masses of machines, of knowledge, of uneasiness

Juan Inigo jinigo at
Thu Nov 30 19:29:33 MST 1995

Jim Miller writes:

>however, did say this: "this composition lacks in the
>real world an immediate quantitative expression that
>can be placed into an equation, and therefore into a
>   A while ago, I agreed with him on that. Now I have
>changed my mind.
> ...
>Juan even went so far
>as to say that the evolution of the technical compo-
>sition of capital "can only be apprehended in a very
>rough way, after it has gone through a quite
>substantial change, and even then, in a non-
>quantifiable unit."
>   We all make mistakes. I have already admitted my
>most recent one. Now Juan has made one here as well,
>in spite of the sharpness which he has shown in his
>appreciation of Marx. To say that the change in the TCC
>can be "apprehended" by means of a "non-quantifiable
>unit" is either a meaningless statement, or a self-
>contradictory one. If the word "apprehended" had any
>meaning, it would be "measured." But if it means
>"measured," then the statement is self-contradictory,
>because measurement means quantification, and he says
>that only "non-quantifiable" units can be used. If,
>on the other hand, "apprehended" does not mean
>"measured," the sentence has no meaning. But I could
>be wrong here. We'll see what Juan says.

I have addressed this point of how the technical composition has a
quantitative determination albeit this determination cannot be apprehended
in thought in an unequivocally determined quantifiable unit for so many
times and by following a substantiated development until reaching concrete
examples, that I would hardly be able to address it again without just
repeating what I have already said. So, since Jim has brought into the
question the meaning of "apprehended," I will develop my point by focusing
on "apprehension" itself. To be clearer, I will reply Jim's concrete
objection by focusing now on the scientific apprehension in though of real
forms, scientific cognition.

Above all, and malgre the idealists' fantasies about abstract contemplative
interests, human cognition is a very material concrete form: it is the
simplest concrete form in which the human process of social metabolism
rules itself through the awareness of its individual members about the
necessity of their actions as such members. So when we speak about the
process of scientific cognition in itself we are speaking about a concrete
form of matter, therefore, about a qualitatively determined material form,
as much as when we speak about the technical composition of capital.

Of course, and again as it happens with the technical composition, the
necessity of the general course and form taken by the process of scientific
cognition, does not arise from its materiality itself, but is determined by
the general regulation of social life, and therefore, by what the
realization of the general social relation demands from that materiality.
Only through this mediation, the development of scientific cognition as a
material process in itself determines the development of the general social
regulation itself. Likewise, the trend followed by the evolution in the
technical composition of capital does not obey to the material
determinations of the process of production itself, but results from the
social regulation of this process through the production of relative
surplus-value. And only then through the mediation of the resulting
material determinations of the process of production, the general social
relation itself becomes determined in its evolution under the concrete form
of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall.

Now, since the quantitative determination (self-affirming by means of the
negation of self-negation) is in itself but the simplest form in which the
qualitative determination (self-affirming by means of self-negation)
realizes its necessity, no qualitatively determined concrete real form can
lack being quantitatively determined. Obviously, scientific cognition is
not an exception. But to make the point clearer, let us follow its
development through a concrete example.

Suppose that I was feeling the necessity of giving a strong scientific
support to my spontaneously developed socialist political action. Suppose I
had already somehow grasped the complete sterility, and rather inverse
effect, of resorting to the infamous vulgar economy labeled Marxism of
text-books like Sweezy's, etc. And suppose I had not only seen in practice
the concrete political forms of capitalist society, but its concrete
economic ones too. So suppose I was reading the first chapter of Capital I
for the first time, and then that I was reading it again and again, but now
with the more specific object of rediscovering myself, for instance, why
value cannot be represented by labor-tokens or what distinguishes home-made
ravioli from purchased ravioli beyond their taste. Suppose that this
objective pushed me to read the first chapter of the Contribution; and that
this reading pushed me back to read chapter 1 of Capital again. Now suppose
that, still looking for the answer about the necessary form of value, I had
read the chapter about money of the Grundrisse. Suppose that, on doing so,
I had got to understand that value is certainly not an abstract concept
that belongs to the kingdom of the theories of value, but that it is the
real essential specificity of our materialized general social relation, of
commodities. So I had read again the first chapter of Capital being able
then to reproduce with my thought the development of commodities from their
simplest determination as a material form that at the same time is the
necessarily materialized form of our general social relation, to its
concrete form of substantive value, of money.

I am positive that Jim would agree with me that my scientific knowledge
about our general social relation, and therefore, about the necessity of my
own action, would had increased along each of these steps and that by the
end of them it would had increased a lot. Now, how much a "lot"? Could Jim
tell it? Certainly not, because scientific knowledge is another material
form that is quantitatively determined and, consequently, has a quantum,
but this quantum can only be apprehended in thought, namely, measured "in a
very rough way, after it has gone through a quite substantial change, and
even then, in a non-quantifiable unit." Exactly the same that happens with
technical composition! Consequently, Jim would had measured the mass of my
knowledge, but, yet, he would be unable to give to his measure an
unequivocal quantitative expression. But there is more.

