Adam Rose adam at
Fri Sep 29 03:42:27 MDT 1995

Jerry wrote :

> Abstract labour expresses a social relation, not a quantitative relation.
> It may appear that people are mere numbers under capitalism, but that is
> mystification and commodity fetishism.

>From the point of view of Labour, this is the truth and the whole truth.

However, from the point of view of Capital, this is the truth but not the whole

Capital organises particular workers in particular industries in particular
countries to produce particular products. The everyday process of extracting surplus
from workers is not an abstract process but a concrete one : "such and such section
/ person / subsidiary is not fulfilling its targets". However, this is then transformed
into an abstract quantity - a lump of surplus labour successfully extracted.
If a particular capitalist fails to extract a large enough lump of surplus for a given
investment, that capitalist will lose out in competition.
>From a capitalist point of view, this is as real as concrete labour, it isn't just
appearances and mystification ( although it certainly is commodity fetishism ).

> > However, I don't think we should bend the stick away from quantitative methods
> > so far as to say "abstraction and dialectics *must* come first". Reality comes
> > first and abstraction second, and quantitative methods are an important way
> > of analysing reality.
> {I thought it went without saying that}, reality comes first. How do we
> understand reality, though? What kind of philosophy do we use to make
> sense out of that reality?

Well, to sound a bit like a vulgar materialist, abstractions have their validity
or otherwise tested in practise, ie by reality. So the statement "the history of
all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles . . ." ,
is a statement which could be ( but hasn't been and won't be ) falsified by
political practise.

> Statistics alone just gives us crude empiricism.

Where Marxism differs from crude Empiricism is that Marxism looks at the whole,
not just the parts, and a whole which undergoes change ( perhaps qualitative )
in time.

> How  do we interpret those numbers?

If they're social statistics, we interpret them in the light of the struggle
between classes. So if someone produces a set of statistics saying that the
working class is dead, and that therefore we need to look to some other group
in society to achieve change, I'll go about disproving their figures. But
more importantly, I'll base my strategy for political change on the working
class, they'll base theirs on something else, and we'll see who's right.

Adam Rose

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