[OPE-L:7316] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: interpreting Marx's texts

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Mon Jun 03 2002 - 11:32:05 EDT

re Fred's 7310

>In other words, I think that Samuelson's "eraser" critique or Steedman's
>"fork" critique of "matrix algebra Marxism" is essentially correct - that
>the labor-values derived in the "value system" play no essential role in
>the determination of prices of production in the "value system".  I think
>this critique is logically indisputable. 
>Marx's theory, by contrast, explains the actual, real world surplus-value
>as proportional to surplus labor, thereby clearly exposing the essential
>nature of capitalism as the exploitation of workers.
>That is why I think Marx's theory is superior to "matrix algebra
>Diego (and others), what do you think?

I always thought one of Shaikh's replies to matrix algebra neo 
Ricardianism was quite good.

  Shaikh's criticism of the redundancy charge in the Value 
Controversy, ed. Steedman:

"Notice how often the word 'determines' crops up: the physical 
production data *determine* values, and in conjunction with the real 
wage, also *determine* prices of production. but what determiens the 
physical production data. In Marx, the answer is clear : it is the 
labor process. It is human productive activity, the actual 
performance of labour, that transforms 'inputs' into 'outputs', and 
it is only when labor is sucessful at all that we have any 'physical 
production data' at all. Moreover, if the labour process is a process 
of producing commodities, then it one in which value is materialized 
in the form of use values. Thus both 'inputs' and 'outputs' are the 
use forms of materialized value, and we can they say that in the 
*real* process it is values that determine the physical production 
data...The physical *data* are then a conceptual summary of the real 
determination, and if we then use the data to conceptually 
*calculate* values, we only capture in thought their real magnitudes. 
Such a calculation no more determines these values than does the 
calculation of the mass of the earth determine determine either the 
earth or its mass. It merely recognizes what already exists. This is 
a fundamental point in a a materialist view of the world, and the 80 
year failure of the neo Ricardians to distinguish real and conceputal 
determination reveals their long attachment to the idealist method" 
p. 280-1

Are there other such failures to distinguish between calculation and 
real determination in the history of science?

For example, was there a conflation of calculation and determination 
by Pearson in his debate with the Mendelians? Let me apologize if the 
following does not support the above argument; it is but an attempt.

But Pearson did think that he could develop a purely 
descriptive/phenomenalist theory of heredity by making linking the 
character of an individual through regression equations to the 
average character of each ancestral generation.

Once the coefficients had been empirically established, a Pearsonian 
could calculate the characteristics of progeny simply on the basis of 
data of ancestral heredity.

But as post Mendelians we know Pearson was wrong to assume a child 
does not inherit from his parents alone but from a whole series of 
ancestors in his lineage. What happened to the progeny did not depend 
on what happened to the ancestors of its parents, but only on the 
genetic make up of its parents.

We now know that the pedigrees had nothing to tell us about the 
nature of heredity: they were in fact only tools for inferring the 
genetic structure of individuals.

Similarly I am saying that the physical production data do not 
themselves determine the profit rate, though they can be used to 
calculate it.

What that data are good for is that they are a tool for inferring 
what is hidden by the fetishistic price form in and through which 
labor value is (mis-)represented, viz. the surplus labor time that 
the working class had to put at the disposal of the capitalist class 
for it is this time that is in fact the source of and the determinant 
of profits and indeed all non wage income.

Why do we need references to genes when we can quantitatively link 
generations with data of ancentral heredity? Why do we need labor 
value when we can calculate the profit rate with data of physical 
production alone?

In short, the answer is the realist one: it is genes that in fact 
determine the pattern of heredity; it is the surplus social labor 
time performed by the working class that determines the mass of 
surplus value and the (maximum equilibrium) rate of profit.

It is in the interests of realistically grasping the actual process 
that our theories should refer to genes and labor value.

So I don't see how values can be made redundant by matrix algebra 
calculations which cannot reveal the real process of determination.

All the best, Rakesh

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