Re: (OPE-L) the specific social relations [of production] associated with value

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Sun Jun 06 2004 - 00:59:23 EDT

Hi Paul,

The quote you have referred to from Poverty of Philosophy I think is very
helpful on this:  "economic categories are only the theoretical expressions,
the abstractions of the social relations of production."

Marx there connects theoretical objects and real objects -- the economic
categories are theoretical, the social relations of production are real.  In
theoretical activity we use thought categories  to refer to real things.
Only by getting our references more or less right can we hope for any
success in our explanatory and practical activity.

The way we use language often invites confusion of the real and theoretical
object.  In science, for example, when somebody says something about a
scientific "law," they can mean either the verbal formulation given to a
natural process, or they can refer to a mechanism of nature itself.  The
"law" of gravity could mean either someone's conceptual formulation of how
gravity works or it could refer to the physical force acting on any object
that has mass.  'Value' is the same.  We can speak of 'value' as a
theoretical object or we can speak of the social relation to which the
concept of value refers.  Usually we want to talk about the world, so unless
we make a special point of indicating that we are talking about the concept,
we probably mean to refer to the social thing that causes things to happen
in the world, that is, to that to which the concept refers.

Marx and Ricardo both used the word 'value'.  The question is whether when
they did they referred to the same real object.  My guess is that they did,
although Marx's theoretical category more accurately corresponds to the
social relation that exists, just as "ZnCl2" more accurately refers to zinc
chloride than did the alchemist concept of 'butter of zinc.'  But both
theoretical labels refer to the same real object in nature.  On the other
hand the concept of 'value' manipulated logically by Professor Wagner's
"association of concepts" method, the object of Marx's scorn in Notes on
Wagner, seems not to have referred to the same real object and in fact, like
phlogiston, probably referred to nothing at all.  Marx criticized Wagner,
remember, for taking the word 'value', then splitting it up conceptually
into use value and exchange value and then pretending to manipulate the
concepts dialectically.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Zarembka" <zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU>
Sent: Saturday, June 05, 2004 9:04 AM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] (OPE-L) the specific social relations [of production]
associated with value

> --On Friday, June 04, 2004 2:32 PM -0400 Howard Engelskirchen
> <howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM> wrote:
> > Yes, I think we have identified two fundamental differences: first, you
> > think value is a theoretical object but not a real one and I do think it
> > is a real object.  Obviously this makes all the difference.  A
> > object does not cause things.  We have to explain changes in nature and
> > society on the basis of real objects.
> Howard,
>   Is the corpus of Marx's work a theory or reality?  Are mode of
> production, labor power, constant capital, variable capital, surplus
> value, production of absolute surplus value, production of relative
> surplus value, etc., real objects or theoretical objects?  Marx explicitly
> refers to his "definition of constant capital" (Vol. I, p. 202, Lawrence &
> Wishart ed.), which sounds theoretical to me.  Also, Marx had simply
> referred to 'labor' in earlier work before he introduced 'labor power',
> which seems like his producing a concept.
>   If you reply that most or all of these are theoretical objects, then why
> would 'value' be any different?  Are certain of these concepts real
> objects while others are theoretical objects?
> > ... You have asserted the non-existence of value in the ancient world,
> > questioned my argument. Still, you haven't said why value only exists
> > under capitalism.
>   Correct.  I'm probing to understand what is that 'value' is.  I haven't
> arrived at this important issue.
> Paul Z.
> ***********************************************************************
> RESEARCH IN POLITICAL ECONOMY,  Paul Zarembka, editor, Elsevier Science
> ********************

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon Jun 07 2004 - 00:00:01 EDT