[OPE-L:7333] Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: interpreting Marx's texts

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Wed Jun 05 2002 - 10:47:56 EDT

This is a reply to parts of Diego's (7324).  Diego, thanks again.

On Tue, 4 Jun 2002, Diego wrote:

> This is a reply to Fred's (7310). 
> > 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 don't think so.  Because matrix algebra does not fit with Marx's logical
method.  Matrix algebra Marxism assumes that the rate of profit is
determined simultaneously with prices of production and that the initial
givens in Marx's theory of values and prices of production are the
physical quantities of inputs and outputs.  Marx's own logic, to the
contrary, assumes that the rate of profit is determined prior to prices of
production, by the Volume 1 analysis of capital in general, and that the
initial givens are quantities of money-capital (constant capital and
variable capital), quantities of abstract labor, and the money-value
produced per hour of abstract labor.  

> 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.

I have already stated in my last post (7328) that I don't understand
Shaikh's distinction between "real determination" and "conceptual
determination" (what you call "mathematical or formal
determination").  According to Shaikh, in the "real determination", values
supposedly determine physical quantities (although no explanation is
presented to explain how specific quantities of labor-value determine
specific quantities of physical inputs and outputs).  But in the
"conceptual determination", there is the opposite direction of
causation:  physical quantities determine values, which are then
transformed into prices of production.  Samuelson and Steedman have
pointed out that one can derive the same prices of production directly
from the given physical quantities, so that the "conceptual
determination" of values plays no essential role in the "conceptual
determination" of prices of production.  

Diego, would you please explain further what is meant by "real
determination", as opposed to "conceptual determination"?

> > 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 --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.

I doubt if Samuelson and Steedman think that in the real world the
physical quantities can be determined independently of the labor process.  

But Samuelson and Steedman's critique has to do with their interpretation
of Marx's *conceptual determination* of values and prices of production in
Capital, an interpretation that Shaikh accepts.  According to this
interpretation, physical quantities determine value and prices of
production.  Furthermore, the determination of values plays no essential
role in the determination of prices of production, so the determination of
values can be dispensed with, without the loss of explanatory power.  

Shaikh tried to evade this critique of his interpretation of Marx's
"conceptual determination" of prices of production by inventing "real
determination".  But this does not answer the critique of his
interpretation of Marx's "conceptual determination" of prices of
production.  Values play no essential role in this "conceptual

> > 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?

No, I do not mean that.  These two individual workers may have different
skills or may have different intensities of labor, and thus my produce
different amounts of value in the same working day.  I mean that aggregate
surplus-value is proportional to aggregate surplus labor, where surplus
labor (and labor in general) is measured in terms of average social labor,
or abstract labor, or unskilled labor of average intensity.  

> > 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

How does matrix algebra improve the accuracy of Marx's theory?  It seems
to me that the matrix algebra interpretation of Marx's theory only imputes
to Marx's theory a logical contradiction that otherwise would not be


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