From: Ian Wright (wrighti@ACM.ORG)
Date: Sat Oct 27 2007 - 15:45:48 EDT
> But you're presuming that exploitation HAS a quantitative substance, and that it is useful to > talk about that quantitative dimension. You're also assuming that value has some intrinsic > "substance"--that it must be something more than the ratios at which goods may be > exchanged for one other. Sure but equally you are presuming that exploitation does not have a quantitative substance, and that prices have no referent. Regardless or who is right or wrong about this, we should acknowledge that this is a significant substantive difference between the Marxist and surplus schools. A lot follows from this fundamental difference. (The surplus-school's denial of the LTV clearly derives from Sraffa's critique of the logical possibility of any theory of economic value, be it neoclassical, Austrian or Marxist. But Sraffa fails to theorize the role of the commodity money-capital and its relationship to the definition of absolute value. The deep contradiction he wrestled with, and which he but only partially resolved with his device of the standard commodity, is a labour-cost accounting error inherited from the classical economists, particularly Ricardo. Also the more I study his critique of neoclassical capital theory the less I am convinced that it is successful; e.g. I am persuaded by Bidard's analysis of the logical coherence of the marginal productivity of capital, and have followed the recent debates between Samuelson and Garegnani with interest. It seems to me that Samuelson still engages in this debate since he is clearly enjoying it.) > I do not mean to say that capitalism isn't exploitative. It surely is. But that's a value > judgment. No it's a fact; or at least it is in the Marxist approach to the issue. "Exploitation" is a description of a real process of inequitable transfers of labour-time between classes under the guise of apparently equitable monetary exchanges. We can argue whether "exploitation" actually exists or not. But as defined it is not a value judgment. > Disagreements about what is just ought to hinge on ethical premises, not on differences > about how the world objectively works--though of course it is not always easy to keep the > two things separate. Agreed it is not. Bhaskar's work has been much preoccupied in denying the traditional demarcation of facts and values (e.g. "The Possibility of Naturalism"). These are tricky topics no doubt. Engels critiqued the approach of applying ethical premises not intimately linked to a deep scientific understanding of economic causality in his "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific". In the Marxist approach since profit is unpaid labour time we can show that a progressive element of bourgeois ideology, specifically the "ethical premise" of the equality of man as exhibited by commodity owners freely engaging in trade, is unfinished or incomplete, since this premise is in fact contradicted by the wage payment system. To uncover this contradiction requires a theory of value that gets beyond the surface appearance of market exchange. All this is compressed, and much more can of course be said, but it seems to me a much richer and deeper critique of capitalism than what could be provided by the surplus school given its denial that a "quantity of capital" has an objective referent, and the associated inability to say what capitalist profit *is*. So contrary to what you initially intimated the LTV in my view "does a lot of theoretical work" and cannot be cast aside without also abandoning many of Marx's most important scientific advances.
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