[OPE-L:7335] Re: Re: interpreting Marx's texts

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Wed Jun 05 2002 - 12:53:07 EDT

re 7328

>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.

Dear Fred,
I hesitate to reply because it would be wonderful if Anwar elaborated 
the argument himself. Please do note that I only quoted a small part 
of the argument, so consultation of the original is important.

Anwar seems to use conceptual determination and calculation interchangeably.
I think the argument is clearer if we use only the latter term.
I offered an analogy which may have failed.

My simple point was that there can be methods of calculation which 
may give the right result which  do not lay bare the real process of 

Are there any biologists/geneticists here?

As I remember it,  a Mendelian can use data of ancestral heredity to 
calculate what will be the characteristics of this generation. Yet 
those calculations would give the impression that heredity is a 
multigenerational force when we know that only the genetic structure 
of the parents really determines what the progeny's characteristics 
will be. The calculation on the basis of data of ancestral heredity 
may give the right result but it misleads as to what the real process 
of heredity is. The Mendelian understands that; the Pearsonian does 
not.  We wouldn't say knowledge of the parents' genetic structure is 
"redundant" in the real determination of heredity just because we can 
accurately calculate what the progeny's characteristics will be as 
long as we have sufficiently detailed pedigrees for the parents.

Am I making a valid point? It's not the analogy Shaikh uses, and I 
recommend consultation of his original argument.

>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.

Yes, I would say that the real determinant of the mass of surplus 
value and thus the maximum rate of profit is unpaid living labor time.

However things get quite complicated here. The physical quantity of 
the surplus is not solely conditioned by unpaid living labor time. 
The same quantity of unpaid living labor time can be materialized in 
quite different physical quantities of the surplus.

So I would not argue that value in the sense of unpaid living labor 
alone determines the physical quantity of the surplus though unpaid 
living labor alone determines the value of surplus, no matter its 
physical quantity.

There can thus be the same rate of profit even in cases where the 
physical quantity of the surplus differs. However the economies would 
soon diverge. An economy which had a greater surplus in physical 
terms would have more means of production with which to employ more 
workers in the following periods and would be able to achieve a 
higher rate of exploitation.

The physical quantity of the surplus or the quantity of use values 
which constitutes the surplus thus has great INDIRECT significance 
for the growth and profit rate of an economy.

>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.

I find the TSS distinction between a value rate of profit and a 
material rate of profit helpful here. David L thinks there is no 
basis in Marx for such a distinction, but I think Marx does speak of 
the surplus in both value and use value terms.

I agree that the immediately economically significant rate of profit 
is the value rate of profit though the material rate of profit has 
great indirect significance for the growth rate of the economy.
So I think TSS and neo Ricardianism are both feeling parts of the 
same elephant.

It's important to measure the surplus in both value and use value 
terms, as both a materialization of unpaid living labor and as a 
physical quantity of use values.

My argument is that Marxian vs. Neo Ricardian debate has so far not 
appreciated Marx's dual treatment of the surplus. For Marx value and 
use value both matter; the former directly, the latter indirectly.

>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.

Well Hodgson makes a similar argument against Shaikh in the Value 
Controversy. But I'll speak to this point latter.

Comradely, Rakesh

>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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