[OPE-L:7324] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: interpreting Marx's texts

From: Diego (diego.guerrero@cps.ucm.es)
Date: Tue Jun 04 2002 - 05:53:08 EDT

This is a reply to Fred's (7310). 

> You argue here that "matrix algebra Marxism" is a different theory from
> Marx's theory (I agree completely!), but that both these theories attempt
> to accomplish the same purposes - to explain the dual phenomena of
> exploitation and competition. 

Fred, I used to say "matricialistas" (in Spanish) to criticize some people in the same way that many say "marginalists" in a despective tone. I now think that I was in error: matrix algebra or marginal analysis are erroneous just in as much as they 1) may arrive to determine the research agenda by themselves, and 2) specially if they direct the agenda towards the wrong way. If one controls these tools as the tools they are there is no problem with them.

I am not sure that it is helpful to speak of "matrix algebra Marxism", and I did not argue that there are just two different theories. Among people using matrix algebra there are Marxists and non Marxists, and among the former there are people who think there are many differences between Marx's theory and Marxists' theories. And among the latter there are many differences too.

> I would argue that Marx's theory is much
> more concerned with exploitation than competition, and that "matrix
> algebra Marxism" reverses these priorities. 

I would say that this dualism is an ad hoc construction. And let me disagree. There were several people involved in the process of bringing out the Communist Manifest (this is just an example) and all of them knew very well what exploitation was and what the competition among workers meant, but they knew all this as a direct feeling extracted from experience. If Marx is much more known today than the others are is because he built a theory about exploitation and competition. I think it is not possible to understand neither of both these phenomena separately, and I am convinced that some Marxists who say that the theory of prices is a burgeois problem are wrong (as if prices did not represent the accumulation processes and the reorganization of labor processes inside the firms due to technical changes and all other manifestations of the real class struggles, etc.).

> But, more importantly, I
> would argue that "matrix algebra Marxism" does not really provide a theory
> of exploitation at all, or that its theory of exploitation does not really
> explain the real world, actual surplus-value, but rather explains a
> theoretical, hypothetical "surplus-value", that is equal to the "direct
> prices" of surplus goods.  Furthermore, this hypothetical
> "surplus-value" plays no essential role in the determination of the real
> world, actual surplus-value.   The real world, actual surplus-value can be
> derived without any reference to this hypothetical "surplus-value" or
> surplus labor.

I think that were Marx alive he would use matrix algebra. I agree with Rakesh's recalling of the important point made by Shaikh on the difference between real or material determination and mathematical or formal determination (this is why I have underlined two words in your paragraph). We can say about surplus-value the same things as about all values: we have actual values determined by real labor processes and expressed as real actual money prices. In order for us to theorize and understand the movement in real time of these values and prices we need theoretical values and prices. Marx constructed theoretical prices in Capital I and III (individual values, direct values and production values) to explain how competition interferes twice in the individual (at the firm level) labor processes, ie how individual-firm-exploitation is doubly mediated, and thereby socialized, by intra-sectoral and inter-sectoral competition. Real people just work once, real prices and values are just the actual set of prices (money-prices) and values (labor-prices). But we theoriticians need theoretical prices and values as well, and these differ from actual prices becausewe want to explian how actual prices are formed.

> 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.  

Samuelson and Steedman are wrong. Mathematically speaking, the calculation of both vectors can be made separately. But there is not such a thing as a value system opposed to the price system. There is just one system. The real world capitalist labor system requires money prices. Real agents in this system just need actual prices and therefore they don't need labor-values nor production-price-values. Instead, we labor-value theoriticans need at least the three mentioned sets of theoretical prices.

Samuelson and Steedman are wrong --and this is the essential point-- in believing that the so-called physical quantities can be determined in real life with independence of labor processes. They can not. The real quantities of things and direct labor which are combined in real production are what they are because they are mimimized as containers of the social labor richness historically defined at any point in time.

> 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.

When you say "proportional", do you mean that any couple of single workers with the same working day and wage create the same actual surplus-value?

> That is why I think Marx's theory is superior to "matrix algebra
> Marxism".   

May be, but in my opinion Marx would use today matrix algebra to improve the accurateness of his theory

> Diego (and others), what do you think?
> I look forward to further discussion.
> Comradely,
> Fred
I look forward to further discussion too. 


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