[OPE-L:7328] Re: interpreting Marx's texts

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Tue Jun 04 2002 - 10:52:36 EDT

On Mon, 3 Jun 2002, Rakesh Bhandari wrote:

> 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
> >Marxism".
> >
> >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

What do others think about Shaikh's argument here, reproduced by Rakesh?

It makes no sense to me.  It has always seemed mystifying to me.  I do not
understand the distinction between "conceptual determination" and "real
determination".  I thought conceptual determination (i.e. a theory) was
supposed to explain the real determination (in reality).  If the "real
determination" was that values determine the physical production
quantities, then the  "conceptual determination" would explain how this
happens, and how the specific quantities are determined.  

Shaikh seems to suggest that the "real determination" in this case is
something different from "conceptual determination", and even involves the
opposite direction of causation from "conceptual determination"; i.e. in
the "real determination", values determine the physical quantities, rather
than the other way around, because the physical quantities are produced by
the labor process.

But Shaikh's argument is a mere assertion.  Sure, the physical quantities
are produced by the labor process; no one would dispute this.  But no
explanation is presented to explain how specific quantities of labor-value
determine specific quantities of physical inputs and outputs.  Perhaps
this could be done, but Shaikh does not do it.  

Instead, in Shaikh's own theory (or interpretation of Marx's theory), the
physical production quantities are taken as given and used to
(conceptually?) determine values.  Values are then transformed into prices
of production, using the well-known iterative process, with the same
physical quantities taken as given.  But Samuelson and Steedman have
pointed out that one can derive THE SAME PRICES OF PRODUCTION directly
from the given physical quantities.  The "conceptual determination" of
values plays no essential role in the "conceptual determination" of prices
of production.  

So Shaikh invents something called the "real determination" in order to
rescue a determining role for values.  But this is a mere assertion, with
no explanation of the determination of specific quantities.  

Rakesh (or Diego or others), would you please explain further what is
meant by "real determination", as opposed to "conceptual
determination"?  Thanks.


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