[OPE-L:7378] Re: Re: "conceptual" and "real determination"

From: Christopher Arthur (cjarthur@waitrose.com)
Date: Tue Jun 11 2002 - 16:16:46 EDT

>On Sun, 9 Jun 2002, Christopher Arthur wrote:
>> Fred writes:
>> "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.  "
>>  Perhaps an intuitive illustration will help.
>> There are some theorists of banquetting. They weigh guests arriving and the
>> amount of food going in. Then they weigh guests leaving. They "determine" -
>> i.e. conceptually calculate - the increases in weight and simultaneously
>> the total amount of food eaten. There will probably be a discrepency due to
>> some food being wasted. So our theorists say 'all this means is that we did
>> not need the original amount anyway, that was a 'detour', all we need is
>> the rates of weight increase'.
>> Is this a theory of the 'real determination' of weight increase? By no
>> means. That would involve going into the party, studying how fast various
>> people eat, how some elbow others away from the buffet, exactly how some
>> food gets wasted etc. The detail of this 'real determinaton' might be
>> difficult to quantify but it is explanatory: the first calculation explains
>> nothing.
>> Chris Arthur
>Chris, my question in previous posts had to do with Shaikh's meaning "real
>determination" and "conceptual determination" or calculation" in his
>response to Samuelson's and Steedman's critique that the labor theory of
>value is redundant.  Are you suggesting that your meanings of these terms
>are Shaikh's meanings?  Or are you just suggesting meanings of your own?
No. I was trying to guess what Shaikh might have meant. CA

>The issue at stake in the debate between Shaikh and the critics of Marx is
>Marx's determination of prices of production in Part 2 of Volume 3.  I
>don't think your example of the increase of weight at the banquet is a
>good analogy for this issue.  You define "conceptual calculation" as the
>simple calculation of the increase of weight from before the banquet to
>after the banquet.  This is not a theory of a causal relation between two
>variables.  It is just counting the difference in two quantities of the
>same variable (weight) at different points in time.
Exactly - that is the point of the analogy. CA

>On the other hand, the Sraffian critics of Marx argue that prices of
>production are causally determined by the physical quantities of inputs
>and outputs.  This is not a mere calculation of the difference between two
>quantities of the same variable.  Rather, this is a theory of a causal
>relation between two different variables, or two different sets of
>variables (prices of production and physical quantities of inputs and
>outputs).  Therefore, your analogy does not apply to this debate.
Well I think Shaikh would disagree. Once the neo-Sraffians take the
physical input-output data as given they have lost any sense of causality.
The numbers they attach to the outputs are based on calculations as to what
would balance the economy. It would be absurd in any case to imagine
physical things could causally determine prices. If it is not a mere
calculation then they must be covertly relying on some market mechanism to
achieve the equilibrium.

>Shaikh argues that these same prices of production could be explained in
>another way, by labor-values.  However, the Sraffian critics reply that
>the labor-values could also be derived from the given physical quantities
>(and Shaikh does not dispute this part), and thus that the labor-values
>are redundant in the determination of prices of production.  Again, this
>is not a mere calculation of the difference in two quantities of the same
>variable at different points in time.  This is a theory of a relation of
>causation between physical quantities on the one hand and values and
>prices of production on the other hand.
Shaikh  certainly shuld dispute this. The whole point of the value theory
is that it is located in the struggle over production and how many UV get
produced per hour of labour is its consequence. I think what he meant was
that the 'value calculation' ex post would be just as meaningless as the
neo-Sraffian one were it not based on a conceptual understanding of the
real process of determination. (You will see in this sentence I have
adopted your sense of 'conceptual' - Shaikh's was unfortunate.)

>Shaikh calls the Sraffian theory of causation a "mere calculation".  But
>Shaikh is wrong; the Sraffian theory is a theory of causation.
>So I don't think Shaikh's response to Marx's critics is a persuasive
>one.  It amounts to little more than unjustified name-calling.
>Chris, do you see what I mean about the difference between calculation and
>a theory of causal relations?
Sure but I still think the neo-Sraffian calculations are not causal.

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