reply to Keen

Fred B. Moseley fmoseley at mhc.mtholyoke.edu
Wed Sep 28 10:41:54 MDT 1994


Steve,

Please send me the paper you submitted to HOPE (and anything else you
consider relevant), either by e-mail or by regular mail (Econ. Dept.,
Mount Holyoke College, S. Hadley MA  10075, USA).  You have been
saying for weeks on this network that your critics should read your
published papers.  I did that, and I found your arguments no more
convincing.  Now you say that I have to read your UNPUBLISHED papers.
OK, send them to me.

A few specific comments on your reply to my earlier comment:


LABOR-POWER

You say that the key sentence in the first paragraph of Chapter 6 of
"Capital" which you quote does end where you ended it and therefore
you are justified in quoting it that way.

Before writing my comment, I checked the International Publishers
edition and the original German edition, in addition to the Vintage
edition which I normally use, and all three had the continuation of
your quote in the same sentence.  If the Progress edition breaks this
sentence up into two sentences, then it is an inferior translation and
should not be the basis of interpretation.

More importantly, for Marx, the meaning of the first part of his sentence:
In order to be able to extract value from the consumption of
a commodity, our friend, Moneybags, must be so lucky to find,
within the sphere of circulation, in the market, a commodity
WHOSE USE-VALUE POSSESSES THE PECULIAR PROPERTY OF BEING A
SOURCE OF VALUE ...
depends on the second part of the sentence:
whose actual consumption is therefore an objectification
of LABOR, HENCE A CREATION OF VALUE.
and continues to so depend even if broken up into two sentences.
The commodity which can be a source of surplus-value depends on the
fundamental premise regarding value which Marx has already developed
in Chapter 1:  that value is determined by abstract labor.  That is
what the word HENCE means in the above passage:  the consumption of
labor-power is an objectification of labor, THEREFORE IT FOLLOWS THAT
it is a creation of value.

Now you argue that Marx's labor theory of value is itself derived from
a more fundamental "use-value / exchange-value dialectic".  Would you
please give references to this derivation in Marx?   My understanding
is that, in Chapter 1 of Volume 1 of "Capital", which presents Marx's
final version of his theory, Marx presented two arguments to support
the labor theory of value, neither of which have anything to do with a
use-value / exchange-value dialectic.  (1) In Section 1, Marx argued
that since exchange is the exchange of equivalents, commoditities must
possess some common property which renders them commensurable, and
his
common property is abstract labor.  (2) In Section 4, Marx argued that
every society must regulate its labor, and the only means by which
social labor is regulated in capitalism is by indirectly representing
social labor as the value of commodities.  You may disagree with these
arguments, but these are Marx's arguments, not an argument based on a
"use-value / exchange-value dialectic".


MEANS OF PRODUCTION

The main point regarding the means of production of my earlier comment
was that your criticism of a logical contradiction in Marx's theory
depends on your interpretation that the value transferred from the
means of production is determined by their use-value.  If one assumes
instead that the value transferred from the means of production is
determined by the labor-time required to produce them (the usual
interpretation), then there is no such logical error.  The textual
evidence for your interpretation presented in your published papers
consists at most of one sentence in the Grundrisse, and the textual
evidence for the contrary usual interpretation is pervasive throughout
Marx's works.

You reply that you have lots of additional textual evidence to
support your interpretation.  OK, please send them to me.  Please
send references to support the specific assumption that the value
transferred from the means of production is determined by their
use-value, not some general comments about use-value.  That specific
assumption is what is necessary to make valid your criticism of a
logical contradiction in Marx's treatment of means of production,
and your conclusion that the means of production can be a source of
surplus-value.

You asked me to compare the triumphant tone of Marx's statements that
labor-power is the only source of surplus-value with the "awkard and
halting" sections where he argues that machinery is not a source. What
"awkard and halting" sections do you have in mind?  Certainly not
Chapter 8 of Volume 1, the most important discussion of this issue,
where Marx is clear throughout that the value transferred from the
means of production is determined by the labor-time required to
produce them.  Also in this chapter, Marx ridiculed the view that
surplus-value can be explained by the use-value of the means of
production, which you attribute to Marx! (in the footnote on p. 314,
Vintage edition).  I mentioned this footnote in my previous comment,
but you did not in your response.

Marx also said later in "Capital" that:
Let me remind the reader that I was the first to use the categories
"variable capital" and "constant capital".  Political economy since the
time of Adam Smith has confusedly mixed up the determining
characteristics contained in these categories with the merely formal
distinction, arising out of the process of circulation, between fixed and
circulating capital. (p. 760, Vintate edition
Sounds pretty triumphant to me.  Similar statements of the importance
of this distinction between constant capital and variable capital are
found throughout Marx's works.  The distinction between constant
capital and variable capital depends of course on Marx's conclusions
that labor-power is the only source of surplus-value (and hence called
VARIABLE capital) and that the means of production are not a source of
surplus-value (and hence called CONSTANT capital).


CONCLUSION

In general, your criticism of a logical contradiction in Marx's theory
depends on your own highly dubious interpretation of Marx's theory.
If your interpretation is rejected, then your criticism is not valid.
With friends like this, Marx does not need enemies.



     ------------------



More information about the Marxism mailing list