Suppose that I had gone on advancing through the same path day after day
for, say, 10, 20, 25 years. Suppose, for instance, I had read Capital II
and III with the specific object of developing a model to measure the rate
of profit of the specific industrial capitals to overcome its apparent
measurement through the internal rate of return. Or suppose, just to take
another example, I had read Capital III with the concrete objective of
developing the specificity that ground rent gives to the Argentine national
process of capital accumulation, including its measurement. My scientific
knowledge about our general social relation would had advanced so much as
to allow me to face very concrete forms of it by reproducing the complete
development of their necessity with my thought. Again, I am positive that
Jim would say that my scientific knowledge would had increased a lot, and
rather, lots of lots. So, again, he would be meaning that he was able to
measure the mass of my knowledge. Yet, he would go on being unable to
express its measure in any quantifiable unit. But, in the same way that
happens with the technical composition of capital, does it really matters?

As I have pointed out above, and as it happens with the technical
composition of capital, what determines the necessity of the material
change in my consciousness does not arise from the materiality of this
process itself. The evolution of this materiality is determined by the
realization of the social necessity that rules human production. And only
then, the material change manifests itself in the production of the social
relation itself, in the regulation of social life. So what really matters
is that, at this point my scientific knowledge would allow me to reproduce
in thought the complete necessity of my own concrete political action, thus
turning it into a conscious action that is aware of its own determinations
beyond appearances.

As such, my political action could had taken concrete shape, for instance,
in showing how Steve Keen's fantasies about Marx being the source of his
theory that the means of production in which constant capital is
materialized produce surplus-value, is based on falsifying Marx's texts by
boldly asserting they say the opposite of what they do, by taking every
quotation out of context, and, above all, by literally falsifying a
quotation by changing its grammatical subject for its opposite through a
crafty cutting out of the text, so as to produce a crude apologetics of

Or my political action could had taken concrete shape in showing how John
Ernst's model of the TFRP involves measuring in an unequivocal way a
material relation that is impossible to be measured in such a way and,
furthermore, how this model brings down the organic determinations of that
tendency to a tautological mechanical relation inherent in its mathematical
structure, after starting by abstracting from the development of value into
its concrete forms by labeling this development a "religious" approach,
thus fulfilling its ideological determination as the perfect partner of
Neo-Ricardianism in some endless apparent discussions.

By the way, we can see here another couple of examples of real forms that
share with the technical composition the same peculiar quantitative
determination. For instance, does the, so to speak, "disrespectfulness" to
the necessity of the proletariat to develop the complete cognition about
its own determinations to consciously rule its revolutionary action
committed by Steve by literally falsifying a quotation from Marx produce in
Chris Burford a greater or smaller "uneasiness" than the
"disrespectfulness" he finds in the "tone" I use to point out this
falsification? According to the insistence with which he refers to the
latter, while he has kept a complete silence concerning the former as far
as I can recall, I would say that the answer is obvious. So I have measured
the mass of two different sorts of Chris' "uneasiness." Yet, not even Chris
himself would be able to express the quantum of these two masses in an
unequivocal quantitative unit.

Somebody could believe that these masses could be measured by the quantity
of lines Chris has spent in his posts on each subject, let's say 0 vs. 10
lines. Yet, could anybody say that his latter uneasiness was ten or twenty
times greater in the case he had devoted a post of 100 or 200 lines to
express it? Could anybody say his latter uneasiness was 10 times smaller,
had he posted a single line cursing me? Of course not, because although the
magnitude of his uneasiness becomes visible in his necessity to comment
about it, the quantity of lines he needs to express it has no immediate
organic relation with that magnitude. And this is exactly the same that
happens with the attempt of measuring the magnitude of the technical
composition of capital through the evolution in the weight of the mass of
machines and tools in use. There is no immediate organic relation between
them, so this measure is a meaningless one.

Chris comments provide us with another interesting example. Some time ago,
I posted my developments concerning the historical determination of our
general social relation and how this determination takes concrete shape by
determining the forms of scientific cognition as the _representation_
versus the _reproduction_ of reality in thought, at length. Chris showed to
be interested in what I was saying, but he made some objections about what
he called my "style." I replied to him by developing in a post how "style"
was a concrete form in which the unity between the determinations of the
writer, of the real object at stake and of the reader, takes shape. I
explicitly asked him for a reply, since I was particularly interested in
his substantiated comments for I see in him a type of potential critical
reader of my work I am interested in (the concrete reasons are out of the
point here). Chris excused himself for replying, because of a motive I will
not object here. Incidentally, I was by then dealing with the enraged
reaction that my post produced in other members of the list. But a couple
of days ago Chris commented about my post on Argentina:

>it helped me to  a break-through in understanding
>how you have been using abstract concepts over the last year. I now feel this
>makes sense to me.

I truly take Chris' affirmation as a great compliment to my efforts to
present my developments here. Yet, I will never be able to say in what
units I have measured the mass of compliment to arrive at this conclusion.

Of course, the possibility always exists that somebody that is not
interested in the true development of scientific cognition but in its
ideological sterilization starts to claim about the possibility of
constructing a model where the degree of development of individual
cognition can be unequivocally measured in a scale from A through F. In
fact, some days ago we had a professor in this very list who attempted to
apply such a funny practice upon other member's knowledge. But everybody
knows that this sort of pedantry is much of what ideological production,
the production of alienated consciousness as such, therefore, academy,
produces to fed itself. And, to bring the parallelism to its final step, it
is to this same field that the economic models supposedly based upon the
measurement of the technical composition of capital in a determined unit,
but that are actually impossible to construct beyond their abstract
definition since such a unit does not exist, belong too.

In brief, Jim, what I say is that, as you say, there are certainly many
mistakes going around the question of the technical composition of capital
here but, whichever mistakes I had committed in my life, none of the former
is to be charged to my account.

Juan Inigo
jinigo at

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