of its expression in money" (_Value-Form
          and the State_, p. 98)

This understanding is based, in large part, on a rejection of
"labour-embodied interpretations". I believe that they think that such
interpretations are not adequately and correctly *grounded* from the
perspective of "dialectical systematic theory" (i.e. the name that they
have selected for their methodology). This is, perhaps, because such
interpretations require (especially in the math) certain *axioms*. Yet,
R-W tell us that in their theory:

         "All axioms are eschewed; rather, anything that requires to be
         assumed, or anything that is posited immediately (such as the
         starting point) must be *grounded*. But the point is that it
         should not be grounded merely abstractly (giving the arguments
         in advance), because this always leads to regression. Rather,
         that which is posited must be grounded in the argument itself,
         in concretising it. It is the intrinsic merits of our
         presentation - and not some external criterion - that must
         convince the reader of the adequacy of the presentation" (Ibid,
         p. 22).

Thus, the question from R-W's perspective (as I understand it) is *not*
> <snip> Profit is a quantitative magnitude: the increment of
> money that emerges at the end of the circulation of capital. The
> question is: what determines this magnitude?

Rather, the question concerns (again, from their perspective) the
*grounding* of these concepts. It is thus not a question of math and
magnitude, but of developing concepts adequate for comprehending

II. Digression: Hegel on "givens", etc.

The rejection of the axiomatic method, so popular with mathematical
economists, might be partially rooted in Hegel's method. Thus, in an
interesting passage, Hegel writes:

         "Throughout philosophy we do not seek merely for correct, still
          less for plausible definitions, whose correctness appeals
          directly to the popular imagination; we seek approved or
          verified definitions, the content of which is *NOT ASSUMED
          MERELY AS GIVEN*, but is seen and known to warrant itself,
          because warranted by the free self-evolution of thought.
          To apply this to the present case: however correct and
          self-evident the definition of quantity usual in Mathematics,
          it will still fail to satisfy the wish to see how far this
          particular thought is founded in universal thought, and in that
          way necessary" (_Hegel's Logic_, i.e. the "lesser Logic",
          emphasis added, p. 146).

Admittedly, R-W's concern is not with "universal thought", but - again -
their understanding of the role of the concepts of quantity, magnitude,
and measure *within the context of a systematic dialectical understanding
of capitalism* may be different from yours. In other words, do not assume
that a standard mathematical definition applies within the context of
Hegelian theory.

I don't have time now to explain the concepts of quantity, magnitude, and
measure within Hegel's system. Sorry - maybe later.

In solidarity, Jerry
> I don't understand how R&W may have a different concept of magnitude,
> perhaps based on Hegel. As I understand it, magnitude is a certain
> quantity of a certain unit of measure (e.g. x hours of abstract,
> homogenous labor). If there is a different possible meaning of magnitude,
> then you (or someone else) will have to explain that to me.

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